Now that you've felt a woman's pain, the learning can begin

Over at Sara Speaking Sara has a post called See? See what I mean? which discusses how her male co-worker experiences the same kind of gender-based discrimination that women encounter in male-dominated jobs.

Our main customer set is stay-at-home or work-from-home moms. We have Babies and Biceps classes, prenatal yoga, storytime. Now I agree that it sucks and I’m sorry, I really am, because I know how it feels to be overlooked or disrespected because of your gender, but where children are concerned, women are just expected to be “naturally” more competent. If this were a male-gendered workplace (a sports bar, an auto parts store, a game store, an electronics/hardware store), people would be going to him first, assuming that he was “naturally” competent.

“Well that’s just stupid.”

Yes, yes it is. Which is why I’m a feminist.

“Well that’s just stupid,” he said. You bet it is. And yet, even as Sara sat there agreeing with him and using his experience (as a man) to illustrate why she’s a feminist, he rejected what she was saying in favour of his own opinion that feminism “privileges” women.

Let’s look at that for a minute.

As a man, Sara’s co-worker has gone through life assuming that if he’s hired for a job in which he interacts with customers, customers will respect his knowledge as an employee of the store. This is, I think, a reasonable thing to expect. But, here’s the catch: women can’t reasonably expect that, we can only hope the customer base is more intelligent than to rely on gender stereotyping.

What is happening to Sara’s co-worker is wrong. You won’t get any disagreement from most feminists on that. What I find to be sad, however, is that this man was presented with a perfect opportunity with which to explore his own privilege and to understand, even a little bit, what women face every day of our working lives. Here was a real, live feminist telling him that unfair situations like his were why she was a feminist and all he could think about was to go on about how men aren’t “fairly” represented in feminism.

Most schools of modern feminism don’t shy away from discussing masculinities and men’s issues. They also don’t shy away from having men in their ranks. The only fair way to conduct the fight for equality is to have it focus on those who need it most. And, as long as men are disproportionately advantaged by society, those people are going to be, more often than not, women.

[Yes the title of this post was shamelessly swiped from Family Guy… I can’t be expected to be witty all the time!]
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