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Opinion Editorials

Letter to my daughter: hidden sexism is real and surprising

In a letter to my daughter, I would like to prepare her for the real world scenarios of the workplace and the increasing levels of unfairness, but it isn’t always women that are judged based on gender…

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Dear daughter,

You’re about to start your junior year in high school and you’re starting to express a stronger interest in your future career – you’re smart, witty, and so easy for people to be around and I know you’re going to nail it in any industry you choose. That said, there are life lessons that many women don’t learn until very far down the road, so if I can impart any of this learned wisdom to you, perhaps you can skip some of the obstacles and missteps many of us experience along the way.

We’ve talked a lot about sexism, about standing up for yourself, and about not letting your gender define you or hold you back. We’ve talked about shattering the glass ceiling and about being brave, but I realize that along the way, I may have misguided you. Let me explain…

When we talk about sexism or even sexual harassment in the workplace, what do we usually warn you about? Old white guys. Instructional videos warn you of the dangers of the creepy guy who is going to touch your shoulders for too long or wink at you while he asks you for coffee or imply that you have to do him “favors” to get a promotion.

This is a wild disservice to you for two reasons: first, it teaches you to be sexist against men, and it makes you blind to the fact that people of all ages, races, and genders can discriminate against you and vice versa.

This new world that is teaching women to be strong and powerful in the workforce is also teaching you to discriminate against established white men – it is completely unfair because who is one of the most beloved people in your life? Your white man dad.

The hidden sexism against men in the workplace is real and surprising, and we want you to be above all of that, so remember that every time you automatically assume that a man is going to ignore your smarts and value your looks, you’re being the sexist. Every time you assume that by flirting with male bosses you’ll get ahead, you’re being the sexist. When you act like a man is too stupid and hopelessly incapable of minding details that he can’t file something on his own or make his own calls, you’re being the sexist.

The bigger crime us women (and inadvertently men) have committed in trying to teach you how to be an independent thinker is that by warning you against the dangers of old white men, we failed to tell you that everyone is capable of discriminating against you, especially women. When you and another woman are up for the same promotion, do you think they are going to hold hands with you, burn bras and talk about women’s lib? No, she’ll make sure the boss knows she’s better than you and that she deserves the job. When you’re in a meeting, a female counterpart may talk over you just the same as a man might, and so on.

Additionally, by this new wave of empowered women warning you of old white men, it is through the ridiculous lens of a 1950s nuclear family model wherein only a male boss would hit on you, but guess what? Your woman boss may linger too long and hit on you too, or they may perceive you as hitting on them and be uncomfortable because you were just trying to get on her good side.

Gender equality is so complicated, honey, and most of the books or papers you’ll read will simply warn you about people that look like your dad and you’ll be confused, so if you take one thing away from this is that you can be above it all.

If equality is truly equal, you must recognize that old white men are not the only sexists in the workplace – in fact, the world assuming that they are is more sexist than any wink or dirty joke could possibly be.

This is an unpopular stance and I’ll get hate mail for this letter to you, but I want you to know the truth and pray that you focus on making yourself a better person, because old white men aren’t the problem – everyone is the problem. Don’t be part of the problem, treat people equally and lead by example.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. BawldGuy

    July 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Mom was in the thick of the 50s and 60s women entering the ‘man’s world of business’. She taught me, and I’ve taught my daughter the following. 1) Stop using your ‘wiles’ at work. And while you’re at it, stop with the double standard of the bad intentioned man, and the always innocent woman. It’s not true, and the woman knows it better than the guy does. 2) Understand that as a female you’re fighting a few generations coming before you who took the company’s money, and valuable training, only to succeed in their real goal, which was to find a husband, get married, and quit. Mom fought that empirical axiomatic truth ’til she was over 40. It trained the ‘C’ suite guys to avoid investing in women as future execs. 3) Produce superior results, and count on those to move up the ladder. Company’s are for profit, and results are what keep those profits coming. 4) Though it’s very unfair, stop with the whining about gender discrimination. Yeah, it still exists, but as Mom said, “I paid the price, so you wouldn’t hafta whine like a girl yourself.” Move to another firm, but stop the whining. 5) Do NOT, under any circumstances use your so-called ‘minority’ status to improve your professional life. You’ll likely never get rid of that label, and most will assume that’s how you always move up. You want to move up due to what you’ve produced and bring to the table, not cuz you wear a bra.

    • Lani Rosales

      July 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Brilliant. Thank you, Jeff.

  2. jeffreypjacobs

    July 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    No hate mail from here, Lani. As you suggest, Gender Equality IS complicated…and the rules are changing every day. When it comes to women in the workplace, what if I repeated something I have heard for years- “women can’t have more than one true friend, all the rest is just competition!”? WAY over-generalized, many examples of how that’s just not true would appear, etc., etc. But my point is to agree with your suggestion of simply focusing on making oneself better, and staying away from any, and all, of these generalizations on gender.

  3. bobledrew

    July 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Let me take a different tack on the issue you raise. And as a proviso, I have no children, so I may not have the same closeness to this issue as you do, Lani. You write, “by warning you against the dangers of old white men, we failed to tell you that everyone is capable of discriminating against you, especially women.”

    Confusing individual actions with collective groups is a dangerous thing. I would argue that INDIVIDUALS discriminate against INDIVIDUALS. While “everyone” may be “capable of discriminating”, that it is INDIVIDUALS who actually do the discriminating. If your daughter is harassed in the workplace, it’s not “old white guys” who are doing it. It’s an individual (who may be AN old white guy). I guess my advice would be: “people are capable of great things, and heinous things. Judge the people you work with by their actions and treat them accordingly.”

    • AmyVernon

      July 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      Well-said, @bobledrew:disqus. I think the one exception I take to this is that legal discrimination comes from who has the power. It’s important to be cognizant of what your legal rights are, no matter what gender your boss is.

      • Lani Rosales

        July 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm

        Legal yes, but sometimes coworkers can go out of their way to step on you because of your gender/race/education/whatever. That said, your point is super important because many young people don’t know that they have rights or that they can stand up to a boss based on legal merit.

        • AmyVernon

          July 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm

          Absolutely. That’s why I specified *legal* because there can be a lot of power from having the law on your side – even just knowing what the law is.

        • doodlebug2222

          August 4, 2013 at 3:07 am

          Most of all, they need to see it coming and begin documenting what they can.
          Standing up to a boss based on legal merit is one thing – but not having enough proof to back up the claim is another.

    • Lani Rosales

      July 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      You hit the nail on the head and put into words part of the sentiment that was very difficult for me to convey! That’s what I meant when I was stating that “everyone is the problem,” aka, individuals are the problem, and you’re right, that’s a very important distinction.

  4. JoeLoomer

    August 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Find a culture in a workplace that you love, and you won’t deal with this because it won’t be tolerated. Also – what bobledrew said.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride.

  5. Pingback: The sexualization of Canada's Prime Minister is appalling, hypocritical - The American Genius

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Opinion Editorials

Ways to socialize safely during quarantine

(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.

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Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.

Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”

We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.

The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to socialize while staying home and staying safe. Communicating with other humans is good for you, physically and mentally.

Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:

Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.

While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.

Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.

Online trivia in real time:

There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!

Online book club:

First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.

I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.

Cooking class or virtual tasting:

This is doubly satisfying because you can follow these chefs in real time, and you end up with a meal. There are a couple on Instagram Live, such as The Culinistas or Chef Massimo Bottura.

You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.

Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.

Quarantine chat:

To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.

Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.

Play Uno:

Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.

Talk to mental health professionals:

If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
  • Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.

There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.

Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.

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Opinion Editorials

Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.

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Woman working remotely on her couch with a laptop on her lap.

When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.

We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.

What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.

Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.

But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.

The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.

We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out. And even as we enter 2021, there is still more to be aware of – we’re not out of the woods yet.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note… So let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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