Thoughts: 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn

This article, written by Soraya Chemaly, titled ’10 words every girl should learn’ is the best article on gender I’ve read in quite a while, and I couldn’t help sharing it with you all and adding my thoughts!

In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My brother, on the other hand, was considered the class comedian. We were very typically socialized as a “young lady” and a “boy being a boy.” Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical. We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.

Girls being socialised to resist being interrupted is something I never noticed before. Although I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about the way boys and girls are socialised, this is something I remained ignorant to. I was socialised in the way most boys were (and are) and although I make a conscious effort not to, or to stop if I start, sometimes I interrupt people (usually girls, I don’t talk to any boys) when they’re speaking.

This irksome reality goes along with another — men who make no eye contact. For example, a waiter who only directs information and questions to men at a table, or the man last week who simply pretended I wasn’t part of a circle of five people (I was the only woman). We’d never met before and barely exchanged 10 words, so it couldn’t have been my not-so-shrinking-violet opinions.

Although my personality has remained pretty psychologically androgynous over the years, this is something as I’ve noticed over the past year or two especially, as I’ve gotten more feminine in looks (I’m currently writing an article on how and if feminine men are treated like women, but I can definitely say that personally, I am in certain ways). When in a restaurant with a masculine man, even with nobody else, waiters still only communicate primarily with them (until I speak, although this is sometimes ignored too). Being ignored is a big issue, usually straight men will just ignore me in a group discussion.

These two ways of establishing dominance in conversation, frequently based on gender, go hand-in-hand with this last one: A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

These behaviors, the interrupting and the over-talking, also happen as the result of difference in status, but gender rules. For example, male doctors invariably interrupt patients when they speak, especially female patients, but patients rarely interrupt doctors in return. Unless the doctor is a woman. When that is the case, she interrupts far less and is herself interrupted more. This is also true of senior managers in the workplace. Male bosses are not frequently talked over or stopped by those working for them, especially if they are women; however, female bosses are routinely interrupted by their male subordinates.

Soraya continues.

This preference for what men have to say, supported by men and women both, is a variant on “mansplaining.” The word came out of an article by writer Rebecca Solnit, who explained that the tendency some men have to grant their own speech greater import than a perfectly competent woman’s is not a universal male trait, but the “intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck.”

Although some may find me posting this ironic as it may seem as though I’m mansplaining, this blog is just a way of me to get my thoughts out, and the reason I’m sharing Soraya’s writing in such a way is because I think she talks about a point rarely spoken about in a perfectly competent way. 

This point reminds me of The Apprentice (non-celebrity, UK version). On tasks, women are often ignored as men value their own speech higher than that of a woman (although women leaders have won more tasks than men leaders!).

It’s not hard to fathom why so many men tend to assume they are great and that what they have to say is more legitimate. It starts in childhood and never ends. Parents interrupt girls twice as often and hold them to stricter politeness norms. Teachers engage boys, who correctly see disruptive speech as a marker of dominant masculinity, more often and more dynamically than girls.

Although men assuming they’re great starts in childhood, it is possible to change things we’re socialised and do. We are taught that boys date girls, that girls have babies, that girls have boobs, not to swear, to colour coordinate outfits (or was that just me?) and to go to Church every Sunday. I’m just saying we can change from the way we were socialised.

The best part though is that we are socialized to think women talk more. Listener bias results in most people thinking that women are hogging the floor when men are actually dominating. Linguists have concluded that much of what is popularly understood about women and men being from different planets, verbally, confuses “women’s language” with “powerless language.”

(I bolded the 10 words below…don’t be like me and not realise the 10 words are split into three sentences, they’re not 10 individual words… I spent ages looking for them…oops!)

People often ask me what to teach girls or what they themselves can do to challenge sexism when they see it. “What can I do if I encounter sexism? It’s hard to say anything, especially at school.” In general, I’m loathe to take the approach that girls should be responsible for the world’s responses to them, but I say to them, practice these words, every day:

Stop interrupting me,”

I just said that,” and

No explanation needed.”

If you’ve read this far, you must’ve enjoyed the post, and I definitely recommend you reading the full article. It had me in awe whilst on the bus, I wanted to nudge the person sat next to me, “psssst, have you seen this?”.

It’s the little things (being queer)

(Song unrelated, but really good)

Living in the UK, queer people have it *pretty* good, most people are liberal, or at least believe that everyone should have human rights regardless of sexuality, gender, race, etc. Furthermore, most businesses respect human rights and the law, and discrimination is almost always dealt with in a reasonable way.

If something big happens, such as somebody being kicked out of a restaurant for being trans, or somebody gets assaulted for being a lesbian, there is outrage from people of all political parties, classes and races, in the UK and justice is usually reached.

However, the little things often go unreported and unnoticed. The way in which somebody speaks to a queer person that most people wouldn’t notice, especially if they’re not queer.

_380

I was unfortunately in this situation last year. I had an elitist, middle class, white, straight, middle aged, male, right wing, bigoted, Cambridge graduate as an English teacher. He would make sly comments MULTIPLE TIMES like “do you have a girlfriend?”, after people from the other class told him I was gay (multiple times). Furthermore, he would constantly say things like “men have to find a wife” and “men are stronger than women”.

Since dropping his class, he’s gotten worse, jokingly saying “What’s up my *n-word*” and mocking the way in which women walk. Furthermore, my friend who is of Bengali decent has said he makes her feel uncomfortable with the things he says, but nobody else notices it.

o-LGBT-570

10.6% of LGBT youth in Scotland said homo/bi/transphobia resulted in them leaving education. Almost half said it negatively impacted on their education.

The problem with this is that, because people often struggle to empathise, if I had complained about said teacher, they probably wouldn’t have found the comments offensive or inappropriate. Furthermore, because young people especially struggle with empathy, even if they do an investigation, upon asking other students from the class if they thought he made inappropriate comments, they’d likely say no.

However, I will NOT accept being bullied, and even though I did well in his class, I still dropped it this year in place of one I didn’t do so well in.

Another really small thing, that still irritates and grates on me, is my treatment by old bus drivers. Bus drivers in the UK have a reputation for being moody and arseholes, which I have no problem with if they’re an arsehole with everyone, because I can be one too. However, there are some ‘nice’  ones who say thank you to everyone as they get off the bus. I’ve now started to mentally prepare myself for the silence after I thank them.

Often serious hate crimes go unreported, so we're far from solving the little things.

Often serious hate crimes go unreported, so we’re far from solving the little things.

Over 50% of the time I’m ignored. I hate this because I’m being treated differently to everyone else, like less than human, or like I’m not there at all, and don’t exist. I’m not sure what they expect to gain from it, I’m not going to erase my queerness to gain the acceptance of an old fart.

Most of the small things are basically either down to being treated like you’re invisible, or being treated in a way that ignores the facts (e.g. asking a person you know is gay if they have a girlfriend). They are the reason businesses have diversity courses, even though staff themselves think they’re pointless because they see themselves as open minded and not oppressive.