Sep 252014
 

age of the ideal woman according to menI suspect that because I’m older, I’m noticing more and more ‘casual sexism,’ and because I’m wiser, I’m less inclined to shrug it off.

At 33 years old, I’m closer to my 20s than I am to my 40s, but I’m still a decade beyond the magical 20-22 year old sweet spot when men of all most ages find a woman most attractive[1]. Christian Rudder, OKCupid co-founder, rabid data collector, and spreadsheet nerd found that up until age 40, women find men most attractive when they were roughly the same age (as the woman). Men between the ages of 20-50, on the other hand, find 20-22 year old women most attractive. When a man is 20, he finds a 20 year old woman most attractive. When a man is 50, he finds a 22 year old woman most attractive[2].

When I was in that sweet spot, I could shrug off casual sexism (particularly in the workplace) because of the facts: I was a novice in my career field, I wasn’t confident or assertive, and more than all of that… I was fucking hot. I was the kind of hot where it was almost excusable (or at least, understandable) when people assumed I got where I was because of my looks, or when people assumed I was just a pretty face without two brain cells to rub together.

Of course, it isn’t excusable, nor was it ever, but it was almost understandable. Almost.

But now I’m older, wiser, and far more established in my career (but still pretty hot). With age, wisdom, and experience has come intermittent confidence and occasional episodes of assertiveness. The confidence is present more often than the assertiveness — I’ve learned to pick my battles.

And also, with the age, wisdom, and experience has come… well… age. While I’m more confident in my skin, that skin is showing fine lines and the effects of too much work, not enough sleep, and more stress than I’ve known how to handle. I’m not a young thing anymore.

And that’s why, I think, “casual” sexism irks me more than it used to. I notice it more often (I’m not a sex object anymore… why don’t the menz listen to me?), it frustrates me more often (yes, I have breasts… now listen to the words coming out of my mouth), and it angers me more than it should (*tiny rage fists*). Perhaps its because “casual” sexism has obvious material and emotional consequences, ones that are more meaningful now that I’m fighting to make a name for myself in a boy’s club firmly entrenched in a man’s world.

I see it when it happens to me, and I deal with it well enough. I speak up when I can, when it’s worth it, and when I’m able (which is far too infrequently). When it happens to the young women I mentor, it absolutely destroys me — they don’t notice it, or they shrug it off, or otherwise silently deal with it… the same way I did more than ten years ago. They’re okay for now, but I know it will take its toll on them too… and it breaks my heart.

Anyway, speaking of sexism… I submitted to a new Tumblr — Taxonomy of Mansplainers — it’s both hilarious and sad. My submission is copied below[3] (the “he” is a senior colleague at my company).
line-break-flourish-sm

Woman Interrupted (By a Man who Mansplains Interruption)

During a meeting about combating casual sexism in the workplace, he interrupts me when I suggest that men should be careful not to interrupt women when they’re speaking because it demonstrates lack of respect…

He talks over me — essentially saying what I just said (or what I almost said) — to enlighten the group about the sexism of talking over women when they’re speaking.

My eyes go wide as I search the room for confirmation that someone else (anybody else? anyone?!?!) also witnessed the sexist dumbfuckery I just endured… but there is nothing. Everyone around the mahogany table looks at him, nodding their agreement and their appreciation for his wisdom.


1. According to Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder, Random House, 2014.
2. Interview with Christian Rudder, “Online Dating Stats Reveal A ‘Dataclysm’ Of Telling Trends,” All Things Considered, NPR. Sept. 9, 2014.
3. Holy bad writing, Dumb Domme. My “Taxonomy” submission is what happens when I don’t sit on posts for days, fuck around with language, tinker with words, and edit like a motherfucker. Sometimes I think I’m a good writer, but then I realize that I just work hard at it and care far more than I should…

  13 Responses to “casual sexism: older, wiser, and still pretty hot”

  1. Im much much much older than you .I don’t know if Im wiser and I never was HOT

    but

    When I talk to my best female friend she doesn’t even notice that I stop talking because Im tired of being interrupted (mostly as soon as I start to talk)

    Is that casual sexism or is it bad manners (whichever sex is the culprit) – and how do you tell the difference??

  2. Im much much much older than you. I don’t know if Im wiser. And I never was HOT

    but

    When I talk to my best female friend ,she doesn’t notice that Ive stopped talking because Im tired of being interrupted ,mostly as soon as I start to say something..

    Is that casual sexism or bad manners ,and how do I tell the difference ?

    • Is that casual sexism or bad manners ,and how do I tell the difference ?

      I don’t know how you tell the difference in that situation. I guess it depends on her other behaviors, how she treats other friends of opposite/same gender, whether or not she demonstrates other forms of sexism, etc.

      In my situation, I know it’s sexism (not bad manners, although arguably, sexism is in poor taste) because it’s part of a larger sexist corporate culture that has systematically discouraged women for decades (and is just now getting around to possibly doing something about it). I know the corporate culture is sexist because I’ve seen it. More than once, I’ve walked into a room to give a demonstration or presentation with a younger male assistant and someone assumes he’s the senior colleague and I’m there to assist him (even though he’s a decade younger than I)… and there are too many other, similar experiences I could share.

      With this male colleague, I know it’s sexism because I’ve observed him doing the same sorts of things to female colleagues, but not to male colleagues, because he exhibits other sexist behaviors, because he’s made assumptions about my goals and family status based on my gender (things that have little or nothing to do with my work)… and again, too many other examples to relay here.

  3. I learned a new word yesterday – sociotropy. According to Wikipedia (yes, I know it’s not academically acceptable; no, I don’t care) sociotropy is “a personality trait characterized by excessive investment in interpersonal relationships … People with sociotropy tend to have a strong need for social acceptance, which causes them to be overly nurturant towards people who they do not have close relationships with.” Sociotropy is especially common among women in their 20s.

    I’m in a graduate program with a predominant enrollment of women in their 20s. I am 53. I am outspoken, self-disclosing, and assertive, but I was none of the above in my 20s. I call people on their sexism, racism, anti-feminism, sizeism, because I don’t give a whole lot of damn for “social acceptance.”

    However, I certainly do recognize that I once did … a lot.

    Keep fighting the good fight, DD. You have the kind of audience where you can really make a difference.

    BTW, all good writers have to sit on their work, fuck around with language, tinker with words, and edit like motherfuckers. If they don’t, they have damn good editors who do.

    • Thanks for sharing that word! I hadn’t heard it before, but it describes my boss (a man in his mid-forties) nicely.

    • Interesting word, but I’m not sure who it applies to?

      I can’t imagine it applies to my male colleague, and it doesn’t apply to me generally. In my 20s, my lack of confidence/assertiveness was more about being a novice in my field and perhaps about “impostor syndrome.” It doesn’t describe me now (I don’t think?), unless you’re suggesting perhaps I’m too invested in my mentoring of young women in my field?

      Anyway, it’s a useful concept to know about – – especially because I do take an active interest in young women looking to make a career in my field, and they might be prone to sociotropy.

      How did you see it applying in this situation, Night Owl?

      • My professors would smack me if I presumed to analyze behaviors of people I’d never met. ;-)

        I was thinking about something I witness often with the 20-somethings in my graduate cohort. There seems to be a pervasive silence on their part in the classroom and in larger groups that I have difficulty interpreting. I know they feel passionate about our field of study – I’ve spoken with them one-on-one and heard it expressed. But in a larger group – usually around a male professor, less so with a female – the silence is deafening. Perhaps it is as you say “imposter syndrome,” but then I would expect it to show up equally around either sex. The older members, 30 and up, don’t share the same hesitance.

        Sociotropy seemed a pat explanation … probably too pat. That is my eternal personal challenge; wanting ambiguity to be black-and-white.

        Since sexism is a current topic in one of my classes, I’m going to cast a line out with this topic and see what I reel in. I probably won’t, however, source you by name. I don’t want my classmates to know much at all about my kink. It’s my own smug pleasure knowing that at least one of my kinks is pathologized in the DSM-5.

      • My professors would smack me if I presumed to analyze behaviors of people I’d never met. ;-)

        I was thinking about something I witness often with the 20-somethings in my graduate cohort. There seems to be a pervasive silence on their part in the classroom and in larger groups that I have difficulty interpreting. I know they feel passionate about our field of study – I’ve spoken with them one-on-one and heard it expressed. But in a larger group – usually around a male professor, less so with a female – the silence is deafening. Perhaps it is as you say “imposter syndrome,” but then I would expect it to show up equally around either sex. The older members, 30 and up, don’t share the same hesitance.

        Sociotropy seemed a pat explanation … probably too pat. That is my eternal personal challenge; wanting ambiguity to be black-and-white.

        Since sexism is a current topic in one of my classes, I’m going to cast a line out with this topic and see what I reel in. I probably won’t, however, source you by name. I don’t want my classmates to know much at all about my kink. It’s my own smug pleasure knowing that at least one of my kinks is pathologized in the DSM-5.

  4. This is so incredibly common.

    I haven’t written about this, but I actually *talked* with holy-fuck-beautiful-eyes on my last date (for the gazillions who don’t follow my blog, he’s a man I met on OKCupid: I knew we would not be a match, but he’s hellishly pretty, so I arranged ‘kissing dates’ with him (strictly no talking, just kissing because HOT)).

    Last time we talked. Or really, he talked. A lot. And when I contributed to the conversation, he interrupted to jump in with ‘his bit’. I *literally* told him to shut up. “No, I’m talking now. Shut up.” I’d not have done that when I was younger in any context (because really, ‘how rude!’), but now: no problem. And I find myself doing it a lot.

    Also, I knew talking to him would be a mistake :P.

    Ferns

    • I’d not have done that when I was younger in any context (because really, ‘how rude!’), but now: no problem. And I find myself doing it a lot.

      Unfortunately, I know what you’re saying. I absolutely speak up when this sort of thing happens in my personal life (and I’ve been “jokingly” called “bitch” for it), but I have to be much more careful in my professional life that I don’t rankle too many feathers. I recognize that keeping my mouth shut isn’t always the right thing to do, but sometimes it is the right thing to do for me.

      Also, I knew talking to him would be a mistake :P.

      When the choice is between kissing and talking, talking is always the wrong choice. :)

  5. Yes it’s true. We men are shallow creatures and visually oriented. Show most of us a hot twenty something and our brains go; “squirrel!” I think it’s partly biological wiring, partly our shallow youth obsessed culture and yes partly our pathologically patriarchal society.

    But since we are talking about D/s here I am going to say that wisdom, knowledge, self awareness and the ability to read others play an important part in being a good dominant. Therefore an older more experienced woman who understands herself, submissive men and human beings in general has a distinct advantage over a twenty something who is still learning the ropes (so to speak) and stumbling around in the dark trying to find herself. Getting old sucks but hopefully one of the trade offs is acquired wisdom. There is a lot more to D/s than physical appearance. But many guys (even those who think they might be submissive) are too shallow to understand that.

  6. I do not know why the not listening thing seems so much worse here in America than it did back home in Southeast Asia. Exponentially.

    It is too depressing to think about so I shall delete the rest of my comment and stop trying.

  7. “Excuse me, I’m not done talking”

    My favorite line to cut off the interrupters. Of course, then I get blamed for taking over meetings.

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