I 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. 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.
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 (the “he” is a senior colleague at my company).
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.