Sexists are like cottonmouths, hiding in the swamp

Press for Progress…hold someone’s head under the water

This year, like every year on March 8, Mr. DeMeer woke up grumbling about International Women’s Day.

Why do we need International Women’s Day? When is International Men’s Day?

This year, like every other year on March 8, I responded that it is International Men’s Day every day – all year long.

This is a special family tradition we look forward to, in the same way other couples go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day or greet each other with a kiss on December 25th and share a “Merry Christmas.”

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was Press for Progress.

Yes there has been a lot of progress.

But there’s a heck of a long ways to go.

Look down. Look way, way down under your feet. That is where sexism and misogyny in the workplace moved, after deciding it was too hot living up here in the same climate as political correctness.

Like cottonmouths in a swamp, they are hard to see, and therefore very dangerous and harder to fight.

There are still professions that are dominated by men.

Sports reporting is a good example. Shortly after the last winter Olympics I was lounging in the newsroom thumbing through the Toronto Sun and came across a promotional ad for that company’s reporting team.

More than two dozen men with iPhones and cameras and laptops, and one woman.

One woman? The company sent ONE woman to cover the Olympics?

Without raising his eyes from his computer screen the sports editor remarked that somebody had to write about ladies’ figure skating and the managing editor noted she probably made good coffee.

Google lets me down when it comes to figuring out how many women reporters were in PyeongChang, however NBC sent eight broadcasters and three of them were female.

Other than not winning hockey gold, the most frustrating part of the Olympics for me was when a US radio host made horribly salacious comments about a 17-year-old skier. He was fired.

Yes, there is progress.

Cottonmouths are everywhere, if you know where to look. Only a few years ago in Ontario I was professionally chastised for losing my cool during a meeting about classified advertising.

A colleague across the table held forth about the “girls” in classifieds. The girls this, the girls that, if only the girls would do this or that.

In order to prevent the blood from eventually spewing out of my ears, it had to be said.

Look Dave. They are NOT GIRLS. They are women. They are professional women. Girls are prepubescent females and if you truly are employing a collection of 11-year-olds in the front office we have a bigger problem in this department than sucky revenues.

The next day I received a visit from a senior manager who told me I’d made several people uncomfortable and for the sake of my career I should dial down the feminism.

Feminism – don’t bring it to the office. Chauvinism on the other hand is like MasterCard – accepted pretty much everywhere.

About the same time I was fortunate enough to attend a corporate leadership conference that included a day-long presentation by a noted industry professional who used clips from popular movies to illustrate various points. The conference was informative and entertaining even though all of the movies chosen to demonstrate strong leadership were extremely male – heavy on the sports and war.

The Devil Wears Prada, a movie enshrining every cruel stereotype conceived about female bosses, was the only film used to showcase a woman and of course it was employed to provide a perverse example and give everyone a good chuckle.

Several days after the conference I sent the presenter a thoughtful email, thanking him for a good seminar and sharing some comments about his movie selections. I suggested that with a number of women in the audience, as well as men who reported to women, in future he might consider including at least one positive female leadership model.

He responded that I missed the point of the seminar.

I responded that he missed the point of the email.

There are lots of people who don’t understand why subtle experiences like this are frustrating, sometimes painful, and represent real challenges to women’s success.

It kind of makes you want to hold a few heads under the swamp.

Hope you enjoyed International Women’s Day. Don’t forget to press for progress.

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