Monday, April 14, 2008

Sauce for the Gander

The following is from a work of popular fiction. I've played with the wording a tiny bit to illustrate my point. It's a popular enough work that you might recognize it in spite of that.

This little vignette plays itself out in offices everywhere, I expect:

She: I'm hoping we can work together on this project in the spirit of cooperation. I'll have some ideas, and you'll have some ideas, and together we can pick the best ones.

He: Sure, that's one approach. But I prefer to exhale deeply and roll my eyes while you prattle. Then I will verbally demolish your ludicrous ideas, and dismantle your mistaken self-image as a competent woman.The carnage will create a striking contrast for the warm, clear glow of my brilliant ideas. Later, I will round out the package by spreading amusing stories about how ignorant you are.

She: Is there any chance of doing it my way?

He: Now watch my eyes.

I've been talked to like that, and I'm sure I could round up a few other women across a -- pardon me -- broad spectrum of ages who could say the same thing. It's infuriating. It makes you want to cry. If this were to happen in a real life company what would happen to 'he'? Summary dismissal? Nasty lawsuit? A trip to Glorious People's Sensitivity Camp? I bet it does happen in real life. I bet it'll happen today and nobody will even notice. Because it'll be a woman saying that to a man. The above is from a Dilbert cartoon and I switched the speakers' genders. So it's funny now.

I'm sure some hairy, wizened old "feminist" will set me straight but I never saw the point in being equal to men. Not equally awful, anyhow. I appreciate men. I admire their dynamism, their ambition, even their occasional lapses in judgment. Most major advancements in civilization just had to be the result of a bet or a dare. Space travel, for instance. Women would never think to say, "Go big or go home"; we're more like, "What's everybody there going to be wearing? And did you look at a map?" Worthy questions, but hardly inspiring. I like how helpful men are, how the nicest ones make it possible for me to dress pretty and smell good, secure in the knowledge that gas will be pumped and jars will be opened; I have but to ask. Hard to square with being a welder? I only did it to make a good life for my kid. My male kid. My feminist relatives hate when I say that. I've always been their little mascot.

So how do you deal with the dismissive attitude? You remember that it's not unique to either gender and you quietly thank them for being such a dunce they'll never expect it when you outflank them. Take the lead in broadcasting that they were the brains behind the operation. If it was a good idea you seem supportive. If it was a crappy idea, well... Also remember they carry a grudge and they have lots of time to obsess over things because they're usually single. Plausible deniability. That's all I'm gonna say.

There. Now that I've alienated most of the women and they've stomped off in disgust we can swap dirty jokes. I used to work construction; I know some funny ones.