I consider myself a bit of an armchair feminist. I tut-tut news stories about Hijabs, the glass ceiling and systemic limitations of women’s ambitions. I am not the protesting and bra burning sort, however I stand strong when faced with overt sexism wherever I see it. I do something about it with ferocity, even if I wouldn’t march in a topless gathering of angry women.
Having one of each gender as children, I am raising them in an equitable manner. I tell them both that they can be whatever they want, but they can count on dealing with assholes of both sexes their whole lives. I explain that they are best not to participate in the monkey games, don’t put up with any crap and just treat everybody decently, full stop.
As for my own private thoughts, I do like men, truly. They are fun and differently smart and mostly reliable, the good ones anyway. Through my career I have encountered great mentors and colleagues who encouraged me. I have also dealt with malicious schemers who would undermine me at every opportunity. Both types have come in both genders so it isn’t that.
Really, I would like to think that I view the sexes equally. Or at least I thought I did until I peeked in to my mental box of biases and had an honest look at them. It dawned on me that I might be a hypocrite. I hate when I figure out some aspect of myself is an asshole…. dammit.
I started to have a clue during recent vacations and business travel. When flying, I would board the plane, and as you do (or at least I do) I check the cockpit to see if the pilots look like they know what they are doing. I started to notice that I would have a subconscious calming of my nerves if there was a female pilot. Seriously, a palpable sense of relief would wash over me to see a woman at the helm.
Then I noticed, when driving through border crossings between countries, if I had an option to, I would try to pick the line by the gender of the border guard. My thundering bias that the women were tougher and might call for a search of my car suddenly struck me and I would try for the more potentially amenable dude. I feel the same way about police officers, and I have no idea why.
When lining up for a customer service agent, I pick the women if I can. Are they going to try harder to help me than a dude would? Probably not, but apparently my secret sexist has the illusion that she will cradle me in her best service until I stick my thumb in my mouth and nod off.
I am thinking there are subtle aspects to gender bias that are probably pretty fluid in my brain. I know that I have no preference for gender of people I work with, have as bankers and lawyers, real estate agents, whatever, as long as they are competent I don’t care what they are packing.
There might be more to this than just my bias. Last year there was a survey which came to the conclusion that the sample group of Canadian people showed a preferential bias toward female politicians. “Oh really?” said my eyebrows when I read the headline. Funny statistic considering how few women will put up with the shit and abuse that comes with being a public figure. So we elect them and then let the trolls loose to threaten them with rape and death. My eyebrows are still not convinced.
Maybe my own mind set is because somehow I feel that women share a value system, but that too turns out to be bullshit. I mean, how can I say that all women would be my village to help with the kids, and that men aren’t on the same wavelength? So wrong.
So maybe shared values aren’t the key to why I have sexist reactions to women in certain roles. It certainly doesn’t happen when I see a male nurse, or deal with a female contractor for a house renovation. My biases seem kind of specific and nonsensical.
I may never figure out all the items in my mental box of biases, but now that I am aware of having these sexist tendencies, I will ensure I don’t walk onto a plane with a lady pilot and loudly state “Phew, now I know we are all getting home ok.”
Because that would make me sexist.