Dallas, TX –
I remember as a kid watching my mother, a newspaper columnist, struggling with the Good Old Boys Club that thwarted her attempts to be taken seriously as a female professional. I recall her outrage when she was patronized; her editor believing that women have "compromised points of view" and thus "should not be writing critical analysis". Then, at 5, is when I decided; if women could get equal footing in a man's world, many world ills would be resolved.
The good news is; women have made so many inroads in the working world, stories like my Mother's are fast becoming anecdotal time capsules. The bad news is: Welcome to The Girl's Club.
In my corporate years, I rose to positions of authority where I ultimately experienced in reverse the mindset that women inevitably suffered decades earlier. Whereas Mother sat through meetings with men talking golf and making inappropriate comments about women's anatomy, I found myself the only male at that conference table listening to chatter about lactation rooms, shoes and handbags and Brad Pitt's naked photos online. This by executive level females. The sinking spell I felt was palpable, and all the more devastating because this was not only intentionally exclusionary, as it had been years before with Mother; it was also enormously disillusioning since I had truly believed it would be better than this when women assumed powerful parity.
I learned exactly how Mother felt, watching her words transcribed into a male voice. At one point, I was being rewritten to sound, not like a man or even a woman, but rather, a girl. When I quipped, writing a business analogy, "Keep a positive attitude about 'blind date' business meetings because, who knows what's waiting behind that door", my school marm editor smarmily added, "You never know who'll slip that ring on your finger! Don't we all wish!!!!! . Five exclamation points!
Does that sound like something a man would say?
When I cried fowl, she evangelized that a large part of my readership was female and I needed to "speak in their voice". I told her that readers knew I was male, and assured her that I could speak effectively to women without taking estrogen. She pronounced me "gender insensitive".
A female dentist concurred; she didn't offer "laughing gas" in her office because, according to her, nitrous oxide might "compromise the reproductive capability" of her Girl Club staff. When I said, "Really?", and suggested that perhaps, "we should endorse any gas that might encourage birth control and lower the abortion rate", she threw me out.
Ah, vexed in the city!
Today, male voice intact, I speak nationally on women's issues. And while lavishly crediting brilliant women who mentored me throughout my life, I also share how, more than once, I've been eunuch neutered; undermined by workplace adversaries who dismiss males as inherently defective; threatened by gender hierarchy who inherited every reward of the Women's Movement I long supported, while assuming the absolute worst male chauvinist behavioral traits I grew up loathing.
But hey, "You never know who'll slip that ring on your finger."
Or that noose around your neck.
"Don't we all wish!!!!!".
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.
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