Know Your Place
It was a couple of years ago. I was working on an exciting project and things were looking good. As the only woman on a project team, I felt comfortable. I had a good rapport with my boss and was acquiring knowledge and skills at a great pace. I felt fulfilled. At that time, there were not many thoughts in my head – why I am the only female in the team?
When the project was coming to an end, we went to the party in one of those few-storey pubs in Dublin, that are frequently visited by the tourists. Again, entering the bar area, I was the only female person. Few middle and top level managers were already there, sipping their beers. The owner of the pub was trying to be funny and told me with a patronising tone that I should go downstairs, where the place for women is…
No one laughed. In fact, there was a long silence, followed by a feeling of disguise. I was aware, that women in Ireland were not allowed in pubs up till the 1970s’. And there we were, forty years later and the pub owner was trying to send me to a ‘snug’. So maybe I would be able to drink my pint, in an only place, where women might have been granted the right to consume an alcohol.
My boss turned out to be a gentleman and stood up for me. I don’t remember what he exactly said, but it was an act of chivalry. I am still grateful as I was speechless being an object of this sexist comment. And you know what, a year later I heard that he behaved inappropriately, as the pub owner, was a close friend of one of the managers, who stood silently at the bar. Every time, when I pass this place, the myth of equality seems to be alive again.
Some time ago I had this casual, friendly conversation with one of the male friends of my ex-partner. He used to come over for coffee on Sundays. Once, he told me, that he met a great girl and they have ended up at his place after the first date. So definitely he would not consider her as a future girlfriend /wife. It was beyond his understanding, how she could have sex with him, knowing him for so short.
As he knew her for longer…
It didn’t stop him from taking an advantage of her. As he was a man. A person, who can have sex on a first date, whereas the other, that doesn’t wear trousers is judged for the same behaviour. I got angry. He was juggling the social stereotypes in his own favour. I don’t remember what I responded. But for sure this was a lesson, that thought me to speak up in situations like this.
So when someone tells, that we live in times where men and women are treated equally I start to laugh. Nervously. We are judged by a double standard, that gives males lots of advantages. Some of them are not able to understand, that women have needs (including sexual) and have the same rights to meet them, without being criticised for being too easy (never heard this expression in a context of talking about a male person).
But maybe future is bright? I do believe, that there are men and women, who can respect each other. That there are men who are feminists. That there are women who acknowledge that men have feelings. That there are people that want to get to know each other. Are curious. Not judgy. Letting each other to be, whoever they are…