Sexism's Sleepy-Eyed Narcissism

I intentionally omitted a gender variable in my earlier piece on eccentrics and artists not being taken seriously in their professions.

My only mention of gender was in the following passage:

"Women have a particularly rough task of managing others' unconscious attitudes about gender..."

It was a mistake for me to avoid pursuing this issue further. It is my aim to do so now.

I still hold firm that being different is applauded in theory but frowned on in practice. I remain consistent in my view that both men and women who don't make waves and think in comfortable, conventional ways are, by and large, afforded more professional respect in many fields. However, when it comes the allowance of certain behavior in the workplace, especially in fields where roles typically held by men are prevalent, women are held to an egregious double-standard.

My reticence to mention gender discrimination came from a fear that I might step accidentally into a false correlation - however unintentional - between  'eccentrics' and women. That was not my intent, so I kept my piece gender-neutral for sake of making a larger point about certain attitudes and behaviors not being taken seriously by some industries. I still hold true to my thesis, but it is cowardly for me to step away from the discussion without including sexism in the workplace, because it's everywhere.

Just as we are not living in a post-partisan society, neither are we living in a post-gender society. Sexism is alive and well. It is the very currency of gender politics, especially in certain industries. Even in self-described 'progressive' environments, sexism takes the insidious form of unconscious, reactive and deeply patriarchal narcissism about the way certain roles must be acted out for peers and for clients. This is where it is most dangerous. This is also where the double-standard lies. See, society and industry allow men their egos, eccentricities and artistic temperaments in almost any field, but women who don't fulfill certain gender requirements and who possess same said eccentricities are looked on as, at best, high maintenance banshees, or at worst, untouchable outcasts.

For men with talent, possessing an artistic temperament and sensitivity is considered a trait of genius. Women who don't fit the mold - yes, there is a mold - aren't so lucky. Women who carry a fierceness and directness in their dealings with others are only lauded in industries where their personality is the product, or if their presence makes others comfortable and/or aroused enough.

If a woman finds herself alone in a position still dominated by men, she cannot rely on help from anyone but herself. She must only pray that she meets pre-determined expectations defined by those around her without having to change herself into something unrecognizable. Ideally, she should be able to move upward on her own merits, but in the most toxic environments, the most talented woman will find it is still not enough, not unless she plays a role that is not threatening to the men.

This is a lonely, frustrating sort of discrimination for any woman to endure. They find themselves in a field of men who have already obtained their power, and they are expected to bring specific qualities to their talent in order for that talent to be recognized. Those qualities include looking a certain way, acting a certain way, and a certain element of conventionality and submissiveness. This lone woman is not backed up by her sisters. There, she is alone. As women still reach for equal pay in positions normally reserved for men, and as they strive for the respect they deserve from their male peers, it becomes doubly offensive to, once you've already proven your worth, find yourself still lacking because of how you look, or the tone of your voice, or how many tattoos you have.

The jocular man-children of the industries like Advertising still get away with murder. Their behavior is not so scrutinized as the behavior of their female equivalents, especially when the females don't play along in ways that are comfortably feminine for those men. Woe be to any women who refuses to act the role of passive sorority pledge with sunshine coming out of her eyes, maternal caregiver, or stoic fashionista with day-old hot dog tan. Women not fitting the mold are scrutinized more, and nobody questions it. Women who don't toe the line or play their role as intended when their peers and so-called equals are all men, are intentionally excluded from participation in important activities and treated with kid gloves. They aren't taken seriously.

Through this struggle, I am faced with the worst irony of all, one that women have imparted to me time again. Women can be as cruel, if not more cruel to each other in the race for professional respect and relevance. Kicking your sister down the ladder can seem like a self-interested but logical move if you feel they reflect poorly on what you have achieved, but it's really a self-defeating maneuver. It helps no one. Not in regards to your profession, or the quality of your work, or the quality of your character.

If you don't like the way they've gone about making themselves known, you could always leave them alone, or even do them a service and tell them what's on your mind. Man or woman, you do your peers a disservice by letting them fall when they've done everything possible to cling on, and do well, and transcend the suffocating standards set by gender definition in modern society. It really has not come as far as we would like to think, and that is not only incredibly infuriating, but incredibly sad.


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