Do you have plans for this weekend? I hope not, because I’m about to serve up hours of fascinating reading. This week’s ideas are controversial and I’d love to debate them in the comments. I value your input.
Let’s start here:
It happens all the time when my husband and I are at work events together. Cocktail Party Guy asks my husband about how things are going at his news site, and he answers. Then Cocktail Party Guy asks me how our dogs are, and I answer, before pivoting the conversation back to work — and later rolling my eyes as we walk away. It is not impolite. It is not inappropriate. But it is still, at least in my mind, sexist. Both me and my husband love our work. Both me and my husband love our dogs. One of us gets asked about our work. One of us gets asked about our dogs.
It is a form of soft discrimination that I fear might be all too familiar to all too many women — and often I find it hard to explain to my male friends and colleagues. Occasionally, I even find myself struggling to convince them that it is discrimination, and that it has consequences.
This idea of soft (and unprovable) sexism is powerful. But before we dive in, let me start you with the article that triggered this week’s collection of articles about sexism.
Ellen Pao: This is How Sexism Works — I didn’t know about Ellen Pao until I stumbled on this set of reading, and frankly, I don’t care much about who she is or what she does. What I do care about is that she spoke out about sexism in her workplace. I followed that article with the one I quoted from above: The Sexism You Can’t Quite Prove. These ideas resurfaced with another Silicon Valley sexism scandal and one male employee’s reflection on his role in it.
I’m not here to push a feminist agenda or even to propose answers. I don’t have the expertise or wisdom to speak on law or company policies. I have, however, no qualms about saying this: Men, if you consider yourselves decent human beings, you should be reading the women who are writing about this. You should be listening to the stories from the women in your lives, even asking them to tell you. Soft sexism is easy for you to ignore or dismiss. It’s not so easy for us. The least you can do is listen and consider the assumptions or biases you may have.
That was heavy stuff to start with; here are some palate-cleansers.
This island is not for sale — I usually think of tropical islands, but, of course! there are islands all over the place, including little ones in the British Isles (over 6 THOUSAND). Many little islands are entirely owned by an individual, creating a weird modern feudal system. Some islands are fighting back.
Let’s wrap up with snippets of humanity, shall we?
Sad first: The Day I Found Out My Life Was Hanging by a Thread — a raw account of coping with mortality, delivered from someone in the grips of cancer. I’ve recently become more appreciative of in-the-moment ruminations, personal writings that don’t have a clean narrative end. This piece is a great example of it, documentation of the author’s feelings, and opportunity for the rest of us to gain more understanding of others.
Fascinating next: Why Happy People Cheat — a therapist explores our ideas of fidelity and why partners in “perfect” marriages still cheat. She is not tackling the issue from a moral point of view, but attempting to find the patterns and create steps forward. Regardless of what we think about affairs and the people who have them, they are reality and likely a reality we will all deal with at some point in life.
Thought-provoking: Lost and Found: Eminem’s Song and Running — This personal essay gave me a lot to think about. On the surface, it’s about Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” being the anthem for the author’s cross-country team. There’s a lot to digest. Growing up, feminism/sexism, addiction, desperation–it’s all there. Let’s start with the song–if you haven’t heard it, you should listen. If it’s not a genre of music you like, you should notice 2 things: the lyrics are powerful (Eminem is a recognized master in his field) and the beat is hypnotic. It pounds through my head for days after a listen and nearly demands to be played again.
Desperation, addiction, hypnosis–these are pretty common ideas in running world. I came to them on my own, but I’ve become increasingly fascinated with how young running athletes are introduced to these values. Coaches have tremendous power over and impact on their athletes; I was never subject to that dynamic and I’m stunned by what others endured.
Finally, just a good story: An Amateur Blows Up a Celebrated Psychological Theory
The comments are open! What do you think about soft sexism? Did you have a favorite story?
And finally, tell me about the great stories you’ve been reading!