My Reflection and Take on the Sexism Experiment, as I Add Another Dynamic

Disclaimer: This post has a deragatory word (used to describe women) referenced at least four times, so please take note of this before proceeding. Thank you!

Have you read or heard about the workplace experiment that two coworkers participated in which proved the level and intensity of sexism in their workplace and with their clients? It’s very interesting. Here’s the link to the male coworker’s tweets (compiled and published on Moments by a third party). 

Be sure to read the female coworker’s post as well so that you gain her perspective before, during and after this week-long experiment. She wanted to make sure that the entire story was shared, both perspectives. 

What do I think and how do I feel about this experiment? 

Welp, I’m not surprised one bit because I’ve been navigating through a sexist world my entire life, and dealing with sexist business practices and people for over 20 years. 

I feel that all men and women should try this experiment so that they can truly see, feel, and experience the layers of sexism and bias in business (and specifically the workplace). Even men who “prefer” female employees over male employees (for whatever reason) don’t even see their sexist thinking and behavior. The same is true of women who don’t realize that they are being sexist towards men and other women. 

My experience with sexism in the workplace

I’ve spent over 20 years having to play by the rules of men, even joking like men–to the point that, heck I’m now “just one of the fellas” (but this actually started in high school being an athlete surrounded by jocks who refused to use a filter around me). 

For over 20 years I’ve had to internalize my frustration when I’m ignored, overlooked, dismissed, and talked over (or through) by men. I’ve had to ignore stupid and sexist comments (or verbally hit them with a level of sarcasm that silences, yet doesn’t humiliate them). There’s been countless times when I’ve had to politely yet firmly put a stop to sexual advances—while knowing I could lose a deal or a client in the process–then justifying to another man what I did and why I did it, because he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t tolerate a “little flirting” from a prospective client. 

For my entire life I’ve had to work ten times harder just to prove I can do the job before I even do the job, and then having my work critiqued based on the standards of men—even if they don’t do a better job than me. 

It starts in the home

I’m called a “bitch” for standing up for myself or for putting someone in their place. I’m told “you’re too much like a man” when I act aggressive or competitive, or just when I don’t back down when you run up in my face trying to bully me. Wow!!!! Because I guess females are supposed to be weak and fall to our knees, quivering and crying in fear and disdain. I guess I’m supposed to always be the damsel in distress waiting to be rescued and led like a child or cattle by a man! 

But let’s be real. This all starts in the home. We hear sexist comments from our family members and neighbors, and we grow up believing and speaking these words. We go through school where the concepts are marinated and embedded into our very essence. We see and experience it in the classroom, sports, and other extracurricular activities. By the time we reach the age of employment we are primed and ready to regurgitate all that we have been taught. 

So history teaches us that women aren’t as smart, gifted, and capable as men in the workplace. I work 10 times harder just to prove I can do the job, because society won’t let go of this foolish premise that I’m intellectually and physically inferior to a man. Well give him a map and let him give birth and let’s see how well he fares!

Add a serving of racism and bigotry

AND THEN let’s not factor in my skin color…that’s an added 2,017 tests, because then I’m proving that not only can I do the “job of a man”, but that I can do it just as good or better than the white woman who also had to prove that she could do the “job of a man”. I’ve been asked, “is there someone else who can confirm what you’re saying?” knowing that the likelihood of this question being asked of a man is slim to none. My nonblack female colleagues have told me that they don’t experience as much scrutiny as they see black women face. 

Oh yeah and whatever I do, I better not come with my “mad black woman attitude“—you know, that “sickness” that we black women keep “spreading” generationally!?! My Latina sisters are just considered “hot” and “spicy” when they project this same “attitude”. My Asian sisters are excused (from any outbursts, loud speech, eye rolling, hand gestures, and profanity) as though it’s just a temporary lapse in judgment—because they have been stereotyped as soft spoken and docile. Although I have plenty of Asian friends that laugh hysterically at the box they’ve been placed in. My white sisters can be labeled as “bitches” but their strength is never seen as a sickness and never are they categorically labeled as a whole race, and definitely never to the extent of black women. 

Since I mentioned “bitch” a few times now …Ever been called one? Well the word hangs and lingers in the air differently when it’s said to a woman of color. Something about being called a “black bitch” means something more vile. Why can’t I just be a “bitch”? I mean, I don’t want to be called one, but why is it necessary to add in “black”? It’s simple. The intention is clear, it’s meant to demean, degrade, and diminish to the lowest level. When you hear it you cringe not knowing what’s coming next. It’s almost like you’re waiting for someone to spit a loogie at you (one of those huge ones from way back in their mouth). Some may say that’s why some black women chose to turn the word around and upside down, and use it to mean something different (when used in a different context)–similar to how some black people use the word “nigg_”. That’s also up for debate. But I digress…

As an Educator

As a college professor, I’m challenged more by my students than my male and non-black colleagues (yes, I’ve seen the difference with my own two eyes, and I’ve had colleagues acknowledge this). 

I don’t mind the challenge when it’s the normal “question everything” framing. I want my students to question me, our textbooks, and the system as a whole. But are you really questioning me simply because I’m a black woman teaching about concepts, rules, theories, and practices of a male-dominated field?

I do take pleasure in watching my cynical students eat humble pie after repeated rounds with me, when it’s clear that they just don’t believe this black woman knows what she’s talking about—because how could a black woman know so much about business, management, economic development, marketing, human resources, etc? To see their faces when they realize that I know what I speak and that I walk the walk, not just “teach what I can’t do” (you know, that bull crap phrase designed to humiliate coaches, educators and consultants)…yeah, that look on their face says it all. 

At first I thought it was age discrimination, because they thought I was close in age to them. But once I made clear that I was old enough to be (most of) their mother, that removed one of their judgmental layers—while highlighting the biggie. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes I am experiencing age discrimination, but more often it’s my race coupled with my gender that has me investing more time debating. 

Experiencing it from your “Own”

For me, what’s been far worse than experiencing this sexism and bias from white people, has been the avalanche of crap I get from black people. Ridicule and judgment hurts more from “family”. 

 If I were white (yes, sadly, even if I were a white female) black people wouldn’t question-to-death my rates, invoices, tactics, practices, strategies, plans, or decisions. But for some reason, this black woman’s rates and invoices must be too high (so they need a discount), and this black woman’s practices, tactics, strategies, etc must be flawed or subpar, so I’m gonna have to waste more hours proving the why-how-when-where-what…and who…repeatedly until you pretend to believe me. It’s only when I get the job done like I said I would that I’m given any kudos…and even then, it won’t be to the extent that you would give a man or a non-black woman. That hurts deeply. It’s still the plantation slave trying to keep the others under control, or at least keep the others below them. 

I will never forget being offered and accepting “peanuts” to develop a project that had never been done (especially at that scale and magnitude), nor with the short amount of time needed, and I couldn’t help but to notice how my gender combined with my race played a major role in my treatment. I knew of other people and projects (some that never came to fruition) yet they were paid considerably more than me by this same company. But I internalized my pain and disappointment, and focused passionately on the project. I over-delivered and although my work spoke for itself, I never got the acknowledgement and praise that a man would, or even a non-black woman. That experience taught me some valuable lessons that I will NEVER forget. 

My Parting Words

For more than 20 years I’ve been dealing with this nonsense in business while being expected to remain well-poised, soft-spoken and graceful, because after all, I’m supposed to conduct myself “like a lady”, except for when I’m expected to “be like one of the fellas”. WTH!

It’s 2017. Men and women need to identify and evolve beyond their sexist thoughts, speech, and behavior. Gender and race doesn’t determine whether a job can be done well, effort does!

See past my name, I won’t be changing it from Natasha to Nathan. See past my gender, yep, I’m not changing that;  and see past my skin color (ummm let’s not even go there)–and let me do my daggum job with the level of excellence that I only know how to provide—because I’ve never been allowed to come with less than excellent. Trust me, you will be more than pleased with my work and results. But you will never know if you don’t give me a chance to shine!

Sources:

Amatulli, Emma. What Happened When A Man Signed Work Emails Using A Female Name For 2 Weeks http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_58c2ce53e4b054a0ea6a4066?

Blitz, Mirco (created Moments feed for Martin R. Schneider tweets) https://mobile.twitter.com/i/moments/839950218099576832?m=1

Hallberg, Nicole. Working While Female. https://medium.com/@nickyknacks/working-while-female-59a5de3ad266#.g7pa04gnw 

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