• Kate

It's okay, it's cultural

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

"Why do you let this anger you? Why get involved in someone else's drama?"

These were the two questions posed to me when I relayed a circumstance of someone I know. I want to start by saying this is not a man-hating post, nor an "oh woe is the female gender" post. If the content of this post offends, that is not my intention but I would strongly recommend evaluating why it offended.

The situation I was discussing is not one unfamiliar to many, in fact, I daresay half the population has encountered this exact conversation or something similar. You see, someone I know was asked about her intention to have children. And I'm not talking in polite social engagement, I'm talking about in the workplace, by a male manager, in very personal and intimate detail; to the point that it was made abundantly clear that if she chose to put her family plans above her work, she may not have a position in which to return.

This angered me but what made me irate is that she was not bombarded with this conversation once but twice, yes twice. After the second time, and a subsequent discussion with a boss, she was told, she has to understand that he means no harm and he is from a culture where women are seen as subservient to men.

Apparently, because of someone's cultural upbringing, it is okay, no, not just okay, justifiable to ask a woman in intimate detail about her intention for family and threaten her career progression on the basis that she is a woman!

Now I can state that this is a gender issue because the question was posed to the male "if she were a man would you be asking about his sexual orientation or personal family plans?" to which the answer was no. The male in question also stated that he saw no wrongdoing in the conversation and the nature of his invasive questions.

Now, I must admit, I had to check the date. For some reason I thought I was caught in a time warp that had sent me spinning back to the late 90's or 00's or worse yet, the 60's and 70's. I felt my blood boil. I felt my eye twitch. I saw red and white and the veins inside my eyelids as I tried, hard as I might, to stop from erupting like Mount Vesuvius over the city of Pompeii.

What the actual fuck? That was it. I tried. I really did. And the tirade began. The flood gates opened and out tumbled all the anger and disgust towards the male for the questions, the workplace for allowing it, the managers for excusing it, and get this: Giving her permission to tell him to fuck off if he starts the conversations again.

Oh, I'm sorry. Did we, as women, need a male's permission for defending ourselves? Did we need to have your authority to rebut sexist commentary? Seeing as you, as a manager in a workplace, don't have the gall to do it, I guess we are left with little choice.

This, guys, is why women often feel unsupported and left out in the cold, because of pathetic excuses made to us as to why sexism, sexist commentary, gender division, and misogyny are acceptable. That is not to say all men are like this - not at all but this, for the most part, is still the majority experience for most women. I know that some men and women are going to see this as male bashing, and it isn't. I'm merely highlighting that in 2019, 19 years into the 21st century (think about that, two thousand and nineteen years into the Gregorian calendar, six thousand years into civilisation as we know it) we are still facing the same old bullshit!

Let's evaluate the "cultural" excuse, shall we?

It was stated that she must understand he meant no harm because it's his culture. Sure, there are many cultures where the belief that women are subservient to men is still perpetuated - it does not make it right.

By this "cultural" logic we must thereby accept:

  • Genital mutilation of the female clitoris through female circumcision

  • Genital mutilation of the male foreskin through male circumcision

  • Child brides

  • Torture of animals for entertainment and tourism

  • Foot binding

  • Rape and torture of women

  • Death by stoning

  • Slavery

  • Marital rape

  • Child labour

  • Whaling

  • Hunting endangered species to the brink of extinction

  • Fox hunting

  • Human trafficking

I could go on.

These things are seen as atrocities of basic human rights or against humanity and nature and are denounced the world over. In fact, there are campaigns, missions, task forces, movements and organisations working to rid the world of these acts. But they're all cultural. They all have deeply entrenched cultural roots somewhere.

Surely if it's okay for someone to be sexist based on their culture, it's okay for these things above? Hell no! I hear you cry. Why then is it okay for someone's actions to be excused on one basis but not the other? The world was up in arms when President Donald Trump stated he would, "grab [a woman] by the pussy" but we forget that when it comes to the simple pleb on the street, or in the office, in this case.

And why do I let this anger me? Because it fucking should. Because it should anger you too, regardless of your gender identification or non-identification. Because this, in any year, let alone 2019, is utter bullshit and to excuse it based on someone's culture? That is the most pathetic action anyone, male, female, non-binary, can ever take. The problem we have on so many levels as a society is that we don't get angry. Apathy reigns. We have forgotten that things are worthy of anger. That anger is the agent of change. And that change is long overdue. So I say get angry, get furious. Erupt like the volcano. Be the fucking change. Do not stand for having these issues pushed aside. Call it out. Don't accept it. And when you witness this level of managerial cowardice swiftly, vocally, and loudly exclaim the injustice. Stand together, never accept anything less than equality and respect.

If you're a manager and you witness this bullshit in your workplace, regardless of how uncomfortable confrontation makes you, you have a responsibility to correct this. You're in that role for a reason: Be a leader.

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