When I was younger, so much younger than today, I knew that my Mum was a bit of a big deal at work. She had an important job that she was well respected for, and she did it with class. I also knew that this, coupled with the fact she had a uterus, really was a hugely big deal.
A woman. In charge of men? Actually doing a good job?
Time has moved on and largely so have attitudes. Women are far more widely accepted within the workplace and people are less likely to be shocked that they can make a meaningful contribution. However, things are far from equal, and I daresay they never will be.
I can, of course, only speak to my own experiences, and for the largest part they have been positive. That is because the vast majority of men that I do business with aren’t wankers. However, some are. That is genetics. Or environment. Or just the bloody way the cookie crumbles. We do, after all, each have our own crosses to bear.
One of my personal crosses has been raising his head again over the last week. There is a land called Passive Agressiva and he is their King. He is the type of man that thinks very highly of himself. He has opinions on everything, and only deals with absolutes. Everything is black and white, and he is always right.
There is no room for negotiation and he always gets his way; no matter how many people he has to bully, coerce or trample on to get there. We all know such people; they are surrounded by sycophants but have very few genuine allies.
The problem with such people is that they are able to bully, demean and belittle people because they never raise their voice. They never shout, they never threaten, they are not terribly imposing (in fact, they are often of average or potentially below average height). As such they are not aggressive, so any reaction you have to their comments or approach is an over-reaction. If you are a man you will be tempted to punch them. You’re a neanderthalic ape. If you are a woman, then you are emotional. Probably hormonal.
But you see, this is where being a woman has a distinct advantage. Such men have a wonderful tendency of underestimating your worth, strength and resilience. They assume you are just squidgy round the edges and that your role as nurturer within your family makes you an easy target. They know you won’t punch them. They know they are safe toying with you. Picking on you. They play their little games, they question your knowledge and professionalism and they sit back and wait while you retort with tears in your eyes and humiliation in your voice.
Your emotional over-reaction will be your undoing. You will show yourself for what you really are … a bag of hormones. He, after all, was just being nice. Not aggressive. Not a wanker.
The thing my little cross hasn’t bargained for is my back story. He has underestimated me and my strength, resilience and sense of right. He doesn’t realise that I have already dealt with bigger, badder and significantly tougher wankers than him.
He doesn’t know that I stood up to and ultimately left my emotionally and occasionally physically abusive first husband. He doesn’t know that I went to the police, that I gave a statement, that I looked a violent attacker in the face and gave evidence in court. He doesn’t know my actions, in small part, helped put a disgraceful individual behind bars for life. Multiple life sentences.
He doesn’t know that I stood shoulder to shoulder with a team of professional pall bearers and shouldered the weight of my beloved Dad, and his coffin, to carry him on his final journey when the rest of my family could not. He doesn’t know that I have laboured without drugs, that I have seen my child born blue with his cord wrapped round his neck, or that another precious baby had to be rushed off for oxygen when he could barely breathe a few hours after birth.
None of these are particularly remarkable. They are not incredibly unique. My point is that women, like everyone, have back stories. Back stories that make them strong, that make them tigers, that make them look at pathetic, weasely individuals with the contempt they deserve.
To the men reading this, know that trying to belittle a woman because she is a woman only shows you for what you are.
To the women reading this, you know you are stronger than them. Let them underestimate you. It will hurt all the more when you rise up and bite their pathetic heads off.