Why is it So Hard to Be a Professional Woman? #NowWhat
ColumnSo, you’re a professional woman and you want to have a meaningful and professional experience online. Good for you! Just be prepared to deal with a lot of inappropriate come-ons and sexism.
It’s hard enough to “act” professional online and in real life as it is, so, when a man decides to contact you about your looks rather than your qualifications, you tend to get pretty angry. And the shitty truth is that women have always had a relatively rough time online. (Since joining social media years ago, I’ve encountered more than a few handfuls of men who feign professional interest in my work only to end up hitting on me at a later date.)
Apparently, this is pretty common. Just recently, Charlotte Proudman, an English barrister and LinkedIn member, received a pretty gross message from an older male lawyer. In the message, the lawyer (more specifically, a senior partner), wrote her a message that complimented Proudman on her “stunning picture.”
According to The Atlantic, Proudman responded by posting the partner’s original message and her sharp response online for all to see. While we all can agree that a salty response from Proudman was required, many people are getting caught up in her choice to “publicly shame” the lawyer. Yeah, her decision to make this guy’s name public may not have been the best idea, but I’m happy she shared her experience for more than a few reasons:
1. Proudman made this all-too-common issue well known. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told friends, family, and boyfriends about the “co-worker who jokingly said he’d rape me,” or the guy at the office who thought it was OK to tell me my new profile picture was “sexy.”
Everyone believed me, but couldn’t believe that men would act this way in a professional setting. And then there were the people who thought that (1) I should be happy people think I’m pretty, or (2) I must have been doing something flirtatious that made these men think it was OK to talk to me this way… Eye roll.
Obviously, I’m not the only woman who has faced this kind of treatment and I certainly won’t be the last.
2. This particular issue also shows that no matter how smart women are, or how good women are at their jobs, they will always be judged by how they look. This point was proved just this past week when a male reporter asked Serena Williams why she wasn’t smiling and carrying on after her win. Williams’ answer was honest, and in my opinion, a bit too polite. Jezebel reports her smart response as follows:
“It’s 11:30. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to be here. I just want to be in bed right now and I have to wake up early to practice and I don’t want to answer any of these questions. And you keep asking me the same questions. It’s not really … you’re not making it super enjoyable.”
This is yet another one of those situations that I, and all my female friends, have been in. So many people (men and women alike) think that it’s perfectly acceptable to pick apart my face’s position at all times of the day. And since I’m naturally a serious looking person, I am always pegged as a bitch or “mean woman” at work.
Now, I doubt this issue is going away anytime soon. The day that women aren’t critiqued on their appearance or on their face’s position is probably going to be the same day that the world ends. But we can all hope that change will at least begin to come in increments.
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