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May 19, 2008

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Retired Syd

(Comment from Retired Syd: Before I get a bunch of hate mail about why Hillary Clinton isn't fit to be the president--that is not really the point here. Rather it was to generate discussion regarding the gender issues her campaign brought to the surface.)

jennifer youngblood

Smile less? What's the most frustrating is when people don't realize what they're saying isn't appropriate, which was probably the case there. I've been told (by both men and women) that in order to be taken seriously in my field (math/science research) I should put more makeup on, tie my hair in a tight bun, and get glasses. And yes the last one is a kicker because my vision is perfect.

Retired Syd

Does everyone get such ridiculous career advice or is it just saved for us women?

Steve Austin

I'd never been given any career advice -- didn't have much of a career either. ;-\ The only career related thing I ever remember hearing from an "elder" was dead wrong -- from my HS guidance counselor, when I told him I wanted to program computers. Though he did smile before he answered. ;-\

Sara

Talk about the glass ceiling.... Women have come a long way...

When I graduated from college they told me that I could be either a nurse or a teacher. I was over-qualified to be a secretary.

Now ...think about that compared to today when they don't tell you up front!! HA HA...Seriously, women have really come a long way (in 40 years) in their struggle for equality with men.

BTW...I don't think that being a woman has anything to do with Hilary's failure to secure the nomination.

Sara

Sara

PS

YOU can't smile less!!!

Retired Syd

I was once told by a very wise boss that we will know that women have attained total equality when there are as many mediocre women in power as mediocre men.

We may have come a long way in that stellar women are now able to achieve great things, but for the rest of us mere mortals, it's clear that it's still better to be an average Joe than an average Jane.

It doesn't bother me that Hillary hasn't secured the nomination, there are many valid reasons for this that don't involve her being a woman. It's the tone of the debate that bothers me. That much of it has to do with her cleavage or shrill voice--or whatever. Things we would never say about a man. (Like that I smile too much).

Steve Austin

Re: cleavage, I think there are things that "we" would say about a man candidate that we would not say about a woman candidate. Haven't heard it in this election, but in past elections have heard talk of "presidential stature", apparently referring to whether the man is tall or imposing enough or something. That wouldn't be said about a women because physical stature between a woman and a man is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Re: shrill voice, remember H. Ross Perot? Some said they didn't like his wimpy, whiney voice. Whether shrill or whiney, I don't see why a voice is a matter of equitable man-woman treatment.

Politics is a bitter struggle, and there aren't too many things that won't be thrown at an opponent in order to win, win at all costs. A politician, woman or man, knows and accepts this going in. I think any politician embraces the fight -- there is no other way to survive. If Clinton uses the "first woman nominee" line *for* her campaign, aren't gender-specific eligible to be used *against* her campaign by her opponents? It's not fair, but fairness is not something endemic to politics. A candidate must win despite all obstacles to her victory, and gender-specific unfairness is just one of many unfair obstacles.

Retired Syd

If it was limited to politics, I would have to agree with you; but that's just it, it's NOT just in politics. That's what this whole candidacy has brought to the surface for woman. That we experience this stuff all the time and we are NOT running for office.

It was easy for us to ignore over the last 30 or 40 years because things are MUCH better for women as Sara pointed out. It's much more subtle now, though. So subtle that there is really nothing big enough to actually address in the workplace. Just a bunch o needling examples that add up, and when you see it on the campaign trail you think "no I am not crazy, it's been there all along."

As an aside, a "presidential stature" comment would hardly be offensive to men. Let me give you an example of something specific to a man that would be in the same vein of the inappropriate comments I refer to: if one of the democratic campaigns said, "McCain probably can't get it up." Offensive, irrelevant and specifically tailored to a man.

Steve Austin

All right then, I won't pretend to have the slightest idea what I'm talking about on a daily basis w.r.t. this issue. I'm only sayin' that I don't see how a political manifestation of the issue brings it to the surface. It's far more about the politics than about the issue. (Politics isn't really about issues anymore; it's all marketing, image, fluff and rhetoric.) Even when a real issue occasionally creeps up on the discourse, it's quickly overrun by how it's said and packaged than what was said.

Other than the candidates and their logistical tails, who takes politics seriously anyway? Isn't it all a big dirty game, and everything that happens in the arena is taken in that context? Politics isn't daily reality, so if you recognize a supposed political issue from reality it's just coincidental. Would anyone change her/his vote based upon some "shrill voice" or "cleavage" comment? It's hard to know, but I'd expect some cancellation in both directions, and very little effect to boot. The whole point of a "shrill voice" or "cleavage" soundbite is to distract from some other event. To the extent that this was the objective of the soundbite, do you see how that objective has been achieved if we are all still yapping about it here and elsewhere? ;-\ I promise you that I do not mean to dismiss the issue in reality, only dismiss that it's manifestation politically has any non-trivial affect on reality.

Perhaps revealing my poor sense of humor, I find both "can't get it up" and "too much cleavage" comments entertaining and par for the course. Didn't Bob Dole endure "ED attacks" during his '96 campaign? ;-\ I'm only trying to say that nothing is inappropriate during a political struggle; I may not like it, but politics is what it is. I wouldn't dream of thinking that I could change that. In my view, the best course of action when faced with a political offense is to deflect, disregard, and press on. If I can do that, the offensive tone won't matter the day after tomorrow.

Retired Syd

You're right. Politics is just politics. Nothing more. It's not really about the race for president.

It's that the discussion reminds us of our day-to day lives, and the reality of the bias that we really do experience in the workplace. The way I dealt with such frustrations is not a viable option for most of the women of America. I threw in the towel and retired.

Steve Austin

Retired Syd, maybe I haven't read all your postings closely enough. I was under the impression that you were a successful and long-tenured CFO who retired because you, well, because you could. Who *wouldn't* want to retire after the success you've had? In other words, I read your blog to say that your retirement was a positive, affirmative change (to retirement), not a negative, reactive event (away from work). I do regret to hear that there was more to it, but in my book you appear to have won, in spite of the frustrating bias.

Retired Syd

Oh, it's so complex, actually. I am, in general, a very positive person, so you are right, I was attracted hugely to the positives of retirement. And also, right, because I could.

But had I had more satisfaction from my work, I probably wouldn't have retired. The lack of satisfaction is what's complex, a whole lot more than just the gender stuff. I didn't have to try and deal with the root of my frustrations, because, as you note, I didn't have to.

Someday I'll write a post about my "success". This is hard to fathom for people, because I was financially successful. But actually, I don't feel I was really all that successful, truth be told.

Cinzea

All the candidates are facing discrimination of one sort or another.
McCain: ageism
H. Clinton: gender bias
Obama: racism

Haven't all of us faced some sort of bias? Bald men, fat women, level of education, financial measurements. It goes on and on.

I'm glad to see a man of age, a woman and an African American (bi-racial actually) running for the presidency. We may not just be 'there yet' but we're sure a heck of a lot closer.

We'll get there.

Retired Syd

Cinzea:

My whole family is here right now drinking the kool aid and guess what? We all agree with 100% your comment.

I'm sure older people and minorities would identify with the same things that some women are identifying with because of this election.

And you are totally right, this is such an exciting race becuase of all the players and how close each group is to "getting there".

Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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