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It almost goes without saying

I provide this picture to explain some of the assumptions I have about sexism in society. That’s me in the front row, at a special training camp. I could write an entire story about that experience, which involved the usual humiliations, intrigues, and uphill climbs I experienced in my eight years on active duty.

It was hard to be a woman in a male specialty, and particularly in an uber-male subspecialty. But it did make it easier to deal with sexism, and by “deal” I mean cope with it day to day, like a chronic condition. It made it easier to see sexism, and even risk the ire of men by pointing it out. I just don’t care that much what men think of me–as long as I’m not working for them.

Over at Caveat Lector, Dorothea has some fine huevos to point out the forces at work that keep sexism a dirty secret. I’m not surprised that someone was angry. Dorothea wasn’t playing the game guy-style, where sexism is tolerated and women don’t speak up. She was being frank about what she experienced, and that makes men angry, because sexism is no fun if it’s challenged.

She also talks about why women can’t speak up. In a culture where the dominant gender is male, and your livelihood depends at least in part on ensuring those men aren’t angry with you, it is hard to point out what’s wrong.

About a month ago I pointed out on the Lita blog that women were underrepresented at a program. A man challenged my statement and added that the presenters were selected for their qualifications.

Right. I buy that. As if for most of my life I hadn’t heard decisions reverse-engineered to provide a tidy rationale. Look again at that picture. In the world of sexism, every single man in that picture is more qualified than the short woman in the front row, and the dominant group will always find reasons to support their decisions.

However, I am sure that I don’t have much of a future at wherever pissed-off-guy works (not that it matters). That’s part of the price of speaking up. So women don’t speak up, because too often they can’t. They might piss off someone important, or they’ll be labeled as not being a team player or as whiners or told they don’t believe in a little “fun” (like GW Bush and his patronizing shoulder-rub to his German counterpart last week–the man knows no boundaries).

I might not even have taken the time early this morning before work to write this post, if I hadn’t read one of those you’ll-see-it-everywhere posts that Talis, a company, had a post about a podcast by the “Library 2.0 gang,” which turns out to be nine men and one woman. Did anyone in that group think it was just a little strange to have a library “gang” that underrepresented women? (I went to library school, and all I got was Library 1.0?) Did the men think about speaking up? At all?

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