Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

Women: Have you ever encountered sexism?

Asked by Blackberry (31878points) January 23rd, 2012

I’m not well-versed on the plight of the woman. Do crazy things like men propositioning you with sex for a raise happen often? Has someone treated you in a bad way because you were a woman? Tell me your stories if you would like.

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73 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

LOL. Are you kidding? Sexism is an an occurrence in every woman’s life, as a fact. To start talking about my own experiences will get me angry right now.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Every day, pretty much. It’s so intricately woven into our societal habits that it is almost impossible not to run into it. All you have to do is be aware, and you can see that it is everywhere.

picante's avatar

yep, me too.

Consistently throughout my life, with greater or less blatancy depending on specific circumstances. I even witness it here on Fluther from men whom I’d have thought knew better (heavy sigh).

I can honestly say that my salary has never been held for ransom in return for sexual favors. At least not that I’m aware of.

Fresh out of college many years ago, I was interviewing for a job. The male interviewer noticed my Phi Beta Kappa key (pin) and asked if it was my husband’s. WTF?????? Unbelievably, I had enough wits about me to respond that it was in fact my pin, but that I was wearing my husband’s underwear. Needless to say, I did not get the job.

Jude's avatar

Happens often for me, yes.

Facade's avatar

Yes, absolutely. Not to mention the whole Black thing…

Aethelflaed's avatar

It’s a daily occurrence for me, as well. The most common is sex-related – I shouldn’t have sex, shouldn’t enjoy sex, should only enjoy sex in certain ways, should do x, y, and z to avoid being raped. People assume I should have a job in the 5 Cs, and won’t listen when I tell them I don’t want to. Or they assume that I must want kids and a husband. Sometimes, it’s just higher standards, like if a man does something bad, it’s bad, but when a woman does it, it’s extra bad.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I don’t really like calling these great answers. More like sad answers. You jellies have made me realize how deeply ingrained it is in our culture from childhood.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

What kills me, often, is how other people seem to reinforce it without even knowing that they’re doing it. I have been in situations, more times than I can count, where a man is being sexist toward me… and then someone else (often another man) blames me for the sexist behavior. That makes me furious.

tedd's avatar

At some point I think every woman alive today will encounter it (and honestly so do men, we just see the more positive side of it… like a positive stereotype if you will).

Obviously I can’t give my own experiences on it cuz I’m not a girl, but I would like to think it’s occurrence rate is going down.

My g/f’s boss is this sleaze ball guy. Lots of money, never married, a bit older now.. drinks smokes, womanizes, etc…. Apparently he has had some of his workers (who are almost all female) sleep with him for promotions.

I’ve never worked for a person like that, or at least not one where I know it.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Yeah, I get bummed out by the privilege as well. It’s really hard when you just want to be like “ok, this is a bad behavior, and you should really knock it off, but it’s also kind of ok (so long as you stop it), because everyone does it. I’m not trying to call you a monster, just point out that you have some less than desirable behavior.”

syz's avatar

Casual sexism mostly, if not daily, then weekly. Occasionally, intentionally hurtful or denigrating sexism.

marinelife's avatar

A former male boss once told me that I would be limited in how high I could rise in the company, because “all of the important stuff was discussed in the men’s room”!!!!!!!

wilma's avatar

I would concur with what the women above me have said.
All my life, often, and it continues.

Blackberry's avatar

Thanks for the answers. I didn’t word my question very well, sorry about that. Obviously I know you all face sexism, I was wondering about specific examples : )

Jude's avatar

My ex worked in a male dominated field. It happened to her as soon as she walked into the door. Every day.

She was a process operator.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Blackberry One that hit me was I think it was Jill’s answer about belching or something along those lines. Little boys get to laugh about. Little girls are frowned at and told to act like a lady. It starts that young.

Aethelflaed's avatar

The assumption that I must be good with domestic tasks (cleaning, cooking, sewing, etc, only one of which I’m moderately competent at), and that I should be the one doing it. If a guy my age has a messy apartment, people are like, freaking duh, bachelor pad. But if I do it, I’m a slob. Or that people have a right to be pissed off if I don’t look a certain way (shaved legs, shaped eyebrows, thin/fit, sexy but not sexual, nice hair that takes a long time to style…). People treat attractive men better, but they don’t act like a less attractive or unattractive man is letting everyone down because he decided it wasn’t worth his time to put that much effort into looks.

And “lady-like” behavior. My mother used to tell my sister and I how if we kept belching like we did as young girls, we’d never get a man. (We both inherited some GERD, so it wasn’t like we were just doing it for funnsies, we were in pain). Ladies suck in their tummies. Ladies don’t have natural bodily functions (peeing, pooping, bleeding, periods, farts, burps, runny noses…). Ladies are oh-fended if proper table manners aren’t observed. Ladies don’t play with trucks, or even Barbies (the whores!), they play with washer/dryer sets from Fisher-Price and American Girl dolls. Ladies cross their legs.

Blackberry's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Good point: What is like to grow up hearing things like this?

Did you guys ever question some of the random sexism you encountered growing up?

Jude's avatar

Current partner works for an environmental company (she’s a scientist). It is a small company (of 10) and she is the only woman there (other than the boss’ secretary). She experiences it at work, as well.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Blackberry Well, I experienced it first from my father who didn’t think I’m worthy of as much investment as my brother since, after all, all I’ll be doing is mothering and being a wife in the future. I experienced it from my mother who ignored my statements that my brother and later a friend of his were molesting me so as to ‘keep the peace.’ I experienced it much too early when my body was developed before my mind and I couldn’t walk a block without cat-calls and pathetic men masturbating to me on public transportation. I experienced it in terms of the power I was taught, the power that was in my physicality and in seduction of men. That’s all a woman could do, I understood, in this world. And I learned about sexism through politics and through reproductive policy around abortion. I learned about sexism when bisexual girls were hot and faggots were not, because that kind of thing is about the all too pervasive male-gaze of women’s sexualities. I learned about sexism by learning and reading and being a queer feminist since no creature is so ‘wrong’ as a woman who sleeps with women without a man watching. The only creature worse is a transgender woman who dared to give up the privilege of the boys in order to be who she is. I haven’t been that creature but know many. I experienced it through incessant conversations (and yes, of course on Fluther) where so many excuse their ignorance by saying feminism is xyz or is now unnecessary. I learned it through victim blaming, fat shaming and allusions to those hormonal differences. I learned of it through disgust with anything having to do with the vagina, like menstrual blood or actual labor. I learned sexism from many male physicians I’ve faced, through being groped on the bus, through being hurled insults like cunt and bitch when I don’t smile for some asshole stranger on the street. I learned it through knowing that worldwide violence exists disproportionately against women, that women are raped as a weapon of war, that female genital mutilation is not an issue because of ‘cultural relativism’, that plastic surgery is apparently a ‘personal decision’, etc. I learned it through listening to 2nd wave feminists in their 70s talk with fear about today’s generation of women and how they’ve been sold out on lipstick feminism, on spice girl feminist as I call it and think they’re free. I know it now because though I don’t identify as a woman, I am perceived as such and it is a daily occurrence to me to be devoured by stares and to be insulted on the street and to see their violent responses when I fight back. I know it so intimately and so consistently that I fear and have always feared bringing a female child into this world who will make her into a woman (because, as DeBeauvoir said ‘one is not born a woman, one becomes a woman’ in this society) and I have nothing positive to say for the future of this gender other than it’s one who has ALWAYS faced oppression and is a seat of strength and fire but we’re not out of the woods yet and I will die before they’ll become rare.

tedd's avatar

I’m really at a loss here. I mean maybe I’m just overlooking a lot of the blatant sexism in day to day life… but I guess I don’t really see too many occurrences on a daily basis. Like I don’t see a girl belching or being less kempt on a given day as something that I frown upon because she’s a woman. I may strike it against her cleanliness, but no more/less than I would a fellow man (I would actually probably be more likely to encourage the girl to burp than the guy, lol). I definitely haven’t seen first hand any of the “sex-for-play” scenarios.

Maybe it’s just my generation of guys? Or maybe I’m blind as crap? lol

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tedd You’re blind as crap.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tedd Sexism doesn’t have to be blatant to be dangerous and pervasive. There is systemic sexism in a political way and there’s everyday sexism that is all about passive aggressive microagressions.

Blackberry's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Thanks for the detailed answer. It’s difficult for people to understand perception from another’s life, so I wanted to get a little grasp.

MilkyWay's avatar

Lol! Every single fucking day.

tedd's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir @Aethelflaed Examples?

I don’t mean to imply that such things aren’t happening. I guess I’d just like to be enlightened? With the exception of certifiable physical differences (like “Oh hey I’d better ask Frank to help me move that couch not Alice, it’s heavy and Alice only weighs 100 pounds… which could just as well be ask Jan instead of Alice because Jan has some muscle)... I can’t think of a time when I (or anyone in my immediate group of friends/peers) saw a female as less, or different, or what have you than any guy. If anything I find myself more likely to confide or socialize with women. I won’t deny the occasional glance (be it accidental, reflexive, or purposely) at a woman’s body… But by the same token I’ve noted many women doing the same to men’s bodies, and even have female friends who comment on it to me. (I remember a specific example once where I returned home to my town house to find the neighbor, a star linebacker on our universities football team, sunbathing out front with only shorts on, and I went in to tell my female room mate, who spent the next 20 minutes “at her car looking for something.”) But you get the picture, lol.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tedd Examples of microagressions? Read my post above. I have daily examples that I can pm you, if you’d like. What you’re talking about isn’t what sexism is’s so much more. It’s not about how you perceive women, I’m glad you think of them as equal to men, they are. It’s about societal patterns and we live in a patriarchy, in all ways. If you really want to learn, here are some things I think you should look at. I have changed my name legally to the first name of this scholar. Here and here you can read a debunking of two of the myths caused by sexism. Here’s evidence that equality is myth in America. Here’s a glimpse into an aspect of growing up in this sexist culture. Here you can learn about how women changed the world and see that you didn’t know most of them. Here you can look at slut-shaming (something many on Fluther are involved in). Here you can look at your own privilege. Here are some facts on gendered violence. I can keep going…

Ponderer983's avatar

Well let’s see here – there is the being ignored when I walk into a car showroom. There are the stares and constant “Can I help you’s” when I walking Home Depot/Lowe’s. There was a college professor that I had to wear a shirt that showed no hint whatsoever of cleavage otherwise he would constantly stand behind me at my computer. And off course the everyday stuff we as women encounter.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tedd Really? You can’t think of any examples? Maybe you have some unpacked privilege there.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Holy Cow. I’m 57, even chronicling a month of daily incidents would take me into senior discounts. Granted, 99% of these are so small and dealt with without thought most of the time, but it’s a pervasive gnat cloud. An example today? On the phone this morning, with a financial adviser who kept asking for my “husband” because my legal name is “Jill the Tooth” the Second and he was sure I was just being difficult about letting him talk to the account holder. I had to hang up and call back to get someone else. Not an unusual type of occurrence. That’s one of a bunch today alone.

Kayak8's avatar

Sexism (like most other ism’s) is insidious. It can range from the very subtle to the very blatant. Here are just a few examples and some fun activities for the boys:

Referring to women as girls. Spend a day and substitute the word boy(s) for man/men (tell people you are going to the Boy’s Room for starters) and you will get a better idea of why it is an odd reference for adult women to be called girls. This exercise won’t teach you WHY it is marginalizing, but you will see how much easier society allows you to use the word “girl” to describe a woman and not the other way around.

Now imagine that you are robbed. The robber explains to the judge that he/she only robbed you because they saw the bulge of your wallet (i.e., you asked for it). And the judge finds that explanation good enough to drop the charges. This same logic holds for women who have been raped and were said to have “dressed provocatively” which could be anything from shorts and a t-shirt on a hot day to jeans with a shirt that shows your belly when you reach for something. What she wears makes his attack HER fault?

Imagine knowing that someone is following you one evening when you are out walking. What is your plan of action? (Do you even have one?) Are your keys already between your fingers for a slicing move? Is 911 already queued up on your phone? If you can walk at night without thinking about these kinds of things, you are probably male (or walking with your German Shepherd as I do).

Take a day at work and imagine that every time you express an opinion or suggest a course of action that everyone in the room is thinking you are an “aggressive bitch.” Try it for a week and see if you stop speaking up after a while.

Spend a week looking a billboards. For every one that depicts a sexy view of a woman, you get one point. For every one that depicts a sexy view of a man, you lose a point. Calculate the ratio. The target audience of the ad doesn’t matter, just keep track of which gender is depicted in which ways.

Go into a store that sells women’s undergarments with the plan of purchasing a bra. Pretend like you know what the sales person is talking about. Don’t allow yourself to act funny or sheepish about the experience. You must pretend like you know what the sales person is talking about and be prepared to answer all the questions asked of you regarding this purchase. Odds are, you will avoid the experience OR will do a hell of a lot of research before entering the store to feel remotely competent in making such a purchase. See how intimidated you feel. This is somewhat like the way I feel when purchasing a car or trying to understand how to best insulate my house. I have to do so much research ahead of time so I can relax that the sales person is not taking advantage of me. A bra costs about $25—$40 but a car costs 1000 times that and insulation isn’t cheap either.

Now imagine that people’s perception regarding your “desirability” will suddenly change when you hit 35 or 40. It is nothing you did (except live long enough to get to 35 or 40). We don’t hold men to the same standards when it comes to perceptions regarding aging and desirability. Perhaps that is due to who is doing the judging. Men (both straight and gay) seem to need the visual cues to become sexually aroused in a way that doesn’t seem typical of most (but certainly not all) women.

I could go on with this, but I think you now have about two months worth of practical exercises to try out.

bkcunningham's avatar

For me personally, not really. I honestly can’t think of any major circumstance in a professional/business environment where I wasn’t treated with dignity, respect and as an equal by both men and women. There have been a few insignificant things that I didn’t give a second thought after they happened.

I remember once when I was younger and I was buying a new car and the dealer asked if my husband had good credit. I said he had excellent credit, but it didn’t matter because he wasn’t buying the car. I was and he had nothing to do with the purchase. No problem.

Another time, in a job, I had to go to a monthly meeting for business professionals at a country club. A smooze type networking thing. One of the women who was going with me knew I hadn’t been before and explained how I had to flirt with this one particular guy because he was one of her biggest clients. I wasn’t in sales and bascially told her it was her problem, not mine if she needed to flirt to make money. He was a real dog, IMHO, and didn’t spend much time talking to me.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Wait… did @tedd just come up with a purely interrogative form of mansplaining?

bkcunningham's avatar

I just read @Simone_De_Beauvoir‘s link to the “Male Privilege” blog. I just realized I may have male privilege. That ‘splains a lot.

Pandora's avatar

It happens but I find it also depends on how you handle yourself. There is something my son and daughter like to call the teachers look. She says that men will tend to respond differently to me when I give them that look of disapproval that makes them feel like they just won a trip to the principals office and they are in major trouble. My daughter says that is why kids and men tend to respect me because of the look. I don’t know if its true but I’ve heard it from more than one person.
There have been a few times when the look wasn’t enough but where words did not fail me.
Other times, I couldn’t say if it was sexism, or prejudice against race or simply they didn’t like me for me.
I would like to add that I’ve seen more sexism from fellow females than from males in my case.

everephebe's avatar

See, this reaffirms my long held theory that all men are pricks, jerk-faces and doo-doo heads.
The guy to the left included, if only to a lesser degree than average, of course I am more than average when it comes to my…. Nevermind.

deni's avatar

Honestly, not really. Maybe I’m just blind to it, but I really don’t think I am. I’m quite observant too and would remember being treated unfairly or poorly for any reason at all at any time but especially if it was because I’m a woman. People have been dicks to me for sure but I never thought it was because I’m female. I’m also veryyyy laid back and easy to get along with and non confrontational and I just generally don’t have negative experiences with people in any respect so….I guess I am in the huuuge minority here!

Bellatrix's avatar

Just this morning, I was watching the news on the ABC (I could sort of expect it on one of the commercial channels), and there was discussion of our female Prime Minister’s new haircut. It made me so angry. Whether you approve of the job she is doing or not, her hair style should not come into how we judge her. I cannot remember ever seeing a news story about a male politician’s haircut.

tedd's avatar

I’m reading all of this stuff on here, all of these examples…. and while I recognize them (many of them anyways) as things that happen…. most of them are things I agree with you all on… and most of the guys I know do as well. Like @Bellatrix talking about the prime ministers hair cut…. wtf does that have to do with anything? How about we talk about her job, lol…. Or guys trying to get ahold of husbands rather than women, I don’t think someone of my generation has that issue. I can’t imagine being in a situation and thinking that I needed to talk to the husband instead of the wife because he’s in charge. When I go for a walk at night I actually quite frequently place my keys in between my fingers and clench (may just be a carry over from living in a bad neighborhood a few years ago).

I guess what I’m saying is this, if these are your primary complaints… you can rest assured sexism is on it’s way out. At least a I don’t see it being any shadow of it’s current self in a few decades.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@tedd : The person I was talking to was 25.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

And I thought homophobia was going to be tough to eradicate. Silly me.

tedd's avatar

@JilltheTooth Well then they’re an idiot, lol…. Besides, everyone knows you’re the boss :).

JilltheTooth's avatar

Damn right…

OpryLeigh's avatar

There is only one time I felt uncomfortable by someone being sexist towards me. My very first boss (when I was 16 years old) was always making pervy comments in my direction, he made me very uncomfortable and I didn’t like him at all. No one did though. He was offensive to everyone and the definition of male chauvinist.

In my adult life, at least, I have mostly been treated with respect by men so I can’t think of any real personal encounters I have had with sexism recently. Sure, I get the odd jokey comment about how I can’t do something because I am a girl but that doesn’t cause me offense because I know it was intended as a joke and nothing more. In my own personal experience I find women put far more limits on themselves than men put on women. I know far more women that won’t even try to do things because it is stereotypically a man’s job (like changing the oil on their car for example). I don’t think I know a single man that a: thinks a woman can’t do these things or b: won’t do something that is stereotypically a woman’s job if needed.

Bellatrix's avatar

I hope it is on the way out @tedd. I can’t say I am convinced yet.

I am not going to write a huge post [just got to the end and I did anyway!] but I can tell you of many occasions where I personally have been harassed sexually in the workplace. It is a horrible thing to go through and especially as a younger woman who is fairly powerless in their position.

In my current job, I think one of my male colleagues (who is tasked with reporting on the activities in the sector we work in to larger group meetings) feels threatened by me. So whenever he does a presentation and runs through what we have been doing and any successes (and I have made some huge changes and improvements over the past year), he says Jim has done amazing things with xxx, Fred is having great success with xxx, then he will talk about junior members of the group and then .. oh and xxx is continuing to look after xxx. It makes me so damn cranky but if I say anything about it, I will look petty. He is undermining my achievements though. Would he do that to another man? I doubt it. I doubt it very much. I know the people who matter know what I am doing and how well I am doing my job but still…

And this is how such behaviour often works. Women who face this sort of crap are left in a situation where if they complain, they look ridiculous. It may be lots of little things that add up to being undermined. Not being included in meetings, not being given information you need to do your job, not being in an email stream. “Oh did I forget to send you that?” You know they didn’t, but can you prove it?

I know this happens to men too. I am not saying this is unique to women but nonetheless, it seems to happen to women more. As (I think) @Kayak8 suggested, if you complain, you are branded a ball-breaker or aggressive or as having PMT or being over-emotional.

deni's avatar

@Bellatrix Are you sure he feels threatened by you because you’re a woman, though, and not just because you’re better at your job than him?

Bellatrix's avatar

Good question @deni and it most definitely is about the latter but it is his response that I think relates to me being a woman. I just don’t think he would behave this way to another man. Of course, I could be wrong. I can’t read his mind. His behaviour is very passive aggressive. Perhaps he would behave the same way if I was a man though. I don’t know… it is a good point.

deni's avatar

@Bellatrix Yeah, it’s hard to say a lot of the time what someones base motive is, ya know? I guess the reason I don’t feel like I’ve experienced much sexism is because I always assume there is another reason someone is treating me unfairly or being condescending or rude to me in a given situation. I could be totally wrong, and it could generally be because I’m female. Hm. Does that make me an optimist? lol

Bellatrix's avatar

:-) No… you may be an optimist but I don’t think this suggests looking at things optimistically (I am an optimist and my gut feeling is he behaves this way because he thinks he can get way with it because I am a woman), you are seeing things differently and are open to other possibilities. And I agree, those things could be true too though.

It would be interesting to find out how men deal with such situations in the workplace? Would they confront the person or not? Perhaps this is one place where @Wundy is right (referring to his comments on another similar thread). My reluctance to say anything has nothing to do with a lack of assertiveness. I will happily stand up for myself. However, I don’t want to look petty and cause trouble and disquiet about something that unless you look at the whole picture looks minor. It only becomes a problem when you look at the behaviours together.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@deni It is good to screen out for other possible reasons. But sometimes, you can tell. When you get to know people better, talk with them several times, see them interact with others, you can do that. Or how people get treated in the workplace – I have a friend who’s a professor at a college, and she eventually realized that she and the only other woman in that department were the only professors who had been there for 5 years and hadn’t made tenure, despite doing just as much work and often more than the men.

Mariah's avatar

I wouldn’t say I experience sexism terribly often. I have a few stories though.

One comes from my friend, I love him to death, but this was weird ass thing to say. I told him I was considering switching to a robotics engineering major and he said he “doesn’t really see me building chassis and tightening screws.” Huh? If I were one to rock the boat I would’ve asked him what the hell he means by that.

One is a story I’ve already told on this thread: at college I felt like a fish out of water at my physics labs, the equipment was new to me and I had to ask the lab instructor (a man, bit of a jokester) for help now and then. I had incredibly low confidence about my skills and apparently it showed, because one time after getting some help he said, “aw, you didn’t blush this time!” I was really bothered. I thought about it for a while trying to figure out why this offhand remark bothered me so, and I realized that part of it was…..I don’t think he would have said this to a man. Even a man behaving exactly the way I was, I just don’t think he would have said it. And I started thinking about how there are so few women in engineering, and I wonder if it’s partially because it’s harder for us to exude the confidence and command that seems to be required to get anybody’s respect in this field. I need to work on this because I’ll be damned if I let myself get beaten down by that attitude.

Another story is from high school, I’ve also already shared it on this thread: I have been the only girl in my school’s technology club for several years, and it’s amazing the assumptions that people make about me right off the bat. Our club recently went to a showcase where several technology-related competitions were being held. Our club advisor (a man) delegated certain projects like building a catapult to some of the guys. Then he calls me over and asks if I’d be interested in doing the digital photography competition. Now, this man knows very little about me and my interests, and I find it interesting that he assumed that I would be interested in photography and not in building a catapult.

I go to a technical college, most everyone who comes here studies engineering, sometimes pure sciences. There’s approximately a 3:1 male/female ratio here. The major with by far the highest female:male ratio at my college is biology, which is the least systematic, least math-heavy science. Why is that? Hell, why the 3:1 ratio at my college in the first place? Why are engineering and science “male” fields?

You can talk to me until your face is blue about how men are more naturally inclined with spatial reasoning but there’s another answer:

There’s this phenomenon called a “stereotype threat” which basically works like this: if you remind somebody of a negative stereotype pertaining to a group they’re a part of (e.g. “girls can’t do math”) right before they’re about to perform a related task (e.g. take a math test) they are likely to perform significantly worse. This means that such stereotypes are often self-fulfilling prophecies.

Speaking of the fact that girls can’t do math – check this book out! This book is written by an actress/mathematician and it’s aimed at showing middle school girls that they can do math. Totally cool, right? Zoom in on the cover image. It’s called Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. And here are some of the chapter names: “Do you still have a crush on him?” “You can never have too many shoes” “When to seriously stop raiding the fridge” “Choosing the perfect necklace” “What every savvy shopper should know” “Why calculators would make terrible boyfriends” “How to entertain yourself while babysitting a devil child” “Does she ever get off the phone?” “Who’s the cute new foreign exchange student?”

Oh yes, so empowering to young girls. Gag me, please. If you have to resort to blatant stereotypes and a condescending tone in order to designate a math book “for girls,” there’s something wrong.

We do a lot of group work at my college and given the ratio my groups are usually mostly men. And you know what? I fuckin’ take charge of that shit. I do mathematical circles, ellipses, and leminscates around most of my male peers.

Sorry about the rant. I know it was only mildly on topic. Once you get me going…

Blackberry's avatar

@Mariah Thanks for the detailed answer, and I just wanted to tell you…

wilma's avatar

Just one more reason that @Mariah is one of my heroes.

tedd's avatar

@Mariah I sympathize with your troubles, but I don’t think there’s so much of a barrier by the engineering crowd that is preventing females from getting in. Never in my life have I thought that women couldn’t do math, and in fact in my experience women are better at math (I used to get calculus help from girls in my classes). I think quite frankly, a lot of girls just don’t want to get into that field.

I mean the comment the guy made to you about not seeing you building chassis or tightening screws… maybe he just legitimately didn’t see you as the type of person to do that. I know I have plenty of male friends that I would put into that category. And the blushing comment… you’re probably right that he may not have said it to a guy, and the guy probably should’ve realized that you were already nervous (typically what causes blushing) and he shouldn’t exacerbate that by calling you out on it… but I suspect him saying “aww you didn’t blush that time!” had more to do with you having blushed when asking him past questions and him taking note of it.

The camera/photography example… that guy is just a moron… who doesn’t want to build a catapult? lol

In short, I don’t mean to try to de-legitimize your examples or argument… But it may not necessarily be sexism in play.

wilma's avatar

@tedd as a much older person than you are, (I think) and a woman, I can tell you that I have heard the “girls can’t do Math” thing my whole life. Now granted I am lousy at Math, but my sisters and my daughter (and two of my sons) are not.
I remember a father of one of my daughters friends implying that she (my daughter) was some sort of freak because she was good at Math. His comments were derogatory and homophobic as well as sexist.

tedd's avatar

@wilma I’ve learned to never suggest what a woman’s age might be, but I’m 26 if it’s any reference… lol. I guess maybe in the past that one (the math thing) was a stereotype… but it’s definitely going away. Even back in grade school I remember all the best kids in math being girls… Our honors math class my SR year of high school didn’t even have any boys in it.

wilma's avatar

@tedd I gave birth to two kids who are older than you are.
I agree that the Math stereotype is probably on it’s way out, but it does still exist to some extent.

Mariah's avatar

@Blackberry @wilma Thanks guys :)

@tedd It might be true that there are fewer women in engineering because many women just don’t want to do engineering. The question then is, why do men want to do engineering in large proportions while women don’t?

I won’t deny that men and women are, in general, innately different creatures, but do those differences explain why women less commonly go into technical fields? I don’t know if they do.

Maybe it starts from childhood when boy babies are given trucks and trains to play with while girls get dolls. Young boys also receive more building toys like Legos. Those are the sorts of toys that plant the engineering bug in children.

As for my friend’s comment, maybe he perceived something in me that I wasn’t aware I was exhibiting, but I can’t think what about me as a person would have given him the idea that I don’t like building things, because I do.

Back to the original question, I thought of another obnoxious thing that happened to me. I was 16. When I met my (then) boyfriend’s grandfather for the first time, he asked me what I was interested in studying in college. I told him engineering. The grandfather was a retired engineer himself, and his response was to ask me the square route of 225. Caught off guard, I didn’t answer right away. He told me I’d never be able to be an engineer. The next time I saw the man, my boyfriend and I were at his house helping him prepare for a party. He gave me the task of baking a cake and told me he was glad I was helping so I could learn to be a “good housewife.”

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know. Maybe my daughter is too clever. She doesn’t say she can’t do math. She says she doesn’t like it. I don’t know what to say to that. Math is fun? I mean, it is, but that’s not going to convince her.

She has a really sucky teacher this year. We know she can do just fine. She’s doubling up on Geometry and Algebra and doing Aplus work in Geometry. Her Algebra teacher is a dick, though. So, she’s been carrying a B, and even dipped down to a C on one quiz. I don’t think she’d ever gotten one before. Then the midterms came back and she got an A, and we were both like, “You did?”

But our surprise is about her relationship with the teacher, not her ability. I know she is capable of As. I don’t know if she is capable of getting this dickwad to give her an A. We’ve been pestering him to help her, and he just has no interest nor any idea. Grrrr.

But I question my own role here. I know she can do math. She even enjoyed it when she had a good teacher. But I feel powerless to help because I have no control over her teachers. Except to find her another school and she doesn’t want that. I feel like all I can do is hope for the best. She has to take care of it herself.

My son, on the other hand, hates math, too. He’s got a disability, so they let him use a calculator in class. Now he comes home and he got the highest grade in the class on the midterm. This is odd because I have never before been told by the school a grade for one of my kids. They don’t give grades. They write reports. Maybe things are changing.

Why did they tell us? Are they just trying to help him change his attitude about math? Is he proud of doing the best? On the one hand, as with my daughter, I expect them to be the best. If they aren’t that’s cool, but I believe in having high expectations. So, when I heard about this, I said, “that’s cool.” Much cooler than the surprise I showed with my daughter.

Then, with my son, he hates praise. It seems to throw him for a loop, as it does me. So I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. Also, I don’t know what it means. If the other kids had calculators, would they have done better? We looked at the test. It’s hard to tell, but it doesn’t look the the calculator would have saved them much time.

Gender plays a role, but there are so many individual considerations… is it sexism or is it the circumstances?

Aethelflaed's avatar

Can’t believe I almost forgot this one, because it’s one of the most common, and one of the most insidious – soooo often, when a woman/women point something out as sexist, a man/men will come along and point out how, no, that isn’t sexism, it’s actually this totally acceptable thing that has nothing to do with gender, even though he often has less information about the particular situation than that particular woman or group of women does.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tedd Have you considered that maybe some women do actually like STEM fields, but just don’t like it enough to be willing to take on all the extra crap they’ll have to deal with in a sexist field?

tedd's avatar

@Aethelflaed I mean maybe, but lets be fair here…. the STEM field tends to be dominated by men who aren’t exactly of the dominant personality type. Most women would have complete control over all of their male peers in that environment. lol.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tedd Just because a man doesn’t conform to an old stereotype of the alpha male doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own dominant ways, his own control, can’t be a total sexist douchebag. Trust me, nerds aren’t somehow free of sexist attitudes, and I know so many that are.

tedd's avatar

@Aethelflaed I’m implying that a woman could very easily establish control/dominance over the nerdy types that tend to fill STEM fields, simply by being girls. These are guys that in many cases haven’t even held hands with a girl.. their mere presence is like being in the presence of demi-gods.

SavoirFaire's avatar

And now @tedd is managing to be sexist towards men as well.

tedd's avatar

@SavoirFaire I was unaware that stating simple fact counts as sexist. I guess it would be sexist of me to say that women typically cannot run as fast as men.. even though physically it is true.

Moreover I fail to see how it would be sexist to accuse “nerds” of being in awe at the presence of women… nerds aren’t a sex last time I checked.

and typing something in whisper format doesn’t make it more right or somehow cooler

SavoirFaire's avatar

@tedd It’s not a fact. It’s a generalization based on a television stereotype that discounts the very real experiences of both women and men in the situations you purport to describe. The so called “nerdy types”—and let’s not forget that you were the one who treated them as a sex by contrasting them with females, as if there are no nerdy females—run the same gamut as other human beings.

By the way, I’ve been writing in whisper text because I haven’t been part of the conversation proper until now. Good of you to focus on what matters, though.

tedd's avatar

@SavoirFaire I didn’t contrast them as a sex, I pointed out that the nerdy stereotype of guys react to women with a sense of awe… which as a member of the nerdy stereotype who can name all 5 star trek captains and the actors/actress who played them… I think I’m fully qualified to comment on the matter. I never claimed there weren’t nerdy females, I never even claimed that this stereotype I was pointing out is the law of the land, and without flaw all nerdy men will treat women as gods…........ But I can tell you for fact and from years of experience in the “nerdy” crowd, that when a girl walks into the room, a hush falls over them as they fill with pangs of nervousness… as though the president has just walked into the room…. In such an environment as the engineering building of a large college, I would suspect most women would have little trouble in controlling a vast majority of her male counterparts, should she so choose to do so.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@tedd I ran with a similar crowd and never saw the effect you mention. One of my ex-girlfriends is an engineer and never saw the effect you mention. So I also have years of experience, and it contradicts your own. That’s the problem with anecdotal evidence and why it’s not very useful in a debate. You want to assume that your experience—or your perception of your experience—is representative, but I see no reason to accept that assumption.

And here we are, a couple of guys discussing sexism on a thread addressed to women. I’ll just drop this here and go.

tedd's avatar

@SavoirFaire Stay out of this Q! lol

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