June 15, 2012

A short rant about a lawyer, a pastor, and being a woman

The other day I was in a serious meeting with professionals that I had just met.  I was being asked some significant questions regarding my work and the mission of my university in my role as dean of spiritual life. At the end of the conversation/interview, the attorney who was present (a man probably mid-forties), said nothing about what I said or responded to my content, but instead said,

"Can you talk without using your hands?"  He laughed, and I laughed (awkwardly), and I tried to make a joke about "no, I can't, it's impossible...hahahaha).

Truly, I do use my hands A LOT when I talk.

At first, I wanted to laugh this off and let it go, but I have found myself growing more angry over this encounter.   What he meant as a shallow joke (perhaps even trying to be warm and friendly in some misguided way), came off as sexist and belittling to me.

I am very aware that if I was a man in that interview, it would be highly unlikely that anything that I did with my hands, my voice, my appearance would be drawn attention to in such a way.  This attorney would most likely not have remarked regarding any mannerism of the provost, president, or other senior leader that he was interviewing.   Can you imagine him saying to a male senior leader (without responding to his content), "So, you use your hands a lot? So, you cough a lot? So, you kind of close your eyes in an odd way when you talk? I notice that you talk in a very low voice?".


Over the years, I have been counseled that I have to lower my voice, make my hand motions slower and wider, not nod so much, not be so positive, not be so friendly, smile less, not be so authentic/honest,  not admit when I am wrong so quickly...etc, etc, to be taken seriously as a leader.  Essentially, be more masculine (sorry to you smiling, friendly males that use hand motions).

I have to say, THIS IS RIDICULOUS.

I am a dean at a university and have earned my role there just like anyone else.  Perhaps even more so as a younger woman in a two male-dominated fields (pastoral ministry and the academy).  And I am sure I used my hands A LOT in my interview.

So, you Mr. Big Attorney with the flashy watch and the nice suit, but with no manners---

I am not a man and I am never going to be one.
I am going to use my hands when I talk.
I am going to smile as much as I want.
And I am going to laugh at your ridiculous comments (at times),
but just between you and me and the world.
you lost credibility in that meeting, not me.
Don't belittle women even accidentally by what you think is cute and funny.
It's not.

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