March 8, 2011

Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

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I checked The Sun’s website the other day, looking for something I wrote last year, and because I must have some latent masochistic tendencies or something, decided it would be a good idea to read all of the comments on my columns. This is not an activity I normally indulge in. In fact, I usually avoid my columns, post-publication, like the plague. Unless someone points something out to me, like that time somebody called me an “unrepentant far left propagandist” (which I am going to keep mentioning forever because it is amazing), I would not touch those comment sections with a ten-foot pole.  But this weekend, for some reason, I decided to take the plunge. I dove right in there. Man, people sure do love to get riled up. And not just about political issues. The way that I write makes some people really angry! Which, yeah. I am pretty annoying. The thing is, a troubling pattern began to emerge. “Sweetie.” “Little girl.” “Patronizing pejorative.” I definitely deserve to get my shit called out most of the time. I am, after all, kind of an idiot. But the straight-up sexism in some of those comments — man. Call me dumb because I am dumb, not because I am young and female-bodied.Admittedly, this is an issue I am especially sensitive to at the moment, so it’s possible that I’m overreacting a little. You know, because I’m a lady, and we are all hysterical and incapable of rational thought. LOL BITCHES BE CRAYZEE. Just kidding, obviously, in case that is a necessary clarification. It’s just — as a young female-bodied person trying to get a job and be taken seriously as a real live adult — this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I am young. And I look even younger. Sometimes I get carded at R-rated movies. My mom says this is something I will learn to appreciate when I get older. I think maybe I should just start tanning and smoking like a chimney. But I digress. I have a baby face and a naturally small voice. These, to bastardize Kurtis Blow, are the breaks.I try to combat it as best I can. I wear the ugliest, most “1980s breaking the glass ceiling”-est, business casual-est clothes to interviews. I take out my nose ring and consciously make sure my voice doesn’t climb into its upper octaves. But I’m not sure it’s working to combat my youthful appearance.Last semester, I went to a group interview-type situation where there were two college-aged candidates and a lot of people who were considering a mid-career switch. The other college-aged person was a male person. Let’s play a game. Guess which college-aged person got called “hon” by both interviewers and middle-aged business dudes alike? I bet it was the same college-aged person who collected a lot of condescending, over-the-top congratulations and proverbial pats on the head for doing the exact same thing that everybody else had to. Guess who didn’t get those accolades? The entire rest of the group. That other college-aged person has probably never been told that he’d look much prettier if he smiled by a complete stranger on the street, either. And he probably doesn’t get involuntarily Dad-ed very often. Something about my face must bring out the paternal advisor in all manner of dudes, young and old.I know these seem like kind of silly things to get angry about. And in light of the issues that many women face around the world (’sup, International Women’s Day?), I know I’ve got it pretty good. First world problems, and all that. Look at the privileged girl, whining about people being nice to her.Not to get too feminazi with it (but actually, yes, to get extremely feminazi with it. Once I told an entire class that chivalry was misogynistic — because it is), but institutionalized sexism and discounting female voices is a very big deal. Look at what’s happening in the House of Representatives. Look at Planned Parenthood. Look at those barbaric abortion laws being proposed by old white men all across this great country. I mean, God forbid women have autonomy over their own bodies. Literally, apparently. God forbids it. That’s what John Boehner says.The maintenance guy in my building giving me completely unwanted and unnecessary life advice, is, of course, not anywhere near approaching the same scale as being denied access to healthcare. But it’s a symptom of the same problem.And, you know, bitches be crazy.Elana Dahlager is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at edahlager@cornellsun.com. Nutshell Library appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Elana Dahlager