So, keeping in mind that I am supposed to be writing about Being Nice, I would like to acknowledge that I am a product of my upbringing and I am a Misogynist Asshat, albeit a Female one.
One of my least favorite instances of manifesting this dirty little habit was when my boss insulted two female superiors to my face using some of the traditional weapons ranged against women in the workforce:
1. When they got their way they were horrible people instead of better political players
What I call the Help, The Ladies Are Beating Me (Up) argument
2. To his taste they were not feminine in the way they interacted with people
What I will call the Ewww, The Ladies Are Revolting (When I Don't Fancy Them) argument
So there he was, aggressively undermining my female superiors in terms of his perception of how they should behave, not because of what they had actually done. And I was showing signs of that incomprehensible reaction to superiors being Asshats that I always show. I was completely unable to speak, I was confused by the vicious and faulty logic and I couldn't think because he clearly wasn't.
And then he did that thing that I really hate, he told me that
3. Unlike them, I was okay because I still acted like a lady at work
This is the much despised and quite disturbing Don't Worry, I Only Hate Other Ladies (I Definitely Don't Hate You Behind Your Back) argument
Already in the still and silent land of shock, this last utterly unsuccessful attempt to reassure me actually prompted me to act. And I acted in that cowardly way a Female Misogynist Asshat does, I finally moved, and I moved to unfurrow my brow, force my mouth into a neutral line and try and get my widened eyes back under control.
It was a pretty standard show of political cowardice because he was my supervisor, and clearly he only valued Ladies that show stereotypical female attributes. And I didn't want to go to work each day to have to deal with his Asshattery, so I became an Asshat so as to be in the Asshat Circle of Trust.
When far away from the Asshat Circle of Trust I did look at my bright accessories, dresses and pretty shoes and wonder how things would have played out if I had still been in my sneakers, trousers and novelty t-shirt phase - the novelty t-shirts that used to proclaim proudly 'Girls Do It Better' and 'Prick'. I miss those t-shirts, and at the time I thought I was buying them because they were in bright colors, but somewhere in my head those sentiments must have made me happy too.
Outwardly I appear to have many stereotypical and superficially feminine characteristics, but I can pretty much attribute each of them to a decidedly non-stereotypically feminine choice. They are non-stereotypically feminine choices, but they are very, very pragmatically feminine choices. Not that Misogynist Asshats would care, they only want the stereotypical and superficial feminine characteristics in a woman.
Which brings me back to my Female Misogynist Asshattery; I still don't know what I would have said to shatter the Asshat Circle of Trust. Although right now I hope one day I get to simply say that – ‘Please don’t include me in your Asshat Circle of Trust!’ I mean, how does one go about claiming that one is, in fact, not a real lady at work so as not to be assumed to be accepting the outrageous claim that I was ‘okay’ because I make some superficial choices of clothes and delivery that, when conflated with my professionally appropriate following of his business directions, all contributed to his feeling of security?
In that situation I needed to have followed Janine’s steps.
NOTICE – As the only woman in the room I could have asked him to stop expressing views on how women should act in the workplace as opposed to how everyone should act in the workplace
INSPIRE – I could have said I would judge these female superiors by the actions that I witnessed myself
CEASE – I could have stopped trying to control my face and let my instinctive and natural disgust and disappointment show
ENQUIRE – I could have asked why he felt compelled to assure me that I was not judged on the same grounds as these women if the criteria of his judgment were relevant and fair
Deprograming yourself from the instinct to keep oneself safe from dangerous Asshats is a big job, but I can only do it for myself.