Women are Still Dealing with This

Recently I had the opportunity to “interview” for a volunteer position. Myself, along with the other volunteer candidates, were asked questions by a five-member panel. Ostensibly, these open, public interviews gave the candidates a chance–above and beyond what each of us might have shared via our written applications–to impress the panel with our detailed and creative thoughts on the sought-out volunteer work.

It was obvious to me, based on the variety of on-the-fly questions, that the five panel members had not come up with any systematic approach to the interviews.

It was evident to me, based on the number of tangential and superficial topics which came up, that the five panel members wanted everyone to feel comfortable, albeit not productive by using this “conversation-like” format.

It was clear to me, based on the candidate-centered questions, that each panel member had broad discretion to ask what he/she thought might be pertinent to the work ahead.

Imagine my surprise when the only woman on the panel asked me this:

“So how would your position on this committee fit with your other responsibilities and positions in town, time wise?”

My heart dropped when I realized what she might be asking. In the hopes that she would rephrase it in a way that would dispel what I thought I’d just heard, I said this:

“How do you mean?”

She replied:

“As far as balancing your career and being a library trustee, how do you see your being to (sic) fit this committee in with those other responsibilities?”

Yes, in 2017, in an open and public forum a woman was asked a question which called for really only one of three answers:

  1. “Oh, well, I guess I didn’t really think about how much time this volunteer work would take up, you know, with those ten meetings a year. Luckily for all of us you pointed out how little thought and consideration I’d put into making the application in the first place. So sorry for wasting your time on such a silly idea.”
  2. “You know, now that you’ve reminded my of the fact that I have a career and other responsibilities, you’re so super right. Plus, with all those cerebral demands, I’d probably get so exhausted that I wouldn’t be able to function well. Thanks for reminding me that I don’t need to overextend my fragile, female self.”
  3. “I have plenty of time.”

My answer was, verbatim, #3, though the subtext in my head was saying, “You can’t ask that kind of question.” It sickens me to think that in order to be considered I was required to answer such a marginalizing and sexist question.

In 2017.

These sort of “do you really think you can do it all” questions cannot be asked during a job interview. Why? Because they are discriminatory on their face and violative of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. These sorts of questions are taken with dead seriousness by the laws of our nation. Why? Because we have decided to prohibit, via laws, any language that implies 1. that the woman didn’t properly consider her choice to apply or 2) that the woman–even if she did make proper considerations–is blind with foolish ambition and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

And yet, here in 2017, it is still happening.

I might have felt slightly less discriminated against had the female panel member asked all of the candidates the same question. None of the men was asked. None of the other female candidates was asked despite one of whom being well known for having “responsibilities and positions in town.”

Only I was asked, in 2017, by the one woman on the panel.

Image result for sexism woman

A few days later, I sent the woman this message:

“If you have an opportunity, I would appreciate a call from you” along with my number and this valediction “Regards, Jenna.”

I got an immediate response: “Thank you for contacting me! I will get back to you as soon as possible.”

She’s not gotten back to me. I won’t speculate as to why. Maybe instead I’ll grill myself up a tofu pup and cover it in ketchup. Lucky for me the bottle has a lid I can handle all by myself.

12 thoughts on “Women are Still Dealing with This

  1. I don’t know where to start… Knowing the town, the people, the situation here, the politics, even the room where this all unfolded, maybe I shouldn’t comment. But, I will. And, I’m trying hard to reply as thoughtfully as you wrote it, but I can’t. So, here it is: anyone with a brain, anyone that uses three or four syllable words, anyone that’s not related either by blood or business or political sway, cannot be appointed in this town. Not going to happen. So, the “appointing authorities” will come up with anything not to appoint those who are not entrenched. It matters not that you have expertise, time or devotion to the subject of the committee’s work. I am, though, appalled that this woman had the gall to ask these sorts of questions. And, that no one else was asked. And, she owes you a communication back. Sorry you, along with so many other qualified people through the years, had to experience this. It’s a serious problem here.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You know, for me, it really was much more about the dynamic of systematic sexism rearing its head than it was about small town politics. While I’m not going to speculate over why or how those in “authority” make the decisions which they do, l will be the first to call out what l see as both systematic and problematic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know that and read that throughout. Couldn’t resist strictly because I’ve witnessed it many times. The small town stuff… but the other part, which is the crux of it all, is inexcusable!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I wish I could say, “oh, but this was just an isolated incident.” I can’t say that because it isn’t isolated–it isn’t retro–it isn’t a bad hair day. It’s now. It’s the reality of this day.

    My belief is that we live in an uneven world. There are those of us who read, who think, who try their damnedest to do what’s right and good. And then there are those who live in another world, another century. When I was in Mississippi, there were folks with both feet firmly panted in nineteenth century thought. We have politicians who live in and talk to folks rooted in the fifties…oh that was when America was great. Right. When Racism and Sexism ruled absolutely.

    The bottom line as you so well put it is ignorance. Ignorance is evil. Unfortunately we live in a world where many many people still hold on to the stunning proposition that ignorance is bliss. I think the board lady is ignorant. She won’t call because she sees you as the “enemy.” You don’t know your place. You think you’re better than she is. You’re probably trying to get her job!

    Sigh. What we need is need in this world is two hundred million more Jenna Brownsons.

    Excellent post Jenna. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Seriously, reading this made my stomach lurch. This seems like such a basic thing that people should know is inappropriate, especially those who purport to be in a certain field of work and have taken on a role themselves in town that requires a significant amount of time, energy and dedication to do well. I am horrified to have to acknowledge, as you so adeptly put it “in 2017 this is still happening” and in my own back yard. While I hate seeing the tone and tenor of discussions of any sort at the national level being so unreasonable and ugly, it breaks my heart that my husband and child’s hometown, the place we thought we so carefully picked to live has such an underbelly of nastiness and petty behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

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