If It Smells like Fish – It’s Usually Fish. Same goes for Sexism.

There are some cases in my every day life where I am not too sure if I am being treated differently due to the fact that I am a woman or not. Sometimes I wonder to myself, if it could be a combination of things, such as age, rank or job description – not just my gender. Or if I am just looking for excuses and it really is my gender. I sound confusing because I am confused. Let me give you an example.
An older, very respected gentleman works in my company. He wears vests and a smile every morning. He is kind, respectful to others and very knowledgeable. I will call him John. John is a family man. He is well respected in the company and no one has a bad word to say about him. I too enjoy being in the company of  John and appreciate his feedback. We grab coffee sometimes and discuss life, our positions and our co-workers.
In the last couple of months, I have been put in a project with John. My role is just to manage the project, and he is to provide expertise. In each meeting however, John keeps mentioning he will have meetings with the other people to take various aspects forward. He added, he will invite me to meetings again when he feels its necessary. When I suggested it wouldn’t be harmful to have me involved, he said I have too much work as it is.
And from then on out, when I suggested updating a document or changing a slide, he would assign the task to other people, as he stated I have too much to do.
Now, it is very kind that someone keeps an eye out for you. And it is very kind that John was so observant. Yet – I find it very patronizing. I manage my workload well, I don’t stay late in the office and I meet every deadline. I eat my lunch, have coffee breaks and manage to find time to go to the gym over lunch. I do have a lot of work – but I can look out for myself and manage the load by myself. I am not used to having someone who is not my boss determine how my time is spent.
I may be overreacting, but I feel John is looking out too far for me in a professional setting. Simply said, I don’t need someone to father me at work. Don’t get me wrong, I truly feel John acts out of the best intentions. I believe he aims to not see me work myself into a grave. But I should be able to determine that on my own, no?
Which brings me to my original point. Was this an act of sexism? I generally believe he sees me as this young female who can’t say no and he is trying to help. Yet, I don’t want to be seen as a young female, I want to be seen as an aspiring professional. Neither my age nor my gender should determine how I am being treated or how I should be treated. That to me is the core belief of equality.
When I spoke about this with a coworker of mine – she rolled her eyes and said it had nothing to do with my gender as she knows John very well. But this just reminded me of the many times women get shot down when they are being discriminated against. We are always called emotional, sensitive or silly because no one wants to deal with discomfort in their lives. Life would be great if we all got along, wouldn’t it?
On the other hand, perhaps it is really just a kind professional gesture and I am getting it all wrong. Maybe because I am a feminist, I just see gender as a part of the equation wherever I go.
Either way, I will never know what makes John act overprotective of my workload because I doubt John knows himself. Many times we are steered by stereotypes. Our perception is steered by what we are told to see and sometimes it is steered by how much of ourselves we see in others. Just claiming sexism would be wrong. Yet to say my gender doesn’t play a central role in many situations would also be wrong.
In either case, I should have stood up for myself and just said in the meeting: Oh I think I have a good handle on the workload myself thank you very much though. Having a voice is something I am not used to as a woman. It is a kind of sexism I oppose on myself. And I hope with time, I will learn not to be sexist towards myself.

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