Nasty Women

I remember being on the phone with a client who was refusing to pay for services that were completed, and delivered, and actually out in market being used. And he said to me, “you know, you aren’t very nice. If you were nicer to me I might want to pay. But I don’t want to pay you because you’re not nice.” This after approximately three months of reminders to pay amounts due (politely worded at first), negotiation about relative quality of work delivered (complaints not sufficient to prevent use, just to spur renegotiation the terms of the contract), and finally less “friendly” demands for payment. “Men don’t like women like you,” he said. “I don’t think that’s relevant to this conversation,” was my response. It took filing an arbitration claim but we eventually received all amounts due, and costs. I guess that wasn’t very nice for him, but the company employees were happy since they kept getting paid so maybe “nice” is relative.

This election has brought up a lot of issues for a lot of people, and it has certainly consumed a lot of my time and attention. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am a bit of a political junkie, and boy oh boy have been on a bender for the last few months. But for me one of the biggest issues has been the constant undercurrent of misogyny. Yes, yes it has been overt many times but there is a subtler tone that underlies so much of the criticism of Ms Clinton, there always has been, from the very beginning when her husband was running for President. I don’t need to recount it all, but maybe you remember the headband controversy, and the power-suit controversy, and the fact that she worked controversy, and the lack of cooking skills controversy, etc. And that is part of why I loved her then and I love her now, flaws and all I deeply admire her ability to give the big fat finger to all the people who say, “women shouldn’t act like that.”

I have been working for almost 30 years – my first job was when I was 15 sweeping the floor of a flower shop, I put myself through college and worked all through law school, and have pretty much been working consistently since then. For the last decade my focus has been working in operations, which I truly love, but it means that my job is really, fundamentally to keep things operating. That may mean making sure we have the money we need, or that people are doing the work they are supposed to, it means that I am often the person who delivers bad news, or tells you that you can’t have exactly what you want, or asks you to do more. You get the idea. Some years ago I had to tell an employee they couldn’t have the fancy new computer they wanted. I agreed that it was very cool, and it would be great to have, but it also wasn’t in the corporate budget. Everyone got the computers they got and it wasn’t what this person wanted. “You’re mean,” they said, “how am I supposed to do my job if I don’t have this?” I suggested they work like everyone else did on the computer they were given, “bitch,” they said.

And here’s the thing, this is normal for women. It doesn’t matter how you deliver the news, or how you present the information – when you say something that someone else doesn’t want to hear you are being mean, or rude, or bitchy or whatever other pejorative gets used. We do it to each other too, so I’m not here suggesting it’s a male-female thing, I’m just saying it’s a thing that we deal with. This election process has just made it all much more public. That’s a good thing because we are talking about it and maybe that conversation means we are able to do a better job of addressing the issue. But I wonder if that really matters when so many people still think it’s okay to criticize a woman as being nasty when she says something you don’t like.

I don’t think I really am nasty, but I’m comfortable being labelled nasty if it means I’m getting things done.

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