Monday, May 1, 2017

How to enrage me and marginalize your female audience members...

A few weeks ago, my work sent me to a professional development summit. At this summit, I had the rare chance to be one of a handful of women in a sea of men. (In my normal professional life, the vast majority of my coworkers and colleagues at other nonprofit agencies are women.)

The main keynote speaker made me want to punch a wall. He was actually really dynamic and engaging and had an interesting enough life story. But every. fucking. time. he mentioned a woman in his speech (be it his own family or a professional acquaintance who had been very influential in his life) he commented on something about her appearance--either her weight or her looks.

For example, when describing his grandmother he said "4 feet by 4 feet." His mom is "overweight, but please don't tell her I said that." Every mention of his wife was preceded by "beautiful" and punctuated by something like "she's too good for me" or "I married up." And when talking about a female Indian doctor he met on a flight, who he says by his own admission he greatly admires (because she taught him all about mindfulness) he opens by painting a picture of the scene so he could note that she is "not a very attractive woman."

Keep in mind that this woman is a real person out there it the world and he is NAMING her specifically in his speech, but he doesn't give her the dignity of skipping over his personal thoughts about her looks; thoughts that are actually irrelevant to his story. In fact, every mention of every single woman's looks in no way contributed to his narrative. Over and over, while I'm listening and trying to glean something from him, he tore me away from his main point by being a sexist prick.

The ONLY man whose appearance he commented on (of probably 10 or so individual men he talks about as a part of his "inspirational" story) was a black man, and all he did was note he was black (again, irrelevant, especially since he is a former NFL player that most of the people in the audience seemed to know of, me excluded) which, of course, leads me to assume that he's racist as well.

During the Q &A section I REALLY wanted to ask if the female doctor knew that he uses her name in this speech in this way...and if so, if she's pleased with the inclusion of "not a very attractive woman."

Think about it...this guy is kind of a Big Deal at least in the realm of business presentations, and yet, he has either 1) never had it brought to his attention that he comments on the looks/size of every woman he mentions OR 2) has had it brought to his attention and either doesn't care or chooses to do it anyway because it works for his audience.

What the ever loving fuck??

When I talk about how our misogynistic society systematically teaches men that their feelings about women's looks are SUPER IMPORTANT, this is what I'm talking about. This is the evidence. If that's not what this speaker thinks, at least on a subconscious level, then why is it his knee jerk reaction to qualify his every mention of women with these comments?

So yeah, that's how you enrage me and marginalize your female audience. Good job, dude. Good job.

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  1. Ugh, that's awful. Was there a chance for audience members to leave feedback for the conference organizers? I can't imagine that the issue hasn't been raised before...


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