Thursday, December 04, 2008
I thought this was an interesting little piece here by CNN. And, I suspect Campbell Brown has a pretty good point. Although, I suspect Rendell was speaking in advocacy of his collegue to someone who is a little hesitant to support her.
There are two issues here.
Do singles get treated differently in the workplace than married folks?
How are women seen differently than men in the workplace?
Having just recently been married, I think singles do get treated differently than married persons in the workplace. More than once in my single years I have heard directly, "You are single, you don't have a family so you can....." Single persons are treated differently. So are married persons. In my work, it means that expectations are put on my wife to be involved with things and their is more expected of us as a family. I think this is true in other professions at times as well, it is not completely unique to ministry. Especially in Montana, as a single person I felt like a lot more was expected of my time and energy than would have been expected had I been married. Colorado Springs was very supportive of my transition into marriage, and for the most part was very understanding and supportive in my professional transition to married life.
As for gender, I think the gender issue goes both ways as well. In some ways women have to deal with the kinds of sexism demonstrated by Gov. Rendell. But, from my perspective, there are some women who are able to use their gender to also get away with things men in the workplace do not. For instance, my wife's former boss in La Junta started crying as she was leading a meeting of her department because they were mean to her. Very few men would get away with that, and get understanding in that situation in the workplace. Although I know that all workplaces are different, I think that women are often given more understanding for less emotional control in the workplace because they are women. I have seen that in my own workplace, I have heard about this in my mother's and my wife's workplace, among others. It does not always happen. There are workers in strongly male environments that may not get away with this (I am thinking of you, Robin), but I think for the most part gender expectations cut both ways.
In my experience, this was especially true in Colorado Springs. I say this was true because of a confrontation with a coworker. The coworker said something that I took offense to in a meeting, blaming me for something that I thought was due to her lack of communication. I took sometime to cool off, and then I confronted her directly. I told her that I was angry with her, and that I did not think I deserved to be embarrassed in front of the whole staff by her. She started crying. She sat in her office and cried. Then she went to my supervisor, and told him that she was thinking she couldn't work in the office because I was too mean to her. My supervisor called me into his office after she left. He said that in theory I handled this appropriately, but that I should not approach these things this way because I was older, my body was larger, and I was male.
From that point on, I learned in that workplace men and women were treated differently. Women were allowed to speak their minds. Men had to be careful. Women were allowed to scold the supervisor. Men were not allowed to question him. Women could lose their temper, even cussing in the middle of a church staff meeting or crying. Men had to be strong and keep a stiff upper lip. I think this is because women were seen as a support, and men as a threat. Thankfully, the church has called a female to fill my position. I felt strongly enough about this that I recommended that the church consider women strongly for the position in my exit interview. A woman will be granted more freedom in that work situation.
I guess I say all this because I think both men and women, single and married, can be caught in an expectations game. Sometimes we have to live with those expectations, and sometimes we need to challenge them.