November 2, 2010 | life

Sometimes its Hard to be a Woman

Balancing womanhood and the workplace can be tough. And I’m not talking about the whole notion of ‘women have to have it all’ – husband, kids, kick ass job. I’m talking about how we often have to bury traits that make us women in favour of walking the tightrope and getting ahead. The recent release of PR mogul Kelly Cutrone’s book, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, made me wonder, do we have to check out femininity and emotions at the door before the work day?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should all be blubbering messes if someone doesn’t make our coffee right, but there are times when we need to be a little more aggressive, a little more assertive or a little more vulnerable and as women, being just the right amount of those things to keep everyone happy is hard.

It’s hard of course, because there is a complete double standard when it comes to these things. Men can be assholes and no one bats an eyelid. A woman acts the same way and she’s a bitch, subject to office gossip. You see, for men, they’re just being men, it’s alright if they’re a little pushy and aggressive in getting their points across. For some reason, dependent on the workplace of course, it still ruffles a few feathers if women act the same way.

I haven’t read Kelly Cutrone’s book. From what I’ve seen of this woman, she’s a walking stereotype and often seems to be just unnecessarily mean, relishing making her servants feel uncomfortable and less than. Cutrone, sadly, is similar to many female bosses I’ve had, who for the most part, have been unbearable. (Not for a second am I suggesting I’m a breeze to work with – if you can tell anything from this blog, it’s that I’m very opinionated and I don’t often keep those opinions to myself, which can be problematic). The women I’ve worked for have been insanely bitchy and demanding (with the possible exception of one). As women in power is still a relatively new phenomenon, these women are taking their leadership cues from men, when really the message needs to be that you can be feminine and powerful without being a bitch.

We’ve all been in the bathroom at work and seen a girl in tears and can instantly put it down to one of three things; horrible boss (man or woman), late night break up or she’s the target of a colleague’s plot to destroy her (in her own head) – if she’s particularly unlucky, it’ll be all three. Many of us have had that bathroom cry, because God forbid we express an emotion in the office.

Sooner or later, there’ll come a time where we can be assertive without being perceived as bitchy, passionate about a topic without being perceived as over emotional and disagree on a tactic without being seen as catty. Maybe then we won’t have to go outside to cry. Maybe then, we won’t have to cry at all.

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19 Comments

The Jaded NYer

How timely!

I just canceled another segment of my radio show tonight because of PMS. When I get the hormonal blues it’s like three steps away from drinking the Windex. For real. And it made me think- what kind of media empire do I think I’m going to have if I’m letting my period shut down operations?

And then I cried. And then I got mad because I cried. And then I ate about 3 servings of rice and yelled at myself in the mirror for being a fat pig.

Yeah…my employees are gonna LOVE me!

I don’t know where there’s a happy medium. I probably have some sort of chemical imbalance that makes me more prone to dramatics around this time of the month- who knows! But I’ve been the girl in the bathroom crying and I’ve had the female boss being bitchy for no reason and it makes me sad for us. And here go the tears again. UGH. Goodnight- I’ll be back in two days or so when I’m back to more normal levels of crazy.

Claire

As soon as I saw you tweet the subject of this post I jumped straight on. Great subject. You’re absolutely right about the different reactions men and women will get for being pushy and assertive in business. (ie Men – bigwig, women – bitch).

I too can only think of one or two female bosses who I really respected, because the others were manipulative, cruel, and in one case, violent. I often wondered if women felt they had to be this way in order keep up with the men in these positions, but while I’ve worked for some lousy male bosses in my time,at worst they were egotistical, unfriendly, or a bit pervy. And most of them were pretty easygoing. None were manipulative, cruel or violent.

Of course, perhaps those female bosses were merely highly emotional? It’s easy for men to be easygoing when they’re not dealing with the highs and lows we females face every day.

Some women are better at controlling their emotions than others, but at the end of the day, women ARE controlled by their emotions, far more than men are. This isn’t something we should be ashamed of, nor should we be in denial about this, and push our emotions aside. We can’t be come men.
It doesn’t look professional to cry at your desk, but then there’s no point trying to be a woman acting like a man. We’re not designed to be men! In time you may become the manipulative, cruel or violent colleague!

The best women I’ve worked with have been those who can say something like, “I’m a bit teary today, but don’t mind me, just having one of those days. Coffee anyone?” Admitting you’re feeling emotional, but then not allowing it to get in the way of your work, is admirable, and do-able. (Of course, if something’s happened in your personal life and you’re distraught or unable to cope, best take a day off, girl! Better for you, better for your colleagues!)

A strong woman will probably always be called a bitch, but whatever. Let’s just not turn ourselves into men in the workplace. It doesn’t help us.

Cat

Hmm, your experience with female bosses seems to have been the opposite of mine. I’ve had a grand total of one good male boss. The rest have been varying degrees of awful. I’ve had a grand total of one bad female boss. The rest have been varying degrees of fab. It’s been types of personality, though, nowt to do with gender – I can’t abide woolliness (if you want something from me, tell me – I’m good, but I ain’t psychic!) or poor people-management in a boss, so I dislike working for people with either of those traits.

As for strong, assertive women being perceived negatively… maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I really don’t think I’ve encountered this, whatever the gender make-up of the workplace.

nandoism

Awesome topic and not to sound evil, but you ladies also have that friend that sets up discomfort and pain every month which can morph you into something outrageous. I feel that’s another pressure you’re meant to mask. If we men had to do it– there would be more holidays, more time off at work. My bff tells me it’s so rough at times–that she wants to strangle someone. I know the pain, I get like that when some one eats the last donut — but I digress.

Some where, someone said women have to have it all and learn to juggle. Kick that ass ladies. Do what feels right. You deserve it. Take it from a Gay who knows what the real world is like–mean. Work it.

Laura

The worst thing for me is being so angry I could cry – because then, even when you’re so raging pissed you could pick up said male/female/****** of a boss and throw them through the windows you still look weak. Because of tears. Who can win??

Carina100

Your post rang very true with me today. I just tried to schedule a meeting with my (male) boss about a review/pay revision, and was shot down for even bringing up the subject! If I had balls and not a vagina, I’m pretty sure this would have been met with ‘Good for you, I like a man with initiative!’. Instead I had a 40 minute phone call (ear-bashing) about ‘my generation wanting things without working for them’ (I’ve been at this company for a year and a half and I am the *entire* marketing department for over 6 seperate brands).

He called me sweetheart and darling about 5 times and made me want to hand in my resignation then and there. All the men in the company I work for have been given one on one meetings and I got an aggressive phone call and told ‘I don’t like not getting my way’ – read BITCH!

Like Cat, I’ve had much better female than male bosses (especially considering my current pigheaded boss!). Sorry for the rant, but knew thsi would be a good place to get it off my chest to people that totally get it!

Jeweled Thumb

Not to stereotype an entire age ranged group, but I’ve found older female managers are the worst. They automatically suspect (true or not) that you want their job. It’s easier when they are training you but if you ever should excel and master your work, they try to beat you down. I’ve had several of those. Just like in life there’s always going to be female competition, but there shouldn’t be this ruthless trying to be like a man kind of attitude. When men compete it seems they can stay more or less friendly with eachother unlike most women.

Lisa Sherratt

Just wanted to say – Great Post! Gave me a lot to think about! I’ve had the bitchy power crazy female bosses before and now am working in an office of males trying to keep my head (which is a little overly emotional) in the right area to fit in! Really interesting!

Fashion Limbo

Great post. Carina100 your boss is an incompetent pr*ck for calling you “sweetheart” and “darling”. This man simply fails to see you as a professional hence the offensive remarks (if he had half a brain he would know that such terms are so patronisingly offensive and sexist…the nerve!)

Beware ladies, shed a tear or falter one day and you’ll be remembered forever as emotional and unstable. I once fainted at work due to repeated stress and what could only be labeled as bullying by my bosses for over 18 months and that was the end of it. Label? weak and unreliable. It didn’t matter that I was single-handedly managing a key department and that I had not taken a single day off sick. That I had done a great job since day one.

Had a guy collapsed you would have everyone shocked and wondering how much had this poor man put up with to end up like this. I’ve hated myself ever since for “allowing” myself to let stress get to me so much my legs weakened, fainting as a result. The WORSE thing I could have ever done to support women’s right to be treated and paid equally (!!)

Silly, right?

xobolaji

great post! i actually like kelly cutrone because she tells it like it is. i haven’t read her book either, and part of me wants to, but i just don’t have the time. i enjoyed watching her on the mtv program, “the city,” but i think what she does is what generally what alot of women bosses, in my experience, “do” to younger women.

i once worked with a woman who was incredibly toxic and insecure. she was infamously known as a “bitch” and took pride in being a “hardass.” she would often remark how “soft” and “naive” i was, and she told me that i should never give people the benefit of the doubt or “show weakness.” one day when i went into her office, she asked me point blank if i “wanted her job.” this came as news to me because i had just been hired. a few weeks later we had another discussion and she asked me why i didn’t have my own business. not knowing where the discussion was heading, i decided that she was off her rocker, and continued to work. much later, when i had been promoted alongside her, the gloves came off. she had started to talk smack about me in the back office, while i continued to simply put my nose to the grind and do my work. at one point, i asked the managing director what was her “problem” and he told me that she was most likely insecure about me encroaching on her territory.

to me, that little tidbit spoke volumes. this woman was always going on about “paying dues” and telling me to “trust no one” that her paranoia seemed to get the best of her.

i think that at the end of the day, how you act and behave speaks volumes about your true nature, i don’t believe that we should dumb it down, or pretend to be someone we’re not simply to get ahead. i think that there is a time and a place for everything, and naturally at work, you should be your utmost professional without compromising your integrity or womanhood.

I think that once upon a time, women thought that they had to be “like men” to go far, and that’s simply not true.

and yes, “that woman” eventually did made me cry. She was not ever “my boss” and i think that annoyed her. I did not cry because i cldn’t cope, but out of sheer frustration in working with a toxic wingnut. as it turns out, she is/was bi-polar. so that about sums it up.

Smarty P. Jones

Excellent post. I do, however, have to disagree with you. I think it all boils down to professionalism. I wouldn’t take too kindly to anybody crying at work, masculine, feminine, androgynous. Get yourself together.

If there is an issue with you personally, it should not affect your work life. Learn to compartmentalize. You don’t want to be the bitch, but you don’t want to be the emotional heffa they’re afraid to make do her job.
I rarely cry period and I damn sure ain’t gonna cry at work. I wouldn’t give these motherbleeps the satisfaction of seeing me that vulnerable. When you’re at work, you’re an employee, be emotional on your own time. Cry in the shower like normal people.

Amma // Beyond Beyond

We are all emotial beings, but honestly I have met some folk who will cry at the drop of a kleenex. And it drove me potty that they cried their way into promotions too, you can’t be an automaton – but, cry me a river is a Justin Timberlake song, not a mandate for how to get by in the workplace.

_V

So true – it is a hard balance. I, however, am fortunate enough to work for a woman who seems to have it right. She is agressive when she needs to be, but is always a warm and caring person to work for. I lucked out, I guess. It is SO wonderful to have someone I can take MY eventual leadership cues from.

On the flip side, the crying issue is one I still struggle with. I don’t think it’s appropriate workplace behaviour most of the time. And I could never articulate why, but Edward Keenan, who writes for a Toronto weekly, kinda’ put his finger on it for me: http://www.eyeweekly.com/city/mylifemyfault/article/93322 (Scroll down, his bit is after Kate Carraway’s column).

Mrs M

First time on the blog and love the say it how its is writting! Its far from an equal world in the workplace! I have had no good women managers..its all or nothing. I really feel and admire these women all at the same time! In my experience a women promoted internally does and feels like they have to change there whole personality to get on. Maybe they do!
(Also not all women go to pieces at that time of the month!)

Rebecca

I’m like Laura, I cry when I’m angry too. I can’t even describe the pressure I feel on a daily basis to have an amazingly successful career… at a job I LOVE… to be in a fabulous marriage… with kids… living in the perfect house… with all the expensive trimmings. ARGH! I think as a subconscious act of rebellion I’m failing in all these areas! Not helpful!

Dream in Grey

Interesting post – I do find it strange when people bad mouth a woman knowing nothing about her and then go on to talk about how women should be allowed to be women in the workplace and not be belittled for it. Surely if you follow that adage then Kelly Cutrone should be just as allowed to be herself in her office too?

Incidentally you’ve got a wholly different impression of her than i have from watching her tv shows The City and Kell on Earth

Jennifer Sanderson

Great post Bangs. Sadly, the double standard for women in the workplace hasn’t changed much over the years. Women are always attacked for being either too complacent or bitchy. Seriously, though, give Kelly a chance. She may come across as bitchy, but she is a crusader for women in business. She tells it like it is and gives tough love advice.

Ritzi Cortez

Last week – on my fourth 14 hour day, my dick of a boss (who goes home at 6pm – having kids is no excuse) dropped some crap about how ‘frustrated’ he was that I hadn’t managed to get around to doing something yet that he’d asked me to do the day before.

Firstly, he could totally make the call himself if it was that urgent, and secondly… 14 hour days, bastard!

Anyhoo, slightly misty eyed (it had been a long week) I was about to make a come back and he said;

‘Oh, now don’t cry about it’

BASTARD!

Which of course made me cry. In the toilets though. Dick.

OMG, I just ranted all over your comments page… sorry!

I’ve seen a man in my office cry from being too tired and stressed. I have to say, although I was nice to him and made him a cuppa… it was kind of nice to see.

Schadenfreude anyone?

Love ya Bangs, I do read – even if I don’t comment that much atm!

RitziCx

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