4 Comments From Your Boss That Don't Seem Anti-Feminist But Are
Women experience a lot of sexism in the workplace, especially from their superiors. Sometimes, this sexism is overt. But other times, you might hear comments from your boss that don't seem anti-feminist but are. People often have coded ways of talking to women that subtly convey sexism even when neither the recipient nor the speaker is aware of it.
In fact, people who make anti-feminist comments are not even usually trying to undermine feminism. Often, they've been taught that these comments are helpful. That's why women themselves sometimes even shame other women at work. They're trying to give practical advice or impart what they've learned, without realizing the patriarchy is at work.
If you hear something like this from your boss, you have to make the call about whether or not it's useful to say anything. I'm not suggesting you risk your job if that's what speaking up would do. If you're repeatedly experiencing harassment at the hands of a supervisor, though, that can be a grounds to complain to human resources.
Here are a few comments you might hear from your boss that are anti-feminist even if you don't realize they are:
1. "You have to look the part."
Sure, people in many workplaces have to dress professionally. But often, women's appearances are scrutinized to an extreme that men's aren't. There are even stories of bosses complaining that women weren't wearing heels and co-workers giving women sweaters to help them cover up. This teaches women that the focus at work is on their appearance, not their performance.
2. "Why are you asking for that?"
Whether it's a job, a promotion, or a raise, women are often taught they need a reason to ask for something, while men feel like they can just ask because they want to. When a boss challenges a woman's decision to ask for what she wants, they encourage the fear many woman already have of advocating for themselves and add to the backlash women face for asking for anything, especially money.
3. "You shouldn't have asked for that."
Once, I was actually scolded for asking if I could look over a job contract before signing it. Months later, at an office party, the CEO told me it was "BS" for me to ask because it was "not negotiable." I didn't originally view this as gendered, but a friend later asked me if I thought he'd say that to a man. I'm not sure, but I don't think he would say it to someone he considered powerful, and my gender may have something to do with my lack of power in his eyes. Again, when we criticize women for asking for something, we teach them it is wrong not to be "feminine."
4. "Well, actually..."
Your boss probably knows more about your company and its goals than you, which is why they're your boss. But if your boss tries to explain something to you that you already know, there's a chance you're experiencing mansplaining: the act of explaining something to a woman because you assume she knows less than you. If you've proven your knowledge in a certain area and your boss continuously overlooks this, there's a good chance sexism is at play.