This upcoming October, it is going to be ten years since I have started to work. I mean, to work, as an official, after-college, full-time job with a real salary. On the tenth anniversary, I am thinking about each of those jobs that I have had until today. And I came to a realization. I have always worked with women, I have always had female bosses.
Female bosses that disappointed me
All these thoughts were stimulated by the fact that I have been recently disappointed in two women, whom I trusted a lot and to whom I attached a lot of importance.
Maybe too much.
Two superiors. Two female bosses.
Because, here’s the thing. As a person who grew up in a household with a strict and dominant mother, always in social sciences, at the Faculty of Philosophy, I was always mostly surrounded by women. And it bothered me when people, and especially other women, said how female relationships were toxic, and therefore how it was better to socialize with men. That is why I would immediately wonder who they hung out with and why they weren’t looking for better friends.
All of this being said, my role models, mainly due to life circumstances, have always been women.
Certain patterns move me
After this first realization, immediately came the second one. I realized that I was manipulated few times to think and believe that those female bosses were going through some kind of a rough financial time, only to pay me less.
Job interview, me with a women who will become my superior. Everything is going well, and then she tells me that the company (read school) doesn’t have enough money, that they are in trouble, they are going through a crisis, hard times. During a different job interview, few years later, as if by chance, the phone rang and the person had to answer very urgently, because it was a bank and it was about a big loan. The same loan that may be non-existent, and even if it is, it was, it was not up to me to think about it, then, there, during that interview, when the job was not even mine.
But I was worried. Because I was twenty-something and I didn’t know any better. Because I saw these women as superior, role models, and at the moment I was sorry about their financial situation, about which I knew absolutely nothing. I thought to myself that they wanted to grow, to make something great out of their company, so hey, why not be in the service of something that would be great!
What I didn’t see was manipulation. Quiet, twisted, unexpected. Insufficient experience and stress made me unable to read between the lines on something as important as a job interview. And they obviously saw in me someone who is open to that kind of manipulation. For dances like this, you need two. Yes, I will not completely omit my own responsibility in this acceptance.
Volunteering, female bosses asked
At two job interviews (and I didn’t have a lot in my life), I was offered to volunteer. They try, somebody might accept, you never know.
The first time that happened to me, I responded right away that I had come for a job advertisement. A paid job was what I needed, I was not in a position to work without monetary compensation, I added.
The lady said, without pardon, that she had no money. I wondered, in that case why was she looking for an employee and why was she wasting my time? In the end, I was offered a job. However, I had to go through an internship, which of course was very little paid. At that point, I had no other option, I accepted.
A few years later, again in an interview, I was quickly told that I should be honored to work there, because the place is known and everyone who is there does it with pleasure. It was mentioned that many rush to volunteer there. They, the eager volunteers, also openly say that they don’t have to be paid for the occasional job they do there, but, behold, female bosses will pay me, so I should be satisfied. Very little, but, hey, great, there will be some cash compensation! I agreed.
Job interview again. Three rounds, no one mentions money at any point. I guesses that was because the company was great, and I needed to be honored. It was as if I was looking to work out of a hobby and wanted primarily to fill out my CV with the names of famous schools, companies, the names of people who are famous in the industry. It is very often as if work was a one-way street where only I get something out of it, and the employers don’t have anything of the fact that I speak five languages fluently and that I am a good and responsible employee. Fortunately, I didn’t get the job.
If I were a man
Today, I can’t help but wonder… If I were a man, would I have been offered to volunteer? If I were a man, would I have accepted offers of internships, when I actually went on a job interview? If I were a man, would I have accepted such low salaries?
If I weren’t a woman, those female bosses would have never tried to manipulate me like that. I’m sure of that today.
Faith in the female bosses
Kind, wonderful at first, these women, female bosses, seemed to have a lot of knowledge they wanted to share. Also for that reason, I agreed to not very great working conditions. ‘’It is only the beginning, I will learn from them, I will be able to grow, the salary will increase over time’’, I thought naively.
And recently I accepted something like that again. Because I experienced it as a great opportunity.
However, the wise say that if you repeat a mistake once, it is a matter of learning, if you keep repeating it, then it is simply stupidity. It is up to me to discern which of these two is my case.
It is difficult to notice the manipulation
When you have in front of you a woman whom you admire for some of her achievements and who persistently repeats that she is a feminist and talks about her activism, it is even harder to recognize manipulations.
Because, are you a feminist if you do feminist and social work outside of your job, but then you pay your female workers a minimum wage? Are you a feminist if, on the one hand, you give a job to a woman who could not find it because she wears a hijab, but you expect her to stay overtime? Are you a feminist if you give work papers to a person from the “third world” who comes to your fantastic developed country, and then you expect her not to go on a lunch break? Are you a feminist if you belong to various feminist associations and you do not share any knowledge with those who follow and admire you? Are you really a feminist?
Integrity, pick up the phone
As with everything, integrity and coherence are needed. Being a feminist is not a profession, where you can choose whether you want to work part-time or full-time. No, no. Being a feminist makes part of inner values that are always there.
From the very beginning, I have been speaking and believing in imperfect feminists, those who are in progress, who are still learning, because I also belong to them.
That is why there is a part of me that understands them and almost does not judge them. Maybe that was a problem in the first place why I let myself be manipulated. But can I understand where they are coming from and still save myself from being used?
Put them on a pillar of shame or give them another chance? Do they do it intentionally, pretentiously? Is everything planned? Do they act with premeditation or in some kind of self-defense that they are not even aware of? Because the consequences for the same crime are not the same when you take into account how and why they were committed.
Copying the known model
And I don’t want to be the women from the beginning of this article who speak about how evil and corrupt women are. Sometimes we forget that women also have feelings, instincts, that we were raised in a patriarchal society and that we copy the patterns we saw, lived and integrated.
Most of these patterns come from the masculine way of looking at things. Pop culture has shown us many times that if there is a woman in a high position, good for her, but she should be careful. Because there is only one place on the top for a woman. In Sex and the City, Miranda was the only partner in her law firm. In the movie Working Girl, the main character blooms and grows at the expense of others. We understood that if one woman goes up, the other has to go down. The world is black and white and that there is not enough space for everyone, the message are sent. If some are rich, others must be poor. If it is good for you, it must be bad for someone else. Especially if you are a woman in a high position.
However, we can understand how female bosses might think because of their upbringing and the society, but we cannot excuse their behavior. The female bosses have the responsibility to question themselves, set an example, be coherent. If they wish to take advantage of others, they are simply reproducing the patriarchal system and participating in a prolongation of the fight for equal rights between sexes.
Today, I don’t blame them for all my misfortunes, for everything that happened to me, for all the manipulations. As I said before, one relationship requires two.
But I understand that I also did all of this from a position of a good girl, the one that does not say no. And if she does say it, she needs to have a really good reason and justify herself.
While I am thinking about the fact that I would no longer wish to be a part of such manipulations and proposals, I also understand that this is not really a wish, but a decision. A decision that must come from a hard work on myself, from respect, understanding and accepting that we are all essentially equal, no matter what position we hold at work.