Today's Hump Day Hmm asks us to evaluate assertiveness and gender politics in the workplace, relationships, educational environments, or where ever else they come into play. I started to write this post about success (and the techniques I have seen used to find it), and I may still post that effort on another day, but instead I will talk about gender politics in the community where I presently reside. I am not from here, or as locals have been wont to say I "ain't from 'round here", so this commentary might sound judgmental and perhaps even condescending. I don't mean for it to come across that way, but I do want to look at the gender dynamics I observe very frequently here as a relative outsider to them.
Women in this community, for the most part, are not expected to be terribly outspoken. That is to say that those who are outspoken and under the age of fifty tend to look peculiar to the rest of the group. Women are expected to do more behind the scenes work to accomplish their goals and desires. Conversely, men make bold statements full of hyperbole (and swearing in many cases). Coming from a major city where plenty of women quickly spoke their minds on politics, religion, economics, and whatever else they felt like, this "gentile" mindset sometimes disorients me. When I brought a wife who "ain't from 'round here" to this place (I first live here as a single man) and who is definitely outspoken, it was very hard for her. People gave us both peculiar looks, and some even openly ostracized her or both of us. We have overcome some of those early "outsider" attitudes, but it still bothers some people (I think, anyway) that my wife holds an office in a political party when I don't, or that she is so free with her opinion. I know it bothers her (she tells me, for one thing), but it disturbs me. Many of the smartest people I know happen to be women, so why not listen to their ideas? I know it causes some strange looks from men that I almost always respond to questions with "I'll talk to my wife and get back to you." I've been called all manner of derisive names (which I don't care to write down) because I consult with or even let my wife in on decisions I make about how I spend my time. I won't say I was exactly raised to do that, but it is how I run my life and how I act in my home and marriage. We are equal partners who share in our responsibilities.
I also notice that tradesmen here have a habit of verifying things my wife tells them by asking me. They did it a lot to my mother when she built a home here, often asking my father "Your wife asked us to" whatever it was, then "Is that okay with you?" He finally got them cured of it by explaining it was "her house, she can do whatever she wants, don't ask me anymore." My wife recently asked a landscaper to trim some plants around our house, and he pulled over in front of me while I was walking to work to ask "Is what she said okay?" Their attitude seems to say "I know you're the one who writes the checks, so I better ask you." Fortunately most of the ones I have dealt with once have learned not to bother asking again.
The women in this community also do a great deal to organize events. They work with school and club fundraisers, Vacation Bible School, Relay For Life, and myriad other groups here. Men tend to fund these events through their businesses in lieu of spending the volunteer hours. These duty separations appear to be the case even when both spouses in a couple work. There are certainly men who give a great deal of their time to various projects, but besides a choice few in my age bracket (myself included), most of those men are retired or advanced enough in their careers not to need to worry about time spent out of the office now and then.
I can understand a lot of the dynamics of gender politics here. I grew up in Atlanta, where the South still has some influence, and I grew up visiting South Georgia often. Still, I got used to women being more able to share their opinions publicly without ridicule, or without being ostracized by most people for it. Women were definitely vocal in community groups and politics. In short, I notice that too many people here still think "the good ole boys" still need to run things. I'm just fine with that attitude going away, personally, and I'm happy to support my wife in her vocal nature as a small way of breaking down such stereotypes.
P.S.: I apologize that my post did not specifically point out one thing I meant to include in my explanation of gender politics here: assertiveness is not a trait appreciated in women here, unless it relates to advocating for their children. Aggressiveness is openly derided, but even women are simply assertive with their opinions are thought of as "uppity" in many cases. It is unfortunate.