how to be successful without hurting men’s feelings

The following is an excerpt from Sarah Cooper’s brand new book, How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings: Non-threatening Leadership Strategies for Women, which is hilarious and wonderful and will make you laugh while also making you dig your fingernails into yourself painfully because of how true it is. You should buy this book.

(Text and images shared with permission from the author.)

Excerpt from Chapter 1: How to Ace Your Interview Without Over-Acing It

In today’s competitive job market, it’s important for women to be very careful about how they present themselves. We have to be friendly, but not too friendly; awesome, but not too awesome; and completely comfortable in our own skin as long as we fit right in. Oftentimes following all the rules seems impossible, and that’s because it is. Here are a few rules to keep in mind if you want to nail your next job interview.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 742 comments… read them below }

  1. H.C.*

    Love Sarah Cooper’s brand of office humor; esp. now that I gave up on Dilbert because of Scott Adams…

    1. Harriet2*

      Oh no… Without wanting to derail things, I think I’ve missed some news somewhere. What’s up with Scott Adams?

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I was never able to figure out if Dogbert or Wally was Adams’s self-portrait in that cartoon.

          It’s a shame – I loved Dilbert nearly as much as Office Space.

            1. Two Dog Night*

              Yeah, he was a keynote speaker at a conference I went to way back in the ’90s, and he wasn’t very entertaining. The best part of the speech was at the end, when he showed a bunch of ideas he didn’t use.

        2. Liane*

          He needs Engineer Alice to smack him a few (dozen?) times with her Fist of Death to get all that, I’m, trash, out of his head so we can consider reading Dilbert again.

      1. NerdyKris*

        If I recall, he was already suffering depression, had a bad divorce, and just dove headlong into MRA/conspiracy theory circles afterwards. He’s just super awful now.

      2. ArtK*

        He’s made the claim that V-neck sweaters on men are “emasculating.” There aren’t enough eye-roll emojis in the world to respond to that!

          1. JustaTech*

            *Whispers* Cardigans were invented by a British officer during the Crimean War. *whispers*

            What could possibly be more manly than an army uniform?

        1. AnnaBananna*

          I happen to think they’re hawt as balls, yo. I mean, he obviously has never witnessed the glory that is Jonathan Rhys Meyers in a v-neck. Hot damn. I’ll even forgive the rampant alcoholism for a view. *fans herself*

    2. sfigato*

      I randomly came across some of his blog posts around 2016 where he was saying he was real concerned about voting for hillary because of her health, and he felt like Trump was the better candidate. I could stomach someone being a Trump supporter because something something economy jobs gun rights, but to so naively buy that bit about her health was too much. I just think he’s Not That Bright and I’m doneski.

      1. Anon21*

        Actually, that post was part of some weird bit where he claimed to be afraid that people would punish or ostracize him through some unspecified means if he said he preferred to vote for Trump. In reality, he preferred Trump for the same reason a lot of people did: he’s a misogynist.

        1. An Engineer*

          I think he also posted that actually, a lot of people preferred Trump because Trump neuro-linguistically programmed them to do so.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I feel this way with all of her books. They’re all hilarious but sad. They give real ~feelings~ to the crying while laughing emoji.

    1. Amber T*

      I defaulted to the “just right” smile in college every time some creepy old dude made a pass at a bar and I didn’t know how to respond. I’ve now perfected the “too bitchy” smile socially and am perfectly fine with it.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Resting Bitch Face. It comes naturally to me, and over time, I’ve honed it.

          Switching from RBF to RBF-with-one-raised-brow is SO MUCH FUN. 10/10 recommend.

    2. Lunar Rainbow*

      Apparently I do, too! I had what I thought was a pleasant expression while waiting for colleagues, but then a group of (male) visitors gesture at me and ask, “She’s so serious over there. What’s the deal? You should let her smile more!”

      I’m pretty sure I slid right into “too bitchy” after that…

    3. Other Duties As Assigned*

      My boss is constantly walking by my desk and telling me to “Smile!”. I give him the giant fake smile usually, but I got so sick of it I bought some of those giant wax lips to pull out one day. The commands to “Smile!” have gone down, thankfully. And luckily, he has a good enough sense of humor that I didn’t get in trouble for a juvenile joke.

      1. JustaTech*

        A friend in college had this expression she would use when someone told her to smile that was terrifying. There’s a huge difference between smiling and bearing your teeth. She looked like she was about to tear your throat out with her teeth. Which was kind of the point.

      1. Juliecatharine*

        Apparently I alternate between lazy and sexy. *sigh* I really cannot decide if these are hilarious because they’re true or infuriating…because they’re true.

        1. GigglyPuff*

          Apparently I’m a wild mix, Too Sexy, Too Confusing, and Too Lazy. That’s what an underbuzz will get you with shoulder length hair, that you sometimes wear up, lol

          1. kitryan*

            I am also boring and/or lazy. Since I usually kind of swirl my hair around and put it in a clip I am exactly between the two.

            1. Ellex*

              Who needs pockets in their pants when they have a bun to stick things in?

              Oh, wait…is that why women’s pants don’t have pockets?

              1. Lynn*

                No pockets, no bun…when I cut my hair from fairly long to short I suddenly had nowhere to store anything. :>

      2. Rincat*

        I interviewed while growing out a Too Confusing and got my current job, which has been awesome. My mom was very worried though, and said no one would hire me. ;)

        Right now I have a very ordinary bob but I let it air dry, so does that make me almost-acceptable but lazy?…

        1. Arielle*

          Weirdly enough I think my mom likes my Too Confusing better than my Cute Pixie because technically my hair is longer, even if it’s Way More Gay.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            A pixie on the right face shape? My absolute favorite. I tried it once (I blame Winona) and it was All Sorts of Terrible. #longhairuntildeath

          2. Elfie*

            Oh god, do I have a Gay hairstyle? I have a pixie cut – I thought from the infographics I was just Too Old, but now I’m Old and Gay?

            1. Elfie*

              To point out, I don’t want to appear Old and Gay as I am not yet Old, and straight. Not that there’s anything wrong with being old, or gay!!

            2. ArtsNerd*

              Pixies aren’t inherently gay-signaling. Trendy partial-buzzes and extreme asymmetry, on the other hand, are pretty popular with queer women. My dad and one of my coworkers vastly prefer my buzz cut to my side-buzz because at least it’s symmetrical now.

              That said, I’ve joked about wearing “my gayest outfit” and have been gently corrected by friends who said “What exactly does ‘gay’ look like?”

          1. Katniss*

            It took SO MUCH PRACTICE and makes my arms hurt every time (you have to hold them up for awhile) but it looks awesome so I do it every once in awhile. This is the tutorial that helped me the most:

            I also really like the tutorials from EverydayHairInspiration, though she doesn’t have a dragon braid one.

          2. Katniss*

            Dang, my original reply got stuck in moderation for containing a link!

            It took quite awhile to learn because I’m usually not very good with hair (I’m 36 and I just learned to French and Dutch braid this year) but I found a modified way to do it that’s not as difficult or time consuming. It’s basically ponytails pulled through each other from the top of your head all the day down.

      3. Dance-y Reagan*

        I am in the awkward in-between phase of converting to the Curly Girl method. I think my current style is best described as “small mammal nesting material”.

        1. Lawgurl06*

          Well my hair is half up and half down right now so I’m somewhere between “too boring” and “too religion-y.”

          I wish less of this was true, but I’m glad someone had the cojones to write about it and put it out there.

        2. thehappyfangirl*

          LOL fellow Curly Girl here with a fistbump of solidarity! Nearly a year in and I think I FINALLY have the right products for my hair…at least until the weather changes :)

        3. Cacti*

          Curly girl here! /wave

          Have you found your perfect routine? I used to buy the expensive DevaCurl line but now I just use $0.89 V05 conditioner diluted with water in a spray bottle as a leave-in and $1.50 L.A. Looks gel. Best decision I’ve ever made.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      It reminds me of the facebook slideshow of hairstyles that should just die and never be worn again.

      Seriously there is, apparently, no acceptable hairstyle according that. I think I simultaneously covered 4 of the 38(!) on a daily basis.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          short, long, curly, straight, the farrah fawcett feather, short and curly, long and straight, shaved, not shaved…

          Essentially look around you to all the woman nearby including your own and it was on the list. I honestly walked away from that laughing because there are no acceptable hair styles for woman.

          1. Give Me Down to There Hair*

            I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
            Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
            Oily, greasy, fleecy
            Shining, gleaming, streaming
            Flaxen, waxen
            Knotted, polka-dotted
            Twisted, beaded, braided
            Powdered, flowered, and confettied
            Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Mine looks “Too Sexy” naturally but is really “Too Lazy” since I kinda just roll with what is natural

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        *sigh* I could spend hours trying to get that effect, and in 30 minutes of humidity I’d be back to “hair you can use to map a gravitational field.” (My hair is even more boring than the boring example.)

    3. Lady Blerd*

      I’m a cross between too black and too confusing ie short afro. I just listened to a podcast interview with an older black woman who was telling about her early days in the working world in the late 70s. She got to see the first black women who showed up with a Way too Black who had to explain why they’d wear an inappropriate hairstyle and it’s so hard to imagine such stories today yet it’s still happening.

      1. $!$!*

        I’m a black cis woman with natural hair and I wear it straightened. When it’s natural it won’t fro properly or do anything really, and when it’s braided (cornrowed or any style) I get no respect from man, woman or child. I’ve been told it makes me look like a teenager (!)

        1. TardyTardis*

          I’ve always thought that cornrowed and beaded always looked amazing, but I have a hard time imagining sleeping on it.

    4. Matilda Jefferies*

      I have so many questions! Mine is currently Too Sexy according to the graphic, but I feel obliged to point out that my hairstyling method is actually “wash – comb -air dry – ignore” …which might put it into the Too Lazy category? So which is it? Inquiring minds want to know!

      I also wonder how my apparently Super Sexy hair goes with my Super Tired Eyes, from three days and nights of looking after a sick kid. Can I be both sexy and tired at the same time, or am I only allowed to fit into one box?

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Ooh! I think we’re supposed to be going for “effortlessly* sexy” anyway – so does that mean we win? Yay, us!

          *Effortless, but not TOO effortless, obvi. Put on some foundation, darling, and maybe some coverup will take care of those undereye bags for you.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Ah, no. Too tired is Bedroom Eyes and you are right back into Too Sexy. Sorry! Please play again!

    5. no, this is my everyday hair*

      “Too Black” and “Way Too Black” laid me on the floor.

      I am “Too Old,” but my hair is purple, so I think that’s probably Too Weird.

      1. Ghost Town*

        Ooo! That’s me! Wash > air dry overnight > brush > twist and stab with a hair tool till it is tight enough to stay but doesn’t give me an instant headache.

    6. Ophelia*

      I used to veer either Too Sexy or Too Boring, but now I’m really leaning in to Too Tired to be Arsed, if I’m honest.

    7. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      I’m wearing a cross between Too Boring and Too Lazy, otherwise known as a messy bun. And that pretty much sums up my relationship with my hair, so cool.

      1. Trouble*

        I tend to rock a ponytail on day one, and then a messy bun on day two. And sometimes on day three. Curly hair so can’t wash it too often and lazy as hell so wouldn’t want to anyway. Then it’s long enough to be annoying left down and curly so it gets put up all the time. I wish I liked the way I look with short hair, it was so much easier.

    8. zaracat*

      Makes me sooooo glad that everyone has to cover their hair where I work – no-one ever needs to know if it’s a bad hair day. Makes work functions very interesting though.

    9. Jessen*

      I managed to avoid all those hairstyles! I got a buzz cut.

      I somehow doubt that’s an improvement in the fine art of being acceptable to patriarchy.

    10. TrainerGirl*

      I laughed out loud when I saw the hairstyles. And boy is that true. I have an interview and first day hairstyle (slicked back bun) that I rock, and then day two they get to see the natural hair. I am Too Black on a daily basis, with an occasional Way Too Black thrown in for good measure.

  2. AnotherAlison*

    Reminds me of that day I sent 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women to my colleagues on the women’s resource group leadership committee. . .and some of them didn’t realize it was satire. Definitely #Reallife when you work in a male dominated field. I need to get the book for sure.

    1. female peter gibbons*

      I remember singing “Just a Girl” by No Doubt in high school and my English teacher being horrified that I would sing such lyrics, not understanding that the song is satirical…. This is an English teacher… LOL

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Oh, the Previously TV (successors to TelevisionWithoutPity) commercial forums were *so* confused over that song being used in an ad. Terry Pratchett (and Pink Floyd) were right – dark sarcasm really *does* need to be taught in the classroom.

    2. PDXJael*

      I’m a manager and used to have “#3 Emailing a Request” posted in my office. CUE (Chief Executive Officer = boss) came through one time and rolled his eyes. Didn’t say anything, but it made me happy he knew it was there. Yes I’m a problem child, but at least I’m upfront about it!

    3. JustaTech*

      Ooh, maybe the hypothetical “Women’s leadership group” will read this instead of Lean In.

      Ugh, but if I suggest it they’ll make me do it.

  3. Butter Makes Things Better*

    So real that I seem to have developed a facial twitch on the subway. Am buying this for all my friends. And my husband.

  4. Labradoodle Daddy*

    As a woman who is CONSTANTLY told she’s intimidating without the faintest clue why (seriously, I’m kind of an idiot) this made me laugh, then kind of sad.

    1. Boo Hoo*

      I was once told i was intimidating because I seemed confident. SMH.

      I’m really not I have freaking scoliosis so I make a point to try to stand up straight due to my curve.

      1. Adele*

        And so what if you are intimidating? Plenty of men are and no one worries about it. I think most of them cultivate it.

        1. Boo Hoo*

          Ya I don’t really care it just was a stupid reason. I am quite happy with people running when they see me. Less talking ha

      2. Liz T*

        Wow yeah it is weird how many people throughout my life have interpreted “good posture” as “intimidating.”

        Don’t get me wrong–I’m intimidating as fuck. I’m just surprised that part of that is that my third grade computer teacher always told us “perfect posture is the key to good living” and I internalized it.

      3. katastrophreak*

        Well, let’s reframe that.

        Are you intimidating, or is the other person intimidated?

        Let them manage their own feelings.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I told my college advisor that male classmates in my program told me I was “too intimidating” largely because I spoke up a lot in seminars. Of course I wanted them to like me, but I also wanted to talk in class. What to do?

      He told me: you’re not intimidating – they are intimidated. Don’t make their problem your problem. He was a great teacher in many ways, but that lesson I’ve never forgotten.

      1. AnOh*

        I was told I’m “too intimidating” because I’m quiet and no one ever knows what I’m thinking

        1. Kristine*

          I’m quiet as well and have been told I seem “bitchy and unapproachable”. Doing my work quietly and without distraction makes me bitchy? Ok then.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Same here! Also, I’m not a people person and supposedly why I haven’t been promoted. And, I step on peoples toes because I call out when I see huge Fups and it affects the customer (in other words I hurt the poor baby salespeoples giant egos)

        2. ThankYouRoman*

          To be threatened because someone isn’t telling you that they’re contemplating if tacos or burritos were best…what a sad world they live in.

          I’m usually quiet because I have nothing to talk scary!

        3. Nita*

          Haha, I prefer to call this the “hidden dragon” (thanks to an engineering mentor from high school).

        4. alienor*

          I’ve heard that one too. And also ‘it’s like you’re silently judging me.’ Which I wasn’t before, but definitely will be after that.

      2. The Original K.*

        I’ve been hearing I’m intimidating since I was a teenager and I got similar advice from one of my favorite teachers. “She was like, yeah, you’re smart and speak up for yourself. Own it.” (She, too, has been painted with the intimidating brush.)

        1. Just Another Attorney*

          Meanwhile, one of my high school teachers told me (after I politely asked him to quit making fun of deaf people in front of our 9th grade class) that “bossy little girls like you” grow up to be “nothing but a pain in the ass of men like me” and promised me that by the time I was 20, I’d be “barefoot, pregnant, and living in a trailer park” if I didn’t change my attitude towards “authority figures” (which was obviously code for “old, white men).
          Yeah, my attitude never changed and somehow, that did not prove to be my fate. He, however, did get divorced a second time and eventually sacked by the school so… I think I fared a lot better.

          1. Aveline*

            He didn’t want to help you or even change you with that statement. He wanted to hurt you and asset his power.

            Good that you didn’t let him do so.

            1. Just Another Attorney*

              Exactly. When I passed the bar, I considered looking him up and sending him a snippet of the pass list in the newspaper but never did. I also joked with my husband about sending him our child’s birth announcement with an note of my age at the time (psst! Not 20) and a picture of home non-trailer park home.

              And I admit, I do occasionally humor myself that my annual salary in my early 30’s is for more than he ever made as a part-time football coach/part-time history teacher in our small town. Guess he was not an accurate predictor of what character traits were required for success. *shrug*

          2. AMM Newbie*

            I am all for women to continuing to be pains in the asses to men like that and that men like that are replaced by men who are not intimated by women holding their own.

      3. Electric Sheep*

        “He told me: you’re not intimidating – they are intimidated. Don’t make their problem your problem.”
        Ahhh, that’s so good I reread it a couple of times just so I could keep enjoying it.

      4. TardyTardis*

        My female boss at the tax place used to run a squadron of helicopters in the US Army. There’s a joke going around in the (mostly) female office that a DD214 is a mandatory application item…though in our town it’s not that hard to come by.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I’ve been “too intimidating” all my life, seriously, since I started talking. First it was that I was intimidating to adults, then “better learn to not be so smart or you’ll never get a boyfriend” intimidating, then men find me intimidating and women who want to work long enough to find themselves a husband find me intimidating.

      Oh yeah, and abrasive.

      I actually have NO sense of humor about it. It is annoying. The people who are intimidated are idiots. I’m no better than anyone else imo, I work with lots of really smart people, and, even when I try to take any hint of opinion off any response to a question, I’m still intimidating. So, $krewit, as my mother used to say.

      1. nonymous*

        > “better learn to not be so smart or you’ll never get a boyfriend”

        yep. Followed by a lecture about how I should learn from Mom, a woman with flaws which could be overlooked because she “knew her place”. Thanks Dad!

        (Fwiw, Mom to this day thinks that “knowing her place” is a strength as well. Dad passed away over a decade ago.)

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Ugh. I am SO sorry. Fortunately, I did not get this within my family, it was “generous” advice give unsolicited by various other adults, mostly female, tbh. One was my father’s secretary for many years. I don’t think I ever told him about it as he often was already annoyed at her for a variety of reasons.

          Getting it from family is a whole other thing.

        2. ThankYouRoman*

          My God…I’m glad my mother and father are hippies. My mother was enraged when I made a joke as a teenager about how they got married because she became pregnant with me and “had to”. “I married him because he wanted the legal protections, I didn’t HAVE to do anything.”

          He even takes the dishes outta the sink before he pees in it!

      2. SusanIvanova*

        So it’s about 1977, I’m 12, and magazines *aimed at girls my age* are full of “act stupid to keep your boyfriend” stories. Such rage. So I pick up a science fiction book with a title that I expect will just be a monster story, and here’s *another* teen girl – not just smart, an engineer! – but she’s having boyfriend troubles.

        Her mom does not tell her to get a makeover, or to act stupid. Her mom tells her to keep on being herself, and if he doesn’t like it, he’s not worth it.

        It was written in 1959: Heinlein’s “The Menace From Earth”. I’d credit that with me being an engineer now, in one of the largest software companies in the world, and they *liked* it when I was all “I *owned* that project” in the interview.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Heinlein is responsible for a lot of my views on gender and sexuality, acceptance, celebration of, and so on. He made a lot of very sharp political commentary through his books and his characters. There are others out there, but very few with his outright acceptance and respect of that which is different from How You Were Probably Raised or What You Prefer.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            There’s a lot I like about Heinlein. The one thing about him that irritates me is that he did create all of these intelligent, strong, independent women…and pretty much all of them are obsessed with having babies. Which kind of bugs child-free me…but I also recognize that it was a different time, and that he and his wife badly wanted children and couldn’t have them, so I do try to keep those things in mind.

            1. JSPA*

              Eh, his later books are basically one long, old-man-who-can’t-anymore letching over women of all ages wet dream. I find them unreadable. And…it was not that long ago.

        1. Drive it like you stole it*

          Well I am intimidated by toddlers because they are small humans who have almost zero control over their emotions, but that’s besides the point.

          I was reportedly an intimidating pre schooler because I talked like an adult and wasn’t afraid to argue with them. So I get it.

        2. animaniactoo*

          When the toddler makes valid points that you can’t argue with because it would be hypocritical/poor form to do so.

          (ex – when my niece first met my husband she was 4. He was outside the restaurant having a cigarette. She ran up to him and said “Stop that! Smoking is bad for you!” and then ran off again. He stood there bemused, because really… what could he say back to that in that moment?)

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, toddlers can be extremely perceptive and have no tact whatsoever, which to humorless adults can be intimidating.

        3. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Well, there’s a notorious family story about how I was 2-ish and playing with a littler (just walking) boy at the playground (had just met that day) and a bigger kid (5-ish?) came over and took away the little one’s ball?truck?pail?

          My father described it as “you erupted out of the sandbox, ran after the bigger boy, pulled him down, took the toy back and kicked him really hard in the stomach before we got you off of him. J— (my mother) was upset because she was worried you would be hurt and I was so proud you stood up to that. We then found that boy’s babysitter and gave her a piece of our mind!”

          Apparently the other parents/babysitters/even bigger kids gave me a Very Wide Berth at that playground ever after despite me being clothed in maryjanes, plaid sundresses and a page boy haircut. (We moved a year later for reasons unrelated to my defense of the weaker.)

          1. kitryan*

            Go you! When I was about 8 I was being teased/bullied by two older girls and I hit them with my umbrella. My parents were told and I wasn’t allowed to have an umbrella at school until high school.

        4. Ehhhh*

          The kind that’s “too smart for your own good,” aka a thing my brother was never told despite being objectively brighter and more obnoxious than I was about it.

          1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

            “Too smart for me,” is the one I get tagged with.

            Um… thanks…? I just really like… knowing stuff?

    4. ThankYouRoman*

      I have owned it since I outgrew all the boys in junior high. Oh I’m scary? Good. I coming for your corner office, Seymour.

    5. anon today and tomorrow*

      I’ve been called intimidating for as long as I can remember. It really annoys me when I say one thing and am called intimidating or abrasive and a man says the SAME THING and is praised. I had a male work friend at my last job who I used to have repeat what I said in meetings just so we could catalogue the different reactions we each would get. Without fail, he was always praised and I was always condemned – even when we used the exact same language!

      The most ridiculous comment I’ve ever gotten about it was that my walk was “too confident” and I should tone it down because it intimidated people.

      1. The Original K.*

        In high school, a boy said the same thing about my walk! “I don’t like how you walk. You strut.”

        1. Juli G.*

          Oh, my walk got commented on all the time in high school. At that time, I really didn’t quite get the double standard for women plus I had the I’m A Teenager Who Knows All confidence. Here’s the thing – guys would tell me I was intimidating but I thought that was a compliment.

          I look back and think “I was clueless but I was probably happier that way.”

            1. OnlyHaveOnePace*

              My mother taught me to walk fast and confidently. While in the military, I always power-walked with eyes focused, a determined look on my face, and a notebook in my hand for everything, from an actual task to just needing the bathroom. Got to the point that all sorts of officers would frequently plaster themselves to the wall in narrow hallways and insist I go first because “it looks like you have somewhere to be.”

      2. TechWorker*

        I once had a colleague interrupt me during a training session to give the same answer – like he was so sure that I would be wrong he hasn’t even bothered to listen to what I said. Wasn’t that said when this colleague left…

      3. Chrisjen*

        This is my life. Male-dominated construction trade, I’m a manager.

        I swear the next time someone calls me abrasive for using simple, direct language while actual verbal abuse is okay if a man does it, I’m going to go off. Very loudly.

      4. Elfie*

        I was told when I was 11 that people didn’t like me because I was Too Nice. I don’t even know what that means. You really can’t win.

    6. TechWorker*

      When I first moved into a position of authority (project lead but on a tiny project with me and one other) I got ‘aggressive’. In hindsight this was my annoyance/confusion at being disagreed with/challenged on every little point – points that he would then immediately accept if a male colleague agreed with me. I have to say the vast vast majority of my colleagues are *not* like that and I’m now treated with respect by my whole team.

    7. Kat Em*

      After giving several 15 minute presentations to peers during professional development sessions, and was told by my supervisor that I should add more filler words to my speech because I was coming across as intimidating to the other employees. (I used to do a lot of public speaking and did it competitively for a while, so my formal speaking is unusually polished.)

      Oddly enough, those employees told me they were impressed and thought my speaking was “awesome.” They were pretty sure the bosses were the ones intimidated because I was better at presenting than they were.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        I got in an epic shouting match with a grand-manager once. I’d been in a meeting with him and another (male) engineer discussing a graphics framework. Typical tech meeting, and the engineer and I came to the mutual conclusion that it wasn’t right for my project.

        What I didn’t know until much later: grandmanager wanted it for *his* project, but could only get it if my team used it. Yay office politics.

        What I figured out during the shouting match: he was from a culture that doesn’t value women, and he had never attempted to get past his cultural conditioning.

        He accused me of being “disrespectful” to the other engineer. I denied it, intensely. Everyone heard it. The rest of my team, being sensible, lost what little respect they had for him. I got short-listed on the next layoffs, and I’m 100% certain that’s why. I didn’t care because I was already job-hunting.

    8. Anne Elliot*

      I’m told I’m intimidating too. I take it as a compliment or a statement of fact so my response is either an even “I’m sorry you feel that way but [reiterate point]” or “Thank you!” depending on how mad I am.

  5. Ah Nonny Mousse*

    If this thing was titled “How to be successful without hurting WOMEN’S feelings” there’d be a total backlash and revolt against it. But whatever…

    1. Katniss*

      Yeah, because women aren’t the group in power in society. Read up on punching up versus punching down.

          1. Czhorat*

            As an official representative of the patriarchy, I can’t possibly agree more on this.

            The fact is that men have too much power, are over-represented in decision-making positions, and hold women to impossible sets of double-standards.

            1. Mr. X*

              Ab-so-freaking-lutely. It’s horrific that women have to diminish themselves because some insecure men can’t stand having their widdle feewings hurt. And there are still too many men like that out there today.

        1. Sylvan*

          The content is a bunch of jokes about sexism. If someone thinks criticizing sexism is the same thing as criticizing all men, that’s… interesting.

    2. justsomeone*

      Because that would be punching down. Humor that punches up at those with the power is generally acceptable. But humor that punches down at those who are already marginalized is gross.

        1. the elephant in the room*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one. I was VERY impressed by how far into the comments I got before I saw this.

      1. Nameless Wonder*

        I expected the first comment to be Alison saying “CALM IT PEOPLE” and yeah was impressed it wasn’t.

    3. Fleahhhh*

      Hi there! I’m sure it’s difficult living under a rock and staying in touch with current affairs. So here’s a friendly reminder that we’re actually currently living in a male-dominated society where women’s bodies & demeanor are aggressively policed and there is actual tangible evidence of these exact issues being addressed through this satire (i.e. wage gap, leadership gap, need I go on?).

      Please let me know if you need help finding out more information! There’s some really amazing tools out there. I think you can go to this website and search an entire vast database? Let me know if you need a link

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I would actually support such a book as I have a lot to contribute. I have a lot of experience with mistreatment based on my gender.

      And it is possible to be successful without putting other people down!

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          I had a boss tell me that the questions I asked showed I didn’t know what I was talking about. In the same conversation, she praised my male coworker for asking questions because his curiosity meant he was intellectually engaged.

          Same boss, same man. Male coworker punched a coffee table and slammed a door when his project went south. Boss said he was passionate. Boss told me I have an anger management problem because I frowned when I read.

          1. Gaia*

            So that actually just sounds like the patriarchy? And some women are brainwashed into supporting it because they are too oppressed to know any different but the issue is the same: protecting men through the patriarchy.

          2. JulieCanCan*

            Aren’t questions the way we find out the information we need so we WIILL know what we’re talking about?

            We’re damned if we ask, we’re damned if we don’t! Ridiculous.

            At my former company (that folded after 18 months due to an inept CFO, an embezzling COO, and lazy executives making $2 million a year who were taking helicopters to Laguna Beach for the weekend and putting it on company credit cards despite being told not to do). On my 3rd day, the COO told me I was “a f*cking idiot” and he “didn’t like my face.” Seriously, wtf was I supposed to say to that? I found out that the COO was *extremely* upset because his best friend (and embezzling buddy) was fired and I replaced him, and the COO hadn’t been in the loop of this entire firing/hiring episode. I went in knowing I was replacing someone, but had no idea their plan was being executed in such an underhanded manner. Little did I know this was just the beginning.

            I could list countless other INSANE stories about that organization that no one would believe, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not believing me. I ended up getting various types of proof of said insanity – just so people in my personal life could understand why I was seemingly headed towards a nervous breakdown.

            This same COO would treat male executives like they were Gods and then he’d walk into my office, question every decision I made, and tell me I didn’t know how to do my job (that I had done quite successfully for over a decade somewhere else btw). His nephew also worked there and was caught embezzling funds but instead of being fired, nephew was allowed to stay (but removed from any financial dealings) until he found another job (!!??) and ended up with a higher paying job at a huge company, partially due to his stellar references from the COO and the President of our company.

            Karma eventually called and the COO had a heart attack while sitting at his office desk. His assistant though he was joking around. The President was relieved that this particular COO problem “worked itself out” and he didn’t have to fire him (which he supposedly was going to do soon.)

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          As a child I was very put out that there was a mother’s day and a father’s day but not a kids day. But then I grew up and went ‘oh’.

          1. Jaydee*

            My son also claimed that this was unfair and didn’t understand/accept when we said “dude, every day is Kids’ Day.” So we now celebrate his half birthday with the same level that we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (he gets to pick what we have for dinner and maybe gets a small gift or his choice of an activity that day).

        2. Afiendishthingy*

          Reminds me of the Toothpaste for Dinner with the guy saying “There should be a WHITE Mother’s Day! For MEN!”

        1. Lissa*

          Haa, I think this time at least people figured it out, Hiring Mgr. :D (your comments are my favourite.)

    5. Amber*

      I agree. I understand that’s it’s supposed to be funny and why. Yes women have been wronged in the work place throughout history, yes SOME men are this way. But the vast majority are not and this book (and the title) paints ALL men with the same brush which they do not deserve. I don’t have a problem with this book but it seems very out of place with Ask A Manager’s brand to encourage painting all men with such negativity. Because that is exactly what the title does “how to be successful without hurting men’s feelings”.

      It seems a little cruel for a site that usually supports equality, compassion, and inclusion.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Honest question here! Where do you see this as “painting all men with one brush”? I’ve heard and seen a lot of women in the work force treat other women just how this book is poking fun at.

        1. Jen RO*

          I’m not Amber, but it’s right there in the title. I get what the book is trying to do, but the title is jarring and seems out of place on AAM.

            1. Jen RO*

              Actually I’ve been reading and commenting for at least 5 years. Alison is usually much more nuanced than “how not to hurt men’s feelings”.

              1. Owlette*

                I have, too. There’s a linked post underneath this article that sarcastically says, “Ladies, be dainty when asking for a raise.” I don’t think “How to be successful without hurting men’s feelings” is too far off from that sort of dry, sarcastic humor.

                There isn’t much more nuance to be had here, by the way. Men are sexist in the workplace. Lots of them are. No one ever said “all” men.

              2. Owlette*

                I also wanted to apologize because I was very snarky when I said “You must be new here.” Sorry about that.

          1. Observer*

            I think you are missing the point of the title. Sensible people know that not all men are alike, and that not all women are alike. But, this book is taking extremely accurate aim at the segment of the population that seems to think that men’s ego are wildly susceptible to damage from any thing a woman might do and that women are responsible for coddling said men’s egos.

            If you don’t know any people like that, you won’t appreciate this book, because these people also have the kinds of contradictory standards that are being skewered here. But the rest of us? Most of us are nodding our heads.

        2. Amber*

          Because the title and the book name are “how to be successful without hurting men’s feelings” when it could have been “how to be successful in a confusing world” or something that doesn’t include all men.

            1. MuseumChick*

              That’s just it. Do you really need the title to be “Humorous observations of gender in the modern work place where men still hold the majority of power so the focus will be on that instead of the other way around.”

            2. Czhorat*

              “Not all men” has to be the last square on someone’s bingo card. It is SUCH a classic derailing comment on things like this.

              NOBODY SAID ALL MEN.

              The fact is that men in in-power positions tend to make this kind of assumption.

                1. Labradoodle Daddy*

                  No one is saying “all men,” but when pretty much every woman you know has the same experience? THAT’S A PROBLEM.

                2. P*

                  I guess if it’s common it must be wrong
                  Seriously we’ve been here before and I think the pictures are funny and I get it’s the title of the book, but it IS a deliberately provocative/snarky title. I do find it a bit off putting even if I think the content is funny.

              1. NW Mossy*

                The frequency with which it’s deployed might argue for center square, on the grounds that everyone gets it for free at the start of the game.

              2. Labradoodle Daddy*

                A joke I came up with that I’m weirdly proud of…

                -“Valar morghulis”
                -“NOT ALL MEN!”

          1. McWhadden*

            It’s not about a confusing world. We aren’t confused by it. We know exactly what’s going on.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              The underlying assumption that we must be perpetually confused is part of the problem the book is addressing.

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            The book isn’t about how to be successful in a confusing world, though. It’s about how women get treated like crap, a whole lot, and how BS standards are pushed on us.

            1. I Love Thrawn*

              All anyone needs to do is look at the brief stories already told by commenters on this thread for proof.

            2. Urdnot Bakara*

              *how people get treated like crap, a whole lot, and how BS standards are pushed on us /specifically by men/, and that’s the whole point!

          3. Cass*

            You’ve added a word that wasn’t there? In fact, you literally quoted the title in your comment. You don’t get to speak for an entire gender. I’m a man and I don’t feel like this includes me at all. It’s not all men, but it is overwhelmingly men. Comments like yours don’t help anyone.

          4. ArtK*

            Really? We have to parse the title that closely looking for something offensive? As a man, I don’t find the title offensive at all; please don’t assume offense on my behalf. Most mature people are able to read that title and figure out whether it applies to them or not, without having to have every detail spelled out. I’m able to realize that it applies to a lot of men, but not every man. It even applies to me some of the time, but I try very hard not to be a patriarchal jerk.

            1. pleaset*

              And I find the title a little bit offensive to me – but you know what: that’s about me to the extent that I am part of the problem.

              If a title like this makes you uncomfortable, then check yourself. Seriously. The title isn’t the problem – it’s men (and everyone that supports patriarchy, even unintentionally).

            2. TootsNYC*

              “It even applies to me some of the time”

              I have a huge skepticism, perhaps even a bit of contempt, for people who say, “I never act that way” or “I’m not like that.”

              Because as ArtK points out, even the most “woke” of men will probably think, or even react, that way from time to time.

              I’m white, and I KNOW that I make racist assumptions all the time. I don’t want to think I’m a racist, and I try damned hard not to be.
              But I am self-aware enough that many times I can TELL when I’ve instinctively reacted along prejudiced lines.

              I make sexist assumptions about men all the time; my opinion of men as a cohort was shaped by the end of junior high, and for the next 4 or 5 years, I never saw anything that contradicted it. I remember being REALLY surprised by how smart and effective some guy was on the yearbook staff in college. He was a guy! How did he actually end up with any kind of self-direction and intelligence?

              So yes, those assumptions happen for EVERYone. To insist that they never do is to lie to yourself.

              Humility if a very good thing.

            1. Kat in VA*

              That’s the point. If something a lot of men do can be dismissed with “not all men”, then you don’t have to spend any time thinking about the problem or addressing it. It’s not EVERY GUY, therefore it doesn’t apply.

          5. Workerbee*

            I don’t understand why people like to jump to “it must mean ALL men” when the word “men” by itself, in that title as an example, didn’t say “all men” at all. Just men. Just as a plural, as in more than one.

      2. Torch*

        Yes, not all men are like this, but I’d venture a guess that a vast majority of women have been treated this way by a man. So this book gives you tips on how to act so that you might not elicit that response. Not every man would act this way, but ANY man could act this way, so by following these humorous tips, you can avoid ever hurting any man’s feelings at work.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          My husband can’t remember the last time someone told him to smile.

          I remember: I was literally on my way to the funeral of a close family member.

          No, not all men tell me to smile. But it’s damn straight not an experience that my husband and son have, ever, much less with the same frequency as myself and my daughter.

          1. Junior Dev*

            I was in the hospital elevator on my way to get a cervical biopsy! I wish I’d had the presence of mind to reply “I might have cancer” rather than silently glaring at the wall.

          2. Not quite so big of me*

            What is it with people telling women/girls to smile? And it’s not just men either. I’ve had women tell me to “smile, it can’t be that bad”. Ugh.

          3. Kat in VA*

            The one that I finally reacted to – loudly, obnoxiously, and angrily – was a man who told me, “Smile, it can’t be that bad!” on the Metro.

            My best friend had died two days before. So yeah, jackass, it REALLY IS THAT BAD. I went off on him at length and at high volume. Hopefully he thinks twice before telling a complete stranger to rearrange their features just because he feels the gumption to do so.

          4. A Non E. Mouse*

            Walmart parking lot, by some random dude hanging out by a cart corral.

            “Smile, you look sad!”

            Me: go f*ck yourself.

            I have never – literally never – been told how to arrange my face by a woman.

            But I have been told by a ton of men that I haven’t arranged my face into something pleasing for them, which is all that “Smile!” is. By not smiling I’m, like, ruining the scenery of their day.

            And they can all f*ck off.

      3. Stabbity Tuesday*

        #notallmen isn’t really a productive thing to add to any conversation ever. Sure, there are plenty of men who make an effort to be equitable, and relatively few men who are outright knuckle draggers, and that’s fine. But all men were raised in a society that devalues women’s accomplishments, holds them to nebulous and unreachable standards, and relegates them to supporting roles in their own lives. Acting otherwise is just absolving men who consider themselves “enlightened” from having to make the effort to notice and stop themselves when they fall into those patterns. (same thing with straight people and sexuality, white people and race, etc.)

        1. Nita*

          Like any generalization, that one’s not true. I’m not going to speak for American society, because I grew up abroad, but no one in my parents’ or grandparents’ generation raised any eyebrows over the fact that women could do what men could do. My grandma was a doctor, and my mother-in-law was a rocket scientist, and it wasn’t odd to anyone (ugh, this has not been a good year – they’re both gone too soon…)

          1. Stabbity Tuesday*

            I’m glad they were able to achieve their goals, and I’m so sorry for your losses, especially in such quick succession. Respectfully though, that’s not really what I said; plenty of women have accomplished amazing things despite sexism, but that doesn’t mean that sexism doesn’t exist and make things harder for women to the benefit of men. Maybe they (a general they, not your family specifically) worked more hours and were still responsible for the “second shift” of household work, maybe they were given grief over their hair or demeanor or tone, or passed over for promotions because “they’ll just be on maternity leave in a year”, none of the examples in this post are actively barring women from their jobs, but they’re hurdles that make it more difficult.

          2. Holy guacamole*

            Did you grow up in a communist or post communist country? I grew up in a post communist country and while sexism still exists, women there are encouraged to do everything that men do. Women are doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers (most accountants and lawyers are women actually) and that’s normal. Men don’t grow up with the idea that women can’t do those things.

            1. blackcat*

              I watch an interesting documentary on the space race in the cold war and was really struck by how many of the USSR scientists were women at the time. It seemed clear that the USSR took the approach that they needed to find the most talented people to get ahead, and did not much care about those individuals’ gender (though working conditions were not the best for the women).
              In the US, in contrast, strict gender roles were a part of setting us apart from the communists. Even where women were doing that work, they weren’t given any credit. Fascinating stuff.

              1. Washi*

                The USSR did a really good job of educating women, particularly in STEM, and allowing them into the lower and middle ranks of workers, and did much better than this than the US. However, one thing it did not change was encouraging men to take on caregiving roles at work or at home, so many women from the Soviet Union actually do not like “feminism” (if you just ask how they feel using that word) in part because they associated it with women having to do EVERYTHING both at work and at home.

                Anyway, men may not grow up believing women can’t be scientists, but they also don’t usually grow up believing that men should take an equal part of caretaking and household duties.

              2. Holy guacamole*

                There’s also the part that communism is (officially) about equality, so this means not just that workers are equal to the burgeous but that men are equal to women. I never lived during communism but I’ve seen many reminders of it and there were so many slogans and songs that directly empower both female and male workers. In my language, all words have genders, so when talking about workers you can’t not mention the gender, so the songs go something like “male workers, female workers, unite”. There was a lot of emphasis on the female workers and while a lot of it was still full of sexism, women were encouraged to contribute to society. Stay at home moms are not a thing but with a 2-year maternity leave and government sponsored childcare, along with a law that makes it basically impossible to fire a woman from the moment she’s pregnant until the child is 3 years old (like, it’s really impossible unless the company can prove very severe misconduct and it’s on the company to prove it), it’s not really necessary. Now, women do most of the work at home which is unfair but men still do a lot of work at home, such as fixing the car (most men know how to fix a car themselves), repairing stuff, doing all home renovations themselves, etc. So sexism exists socially but women are encouraged from a young age to have a career and work.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  We were super broke when I was on my forced unpaid maternity leave in the 90s. I’d been paid more than my husband and then we lost my income. I pulled some strings and got my husband a job in my field, because I was unable to get one myself, being a woman. I helped him with his first project, and wrote someone’s graduation thesis for $40 and 2 kg of beef liver (lol true story), but no one was able or willing to hire me to do the work I had a degree and experience in. It was not all roses and sunshine.

                2. Observer*

                  Oh please. Things were NOWHERE near that rosy! There were a LOT of laws on the books protecting people, and that’s where they stayed.

                  My parent’s cohort are almost all from Russia, and the laughed and the naive Americans who actually believed that people took these laws seriously. I also have a lot of family and friends who came out of the Soviet Union when it was beginning to fall apart. If you think that sexism wasn’t a huge issue, I have a bridge to sell you.

                3. Nita*

                  Oh, the housework thing is true. Thankfully, to some extent it takes care of itself – if most women work, men have to pitch in. Just looking at my male friends who grew up with two parents working, a few of them are truly helpless when faced with a pot of noodles, but many more will put my cooking skills to shame. I learned two of my best recipes from them. And even the guys who cannot cook either know better than to leave socks all over the house, or get some major side-eye from their family members for not pulling their weight in keeping the place neat.

                4. Holy guacamole*

                  Observer, I don’t know about Russia, I’m from a different country. The laws protecting mothers are still valid and enforced, even though there’s no communism anymore. Some employers try to get rid of pregnant women before the woman has a chance to officially notify them but the moment she sends them a doctor’s note confirming the pregnancy, they can’t do anything and not for a lack of trying. They can’t do anything about the mother taking maternity leave either (it’s paid for by insurance), short of shutting down the company. Most employers are not that scummy though. So while many other laws are not enforced, this one in particular is and I’ve personally seen it.

              3. Dankar*

                I had a history teacher who taught the Cold War for like 60% of the semester. He said, to paraphrase, that the USSR was shockingly egalitarian for the time. They didn’t care what gender you were, just how much/what kind of work you could do, and that was an attitude largely born of desperation on the government’s part.

                Even years later, that’s stuck with me. A lot of times it seems as though it takes incredible hardship (literal starvation and collapse in the USSR’s case) to do away with arbitrary power structures and discrimination. And even then, some of that remained.

                1. Holy guacamole*

                  Keep in mind that while circumstances were dire in the Soviet Union, things weren’t that bad for all Soviet block countries but they had similar attitudes towards women. The communist ideology is about egalitarianism, so this also matters.

                2. Aveline*

                  Well, I have several friend who grew up in the system who say differently.

                  The USSR was this way in paper. The lived experiences of people who were there tell me differently.

              4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                That was where I grew up. I got a degree in STEM without any issues (although, weirdly, women were considered to be genetically incapable of studying physics and… driving a car (???)). That was also where I started my career. It was a weird mix of inclusivity and wild sexism. At my first job, my software development team was 50% women, which was awesome. Not so awesome was the fact that they were all paid roughly the same. Our boss said “if I give one of you five rubles a month more, the rest of you hens will peck her to death”. Then I had my first son. While I was on maternity leave, every woman on the team was laid off. When I tried to come back, I was informed that technically I could be on unpaid leave until my son turned six, and that I should stay on it. They’d hired a male replacement for me the moment I went on leave, and did not have a position available for me to return.

                When my son was 1.5 years old, my boss changed jobs and went to work for a private company, brought in most of his team, and wanted to hire me too, because he valued my work. he told me he’d speak to the CEO of our branch. Came back the next day puzzled and said “I did not even get to the part that you have a kid, or that you are on maternity leave! I just said your name, and he said, No, we don’t hire women, company policy.” There was nothing my boss could do and I did not get that job. My circle of friends during that period of my life were women my age with PhDs and research experience in STEM, who’d found themselves permanently out of work after their children were born. Most of them turned into helicopter moms of overachieving toddlers and preschoolers; because they had all that mental energy and nowhere to apply it. It was wild.

                OTOH, both my mother and HER mother worked full-time their entire lives. Growing up, I did not know any women in my parents’ generation that did not work outside of home. We the kids all went to daycare and to sleepaway camps, or were latchkey kids, because our parents all had to work. That was normal. I was shocked to learn that a working mother was still kind of a strange beast that no one knew what to make of, when we came to the US.

              5. nonymous*

                My Dad was part of the space race industrial complex, and I was surprised as a youngster by how little value he placed on the women contributing to the scientific process. For example, it was common for secretaries to do basic proofreading/editing of memos and papers. So that would mean that the secretary to a rocket scientist would need to have some understanding of the science being discussed (with the educational background to support that understanding). But in the anecdotes that Dad shared they were rated by how they handled coffee service and nothing more.

            2. Stabbity Tuesday*

              I did not, but I’m also not saying that men think women can’t be those things. I’m saying, just as you are, that sexism exists, and we can extrapolate from that that sexism makes life harder for women. I’m American, and men here don’t grow up* thinking women can’t be doctors or lawyers or accountants either. But a lot of them do grow up thinking that even if their wife is a lawyer she’ll still do/delegate the housework, or that the woman in the meeting will be the one taking notes no matter what her actual job is, or that their coworker is mean and unlikable because she doesn’t smile and chat when he feels like it. The majority of men are past the overt sexism thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still there and subtle and insidious.

              *there are for sure pockets of old school “a woman’s place is in the home” garbage, but that’s a deeply complicated conversation and this isn’t the place for it

              1. DreamingInPurple*

                Agreed – it’s not that they grow up thinking it’s impossible for a woman to be a doctor, lawyer, etc. It’s that they grow up assuming it’s unlikely, or that only some kind of magical exceptional woman can do it. Like how they find it hard to answer that riddle:

                “A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital. The doctor comes in and exclaims ‘I can’t operate on this boy.’ ‘Why not?’ the nurse asks. ‘Because he’s my son,’ the doctor responds. How is this possible?”

                1. Holy guacamole*

                  But if they see that half of the doctors they go to as kids are women and that most accountants and lawyers are women (to the point where it’s surprising when you see a male accountant), which is the case in the post communist country I grew up in, is this still true?

                2. Nita*

                  I remember that one! It’s really a play on how things work in a language with genders. Normally you’d say something like “the doctor came in (feminine gender of came in)”, and there’d just be no riddle. Changing it to “the doctor comes in” would trip up a lot of people for a few seconds! But I’ve never seen anyone struggle with that riddle for long :)

                3. animaniactoo*

                  No, that might be one function of it, but literally it’s predicated on the idea that the doctor – and particularly a surgeon – is automatically assumed to be a male. It happens far less than when it was a popular joke when I was growing up 30 years ago. But the brainteaser part was that you had to challenge the assumption that the doctor was a male to figure out that the doctor was the patient’s mother. Nothing to do with language. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with it – right down to thinking it must be the stepfather.

                4. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                  And the variation which plays even further into gender job stereotypes – a pilot and a nurse are newly married and take off for their honeymoon in a private plane. During very bad turbulence, the husband hits his head and is knocked unconscious, yet the plane lands perfectly. How?

                5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Holy Guacamole, I can only speak for the first 30 years of my life (70s-90s), and back then yes, most doctors and accountants were women, but these positions carried very low social status. They were very low-paid (yes, doctors too). I would imagine that the “big name” doctors and the surgeons were all men. A lot of the engineers were women, but again that profession had the lowest status. Just about everyone in management positions were men; except for the workplaces where everyone was a woman, like schools, accounting offices etc. Pretty sure the lawyers were all men, but I did not know any lawyers of any gender, back in my day you had to be born into a really high-status family and have insane connections to even get into school for pre-law. I guess you could still make the riddle about the doctor tricky if you changed it to a surgeon.

            3. TootsNYC*

              but I bet they still grow up thinking that care of the children should be primarily the woman’s job.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Was married to a guy from the culture, can confirm. Everything around the house was my job. Even when I was the breadwinner.

          3. Aveline*

            Then your society is historically the outlier and NOT relevant here.

            Just like this isn’t about all men alive now, it’s not about every culture ever.

            It’s about the dominant historical patriarchy and the current dominant global model.

            There have been some more or less egalitarian societies and some ones that were matriarchies, but those were the outliers.

            Also, I’m glad where and when you grew up this was the case. I do have friends, however, who grew up in the USSR and say the egalitarianism was only on paper. So my guess would be that it depended upon where you lived in the USSR.

            I also have a friend from Chernobyl who always says that the imported Russians had different views on gender, race, and anti-Semitism than the Ukrainians than did the Azerbaijanis. Her father worked at the plant and they had a lot of outsiders come into their lives.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Everywhere I lived was wildly xenophobic and Anti-Semitic. (which is how we came to the US, so, uh, thanks, neighbors?) People from the Caucas and Asian republics were considered “black” and avoided. But there were pockets of inclusivity I guess. I married a Russian guy, which was seen as almost an interracial marriage back then. My parents were horrified and tried to talk me out of it by saying “the very first fight you have, he’ll call you (slur) and then what?” and he never did. It was an awful marriage and he called me a lot of other things, but never that. He’d grown up in a Middle Asian town where a lot of people from all parts of the country had been brought in to work at a nuclear plant. Everyone was every ethnicity you could imagine. So as a result, no one in my ex’s family has a xenophobic bone in their body. They were just not raised to feel that way as kids, and now they honestly do not know how to divide people into “ours” and “others” based on heritage. Everyone I knew had pretty much the same views on gender though, that were nothing to write home about. No one had any views of race, because everyone was always white. That led to a lot of confusion and weirdness when people emigrated to other countries. Sadly my immigrant community where I live now is one of the most racist I’ve seen.

        2. Guacamole Bob*


          And a lot of this can come from “enlightened” men who are totally unaware of how they fall into these things. My boss and I were brainstorming earlier today about how to tackle something, and I suggested an approach. He agreed it was a good idea and then the discussion moved on. 10 minutes later, he circled back to that idea and had an “ah-ha” moment when he kind of re-discovered it for himself, without realizing or acknowledging that I had said the same thing 10 minutes before.

          This wasn’t performative – it was just the two of us talking through ideas, so it was a genuine reaction and not trying to claim credit in front of others or look smart or anything. And he’s a terrific boss who I respect a lot – he’s been a mentor to me, promotes my work and talks me up to others, thinks I’m great, etc. But he still unconsciously didn’t quite register an idea I’d has as mine.

          I work on a team of 4 people, and the other 3 are men. This kind of thing happens to everyone as we all brainstorm together. But it happens more to me. I call it out when it matters, let it go when it doesn’t, and don’t really think less of my colleagues for it. I likely do the same in situations where I’m the one with privilege, and need to do better myself.

          (Note: Despite the username, I am a woman.)

          1. Stabbity Tuesday*

            That’s always the worst moment of having to be like “is the possibility of this turning into A Thing and getting labeled a nag/buzzkill/stuck up worth my time and energy relative to the chances of it happening again”. At a certain point, it just starts to feel like too much work for not enough reward, and the guilt over not doing it is just easier to deal with than the arguments and endless feminism 101 discussions

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              I can usually bring it up in a lighthearted or straightforward way as a one-time thing and it’s fine. But yeah, trying to monitor it as a pattern and decide whether it’s worth acting on is just an emotional drain.

      4. Sophie before she was cool*

        #notallmen isn’t a helpful response here. Of course many most men aren’t going around wronging their female coworkers, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a history of systemic oppression that still has effects on women’s lives in the workplace.

      5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        This isn’t about “woman wronged in the work place throughout history” this is about how woman are being treated right now! At this very moment in time! Women are getting shit about their clothes and their hair and the voice they speak in at this very moment in the very country you are in! This is about how society currently is. Not about that one dude or your brother or your husband but about society as a whole.
        To quote men in black “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.” A man can be a smart, woke, understanding person, but if you take all men in the business context grouped together and we still have a ways to go. Maybe instead of using your energy to fight the “not all men” fight you can use it to take a stand against men who are dragging down the standard.

      6. Nita*

        There’s definitely something to what you’re saying. I get why this book is here, but it does seem out of place on AAM somehow, and I’m already seeing the comments turning into a bash-fest. Frankly, every time Alison posts anything that’s likely to provoke a flame war in the comments (gender, racial, political), I think she’s a very brave woman. She ends up having to moderate the resulting mess, after all.

        1. Mookie*

          Where a “bash-fest” = women commiserating, being funny, being sad, sharing war wounds. Talking about what a man did to you is unfair now, apparently. And talking about a sexist thing a woman might have done to you, as some commenters have, is completely erased in order to maintain this fiction that men are being harmed when women observe and critique banal misogyny that, yep, absolutely benefits men no matter how many chill girls and handmaidens replicate, reinforce, and absorb it.

          1. Nita*

            Oh, not that part of course! The bit about how masculinity = bad, and don’t anyone dare say that it’s a specific kind of masculinity that’s a problem. I fully agree there is too much toxic masculinity in the USA and, for that matter, in the world. But I also think it’s seriously unhealthy to just give up on 50% of people and not expect anything better of them. It’s just another way our society is kept divided, so we can’t look out for each other.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              I dunno about 50%, but there’s a shockingly large % of US voting-aged people who simply double down on their behavior when called on it and I would hazard a guess that there’s a large overlap in the venn diagram between that population and the people who are offended by this book’s existence (and they should be, as chances are good they contribute to WHY the book exists).

              I have no interest in wasting the energy (mental or otherwise) on looking out for these people. They certainly don’t look out for anyone but themselves.

            2. Mookie*

              But I also think it’s seriously unhealthy to just give up on 50% of people and not expect anything better of them. It’s just another way our society is kept divided, so we can’t look out for each other.

              This is a non-sequitur. Nobody here said or advocated for that, so you’re apparently responding to another post altogether.

            3. Liz T*

              Are you talking about my comments in a sub thread about saying “masculinity” vs “toxic masculinity?” It’s not bashing men to suggest it’s problematic to ascribe certain virtues to a certain gender. “Masculinity” is not the same thing as “being a man.”

            4. Winter Red*

              No one is “giving up” on 50% of people! Nothing in the post or the comments said that, so I don’t understand why you are saying this. We are advocating for them to learn, grow and be better people. That’s pretty much exactly the opposite of giving up on them!

        2. Mookie*

          And this thing where you’re sympathetic with poor, unsuspecting Alison is pretty condescending. Minus the whinging, she’s probably finding this post as funny-sad as the rest of us. She doesn’t shy away from reactionaries; as winter approaches, I expect her to, once again and workd without end, have to remind people that Santa isn’t secular and Christian feastdays aren’t universally partaken in. Like she had to today, to the sound of grumping, no doubt.

      7. Kaaaaren*

        It isn’t even “painting men with one brush,” though. It’s pointing out the impossible standards women face in the patriarchal system under which we live, which makes us judge women much more harshly than we do men, to the point where women are often “wrong” no matter what we do. Women are victims of this system, but men are also victims too (think how harshly we judge men who cry, for instance) and women are also perpetrators/revelers in patriarchy (for instance, women who are way more critical of other women than they are of men).

        1. ArtK*

          I like this! The situation hurts everyone. Women disproportionately, but everybody loses when there’s sexism.

      8. Anna*

        Please don’t #notallmen this. No, not every man has personally discriminated women, but all men benefit from the oppression of women, whether you want to acknowledge that or not.

      9. Artemesia*

        I have worked in all sorts of ‘enlightened’ settings and now in my old age have intelligent enlightened men in my social circle — and it is still incredibly common for men to not listen to women; it was totally commonplace for women to put forth an idea and have it ignored and a man to later in the same meeting say the same thing and have it embraced; it was common for men with less experience and talent to be hired in at bigger salaries than women contributing more to the organization or to be promoted ahead of more talented women. I did not work around raging misogynists, but male privilege is just part of the air we breathe. Like white privilege, it is so baked into the culture that even with people who are not gross and awful, it is mostly there.

      10. Anne Elliot*

        I do see this objection but it strikes me as a bit tone deaf in the sense that rather than focusing on the humor or even the underlying truth of the material, it drags the focus back to how unspecified people (in this case, men) might feel about it and whether or not they would like it. For me personally, it is akin to following certain blogs geared towards, mainly hosted by, and patronized by African Americans. In those forums, sometimes there is humor or discussion along the lines of “white people be like . . . .” and it can hit a little close to home for me, in that my inclination is to wade in with “Not all white people are like that! I’m not like that!” But then I remind myself that this sort of material is not FOR me and it is not AT me — it is a group of people communicating or commenting on their shared experience and if that experience doesn’t resonate with me — well, then I’m not the intended audience. So what makes these objections “derailing” is that they drag the discussion away from what it was intended to be about (humor! women in the work place! “defanging” sexism by mocking it!) and places focus on “gosh, how to other people who are not the intended audience feel about this?” And once again we’re talking about people in power (in this case, men) and privileging their feelings over those do not have the same societal power and who might find the material unobjectionable, funny, and supportive. You are CHOOSING to discuss how some men (who largely are not even here!) might be made to feel bad about this post, rather than CHOOSING to discuss how some women might be amused by it. And that is absolutely your perogative, but I think it’s worth pointing out that’s what is being done. Again, I will reiterate that I AGREE with your point that some men would not appreciate this post, if for no other reason than I’ve felt a similar sting based on race. But IMO the remedy is to recognize that I am not the intended audience for the post, so I don’t actually have to feel any particular way about it, much less lodge an objection. Hope this makes sense.

    6. MuseumChick*

      I would read that book. It would be full of advice on how to treat women like human beings instead of strange creatures for another planet.

      1. Kat in VA*

        I remember seeing a striking comment from some random dude on a #metoo story when the movement had just started gaining media attention.

        He was whining about not being able to pay women random compliments or chat them up or something with some kind of backlash, and finished with, “How are people supposed to talk to women now?”

        I thought that division of people versus women was very, very telling.

    7. Arielle*

      If only such a thing existed! This site would be a rich content generator for it. Some of the advice could include: “When interviewing a woman, don’t ask her about her reproductive plans.” “Don’t assume the only woman in the room is a secretary. (But also be nice to the secretary!)” “Don’t assume the women in the office want to be in charge of the office parties.” “When attending an interview, treat every woman you meet as if she is the female VP who will be asking you about your tech skills later.”

    8. SarahKay*

      Well, I mean, you’re technically not wrong. Because in my experience most men get pretty damn upset and defensive when it’s pointed out that their behaviour is poor and likely to hurt a woman’s feelings.

      After all, who wouldn’t like being wolf-whistled at? Or talked over in meetings? Or having their suggestions ignored until said suggestion is restated by a man, as his own idea? We’re all just too sensitive, right? /sarcasm

      So yes, there probably would be backlash and revolt…just not quite for the reasons you think.

    9. char*

      Quick, someone get the author a copy of “How to Write a Book About ‘How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings’ Without Hurting Men’s Feelings”

      1. Kyrielle*

        Do you have any idea how bad this comment is for people’s health? I nearly inhaled the soda I was drinking!!

        You rock. Even if I did almost breathe soda.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      May I recommend the Men Who Have It All Facebook page? There, you may find that which you seek…

    11. Liz T*

      I’m gonna assume this comment is somehow your Halloween costume. Enjoy the holiday, return to reality in the morning!

  6. anon*

    This is amazing. I just snorted so loudly at the voice loudness one that my cat startled off the couch and slunk out the room!

  7. Damn it, Hardison!*

    Oh, the taking credit one resonates so hard! That’s my default but I’m trying to own my successes in this year’s performance review.

    1. Liz T*

      There should be a third option where you give a man praise for his specific contributions to a project and then everyone assumes that man did the whole thing and you did nothing.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I wrote a damn book. He wrote one chapter. The editors sent the manuscript back praising most of it — ‘it takes off and sings in Chapter 2, but you should just shred Chapter 1 and start over.’ The only chapter he wrote was Chapter 1. I re-wrote it. And I insisted on first authorship. When I was up for promotion, I still had to get ‘well, was this mostly his work?’ He did make contributions to the research but even there the most interesting parts were mine and would be routinely in research conference comments attributed to him. But I conceived and wrote the fool thing and still had to put up with the assumption that my peer the man really did the heavy lifting.

        And the tone policing will never end. The book on not hurting men’s feelings nails that. The ‘forceful’. ‘provides leadership’, ‘strong’. ‘assertive’. always translates to ‘bitch’ when a woman is those things. And sometimes it is true — she is horrible. But that same horrible makes a career success for men.

        1. Liz T*

          At a talkback after a reading of a play I wrote, I complimented an actor on how well he took to the philosophical subject matter, and mentioned I added a line because of something he’d said in rehearsal. An older male friend took this to mean that the actor had introduced me to the philosophical subject matter ENTIRELY. That I rewrote half the play in four days because of this actor’s comments, I guess. I had to correct this impression on *two* separate occasions. I’m pretty sure he still thinks that though.

          The actor I complimented is a great guy and was appropriately confused that our friend thought this.

    2. She Persists*

      Eh, I’m a person who tries to be really diligent about making sure everyone gets credited (or not) for their contributions, including myself. However, I once worked for a guy who would not, could not share credit for projects with “the little guys.” During follow up meetings on the progress of whatever project I was working on, I’d point out that the project (not me) was doing well according to the metrics and he’d come up with some reason why my calculations were incorrect–EVERY TIME.

  8. Katniss*

    In before a dude gets his feelings hurt by this!

    But anyway, love how well this illustrates how impossible the standards are for women.

        1. SQL Coder Cat*

          I don’t have my copy of Nora Roberts’ “Genuine Lies” handy, but the character of Eve has a great line that goes something like “The male ego is so fragile. I always picture it as an enormous p***s made of very thin glass.”

          For some reason, that line has been brought to mind frequently throughout my careers in male-dominated fields…

          1. NotAName*

            I have one that comes to mind also and it’s definitely an inside the head comment. In the movie “Arthur”, Dudley Moore is in the bath and bothering Hobson with questions. After one exchange, Hobson mumbles under his breath “Would you like me to wash your d**k for you, you little s**t?”
            This has kept me sane in not only a male dominated industry but also working for a Japanese company for the last 3 decades.

        2. MuseumChick*

          This may qualify as a nit-pick, I apologies if it does. I would change that to “Toxic Masculinity is so fragile.” Toxic Masculinity is a world any from Healthy Masculinity.

        3. Jaguar*

          How do you balance the ideas that masculinity is fragile and attacking it is punching up? The only way to make those two opinions sit easily together is to be pretty insulting to women, but maybe you have a way of reconciling them that I don’t see.

          1. Washi*

            Punching up refers to punching at the patriarchy, which is not fragile. Toxic masculinity is fragile in the sense that it is built on putting down women and is easily threatened by women refusing to be put in their place.

          2. Blue Anne*

            Toxic masculinity, which supervenes on patriarchal society, is extremely durable.

            In individual men, it causes amazingly fragile egos.

              1. Liz T*

                Eh, there’s a convincing argument going around that all “masculinity” is toxic, because positive traits and values are genderless, so ascribing positive traits to a gender is toxic.

          3. Kella*

            Fragile and vulnerable are not the same thing.

            Punching up means you’re making fun of a group that is less vulnerable, not as likely to harmed in serious ways, not as likely to face live-changing consequences etc. Punching down is making fun of a group that *is* vulnerable and has very little protection from that potential damage.

            Fragility means that you experience intense distress from a very minor upset. Ironically, marginalized groups tend to not be very fragile at all because they have to handle so many challenges in their life. Men may be fragile, but they are highly protected by society (which is often also the cause of their fragility in the first place.)

    1. Jake*

      I think men who read this site are probably less likely to be hurt by this than average. That being said, it will probably happen.

  9. Jake*

    This makes me sad. I wish women didn’t have to deal with stuff like this. It’s unfortunate that this book (or at least the excerpts) is so accurate.

  10. justsomeone*

    Hilarious! I’m kicking myself for passing this one up for review. I’ll just have to make up for it by buying it.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    This reminds me of Lean In, which had a lot of good advice, but I rolled my eyes when Sandberg said to be constantly smiling when you ask the boss man for anything.

    Be non-threatening when you ask for equality!

    1. Captain S*

      I think this author would roll her eyes at Lean In though. Lean In was all about how women need to change their attitudes and behaviors to fit into structures built for/by men.
      This pokes fun at that.

    2. Yay commenting on AAM!*

      This is something I’m torn on, from a professional standpoint.

      Some of the most sexist advice I’ve gotten in the workplace came from Baby Boomer women old enough to be my mom. Things like, “Well if your male boss asks for little secretarial chores here and there, even if it’s not your job, do it.” or “Be sure to make him feel good about himself,” or “Try to be more warm and nurturing, even maternal, in your interactions with others.”

      At the time I got the advice, I was absolutely *incensed* that someone would ask me to do such a thing. And a fellow woman, at that!

      But now that I’m years removed from the situations where I was given that advice…I can see that those women meant well, and sadly, were right. Those were the “secret” metrics women in the companies we worked at at the time, reporting to the Grandbosses we reported to at the time, were held to for advancement and respect. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, it was sexist as hell…and it was an honest and realistic assessment of the situation.

      Those bosses were incredibly supportive of me, my work, and my career path, and were telling me a harsh and ugly truth to be helpful. Is it wrong for people to acknowledge that the rules of the game are different for women, and help instruct women in playing it successfully?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yeah, “how to get ahead” =/= “do what Bob does”. I prefer to know the truth and then choose my own response. It’s better than sitting here thinking I’m doing everything right and thinking I am the reason I’m not getting ahead.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        I disagree with the assessment that the advice you were given represented playing the game successfully. It meant playing into existing stereotypes about women that make many men feel more comfortable around them. However, they don’t necessarily communicate professional competence or leadership skills. They just make you less threatening.

    3. Observer*

      Even before she wrote Lean In, she pointed out how women get penalized for the same behavior that gets men praise. A large part of her point was that women often contribute to that by the way they act. But, it’s also not for nothing that she also started “Ban Bossy”.

  12. Spider*

    The “Taking Credit” graphic hit too close to home — when we were hiring an associate director and candidates had to give presentations to our whole staff on their experience and accomplishments in a specified area of their job. After one candidate spoke (and was seriously impressive), one of my male coworkers said to me that he didn’t like her because “she used ‘I’ too much — not enough ‘we.'”

    Again, the presentation was supposed to focus on the candidates’ own experience and accomplishments.

    We ended up not hiring that candidate, only because she had already accepted another position elsewhere, but I lost respect for my coworker for his remark which has never been recovered.

    1. Amber T*

      Uuugghhhh as a woman who has difficulty with saying “I did this” and defaults to “we did this,” your coworker sucks.

    2. Kristine*

      It’s like the “nice guy” version of “I hate when women talk about things they did as if they mattered”


    3. Jill*

      We (a panel of three women, ages in the 30s, 40s, 60s,) interviewed a candidate for a somewhat entry level position. She had a masters degree, was working on her PhD. Probably mid 20s. After the call the other two women said they didn’t like her because she said “I” too much and seemed arrogant. I thought she seemed prepared and interested in the job. And that she was applying all of the job advice I had internalized. They overruled me. Most folks want to work with people who aren’t threatening and won’t upset the current state of affairs.

      1. Aveline*

        And he’s a fragile snowflake.

        Funny how those who accuse others of sexism and fragility are the first to whine about hurt fee fees

    1. Amber T*

      You know what’s not funny? When women really deal with this crap in the work place all the damn time. So we’ll continue to poke fun at it (while continuing to change it) to keep our sanity. Thanks.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        And we have to laugh at things, right? Because if not our brains would literally explode.

      1. No thank you*

        Or just maybe – the title will draw attention to the problem while making people laugh.
        There *should* be some drama about the continued gender-based mistreatment of women, doncha think? Or is that too intimidating?

        1. Jen RO*

          I’ll just chalk this one to my having a different sense of humor and I’ll bow out of this thread…

      2. flying teapot*

        To me it seems like a great play on the idea that women are typically emotional and driven by feelings. It’s an eye-catching title that matches the tone of the content (from what I can see here).

      3. Captain S*

        Idk, accusing a woman who makes jokes that point out gender and racial inequities in the workplace of “starting drama” is… a bit ironic, no?

        1. Jen RO*

          No, I just assumed she (or her publishing house) is good at marketing. It’s not working for me but obviously working for everyone else, so she was successful!

          1. Mookie*

            No, I imagine she chose it early on, when she selected the subject. Since it does what it says on the tin, as does this ILLUSTRATED post, I find the confused outrage at both performative as hell.

        2. Aveline*

          Tone policing is a thing.

          Men step on women’s toes and then get upset when we respond sharply. We are the ones starting drama. Not the toe stepper.

          This is exactly why we can’t discuss this rationally with a lot of people. They just see the response and refuse to see the antecedent offense. They then bash the tone of the response.

          Drama is right up there with hysterics when describing women’s response to the patriarchy.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I like to describe that situation as “Don’t hit me and then get pissed off when I scream OUCH.”

          2. Labradoodle Daddy*

            “This is exactly why we can’t discuss this rationally with a lot of people. They just see the response and refuse to see the antecedent offense. They then bash the tone of the response.”

            Really well stated, thank you!

    2. MuseumChick*

      Humor is often an very effective tool for address real world issues. This is a great example.

      1. Doug Judy*

        I was just thinking that. “Men have had a very hard time of it for…just recently! ” Nah bro, nah.

  13. A-nony-nony!*

    Not gonna lie, I’ve got a phone interview this afternoon, and if it goes to in-person stage, I did briefly think about whether I would wear my wedding ring.

      1. Ashley*

        The wedding ring has never occurred to me, but I get frequent comments about how young I look so maybe I think it helps make me look older. (Though if you look at the timeline for my jobs I have to be older then you might think.)

        1. Videogame Lurker*

          I’d actually thought wearing a wedding ring (even a “Fake” wedding ring) would be beneficial, since it would presumably signal that I am not dating or looking for someone, and thus more likely to be more “dedicated” to the job rather than “flighty, might move away in a year.”

          Oh wait, reproductive plans might come up.

          1. Alli525*

            I suspect that wearing a wedding ring is less harmful to older women than to younger women. Older women, of course, have to deal with age discrimination, though.

            Aren’t you just SICK of all the winning we’re doing? ;)

            1. AnotherAlison*

              How old? Wouldn’t “they” assume there were young children in the picture for someone over 35? I mean, if we’re talking women over 55, then it’s just laughable that someone is even interviewing them for a job. /s

              Obviously the ambiguous ring is the only way to go.

              1. Liz T*

                Safest route: cut off both your hands.

                You’ll need help cutting off the second one though, because you are a woman and can’t do anything on your own.

            2. Labradoodle Daddy*

              Whoa… it’s almost like it has nothing to do with what women do, and it’s really about making us feel bad about ourselves no matter what! Spooooooooooky.

        2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

          It’s crazy how hard it is to thread the needle between “too young” and “too old”. I think it’s somewhere around 29 1/2 where we go from child-like to crone, wedding ring or not.

          I don’t dislike being a woman, but sometimes it really sucks.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Every time I’m agonizing on something like that, I’m trying to go one step more than I’m comfortable with. Be a little more direct, a little more sure, take a little more credit. It’s kind of terrifying. But so far no one has made a stink about it.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Great comment! Yes I usually try to go for “new pair of boots” on the comfort level when I’m taking credit for something I freakin’ did.

          Like, I don’t bring in a mariachi band, but I will use “I” statements, give “my team” credit where due, and then correct someone if they say or insinuate someone else did the work.

    1. blackcat*

      When I was looking at grad schools (in a traditionally male field), my engagement ring got commented on roughly 50% of the time. One dude straight up asked why I was pursuing a PhD if I was “just going to get married.”
      This was in 2012/2013. Not ages ago.
      I viewed it as a good test. I chose the school where there were zero comments, but someone strategically arranged for me to talk to the one female grad student who was married with a kid.

      1. Dankar*

        I had a friend who was waitlisted for a grad program (she eventually got in), under somewhat suspicious circumstances. Her panel interview nearly ended with her in tears because one of the male faculty members kept pushing her about her engagement ring: think “How will you connect with your cohort if you’re busy being engaged?” and “We’re a really close-knit community. I’m concerned that you won’t fit in if you’re just spending all your time with your fiance.”

        This was also in 2014. WTF?

        1. Artemesia*

          I got asked during my interview with faculty committee 40 years ago if I planned on having more children. I had a two year old son at the time. I was pretty offended but didn’t want to express that so said ‘well that is between my husband, myself and God.’ I later found out that one member of the group had voted for me above the excellent other candidate because of my ‘religious faith.’ Somehow the irony of not recognizing irony has always amused me.

      2. DreamingInPurple*

        Yup. My company had an event in 2016 where several of our clients sent in their top execs to see a new product. My team of 6 (of which I am the only female) got to hear alllll about how one of these execs is willing to hire women at his company but doesn’t like it, because then they just get pregnant and covering their leave is *such a pain*. :/

        1. Blue Anne*

          Around that time, I was on an audit assignment with a couple coworkers. We worked at Big 4 accounting firm, in a UK branch. Half a dozen people on the job but I was the only woman and they definitely went into lad mode. It was… illuminating. The only comments I had the nerve to shut down were a joke about killing strippers, and “it’s great to be a woman in this job because if you want a nice long holiday, you just have a baby”. (He was serious.)

      3. Aveline*

        Before law school I was at a job where I was paid less than a male coworker because “he had a family to support.” I had a husband. I was more qualified, spoke two languages needed for the project to his zero, worked more hours and was more productive.

        This was not 1950s Alabama. It was 2000s California.

        1. No thank you*

          I was told point blank to my face when applying for a county job in a conservative rural economically challenged part of Washington state (in 2004) that jobs with benefits were for men with families (subtext: not divorced women who look a little butch).

      4. F.M.*

        One big factor in the grad school I picked is that when I went for the campus visit/interviews, they made sure to have one lunch that was just me and some female grad students, so that I could ask those women for a candid take on what the sexism was like in the department. (In the field I’m in, it’s always rather sexist and racist, but some departments clearly do better than others. I didn’t even apply to grad programs that couldn’t get one female professor in their faculty list.)

    2. Tiara Wearing Princess*

      Yeah well take the ring off a few days before so it doesn’t leave a mark.

      I was asked about my engagement ring in 1981. The guy asked me if I was planning on having a baby any time soon. He said he would be investing lot of time and effort in training me and he didn’t want it to be for nothing. This was at a prominent CPA firm. Not a Big 8 (yes I’m old) but still. Needless to say I passed on the job.

      I had a tax professor who treated me like a ditz because I was blond. He was shocked, shocked I tell ya, when he saw me at an honor society induction. He looked like he wanted to say ‘what are you doing here’. I had an A in his class, btw. Graduated magma cum laude. He treated me quite differently after that night.

      Went to work at a male dominated company.

      The shit I’ve seen…..

      1. Blue Anne*

        I wish I could say it’s changed. I got into accounting about 4 years ago at this point and it’s not much better.

        Comment from a male colleague 1 year ahead of me at KPMG, about a very talented female audit manager: “She just had another kid. Isn’t her husband a hotshot real estate developer? Why is she even still working?”

        1. No imagination*

          Well, to be honest, I wonder why ANYONE stays at a big 4 beyond three years, but that’s a different issue.

          To be fair, our big 4 manager got 6 months paid maternity leave. Back to working 80 hour weeks in month 7 though, I’m not sure if I’d take that trade-off.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Still remember two of my engineering classmates telling me I couldn’t possibly be #3 in our class, you know, ahead of them. (Because obviously there must have been some sort of paperwork mistake.)

        1. Artemesia*

          My husband was in a law school class at a major school with 20 women and about 180 men. 10 of the women were in the top 20 i.e. Law Review. My husband was in the top 20 but ‘would have been in the top 10’ if not for women peers. As he often notes, the reason men whine is that equality hurts people who always got served first, got to go to the head of the line and generally enjoyed being privileged. When you benefit from discrimination, equality means you lose. (he of course sees this as simple social justice but many men who don’t have it as good as they once did, see it as ‘reverse discrimination’ because they don’t like to accept that they got out competed.)

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Well, in their eyes they probably didn’t get out-competed. The women got special treatment and met lower standards, of course. ; )

            I don’t know if research proves it out, but my theory on my field, which shares a similar 10% female ratio, is that women who put up with all the crap to work in a field where they are only 10% of the population are bound to be better than the average man. The average woman isn’t going to show up in my field. It isn’t worth it for her.

            1. Artemesia*

              I applied to law school before choosing to go to grad school. In the class I was admitted to in 1970, they had admitted 5 women (so I was told). The average LSAT of the class was something like 575 (this was when the LSAT was still on the 800 scale like the SATs. My LSAT was 200 points above that and I suspect the other women admitted were at that end of the score distribution as well. Of course they did better. Now that women make up closer to half the admits in medical and law school I suspect the distributions of smart, scores, and eventual achievement are more likely to be similar. But when women were first being admitted after over a century of frank and open discrimination, the differences in qualifications were enormous and so the women often excelled in achievement comparatively.

          2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            “When you benefit from discrimination, equality means you lose”

            +1000 just for this sentence

      3. Observer*

        Well, tsk. Why didn’t you dye your hair a more suitable color? It’s a lot to ask to expect your professor to ignore your hair color and actually look at you WORK when drawing conclusions about your capabilities, you know.

    3. Yay commenting on AAM!*

      I had someone ask me if I had my husband’s support and permission to be working during a job interview. In 2016. In a very liberal part of California.

      I also had a woman ask me in 2018 questions about my marital and family status, and if my husband would allow me to work evenings and weekends if the job required it. (To be fair, she was fired within 90 days of the interview for being generally an awful person so…)

      1. Artemesia*

        Old story, can’t resist. In about 1992 weeks after the Gulf War, I worked for a few weeks in Kuwait. One Sunday before I left I was at an event at my husband’s church when the trip came up; my daughter was going to fly to London to meet me afterwards and I think she was talking about that. She was 12. One of the women said ‘I can’t believe (DH) is letting you do that!’ My 12 year old looked up in appalled horror and said ‘Let? LET? What is she a cocker spaniel.’ Proud moment. FWIW we could hear bombs and booby traps being detonated on the beaches while I was doing training sessions. Our facility was in a heavily bombed building on the beach front in one of the few rooms still standing.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      I am a fat woman with prematurely greying hair I do not dye. Of 3 professional jobs I have been hired for, only ONE involved an in-person interview. The other two were phone interviews only.

      I obviously have no proof that I’m being judged more harshly for being fat and having old person hair, but I have my suspicions.

  14. The Hobbit*

    Ugh, voice. This is probably the worst one for me. Clothes and stuff are irrelevant because I telecommute, but voice. Coworkers say my voice’s too soft. Male customers tend to think it’s sexy. I’m not trying to be sexy! I just have a voice at the deeper tone (not overly, but I go more to the sound of contralto) and speak quietly, so apparently I’m trying to seduce people over the phone. >.>

    1. Sylvan*

      If your voice happens to fall in the middle, it’s fine in person, but the phone is still hopeless.

      “Hi, this is Sylvan at-”
      “Hello! I’m here.”
      “Yes, I understand. I’m not a robot. How can I-”

      1. Kristine*

        I love the variations I get of “ARE YOU IN AMERICA”. I grew up in the mountains of the Southwest and have no noticeable accent (except to people outside the US, who say I sound American). Where do y’all think I am?

          1. Artemesia*

            There is a huge amount of frustration for almost everyone who has to constantly deal with worthless outsourced customer support that provides noone who can go off script or understand an issue in English that is not literally laid out before them. So I am sympathetic to the anguish of the impossibility of solving problems on the phone. It took us several hours and finally driving to a T-mobile store to get what was really a very simple question about our international service plan answered. NONE of their offshore people could comprehend or respond and those who sort of did, gave us wrong information. All this leads to frustrated and now nasty people asking ‘where are you? Are you in the US?’

            1. Zweisatz*

              It’s still racist. Also the company made the decision to use offshore support so it’s uncool to heap frustrations on the support workers.

      2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Back in my first job a man with a strong indian accent said “I want Tech Support, I don’t want to speak to a secretary!”.
        I worked at Tech Support.

    2. jack*

      My voice is a constant area of concern for me – Am I too high? too low? do I have vocal fry? what even is vocal fry??

      Top that off with a confusing assortment of accents I’ve picked up after moving around the past few years and it’s too much.

      1. The Hobbit*

        I used to have a higher pitch in my early 20s (I’m 35 now), and people thought I was a child on the phone. Now that my voice sounds more mature, I get creepy male customers. Someone actually suggested I should do… other kinds of work due to my pitch. >.<

      2. EnfysNest*

        Ugh, yes. I have watched several YouTube videos talking about vocal fry and supposedly demonstrating it and… I don’t hear it. I don’t know what’s the same in each of the videos – they all sound different to me. Do I have it? I have no idea! Would I want to change it if I do? Um… probably not, because I can’t figure out anything wrong with the examples in the videos, and the whole idea of policing it (whatever it is) seems ridiculous to me anyway.

        1. char*

          I know what vocal fry is and can guarantee you that I regularly speak in the vocal fry register. And yet no one ever notices or cares or criticizes the way I speak. Hmmm, I wonder why that would be? (Spoiler alert: it’s probably because I’m a man.)

          Vocal fry is fine, and honestly most of the people who complain about it don’t even seem to really understand what it is or be able to consistently identify it.

          1. Kristine*

            There was an episode of This American Life where Ira Glass talked about how he’d get many emails and calls from people saying they hated the voice of one female contributor (can’t remember her name) because of her vocal fry, but no one ever seemed to notice or care that he, too, had vocal fry.

            1. Electric Sheep*

              He has a lot of it and that episode demonstrates vocal fry really well and the gender bias in its critique.

              I actually really like the sound of vocal fry.

      3. Anon Anon Anon*

        YMMV, but I think you can expand the pitch range of your talking voice just like with singing. At least it worked for me. I can now pass for an adult man or a child on the phone. In fact, the cable company refused to make a change to my plan because I sounded male on the phone and my full name is more common for women. They accused me of being a man up to no good. I had to go to their office in person.

        (I record myself a lot so I get immediate feedback on my own voice, and I’m a gender bender. This is how this whole thing came to be in my own life.)

    3. ThankYouRoman*

      My first experience with a voice creep was when I was 19 working AP for an import company. I had a vendor start off by telling me I was too young to be working. Then told me to have my boss send me to his country so he could take care of me…and to “keep talking, I love your voice.” He’d call and want to just chat and I didn’t know then that I could just hang up. I should had told my boss but again, first job at 19 and was so confused and pissed off.

    4. Hamtaro*

      My mom works as a secretary in a high school. One day the principal gave her an announcement to read and said “Make sure to use your sexy, sultry voice on the intercom.”
      She was speechless.

    5. Lissa*

      I have the opposite problem .. my voice is loud even when I don’t mean it to be so I have to consciously soften it, and also sounds high/childish. It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older but when I worked in customer service I had someone try to get me in trouble with my manager because my voice was apparently squeaky and annoying. (I’ve whined about this before on here and will prob. do so again not gonna lie.) I also had people say I sound like a cartoon character…

    6. londonedit*

      Over the last few years, without fanfare, broadcasters like the BBC and Sky in the UK have gradually brought more female commentators and presenters into the sports broadcasting arena, particularly for sports like football (soccer), which is obviously the biggest sport in the country. I think this is long overdue, I’m impressed by the way they’ve gone about it. By the time of this summer’s World Cup, there were several female presenters doing studio punditry, and several female pitchside reporters/summarisers working on the matches. And what happened? People (not only men, but mainly men, and men including former footballers) complained because women’s voices are apparently ‘too distracting’ for football commentary/reporting. Or they ‘don’t have the right tone’. Apparently the very act of hearing a woman speaking about sport is so offputting to them that they’re unable to concentrate on the game.

      This is leaving aside the fact that practically any old former footballer can rock up and waffle on about rubbish on Match of the Day (Robbie Savage, I’m looking at you) but any woman who appears on TV, even if she’s the former manager of the England women’s football team or the leading goalscorer for Arsenal, will receive a ‘Does she even know what she’s talking about?’ reaction.

      1. Bob*

        THIS. Hearing a woman doing rugby commentary for the first time a few weeks ago (I’ve been lazy about keeping up) was simultaneously like: YAY but also ‘Huh. this is weird’. And then having that sad moment of realising I think its weird because I literally have never heard full commentary by a woman on a rugby match before and how sad is that?

        1. londonedit*

          It’s just so sad how little things have changed in the last 100 years. I recently heard the story of Sheila Borrett, who was BBC radio’s first female continuity announcer back in the 1930s. When she started her job, there was much clutching of pearls – mainly from men in the Establishment, who objected to hearing a woman’s voice on the radio, worried that her tone wouldn’t convey the necessary gravitas for a BBC newsreader, and were concerned that being a woman she wouldn’t be able to grasp the complexity of political situations with enough understanding to be able to report on them properly. But in the end, she was forced off the air by the sheer number of complaints the BBC received not only from men, but from women, who believed that if a woman did have to do such a job, it should be an unmarried woman who needed the money more than someone who was married with a husband to look after them.

          Reading the responses to this post, it’s really disheartening to see how many women still have to put up with these attitudes even in 2018!

  15. KristinMagoo*

    I think that first one is region-specific. Here in the Heartland, its women without a wedding ring who are viewed with suspicion and thus not given a second interview. For me, my career took off when I 1) got married, 2) cut my hair in a pixie. FWIW I present as overtly feminine. The doors just flew open, even though my skills were the same as when I was single and long-haired.

    1. Mints*

      Huh, do you think the pixie made you look more feminine? Or younger? Or was it mostly about the wedding ring?

        1. Blue Anne*

          That’s interesting. I’m in the heartland too and planning to go for a pixie in a couple months (after my wedding) for… exactly those reasons. But I assumed it would be read as cute and queer. I’m curious now.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I had a pixie for most of age 20-30, in the heartland. I was really young looking then (like 14), but I am smaller, thin, and have feminine features. I think it read a cute and serious when I was younger. Then when I approached 30, I think it read “mom haircut” so I grew it out and have never returned. (FWIW, I was a mom when I was already a mom at 20-30).

          2. No imagination*

            Congratulations! I hadn’t seen before that you were getting married. As a queer accountant, I’ve loosely followed your posts over the last few years and I’m so happy for you.

            To get back on topic, I’ve gone back and forth from short butch hair to long feminine hair several times. I’d say that folks took my assertiveness better when I had short hair. With longer hair, my assertiveness is more discordant and unexpected so gets a more severe reaction.

    2. irene adler*

      Exactly. I’ve read where it’s a good idea to wear the wedding ring during the in-person interview. In fact, I’m going to purchase one just for job interviews.

      The thinking goes: the married female candidate will be stable, won’t make waves, will gladly take distasteful assignments, etc. because she needs the job to support the family. And, the married men’s wives won’t be bothered by knowing their husbands all work alongside an unmarried woman.

      1. Jaydee*

        Married female candidate *who already has kids* is the key here. Married and doesn’t have kids (yet)? She’s just going to get pregnant and not come back after maternity leave. But the pixie cut is no-nonsense mom hair, and that indicates that she needs this job to support her family and/or to give her time away from her family. Either way, she’s gonna work hard if you provide even the most bare-bones level of job flexibility and/or decent health insurance.

        1. just my opinion*

          Ah but already has kids still means lots of time off for kiddos getting sick, doctors appointments, etc. At least that’s what I always imagine people are thinking about me when they learn I have young kids.

          1. Ashley*

            Yes. I had a female coworker who didn’t want to hire any women who had kids at all. She would only consider older women (like her) because ‘moms are always missing work.’ Thankfully her role in hiring is pretty minimal but I do get anxious anytime she interacts with applicants.

            1. No thank you*

              I had a creepy male couple as bosses who wanted to hire more full time adult parent types for stability, instead of the cheaper but variably-scheduled college kids, but then fired the grownups for daring to have school stuff & doctor’s appointments.

      2. your favorite person*

        OMG. you just triggered a crazy memory. A few years ago I was at an event where I was presenting with my boss. We drove to the event together, maybe 3 hours from home. There was alcohol and a woman who was a client (technically) said to me boss [about me] “huh, your wife let you drive here with her?!” I was sitting RIGHT THERE. My boss said, ‘yep.’ and moved on. Later that night, that same woman called me ‘little witch’. I think because I was wearing a blue pencil skirt, tights, and a sheer button up with a cami underneath. I was probably.. 25? I was probably the youngest there by 2 decades.

        It was pretty mortifying. That wasn’t the first and won’t be the last comment I get like that.

      3. ThankYouRoman*

        Hmmm the thinking can also swing to “she has a job for pocket money” and can’t be trusted to be reliable, much like a student. Her husband after all is the bread winner!

    3. just my opinion*

      I think that’s an interesting point and a missed opportunity for the book right there. You can’t win with the wedding ring… there’s ways it counts against you as a woman whether you wear it or not.

    4. CoveredInBees*

      Also, can vary by age/profession. As a young law student, I was unofficially encouraged not to wear an engagement ring for job interviews and I wasn’t even applying for one of those big firms that has showers (and sometimes cots) for associates to basically live at the office. There’s the assumption that I’d get pregnant and never return from maternity leave and/or that I didn’t need to work so much because I was in a two-income household. Also, many law firms would prefer you not have much of a life outside of work.

      I still remember an interview with an associate who cheerfully extolled the firm’s work-life balance and detailed that she worked 8-7 most weekdays and another 10ish hours over the weekend, unless they were in the middle of something major. This is rough but not so unusual but the fact that it was viewed as a great work-life balance scared me.

  16. Preggers*

    I used to work in recruiting for a company that had a very, very strict dress code. My boss would tell me all the time, you can’t hire X unless you tell them to change Y (their hair, nails, facial hair, make up, etc). I would be sick to my stomach having to critique someone’s appearance in order to offer them a job. I was laughing until I got to the section on “hair styles to avoid.” It way too close to home. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “so basically your saying I can’t get the job unless I make my hair look less black?”

    1. Artemesia*

      I have been enraged by all these private schools, often Christian schools, sending little black kids home or expelling them for their hair cuts which are always well kept, cute, standard black styles. There have been half a dozen in the news this year. I am stunned that we are still this insensitive and racist about hair styles in 2018, but then with the resurgence of overt proud racism in the US, probably not surprising.

  17. flying teapot*

    Funny and relatable. I’m going to keep this in mind as a Christmas gift for some of my friends. We’re all in our late 20s-early 30s and like to talk about stuff like this as a form of venting. Love that some humor has been injected into these topics.

  18. MuseumChick*

    For those who feel this book is “sexist” or “anti-man” or whatever, I want to point something out.

    There is a HUGE difference between Healthy Men / Healthy Masculinity and Toxic Men / Toxic Masculinity. This book is pointing out and poking fun at the toxic side of this. I would fully support a book with “women” in the title because, as others have pointed out up thread, it would include things like “Don’t hound her about her reproductive choices.” and “Don’t tell her to smile more unless all of the following apply: 1) Smiling is literally part of the job she was hired to do. 2) You would give the same feedback to a man in the same role. 3) You are her direct manager or above. “

    1. justsomeone*

      The difference being, this book is humorous “look at what we have to put up with” and one about women would actually be a useful guide…

  19. Raging Iron Thunder*

    As a man… This bothers me. I’ve never treated or talked about women this way. I feel smeared and judged based on my gender. I don’t see how this kind of attitude or message actually will make a positive difference.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      First, unconscious bias is a thing for all of us. It’s worth learning about.

      Second, if you have done the work of examining your own biases and are actively working to combat sexism and other forms of oppression, great! Well done. But then you surely recognize how prevalent the problems described in the book excerpt are, and how much data shows the impact of these biases on women, even if you yourself are not part of the problem, right? Surely you are more concerned about women facing actual systemic bias that impacts them near-daily than the worry that internet strangers might not know you’re not part of the problem, right?

    2. Lance*

      ‘ I’ve never treated or talked about women this way’

      And that’s good! The issue being pointed to by the book is, many men (and even women propagating the learned, pervasive behavior), do, whether consciously or otherwise. Even as someone who doesn’t (or tries not to), there can very much be value in seeing what ways in which women are treated differently, and how we might be able to avoid that on our own parts.

      1. Ashley*

        And just because you didn’t say it, do you always speak up when someone else does? Sometimes not speaking up can create the sense you condone others behavior.

      2. Aveline*

        I’m guessing any man who blusters in here about his hurt feelings probably has done one of these things without realizing it…..

        1. AMT*

          Yep. To me, “I’ve never been sexist” reads as “I’m not aware of any time I’ve been sexist.” No one has *never* been sexist!

    3. MuseumChick*

      Right. No one ever said all men do that things presented here. Rather, that there is a patter of women being treated like this, and, as men still hold the majority of power position in the work place we are going to poke fun at the Toxic Masculinity (a different species from Masculinity) at play here and it’s effect of women in the work force. That would be way to long for a title.

    4. So what?*

      Oh, but it doesn’t bother you that women actually experience these situations all too often?
      Maybe you should care about your fellow human beings, and not just about your own feelings.

      1. Lizzy May*

        Right? Imagine dealing with this so infrequently that you still have the energy to feel outrage?

    5. Czhorat*

      As a man, this bothers me NOT AT ALL.

      Fun fact: there was a study which measured how much a time women spoke at meetings and how their participation was viewed. The result (and forgive me if I’m not precise, this is from memory) was that men would think that women dominated the conversation if she spoke thirty percent of the time. That’s not men who don’t want women to speak, or set out to silence them. THat’s an unconcious bias in perception.

      How do you perceive someone’s smile? Hairstyle? Makeup? Are you being fair, or are you letting details colour your perceptions? That’s very hard to say objectively, and sometimes having it thrown at you in the form of a joke can help see some of that.

      If you’re truly an enlightened man who doesn’t participate in ANY of these behaviours you have the option of reading with a smile and a laugh. You can even repost it where other men might see it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That first one also applies to the makeup of a group, and again from both men and women–people perceive 30% women as 50% and 50% women as “mostly women.”

      2. Lissa*

        yes yes yes. I think so many people believe that “a sexist” is an evil Mad Men type who says things like “stay in the kitchen”, and that anyone with an unconscious bias just hasn’t read enough internet articles about feminism. But it doesn’t work like that at all. Even great people are going to (for instance) perceive a woman who dresses neatly, has clean short hair and no makeup differently than a man who does the same. Of course decent people don’t WANT to do those things. Of course there are feminists, women, who will also perceive things differently, and who perceive “mostly women” as speaking when it’s 50%. Becoming aware of these things is how to combat it. Not angrily claiming you’d never do it. we ALL do it.

      3. ArtsNerd*

        Once I had a customer who was monologuing at me about how unfair it was that a white man he knew with dreads was told that his dreadlocks were hurtful to some Black folks, because he’s a “good dude” and doesn’t deserve to be told he’s doing anything wrong.

        I tried to gently educate him on unconscious bias and mentioned this statistic. He looked taken aback and said “I hope this conversation was 50/50.” It was maybe 90/10 in his favor, but I think I just smiled and wished him a good day instead of prolonging the interaction.

    6. Sylvan*

      If you haven’t been sexist, then jokes criticizing sexism aren’t about you. Scroll and move on?

    7. Turquoisecow*

      Good for you! But the book isn’t about *YOU*, the book is about actual experiences that actual women have. Have you read many letters on this site? There are a lot of examples like the ones described here.

      Just because *you* are an exemplary human who never does anything sexist ever, doesn’t mean that women don’t experience sexism, or that they can’t talk about it.

    8. Atalanta0jess*

      As a woman, it bothers ME that women’s expressions and creative works about the experiences they live every day are policed by men who have little hurt feelings.

      If you want to be an ally, work on being brave enough to make space for women to discuss their experiences. Be brave enough to listen. Cause do you know what? This is not about your feelings. If you can’t be brave enough to recognize that, and to push past your discomfort, you are part of the problem.

      1. JamieS*

        As a woman I find the notion we need men to “create a safe space for us” insulting, patronizing, and demeaning.

        If I have something to say then I’ll say it.
        I’m not so weak that I need men to not voice they’re opinions because them doing so will keep me from voicing mine and I certainly don’t need a man to create a safe space for me. If I disagree then I engage in the conversation and say exactly that. I don’t expect everyone who isn’t a woman to keep quiet.

        1. Atalanta0jess*

          Ok. That’s great. I’m not sure where our disagreement is.

          If Raging Iron Thunder wants to be an ally or even just a “good guy” as he says he is, though, it would behoove him not to criticize women for speaking about their experiences. That is my point.

        2. palomar*

          But, aside from you, no one said anything about “create a safe space for us”. The phrasing was “make space”. As in, don’t suck all the air out of the room with your hurt feelings. It’s great that you are the way you are, congrats, but… was it really necessary to imply that other women are weak because they have different feelings than you about this issue?

        3. Well Red*

          Ohhhkay? Not sure what you are actually responding to here, but it seems like it might not be anything in the comment you replied to, since there is nothing there about a safe space.

          You used quotation marks, but you did not quote. That’s… unfortunate at best, intentionally derailing and misleading at worst. The comment said MAKE SPACE, not “make safe space”. That’s a very different thing, as I am sure you are intelligent enough to understand (current evidence to the contrary aside).

          Your implications about other women are also gross and offensive, by the way.

    9. GRA*

      One of the best things I’ve learned is that when you are the most privileged person in the room, keep quiet and pass the mic to someone else.

      1. your favorite person*

        There’s a local leader in my city that was being awarded a prize for innovation or something. The organization won two awards. The first one, he got up and said ‘thanks. this is great. but if you look around, it’s basically all old white men in this room. I bet you all have women on your teams who helped you succeed. Send them to these events.” The second time he ceded all his time to a fellow female nominee to talk about innovation at her org. He said he gets enough accolades. I love when people walk the walk.

        1. Alli525*

          One of the professors at the college I work for is like that. He’s very in demand for his research into American elections (I WONDER WHY) but when we met with him to see how we could help elevate his work, he basically said, totally casually, “I’m not interested in seeing more white dudes like me on TV. Whenever I get press requests, I typically just refer the reporter to one of my female colleagues who is doing similar work.” So much respect.

    10. jaybh*

      “I feel smeared and judged based on my gender.”

      And now you have a taste of what it can be like for women in the workplace. Except in your case it’s over something completely insignificant, and not their actual job performance.

    11. NW Mossy*

      Consider this: women have already tried just accepting sexism, complaining about sexism amongst ourselves but not to men, trying to complain about sexism in ways that won’t get men’s backs up, complaining indirectly through voting and political action, etc., etc., etc.

      None of these have worked yet, so I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it as an option.

    12. Parenthetically*

      “I feel smeared and judged based on my gender.”

      Well, gosh, doesn’t that feel awful? Like exactly what the entire post is talking about women having to deal with since the DAWN OF TIME?

      I’m not here to coddle your fragile little feelings. Learn to manage your own shit. And grow a little self-awareness before you post something like “I feel smeared and judged based on my gender” on a post about gender stereotypes FFS.

    13. ArtK*

      Congratulations on your specialness. The rest of us with the Y-chromosome defect have to work at it, day in and day out to avoid being jerks.

      This helps because it illustrates a very serious problem in a humorous way. I really don’t see how your comment helps the discussion.

      1. Aveline*

        Can we be careful about equating the Y chromosome with maleness?

        While I don’t think most transmen exhibit this type of sexism, I want to be trans inclusive in talking about masculinity.

        I know you didn’t mean Y chromosome = male. So this isn’t soo much directed at you as it is trying to head off potentially alienating statements on this idea.

        Also, some individuals with Y chromosomes are female or non-binary and so experience this type of sexism.

        I know a transwoman who had a revelation about her own internal sexism after she transitioned and experienced the anti-female aspects of our culture first hand.

        1. ArtK*

          Thus demonstrating my point that, despite trying hard, I don’t always get it right. Thanks for pointing this out.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            Thank you for being gracious in receiving this feedback. As you can see, that’s frequently not the case in these instances.

      2. Ico*

        Please don’t refer to having a Y-chromosome as a defect. I’m sure it was supposed to be a joke, but it comes across as really mean-spirited.

    14. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Mr. Gumption treats the women in his life wonderfully, but he still occasionally does the idea theft thing. Luckily, since he is a decent man who actually cares about being better, he is totally fine with me saying, “Um hun, I just said that 5 minutes ago. You stealing my glory again?” when it happens. Perhaps think of this as more of a , “Huh, this is something I should pay attention to when I talk to women/hear others talk to women at work”

    15. KillItWithFire*

      Oh muffin. I won’t bother assuming you aren’t self involved like some of the commentators.

      A woman is saying “this happens so much we can make an entire book about it and ALL the women get it”. Your feelings aren’t in play here, it’s not about you, you aren’t so special that your twinge of defensiveness somehow has priority over what women deal with every damn day.

    16. ThankYouRoman*

      All the men in my life haven’t acted like this. But when this kind of commentary happens, they LISTEN and continue to learn what women still have to deal with.

      It’s not about you.

    17. Hamtaro*

      It must feel bad to have people judge you based on your gender. As a woman, I can’t even imagine.

    18. StellaBella*

      noun: satire
      the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
      “the crude satire seems to be directed at the fashionable protest singers of the time”
      synonyms: mockery, ridicule, derision, scorn, caricature; irony, sarcasm

      The point here, with this post about this particular book, is that a majority of women in a majority of the 196 countries (ish) in the world have to face this at least once in their lives – whether in university or work or daily life going out and doing things.

      Your feelings don’t matter, to be honest. Your actions do matter. Have you personally confronted sexism actively, ever, in real life? You say you have not done it, treated or talked about women like this … so you *clearly* know what it looks/sounds like. So have you “made a positive difference” as you think this post about this book should be trying to do?

    19. Jam Today*

      You may not have ever done any of these things…but note how many women have experienced it, and even after seeing that how you made yourself the center of the story.

    20. epi*

      I would suggest that, by responding to something humorous and relatable for women, and derailing the conversation to make it about your character and feelings, you are engaging in at least similar behaviors right now.

    21. Operational Chaos*

      The only reason you should feel attacked, smeared, or judged by this is if you’re guilty of what this is lampooning. So, either your conscience is telling you something or you’re making something that isn’t about you all about you.

      I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had to navigate this kind of crap on a very regular basis. This isn’t for or about you. It’s for and about those very women who have to deal with it throughout their professional and, often, personal lives.

    22. Kella*

      If you’ve never treated or talked about a woman this way, then I can see why you wouldn’t personally benefit from this message. But you know that others do treat women that way, right? And you know that’s a societal pattern, right? So perhaps the book will make a positive difference in people that aren’t you?

      And if you didn’t know that others treat women this way, then you should read this book (and this blog), and it will make a positive difference in enlightening you about the issues women face in the workplace.

      Either way, it can be a resource for the people who need it, even if that does not include you.

  20. SarahKay*

    Alison, quick question – do you get benefit from us ordering from Amazon via your link? If so, do you have a similar link to Amazon UK we (I) could use to buy? won’t sell ebooks to me in the UK, and I don’t really fancy the shipping costs to buy a physical copy from them ;)

    1. JSPA*

      You can also order from independent bookstores if, despite their recent willingness to commit to better US wages, you don’t like the “how Amazon warehouse workers are treated” horror stories. I’m thinking of a article from this past May titled, “Peeing in trash cans, constant surveillance, and asthma attacks on the job: Amazon workers tell us their warehouse horror stories.”

  21. Justin*

    Men, stop.

    Not that this is actually hurtful, but even if our fee fees are hurt by this (which, no), we can handle it, considering how much being a working woman (or, you know, just, a woman) can hurt every day.

    WHY IS THE TITLE LIKE THAT. Because it’s funny. It’s like the old “stuff white people like” site, which was CLEARLY talking about a certain type of white person – this is talking about a certain type of man who treats female colleagues poorly (of which there are way too many). And if the rest of us don’t do that, great! We should continue to not be like that.

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      Dude. I wish more guys would just use your first line there. Men, stop.

      Thanks for coming to get your people.

      1. Justin*

        I try to tell myself that they’re not my people because I’m not white, but, yeah, no, gotta own up to being part of an often crummy demographic, and I’m sure I was crummy when younger.

        We just need to… listen.

    2. gmg22*

      Yep. And this is true for everyone. Consider the phenomenon of white women calling the cops on people for being black and doing normal life things. When I read a satirical take by a black writer on yet another one of the Parking Lot Pattys of the world, I do not immediately pitch a fit and say “But not all white women! I would never call the cops on black people for barbecuing/selling Girl Scout cookies/filling their car up with gas/standing in a doorway/existing!” I read, I appreciate the humor and the underlying pain and frustration, and most importantly I allow myself to think about what is going on there rather than getting knee-jerk offended and wasting that opportunity.

      There is a point to satire beyond individual people huffily deciding that the satire must be unfairly describing them individually. That point is that you are being given a funny opportunity to THINK about the serious underlying unfairness that is being satirized, and whether you can do anything differently in your own life to change it. The answer might be no and that you’re doing everything fine! Or the answer might be that you THINK you’re doing everything fine but on second glance, there is something you can change, even a small thing (like, for example for the guys, speaking up when you see a female colleague getting constantly interrupted in a meeting). Almost certainly it’ll be a small thing, in fact — that’s how change happens over time.

      1. Justin*

        And as a black guy who was Cornerstore Caroline’d in that literal same neighborhood as a child… thanks for getting the point!

        It’s not all (group), but it’s enough of (group) that they can and should be taken down several notches.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Sorry you dealt with that – I grew up in the same neighborhood and it made my blood boil.
          For those who don’t know – that particular neighborhood is one where calling the cops for almost anything can be a very tricky and dangerous thing anyway. It is far safer than the impression that most people outside of it have, in part because it’s dangerous to call the cops. And the reason it’s dangerous to call the cops is because it is a heavily black/Caribbean population, with all the life and music that goes with that, and the majority of the cops assigned to the neighborhood are white guys from Long Island who have never actually interacted with a black person in their life and have no clue what kind of crowd noise is happy street talk celebrating stuff and what is actually a problem.

          It is now rapidly gentrifying with all the attendant issues that come with that to boot. I’m going to stop here cuz I’m probably de-railing at this point. But just to say – as a white woman who grew up in that neighborhood, it helps me to check my “not all white people” instinct, which I (sadly) did need to have pointed out to me. So, thank you, Justin, for pointing out the “not all men” thing.

          1. LJay*

            I think this is an important nuance that might help people get it, as well.

            Most of the people saw arguing about it were arguing based off of “Well, they would have called the cops on a white person, too, since they thought that a law was being broken. And breaking laws is bad and needs to be reported.”

            And arguing about what someone would or would not have hypothetically done, when they don’t understand their own unconscious bias, is largely unproductive.

            However, I feel like it’s easier to understand, “If Permit Patty calls the cops on a white person for not having a permit while barbecuing at the park, there is zero chance that the white person is dead at the end of the interaction. The cops will inform them about the call, more-or-less politely let them know about the problem, and that’s that. If Permit Patty calls the cops on a non-white person for the same reason, there is a greater than zero chance that the non-white person is dead at the end of the interaction. Do you really think it’s worth even a small chance that someone winds up dead over that bullshit?”

            1. Diverse Anon*

              Thanks everyone for this thread. It was a little off topic but as someone who thinks a lot about where privilege and discrimination intersect in my own life, it has really been helpful and eye-opening.

          2. chi type*

            Ugh I hate it when (usually white) people move in to a neighborhood known and loved for it’s raucous street life and then freak out about said street life and try to get it shut down.
            It has happened in Boystown in Chicago and, most ridiculously, with the street musicians in New Orleans. Complaining about brass bands in New Orleans!! smh

        2. JSPA*

          Even if you haven’t even called the cops on someone, it’s a good chance to examine what, exactly, motivates any sporadic, momentary urge to wonder if someone “belongs” in the neighborhood or not. And ask oneself, “what does that concept even mean?”. Especially if you’d feel well in your rights to walk in any neighborhood you pleased, if you found yourself there.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. I never feel offended, just mortified on their behalf, because I have a bad feeling they won’t do it for themselves and someone out there needs to be ashamed of this behavior

      3. Parenthetically*

        Seriously, this precisely. I found that 1-844-WYT-FEAR thing super hilarious and also SO heartbreaking. I will never understand what it’s like to be Black in America, but something like that (and like this post/book) that uses humor to point out a very real issue… I mean it’s just basic satire? Like did people not go to high school? It’s designed to make us laugh and feel uncomfortable so we will change our attitudes and behaviors. If you miss the opportunity to do that, that’s not the author’s fault.

        1. Justin*

          That was great.

          And I think it sums all of this up: the men who are reacting this way are scared. Fear is normal, it’s what you do with that fear that can harm people. Hence: the world in 2018.

          1. Aveline*

            Yep… they are afraid because their forebears played the gender game on the easy setting. Now they have to play on the real setting while women still play on the difficult setting. And they whine about how unfair it is they are no longer in the easy setting.

            That’s fear they can’t get what they want playing on slightly more difficult terms. But terms still biased in their favor.


            Why do so many men think they are so incapable of dealing with the same rules as women?

      4. ThankYouRoman*

        Absolutely with you here.

        I’m white AF and each one of these women acting such a sloppy racist mess makes me think “Argh, white people.” not “my gawd, they all think I’m a bigot, I hefta prove them wrong with squeals of “MY FEELS! NOT ALL WHITE PPL!”

        I’m not subscribing to that weird thought process of “my people! I have to be the one to protect our good name!” We have a history of racism and an on going battle with it, hell no am I erasing what I have seen my entire life.

        1. Anon Anon Anon*

          Yeah. When people who are not white complain about white people, I tend to agree or at minimum respect where they’re coming from and want to listen. I have zero urge to defend white people or participate in the conversation except to show support. It is a “pass the mike,” kind of thing. I want to listen so that as a white person, I can be more aware and try to do better.

        2. Artemesia*

          The MAJORITY of white Americans voted for this and the majority of white men still support it. We own it.

    3. Aveline*

      Yep. If you are male, with or without that Y chromosome (let’s be trans inclusive here), and you don’t agree, just sit back, listen, and learn.

      One thing men do all the time is assume want or need their opinions or to know their feelings are hurt.

      If your first instinct in a post about some form of oppression is to say how you don’t do it and it hurts your feelings to talk about it or your feelings are hurt from the framing, just be quiet.

      White people
      Cis people
      Straight people

      Know when someone not in this group is speaking about their pain from being outside it, pass the mike.

    4. Amber Rose*

      Years ago, I used to read a website called Men Are Better Than Women (dot com). It’s still around, though it hasn’t updated in forever.

      Perhaps some of the dudes who are feeling some upset might have more fun over there.

  22. Holy guacamole*

    Genuine question, I’m a (relatively) young woman and I live and work in the US currently. Do other women really receive comments like this? I’ve never heard anyone comment on me smiling or not smiling at work or during an interview, socially people have said they like my smile but that’s hardly sexist. I’ve never had anyone comment on my hairstyle either, except when other women compliment me (men don’t notice). Maybe I’ve been lucky but I’ve never seen this, so I’m genuinely curious how common it is. Hopefully I won’t have to deal with it but who knows.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      It’s because women are expected never to look just neutral- “neutral/placid” is taken as “sour” or “bitchy” so women are expected to smile in ways that men are not. Look up the campaign “Stop Telling Women to Smile” for more info; it’s a frequent theme in catcalling too.

      1. Holy guacamole*

        I’ve heard of that, I just never experienced it. I’ve never been told to smile or that I smile too much. I’ve been catcalled (ugh) but I’ve never heard the smile thing directed at me.

        1. ThankYouRoman*

          You probs don’t have RBF. Some are blessed without the perma scowl.

          I’ve only heard it a couple times. It stops because my response is always “No.” They seemingly decide I’m not worth it because I won’t play their dumb game.

        2. JSPA*

          In some places, it is probably legitimately a thing of the past, depending on how much a job is based on quantifiable skills, licensing or academic achievement. I never sensed much of it in the Seattle / Portland / Vancouver BC area, and it actually isn’t as bad in more unionized jobs in the east / midatlantic as in the more managerial jobs. (or rather, if someone tells you to smile, it’s because they’re honestly sad that you’re sad, and are trying to cheer you up–not ordering you to be better eye candy.) Elsewhere, you may get something of a “bye” as long as you’re young and fit within a pretty constrained set of social norms (which some people happen to do, without trying).

      2. Adele*

        And these are usually not things men will tell you to your face–though sometimes they will (Smile!). But these are things that will be said, in various guises, to others about you. I am a woman and have heard similar assessments made many times regarding female job candidates, presenters, and colleagues, especially subordinates being considered for promotion. Men don’t mention hair or clothes in front of me, but they well may discuss women’s looks with other men.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          It’s enlightening when you see comments from men you know on places like Facebook or you overhear things. It’s not limited to men either.

          1. JSPA*

            Yeah, overhearing things between stalls in the women’s bathroom can be brutal, too. We need to…not do that. Not even if someone’s our BEC or she’s FUBAR’d the receipts, and we’re blowing off steam by commenting on that peasant skirt / low cut blouse / unfortunate hat / stray facial hairs / sour expression. Go take a long walk instead, then address any actual legitimate problem, and leave the sniping back in 8th grade, when we could plausibly argue we didn’t know any better [though actually, we did].

        2. Jake*


          I’m a man, and it’s far more common for me to hear comments about what is addressed here from man to man than it is man to woman.

          1. char*

            This. I’m a trans man, and after I transitioned I was shocked by how much more often men say openly sexist things about women to me, now that they perceive me as a fellow man.

    2. Rey*

      My friend is the only female at an engineering firm and frequently hears this. It isn’t always as blatant as cat-calling; in a more demure setting, it can be something like “Why do you look so serious?” (I’ll post the link to Allison’s post that covered this question). I think hairstyle is more about the judgments and assumptions that are based on hairstyle aka if she has long blonde voluminous hair, then she’s just a pretty face/doesn’t know anything and won’t be here very long/isn’t interested in promotions/is just working until she gets married and/or pregnant. Similarly, women with short hair are often judged to be lesbian (and whatever misinformed notions the judge stacks on that), when in reality, sexual preferences have nothing to do with their work abilities.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, and I get a depressing number of these. I don’t print them most of them because I try to have a balance of topics, but I receive a ton of them.

    3. ket*

      In my experience in the workforce, in some sectors you’re mentored when you’re younger but once you’re a ‘threat’ the gloves come off.

      Region matters a lot too.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      I worked at a supermarket when I was first in college. I was told by several male customers I needed to smile more. Being young and naive, I did. And then I was told by a male supervisor that I was smiling too much. I worked in an office and was told my voice was too soft. I tried to adjust it. Too much the other way. Another job, I was told my voice was too strident. I frowned too much. I smiled too much. My voice was too high.

      A few jobs later, I was actually denied a raise because my manager told me ” ‘Bob’ has a family and you don’t.” This happened in this century.

      These days I’m a tenured academic and I get much less of that. But I’m paid less than my male peers with comparable experience. They get promoted more. It’s still very much a thing.

    5. ThankYouRoman*

      I dig it. I’ve rarely experienced it much.

      However when it happens, it’s earth shaking because you’ll stop and think “Holy crap…they do exist?!”

      I met the first sexist boss I’ve ever known last year. He’s also classist and hates millennials despite hiring mostly that generation given the scope of the business. My partner and I were floored to realize the insanity we walked in to.

      We’re in the glorious metropolis ran by the pesky liberals and had never seen such a beast in the wild who wasn’t straight up a cartoon red neck sort of person.

    6. Shark Whisperer*

      You can probably find research that will tell you how often this happens more accurately, but I would that it is super common.

      I am also a young-ish woman in the US and I work in a pretty female-dominated field, but I still have experienced some of this. Mostly the smile one. I have been both told to smile more and if I smile a lot that I am being too flirty. I have also had the pitch of my voice commented on.

      I will also add that my partner was in the Army and from their experience, just imagine all of those things above x1000

      1. Anon Anon Anon*

        I have to say I’ve experienced about the same amount of sexism from all genders. Women can also be weird about enforcing stereotypes, etc.

    7. Queen of the File*

      Oh 100% yes. And, to be honest, probably more often from women as from men, often in the form of ‘helpful advice’ like the author is poking fun at. “You should try to be more approachable, try smiling more when you’re talking so you don’t sound so serious” was an actual a thing someone said to me after I made a valid technical point on a conference call three weeks ago.

    8. Little Orange Nail*

      I didn’t see much of this for a long time, until I got a job at a company with a *major* culture problem.

      All of a sudden I found myself in an office where the general manager thought women were “too emotional” for leadership, and where the standards of professional dress are right on the line between business casual and business formal for women, while many of the upper level men dressed like they just rolled out of bed and into a wrinkled polo shirt. (And I heard the catty, gossipy comments from male c-suite executives about women who weren’t conventionally attractive or didn’t dress like an Ann Taylor catalog every day. ) Where several men already at the director level got promotions within 6 months of their being hired, but not a single woman had gotten a promotion higher than supervisor to manager in the entire time I worked there.

      Everywhere else I’ve worked, there was the usual level of unconscious bias, but nothing so overt.

      So, it exists, but it’s not uniformly distributed.

    9. Amber Rose*

      I’ve been told to smile a few (hundred) times. I’ve also heard some variations on shock and dismay when I’m more forward, and also lectures about being too quiet when I’m not.

      I haven’t heard anything about my hair at least.


      1. The Original K.*

        Ditto. And I’ve compared notes with other Black colleagues and friends who have different natural hairstyles and textures, and the comments fly fast and furious with them too. My friend with beautiful, well-maintained, long dreadlocks gets a ton of “how does your hair do that?” kind of questions, and people are always trying to pet them. (I swat would-be petters’ hands away without apology.) My colleague with a buzz cut (think Symone Sanders) always has people trying to rub her head.

        And my neutral face is serious (not mean, exactly; I just tend to look like I have something on my mind), so I am told to smile constantly. At work, by people on the street, cashiers, all the time.

      2. Rey*

        Thanks for adding this, my original comment was definitely incomplete. The persistent discrimination against natural hair styles is an essential part of this conversation.

    10. Aveline*

      I didn’t get this as much at 20 as I did at 30.

      I hate to say wait for it….but it may be your age.

    11. Jane*

      Oh yes. Yes yes yes.

      Personally, no, I have not received the hairstyle one, even though I’m probably some combination of sexy and lazy, according to the illustration.

      But sexism popping up in ways that are in the spirit of these jokes? For sure.

      I’m constantly told that I’m “nagging” when I try to wrangle my (all male) teammates for documents, or that I’m not “asking the right way.” I’ve also put forth ideas that were discarded by my boss, only to hear my (male) colleague bring up the same idea and have it very much appreciated.

      One of my friends at work is currently going through a thing where her manager is telling her she isn’t “warm and caring” enough. This was due to her bringing up some concerns about how some established processes weren’t working, and she was very direct about her concerns, as in, she said, “this situation isn’t working because of X,Y, and Z. It is causing problems A, B, and C.” But according to her manager she should have been “nicer” about it. She gets this extra because not only is she a woman, but she is not white.

      Probably the most sexist comment I ever encountered at the workplace was when I was moved into an office with my male colleague due to space constraints. (We had all had our own offices before.) Even though I was senior to this colleague, another coworker came along, poked his head into our office, and said directly to my male colleague “I see you got yourself a secretary.”

      So gross.

    12. Julie*

      I don’t mean for this to sound lecture-y, but this is based on my experience and research surrounding implicit bias. It is unlikely you will receive (many) comments like this. More likely, and more insidious, is that this will color your coworkers and manager’s perception of you and lead to them feeling and/or telling others that you are too intense / emotional / quiet / loud / arrogant / weak / stuffy / unprofessional / too much / too little. Implicit biases are rarely overt, but they tend to shape those intangible things that make a big difference in our careers and workplaces, often at a disadvantage to women.

    13. Liz T*

      I get it in coded comments–less about smiling per se (that I hear) and more about attitude when addressing a problem. If I have a drop of emotion in what I’m saying, I’m not being nice–but if I’m completely calm and polite while persisting with trying to get a problem solved, I’m “passive aggressive.”

    14. soon 2be former fed*

      What is even more disheartening is that some women engage in these same behaviors directed at other women. I have had other women complain about my directness (no rudeness), and lack of focus on the social aspects of the workplace, among other things. Internalized self-hate is a thing, I’ve experienced the same thing from a black perspective (I’m black). Sad.

      1. Ehhhh*

        Lateral oppression: it sucked for me and I know no other way and/or it sucked for me so it will damn sure suck for you also.

        Seen in a range of places, including traditionally female professions. “Nurses eat their young” is STILL a thing nurses say to students. I tell my students that if that’s the culture of their workplace to GTFO.

      2. Queen of the File*

        It took me SO LONG in life to realize that sexism (and racism) was a huge and problematic part of my beliefs about how women should be. I grew up hearing these criticisms of womens’ appearance and behaviour from literally every source I had–family, friends, TV, etc.–and it didn’t even occur to me to question it until I moved somewhere more urban and the internet became a thing. I think partly because the “official” spoken message was that women are just as good as men and can be whatever they want that I didn’t realize underneath that were a zillion unspoken layers of ifs and buts.

    15. pope suburban*

      Sure do. People are rarely that overt with me, but there’s a constant, low-level presumption that I’m not very perceptive, capable, or educated that I don’t see extended to my male colleagues. For example, when I worked at a terribly toxic job, people would threaten me and scream at me all the time (and get a lot more upset when they didn’t get an emotional reaction, incidentally; they wanted groveling or terror and they found a barren field of f*cks), then become sweet as pie when I transferred them to a male colleague- who was, invariably, less professional and responsive than I was. It wasn’t about how they were getting treated, it was about terrorizing someone they saw as beneath them. I got talked down to a lot there too. Again, not because I didn’t know what I was talking about or presented poorly, but because I wasn’t the right kind of person to get respect. The president of that company also constantly exhibited that kind of bias when he’d treat male employees with more respect and leniency than female employees, when he would only yell at or belittle female employees, and when he’d only acknowledge male employees’ accomplishments despite our top performers all being women. He was toxic in his personal life as well, and horribly disrespectful to his wife, who he’d tell to “f*ck off” in front of people, among other things, but no one would call him on it because either they didn’t see it as a problem or he could fire them. I’m in a much better place now, but I won’t ever forget that, and I’m not naive enough to think that it’ll never happen again either.

    16. Anon Anon Anon*

      I think some people get it more than others. There are a lot of variables at play. I hope you never have to deal with it.

    17. Probably Nerdy*

      I got told to smile more by my boss. As feedback in my performance review.

      I’m a scientist.

    18. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      I also hope you never have to deal with a work review discussing your “attitude” or the perception of your “tone” (which are all part and parcel of the ‘smile’ thing). I would say, in the workplace, that I’ve never specifically been told to smile…but I’ve been told so many other things that effectively translate to exactly that.

    19. Serendipity*

      Yes. Oh yes.
      I used to work in the financial services industry and would make accept/reject decisions on what were often high-stakes proposals. My industry was heavily male oriented, and my local area even more so given the local area had a large immigrant population from a very male-centric culture.
      In the office there was me, male colleague and male manager. My productivity was never the same as my male colleague’s; at first I could not understand why when I was very good at my job and fast at making decisions.

      And then I realised that I was having every single decision questioned and debated. I would spend half of my day on the phone or email defending my work, and the other half rushing through a full day’s work in a few hours. You could see it in real-time: I’d hang up after a 15 minute conversation explaining my decision, we’d all count down from 5, and either my boss or my colleague’s phone would ring Every. Single. Time. They’d repeat the decision, client would accept and we’d all move on.

      My male colleague then agreed to an experiment where my communications would be sent in his name. I’d do the analysis and decision, he’d call the client, or I would compose the email and he would send it. The complaints about my work stopped instantly and my productivity doubled overnight. It was painfully evident that it was my gender and not my work which was the problem.

      PS – this was within the last decade, and in a commonwealth nation. Sigh.

    20. KimberlyR*

      Yes. I am often told to smile more. Also, I’m too loud.

      I don’t get catcalled but I’m overweight so I know I’m judged for being too fat.

      Growing up, my dad told me its ok that I was better at history and English, because I’m a girl and boys are better at math and science. I really truly believed that until well in my 20s. I was a gifted student but took honors (instead of Gifted) math and science classes because I believed I wasn’t smart enough in those areas. I wish I could go back and take the correct classes.

    21. Close Bracket*

      > Do other women really receive comments like this?

      1) Yes.

      2) Sometimes the beliefs are there without the person actually speaking them aloud. Just because nobody has commented on your hairstyle doesn’t mean you haven’t been judged. It must be nice to hear that you have a nice smile, but start noticing how often men are complimented on their smile. Men and women are praised for different things, reflecting different valued qualities in men and women. The value of a woman’s smile over a neutral expression is exactly what is behind comics like these.

    22. Portia*

      I can’t think of an overt comment I’ve gotten, probably because I have largely worked in female-dominated fields and environments.

      But implicit assumptions? All the time. Literally as I was reading this entry during my lunch break, the teacher next door popped his head in for help. He had a student (we teach high school) who couldn’t stop crying and he didn’t know what to do. His words were, “I need a woman in here.” Because, you know, women are warm and nurturing and motherly. And obviously the student would prefer to be comforted by a female teacher she had never met before, rather than her male teacher who knows her well.

      So I spent my whole lunch break trying to calm down a student who’s not mine, instead of grading my students’ tests. I don’t blame the other teacher for this — I think he was trying to do what was best for the student. I blame the underlying assumption that men are bumbling and bad with emotions, while women are nurturing. That assumption hurts both men and women.

  23. SigneL*

    Wow! After the stroke, I have the smile down – droops a little on one side. I’m not sure I’d advise that for other women, though.

  24. Shrunken Hippo*

    I can’t afford to buy it right now so I’m requesting that my library gets it. Thankfully my librarian has a great sense of humour and was more than willing to order it. I can’t wait to get my hands on it!!

  25. Amber Rose*

    Hey, so I tried the lopsided smile and I think I pulled a muscle in my cheek. My face may be stuck this way. Any advice?

    1. fposte*

      Congratulations! You are no longer faced with the terrible burden of calibrating your face every day.

    2. Dr. Doll*

      I’ll have to tell my friend who has a facial paralysis that there’s an up-side after all….

  26. AFPM*

    Exactly what I needed at this exact moment. Thank you! I hope there’s a section on “how to present information to your boss so that he’ll take you seriously and act on your recommendations” – but the only correct way is “be a man, even if the information you’re presenting is wrong.”

  27. jack*

    I’m curious, when y’all read “A Modest Proposal” in high school did you really think Jonathan Swift wanted to eat Irish babies?

      1. AFPM*

        LOL! I admit that it took me entirely too long to understand that it was satire – you used to have to hit me over the head with things in high school.

    1. Parenthetically*

      It’s almost like the male-female gender dynamic isn’t just level, neutral ground with zero history of men using their social power to oppress and disadvantage women since time began. Almost.

    2. Aveline*

      It’s almost as if you didn’t bother reading the threads above but simply jumped in to avenge men’s hurt feelings.

      So, we get it. Men’s hurt feelings matter more to you than women’s actual pain and suffering.

    3. Ella*

      Yes, if you changed a fundamental aspect of the book, divorcing it of its historical, social, and cultural context, it would then be a different book. Very clever of you to notice.

  28. Could have used this!*

    I really wanted this to be a book with real advice :/ This is so funny but tbh I could really use the practical advice for dealing with my boss who sucks. I was so ready to recommend it to my friend before the pictures loaded! Oh well, lol.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I checked it out on Amazon – there is actual real advice at the end of the book. Mostly it sums up “You can’t win worrying about this crap so stop worrying about it and forge ahead. Yes, you’ll have to deal with it. Don’t let it stop you.”

    2. ThankYouRoman*

      Then read Alison’s books and the advice within the blog. There are many successful women around here, you’re not outta luck.

  29. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    Yeah well take the ring off a few days before so it doesn’t leave a mark.

    I was asked about my engagement ring in 1981. The guy asked me if I was planning on having a baby any time soon. He said he would be investing lot of time and effort in training me so he didn’t want to waste his time. This was a prominent CPA firm, not a Big 8 (yes I’m old), but still. Needless to say I passed on the job.

    My tax professor treated me like ditz because I was blond. He was shocked, shocked i tell ya, to see me at an honor society induction. He looked like he wanted to ask ‘what are you doing here’. I had an A in his class and graduated magma cum laude. Geezer.

    I went to work at a very male dominated company as an accountant.

    Oh the shit I’ve seen …….

  30. Ella*

    Everyone’s always so eager to go “if the genders were reversed you’d be offended!!!” but no one ever complains about how, if you changed all the animal names around in a biology text book, it would suddenly be full of inaccurate facts.

    1. Liz T*

      If my mom wrote this comment instead of you, I could ask you what my mom wants for her birthday. Notice no one ever talks about THAT.

    2. Amber Rose*

      And no one ever says anything about how if I switch apples with sausage, my recipe for pie would make a really foul tasting dish.

      Jeez people. Priorities.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          They used to have a really tasty bacon and egg pie at the local Renaissance Festival. A good meat pie can be a great meal.

    3. Kella*

      “If things were different in this scenario, then the reaction would be different!”

      Yes, yes it would.

    4. Bowserkitty*

      I misread that as “suddenly be full of inaccurate farts.”

      I should just take the rest of the day off….

  31. SCORMHacker*

    OMG, I get to attend a women’s business summit tomorrow where Sarah is the featured speaker! I wasn’t familiar with her work before this post, but now that I know she’s AAM-approved, I know it’s gonna be awesome!

  32. Leslie knope*

    Does anyone have any advice for being the only woman on a team? My boss is a woman but my coworkers are all men (now, since all the women were laid off or left) and while it’s been okay so far I worry about common traps to watch out for. I’ve already had a situation where I asked someone to cover for me and nothing was done while I was gone. I never addressed it because I was afraid of sounding like a nag, which I know is silly….

    1. Adele*

      Yeah…didn’t you know that covering for others is women’s work?

      To address that issue specifically, work it out with your boss in advance, get it out to everyone involved (those covering and those who will need their assistance), including boss, in writing. If colleague doesn’t come through, make sure boss is aware.

      If complaints come in about things not being done while you were away, it is most likely not going to be your colleague who is blamed. It will be you. So you need to make sure everyone knows that PERSON is responsible for TASK until you return. Let the black mark be his (or hers) if the work isn’t done. If it is approved and worked out in advance, your coworker can’t say he didn’t have time to do your work and his. If there was a problem, it was on him to take it to your manager.

      1. Artemesia*

        And make sure that person is named in your outgoing email message as the person to go to if help is needed. But the advise to make sure the boss is aware and the tasks are clear is also good.

      2. Leslie knope*

        The funny thing is that’s exactly what happened, he claimed he was too busy to do the work (were all busy, the only way anyone gets a break is if people agree to help out). We do the out of office email to the manager to clarify who’s doing what.

        I will definitely talk to my boss if the problem persists.

    2. ThankYouRoman*

      First of all take the idea of “nagging” out of you mind. You’re not nagging, being a bitch, being difficult or needy etc.

      Speak to them directly and firmly. No hints or sugar coating.

      I’ve had very few and far between women coworkers.

      You have a woman boss, if you’re comfortable with her, she may also have suggestions about the individuals involved.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      My main advice is to communicate directly and be authoritative. (echoing ThankYouRoman)

      I’ve been in this arrangement for 20 years, and I honestly haven’t had too many issues with the people I work with day-to-day. The problems I have are more like if I go on a trip with my 65 year old male salesperson, people address him instead of me, even if I’m really the one in charge. Or, people don’t want to talk to me at networking events. . .when I was younger, they did want to talk to me, for the wrong reasons. They always assume I’m in marketing when at conferences. The one day-to-day issue I have had is the men who think they have to treat you like a “woman” instead of a colleague. You have to shut that down. That’s when they want to get you little gifts or do things for you that you can do yourself (like moving your office). Or call you a beautiful flower. : |

      1. Artemesia*

        This sort of thing — the male being addressed when you are the one who wrote the thing, or is in charge, is standard in my experiences of the US, but oddly one time it was not an issue was when I worked in the Middle East for a few weeks. I took a grad student — a guy in his 30s, I was in my 50s — partly because I thought it might be an issue and having a guy as my assistant might be helpful in some circumstances. But he was NEVER accorded more respect than I was because I had the status and was the boss in the relationship. I dressed western but modestly and I think was viewed as a sort of non-gendered person so that my status drove the relationships. After hours, it was different and I had a female ‘minder’ who showed us around and we had to be careful to not have my male grad student be seen in the front seat of the car with her etc. But during the professional work, I was the one showed deference and attention without fail. It was kind of weird since it is so often an issue in the US.

    4. Anon Anon Anon*

      I can speak to being a woman in mostly male environments. The worst thing that commonly happens is that a guy wants to be more than friends/co-workers and then takes it upon himself to get revenge because you’re not interested. (And of course, if you are interested, that’s another trap because you’re co-workers and there may be yucky power Dynamics at play.) Usually, this results in some reputation damage. The rejected guy tries to turn people against you. I deal with this scenario on a regular basis. (I have also gotten it from women, but that’s off topic here, I guess.)

      Then there’s the flip side of that where a guy’s significant other doesn’t like it that you’re and/or suspects that there’s something going on that isn’t going on, and that somehow becomes an issue at work.

      On the other hand, that kind of stuff tends to come from people who are insecure for a reason – lower performers, people who aren’t especially accomplished for their field and their history. If you work hard and befriend the harder working people around you, you can avoid some of that. And if you ignore any nonsense from anyone. If someone seems to be trying to push you around or get a reaction out of you, just don’t react to it. Then counter with a higher level of professionalism. That will help.

  33. Bulbasaur*

    I had a colleague who broke pretty much all of these rules, including the unwritten ones about how you have to dress like a man to be taken seriously (we’re in IT). She had a feminine hair style and would routinely wear makeup, knee length dresses, high boots with heels, and the like. She was also pretty much completely lacking in diplomacy (a fact she freely admitted), would assert her opinions strongly, and didn’t suffer fools.

    I got along very well with her. She was smart, capable and funny, and didn’t have an outsized ego, so she would freely admit that she was wrong if you backed it up. (She wasn’t often wrong though). However, some people (particularly the older male variety) REALLY didn’t like her. This meant that I sometimes had to take her out of the loop if somebody with crucial approval authority threw a tantrum and refused to work with her, for example. She never seemed especially bothered by this, but it annoyed me a great deal when it happened.

  34. Not All Who Wander*

    Trying to decid whether to laugh or cry (which I guess is an improvement over the white hot rage I’ve been experiencing for hours over the latest & most egregious example of manpeating with performance award ramifications I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience?)

    1. Not All Who Wander*

      And just how bad what it be for me to buy this & leave it on the desk of my mysoginost supervisor who is sooooooo convinced that he doesn’t treat women differently?

      1. No imagination*

        I bought a copy last night and have definitely been considering flagging a few pages and leaving it on my boss’ desk when I head out for vacation.

  35. Stranger than fiction*

    Omg I’m lol’ing so loud I had to lie to my coworker what I was reading. Don’t want people to get the wrong idea and think I’m job hunting.

  36. Anon Anon Anon*

    So true. So sad.

    But, on a more serious note, we need to get beyond this as a society. We need to do better. I’m interested in hearing from both men and women on how this could possibly be changed.

    1. Lissa*

      Great question. A friend of mine said recently we’ve gotten to the “winning hearts and minds” stage in a lot of ways, and SO much of this is subconscious. People are really really sure they’d be just as put off if it was a dude exhibiting X behaviour, and it’s basically impossible to prove otherwise in most cases. Because it isn’t like every piece of feedback directed at women is automatically sexist, and it’s WAY harder to prove a pattern.

      One great way to start would be eliminating sexist standards. NO “women must wear makeup” in a dress code.
      I think that having more women in positions of power, and more women who both do and don’t adhere to standards of appearance. Get people, men and women, used to seeing the same range of behaviour we tolerate in guys. Part of this is a vicious cycle – women have to do these things to get taken seriously, so people see it as the norm.

      On a tangent, sexism is so pervasive in the food industry, where waitresses are expected to be decorative. Men feel the right to be served by a pretty woman. This is gross as hell but I also think it’s really hard to avoid the fact that of course most businesses are going to do what’s most profitable, even if they aren’t the ones being overtly sexist. I have no idea how to combat this but it’s a huge huge problem.

      1. Anon Anon Anon*

        I agree! Interesting side note: I worked in restaurants for about a decade. I started out as a host and server but moved to the kitchen because I’m better at that type of work. And every so often, a supplier or maintenance worker or someone would stop by and they’d often comment as if I wasn’t there, “Why is she back here? She should be serving me a sandwich,” or something like that. Ugh. The positive side of it is that most of my employers and co-workers got that I was kind of masculine and just did better in that type of role. Not everyone was that cool, but more people than you would expect. But yes, there is that huge issue. Not just in food service but in all kinds of customer service, entertainment, etc.

  37. LadyCop*

    Just came back to this post now because literally less than 10 minutes ago I had a man who works for my organization say that “everyone” at his office thinks I’m too abrasive (I’ve been more vocal than the last supervisor who was a big pushover and me and my supervisor are making some changes).

    I told him it must be because I don’t have a penis. He was STUNNED. I maybe said it a bit too loudly in mixed company but I have ZERO regrets.

    1. StellaBella*

      I have been called abrasive before too. Good on you for the comment – I hope he doesn’t go to HR about it tho.

  38. Kella*

    I’m actually very happy with how the majority of the comment section *wasn’t* objections to this post.

    But I have to point out how comically fitting the few negative responses are: The satirical book’s title , “How to be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings” implies pretty clearly that whether or not you’re hurting a man’s feelings should not be your top priority in pursuing your career or how you live your life in general.

    And the response to the idea that avoiding hurting men’s feelings is not actually the most important goal above all other things, includes a number of people saying that we should, in fact, avoid hurting men’s feelings and that terrible fat is at least more important than the potential benefits this book seeks to provide.

  39. Rez123*

    This is a topic I sometimes discuss with my boyfriend. He has always worked in places where the majority is women and often the management is women. Therefore, his personal experience is hearing about how men are useless, men are being aggressing and controlling, hearing about colleague talk how the delivery guy was hot wives talking about their husband like a child etc. so in his mind this doesn’t happen more to women. He feels like it is equal. It is just very interesting to discuss with a straight white man that doesn’t see the struggle but they are not *that guy*.

    I’ve noticed that it is also cultural. I’ve lived in a few different countries and the expectations for women are totally different (I’m talking about western countries that consider themselves to have gender equality). Also the situations of sexism is different. Whenever reading about AAM I often wonder if this would be possible where I’ve worked and sometimes they are very American problems and attitudes (based on limited experience) and sometimes they are very universal. I feel like in sexism exists everywhere but the topics change according to culture.

  40. LQ*

    I know I’m late, but I had 3 variations on the voice volume just yesterday. Too loud (so I must have been angry, I was not, I was excited and engaged, I thought it was a great conversation – as did the male boss I was talking to), too soft (so I wasn’t sure and needed to “Speak Up Young Lady” from somedude who darn well knows I can speak up and wasn’t joking but was trying to get me to be angry/too loud so he could win, I was using the calm voice because he was rage man) and then my favorite, when I didn’t speak up at all, I was unengaged and not paying attention (not true in the slightest of course).

    1. Me*

      I’m loud when I’m excited/passionate about something too. It’s always perceived as anger. By mostly men and occasionally women.

      I’m also disheartened by a lot of the comments. It’s exhausting.

  41. Brogrammer*

    I feel kind of bad for laughing because it’s bullshit that women have to put up with this… but this is hilarious.

  42. Employment Lawyer*

    I think these are hilarious. Sure, they are perhaps not quite presenting all the full nuances of reality, but so what? Neither does any editorial cartoon. These are funny as shit.

    That said, the one thing which always confuses me is the clothes. I have worked with a ton of business and people on dress codes and dress. Clothes are not that difficult for either gender, so long as you prioritize “acceptable clothing” over “feeling good-looking” and “loving your clothes.” I could easily list clothes which would work for 90% of people at 90% of semi-professional and professional workplaces, for both genders. Why is this such a huge complaint?

    1. Close Bracket*

      I could easily list the clothes on your list which have been called out for being too revealing or too cute or too sexy when worn by women. I could also call out those which are not feminine enough. It’s the perceptions that are the problem. Not the clothing.

    2. DreamingInPurple*

      Because it works in theory and not in practice… take a button-up shirt, for example. Two different women can wear the same button-up in their respective sizes and one will be considered appropriate and the other not, just because of their underlying body shapes. If you have a large bust and/or are heavy, it is extremely difficult to get people to read you as professional.

  43. AnonEMoose*

    I’ve gotten the “too abrasive,” “not nice enough,” “too blunt,” “too intimidating” stuff previously. I truly don’t understand the “intimidating” one, because I’m definitely not tall, speak in a high-ish register, etc. (although my husband tells me I have an excellent “BAD DOG” voice when I choose). I’ve long suspected that the people who say this stuff to me have just told me a lot more about them than they’ve told me about me, if that makes sense.

    But where I struggle sometimes is with how much I really need to be concerned about this stuff, when it’s crap on the one hand, but has real potential to affect my job on the other. The worst was actually a female supervisor (who fortunately is no longer with the company, although I still am). Because, as I put it at the time “she got pregnant and I suddenly couldn’t say anything right.” I was too blunt, not nice enough, needed to tone it down, needed to not speak “so much” in meetings, etc.

    I kind of hated myself for it, but I liked the company and the work. So I started posing stuff as questions rather than suggestions, making sure I was never the first to speak in meetings, and so on. It sucked, but it did help my relationship with her. And, like I said, I’m still here, so….

    The one that still burns me up about her was that I had a coworker who had a baby, and had modified work hours after that. I routinely ended up covering for this coworker due to these hours, or when she was out because of the baby, and that was somehow just expected. But I got “talked to” when I, on 3 occasions, asked if I could leave a whole 90 minutes early, to work on the final project for my Master’s degree. Did I mention that, to the best of my knowledge, no one actually had to cover anything for me any of those times? Oh, but Baby Having Coworker was pissy because, according to her, I should have helped her instead of prioritizing my education. Pretty sure she would not have expected that of a male colleague. But she somehow felt entitled to my help.

    I’ve experienced my share of gender-based condescending treatment from male bosses and coworkers, too. But these were the most blatant examples that came to mind. And my current boss, thank goodness, actually prefers it when I’m fairly blunt with him, and has a great appreciation for snark.

  44. Urdnot Bakara*

    this is why i have a problem with people (especially male colleagues/bosses) telling me to say sorry less. like, congrats on never facing any consequences for being direct and not acknowledging how things might inconvenience other people, but i’m a woman, so…..

  45. Quinley*

    oh my GOD this is fantastic. I internally lost it at the hairstyles. i’m black, and wear my hair natural every day, and have several cousins with dreads, and we’ve ALL been told this by our Respectability Politicking elders at some point.

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