Hey peeps, and welcome to another Project Unicorn blog.
Today, I want to vent, and to address an issue of social equality (AKA feminism).
The term “young lady”. It really rankles me. My hackles go up every time someone says it to me.
The problem is, I work in a very sexist company. It’s old-fashioned, male-dominated and traditionally a ‘masculine’ career. Therefore, a lot of the senior and middle managers are middle-aged or older white men.
I didn’t realise this when I joined, otherwise I would have seriously considered running for the hills. I don’t know what it’s like out in the field, though I can’t imagine it’s much better, but at this office, and certainly in my department, the casual sexism is rife.
And it’s p*ssing me off.
My second line manager, for example. The head of our team. Refers to me and my female colleague as ‘young ladies’ on a regular basis. When asking how we are. When assigning us work. When asking for an update. When telling me off for raising a grievance about bullying against my line manager…
All the time.
I’m going to say something to him, from both a gender-queer and feminist point of view. I don’t identify as a lady, or a woman, so calling me this is insulting in that sense, and to call me young lady is, to me, patronising and condescending and therefore insulting a wider social sense. He doesn’t call people ‘young man’, he calls men by their names, and even if he did, why should he assume a typically ‘fatherly’ position in the conversation? Keep it professional, dude. You’re my boss, not my Dad or my Uncle. We’re not even Facebook friends outside of work. You know nothing about me. Don’t assume you can call me whatever stupid pet name you feel like.
Yeah. Vent. Warned ya.
Now, interestingly, when I Googled ‘young lady offensive’, there were several articles and conversations on the internet about it already. People have mixed opinions on the matter. Some say it’s endearing, or mildly annoying but that ‘you can’t change an older man, he’s set in his ways’. Some ‘feminist’ writers say that the angry response is actually because it’s our own self-doubt creeping in and therefore we should just be more confident.
I want to address these findings.
- It’s endearing.
- Not to everyone. (Not to me.)
- Not in a professional workplace setting, especially when discussing a grievance or a project.
- Not when you don’t 100% know the person you’re saying it to identifies as a young woman
- Not when you’re not friends with the person you’re saying it to, and 100% know they’re comfortable with that sort of language
- It’s annoying but you can’t change an older person
- Bullsh*t. Everyone can learn and improve. Nobody HAS to be ignorant, or rude or offensive. A mistake followed by a sincere apology and then not doing it again is OK. Continually sticking with your old ways of doing things, despite it causing emotional or physical harm to other people? Then you’re an arsehole and I have no time for you.
- This is also disrespectful to the older person. You’re assuming they can’t or don’t want to change. Maybe they just didn’t realise it was upsetting or insulting?
- It’s actually our own self-doubt creeping back in. Just be more confident!
- Bullsh*t. Even if I do struggle with self-doubt at times, I’m insulted because it’s insulting, not because I’m not feeling confident. Subtly putting the blame back on the woman is disgusting and not ‘feminist’. You moron.
I have a lot of feelings about this. I’m entitled to my feelings. Things need to change. They’re improving and that’s brilliant.
They can be even better.
So, to all those out there who might want to call me ‘young lady’…
My name is Laura. Please call me that.
Peeps works, too. Or folks. Or everyone.
There are so many neutral ways of being informal. That’s the other thing. A lot of people then come down with the patriarchal hammer (without even realising it’s the patriarchy hammer) and saying ‘it’s Polictical Correctness gone mad!’ and ‘we’ll never be allowed to make jokes again!’. No. Just be nice, and RESPECT each other.
Why is that so complicated?!
Eugh, vent over.
Thanks for listening, folks!