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Sexist treatment of women is a Priti normal part of working life

PUBLISHED: 09:19 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:48 01 March 2020

Home Secretary Priti Patel's workplace actions have been labeled differently because of her gender, says Rachel Moore

Home Secretary Priti Patel's workplace actions have been labeled differently because of her gender, says Rachel Moore

Columnist Rachel Moore says women at the top end of business have to endure all kinds of sexism unlike their male counterparts

If a woman is firm with her colleagues, she is a bully.

If she is angry, she's hysterical, or aggressive.

If she objects to the office "banter" - read: offensive, nasty, ridiculing (has ever a word been so misused to excuse all manner of abuse, prejudice and discrimination?) - she is 
over-sensitive and humourless.

If she calls out anyone on sexist treatment or objectionable behaviour, she is "playing the female card".

If she compartmentalises her life, keeping her work separate from her family and social activities, she is "unfemale", "like a man" and "a robot".

If she is adept at multi-tasking, keeping balls in the air, she is chaotic.

Light has shone this week at the "sexist" treatment home secretary Priti Patel has faced in her role. She won't be surprised, it's what women face every day in every role.

Her colleague Theresa Villiers said on Radio 4: "I'm sick of spiteful briefing against women in high public office. It happens again and again."

It's far from an exclusive Westminster problem, and is still endemic from the grass roots, starting in the home upwards.

I don't claim to know Priti Patel or what she's like to work for, but every day we hear language used about women in business that is different to that used for men.

There is still, after all these years, a kind of suspicion about women wanting to hold responsible positions.

And not only from men - women can be just, if not more, damning of women as men.

Change at work throws up problems. A woman demanding change more so.

People don't like change, viewing it as a threat. Insecurity kicks in and the needs of the organisation come second to the needs and desire of the individuals trying to trip up their new boss.

Everyday sexism - from attitude, tone of voice and language used to overt discrimination - happens every day in every situation, from family to office, international organisations to the Home Office.

Before you turn off, thinking "here she goes, another woman banging on about equality, women's rights and feminism, another feminazi", think about it. And it's not only men, women are just as guilty of using the language and attitude. When was the last time you called someone bossy? Sure as eggs are eggs, it wouldn't be a man.

Did you or do call your little girl bossy? Your son too? Thought not. That simple word, however in jest it was uttered, told your daughter that being assertive and having a clear idea was bossy, a negative attribute. But it was natural and expected of a boy.

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The attitude that starts in the home becomes ingrained and is often unintentional.

The expectation is that the woman in the meeting will take the minutes, take the cling film off the sandwiches and make the tea, while men set out the chairs and lead the meeting.

How comfortable are you at work with change, especially if the change-maker is female? Be honest.

Treating women in any role differently from men might be regressive, outdated and unacceptable, but it still happens.

We've all been in meetings when "mansplaining" happens and something fully grasped by mere women is explained at great patronising length because how could a woman be expected to comprehend something so technical or high level?

Or how often has a man intervened to assist a woman in a task, or viewed conflict between a female manager and member of staff as an argument between two women rather than a disciplinary matter?

Men rarely get criticised for their physical appearance, their choice of outfit. It's often the first thing mentioned about a female, and women can be worse than men.

Women are expected to do the caring of children and of elderly parents, regardless of their other commitments.

The huge clashes with my father were usually prompted by a "stupid woman" comment about someone on the radio. Never a stupid man though.

Women with strong opinions were described as a "definite woman", as an insult, because being confident, sure of herself and with opinions was somehow wrong.

Challenging everyday sexism starts in the home. It's not about table-banging feminism, it's far subtler than that.

However, from what I can see, any change in attitude is still few and far between for whoever, or wherever we are, and there's a long way to go before it's anywhere near acceptable.

WILDER OF THE MARK:


ou've got to hand it to Deontay Wilder when it comes to excuses for losing to Tyson Fury in Las Vegas.

His glitzy ring walk armour and mask was too heavy at 40lb so he "didn't have the legs" for the fight. Nothing to do with his boxing, of course. But I kind of admire his chutzpah on this.

It might sound a bit like his pants were too tight to move properly or his hat hurt his head too much to think, but he is saying that he got it wrong.

To admit error and identify what went wrong makes it easier to face the next attempt.

Perhaps something in chiffon next time.


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