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I realized this week that I have one more thing to add to my privilege checklist. For one of my jobs, I work at a non-profit agency that provides day program options for adults with developmental disabilities. Often at this agency men are held to certain standards because sometimes the individuals we work with require physical restraints during crisis. Often times there are specific “gender” ratios the agency puts in place to ensure safety of clients. I put gender in quotations because I am never held to these “gender’ ratio protocols. I have a bigger more athletic build, I wear more masculine clothing, I have short hair, my abilities to respond to a crisis with physical restraints are well developed, and my verbal de-escalation skills are also well developed. These traits, in me, in regards to the work I do are seen as “capable” to my superiors and co-workers. But, because I am a woman in this particular agency this is unusual. The specific traits are seen as “natural” in men (in the agency), hence why they would establish “gender” ratios. Let me go ahead and say that when gender ratios are put into effect it almost ALWAYS means, the protocol calls for men and NO women.
I have worked with several women in the agency that are more than “capable” but are shafted because they have a vagina. Here is where my privilege comes in. Because of my more masculine traits, it is never given a second thought whether or not I am “capable”. In fact it was never even a concern whether i would be ”capable” because my physical appearance is more masculine. This is also true for a few other females at the agency that have a similar physical appearance. Therefore, I have had more opportunity in the agency to work with a diverse group of clientele and develop a more diverse skill set with the population. The women, who are automatically deemed “incapable” with the more challenging clients, are losing opportunities because of their gender.
This, I believe is extremely problematic. I bring it up and I try to be as diplomatic as I can about it, and I have been met with favorable responses at times. For instance my current supervisor is on board with trying to shape the language when we put protocols in place, and instead of using the word “man” or “men” we use the words “skilled” or “experienced”, the problem with this is this would still imply that men are the individuals that possess these traits because the fact is that they are the only people, besides the more masculine females, that are placed on more challenging clients.
I would like to enlist the help of my loyal and intelligent followers to help me come up with more solutions for this benevolent sexism in the agency. Please respond with suggestions.
- Fist Waving Feminism