In the age of #MeToo women are still living in a man’s world
My personal experiences navigating a career in a man’s world.
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
This weekend I had a wake-up call, that men are still running the world, despite how far women think they have gotten. We are now living six months into the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, that were supposed to radically alter how women are treated in the workforce, free of harassment with the glass ceiling shattering more. Women are hailing it a real feminist moment, shouting the change it is inspiring. However, how much has really changed? This past International Women’s Day, my local radio station played Helen Reddy’s I am a woman, and the male host asked the same question, has the feminist movement really altered, women’s place in society, have we come far from 1972 when Reddy’s Women’s Liberation Movement anthem roared on the radio? From my experience as a writer in a man’s world, I can say not really.
Last week, I published a blog post on Medium about Ph.D. oversupply, attrition, and third-tier universities in the US. When I went online just five days later, low and behold I see a similar article on Ph.D. attrition in Canada and alternative careers published in a major Canadian news source written by a man. I found the timing too coincidental when most of the source material I used for my article was five years old. If I was a man this coincidence would never have occurred, no author would dare find inspiration from a man’s article and publish a similar one so soon.
Throughout my education and career, and even relationships, I have faced discrimination from men, who found ways to keep me as a woman in my place. I know my experiences are not unique, and a movement that started against Hollywood producers cannot change the landscape overnight, but for many working in a man’s world, it sometimes feels like a time warp. Unfortunately, men in power still see an educated and career-minded woman either as a threat or someone to use to their advantage. Ironically, these actions came from men, who call themselves feminists or liberals, who preach about equality, but do not practice it.
While at university and after I found one of my professors, who became a friend and mentor, like the journalist, this past weekend, used my comments and ideas as inspiration for some of his own writings. Once he even took my idea for my thesis and dissuaded me from writing on the subject only to expand on the idea years later as a co-author of a book on the same topic. At the time, he told me all concerned, the topic was too dangerous to do at that particular university I attended, where it was a political hotbed, but apparently, it was not dangerous for him. That was not the only the only time he borrowed from me. After I completed my studies I often would see ideas from our conversations, and years later from articles I wrote. He was able to get away with it because he had the doctorate and the tenure-track professorship, I was just a former student and a woman.
At work, the sexism and discrimination were most prevalent. As high as I went, like Hillary Clinton, the glass ceiling was there, preventing me from reaching my full potential. After graduating with my Master’s degree. I began as an intern at an academic online publication, I soon started rising through the ranks, a year later I was the first woman on the masthead. Soon, I was second only to the editor on the masthead, and the editor of an influential feature. Even as I worked there, readers complained of the lack of women featured. I felt grateful, but I soon could understand the complaints, as a young undergraduate and a man soon eclipsed me and I was pushed down and out. I am still the only women to have been that long on the masthead, as the publication returned to a good ole boys club.
This was not the only time I was replaced by a man for a position. I worked writing news summaries for a specialty magazine. After a couple of months they decided to go with a man to continue the writing, although he had no experience in the magazine’s topic. The boss, a man, however, soon tapped me to personally work for him writing as the history of a western mining town, as he collected artifacts and documents from the time. Writing your first book should be momentous, it was until you find out at the end, your boss has no intention of publishing it, even though he had a publication company, and finds you ungrateful when you express your displeasure.
Even in my relationships, I have encountered that sexism and seen the injustices women live with and men benefit from. I was recently engaged to a man, who was pursuing a Master’s degree and applying to doctoral programs. While we going together he showed me his essays, and then looked for my writing experience to help him complete his work. And he needed help, based on his writing if he would not have been a man he would never have gotten this far academically. To sweeten me up he gave me the line “it’s for our future.” No, it was for his benefit and his alone, he gets the degrees, not me. In the midst of the #MeToo movement, this man wanted me to be the little wifey, who works the husband through school, not a chance.
As a journalist and writer pushing myself through in a man’s world has been daunting and filled with lack of respect. Sometimes I feel although we are in 2018 we are not much farther than when the first wave of feminism and the Women’s Liberation movement took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Helen Reddy’s song topped Billboard’s charts. Recently, I rewatched a miniseries, The '70s that aired when I studied the same era in my first year of university, nearly 20 years ago. After my experiences, I felt just like one of the main characters, Eileen Wells, who saw a job she was promised go to a younger man with less experience, she fought the injustice and still lost. It should not be that way, but it still is. Although as a feminist, I have faith in the new wave of feminism sweeping over, as a realist, I know as long as men have the power women cannot break through, and that change will take more time then we want to admit.
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.