I jump into the fire and talk about my experience with chauvinism

wood burning fireI have decided to step into the fire this week.

I have never considered myself to be a feminist. This is not to say that I don’t believe in equal rights for women. I do. But I have never actively promoted or fought for these rights. Maybe I have been riding on the coat tails of those women whose fight have made my life easier.

When I started working in my twenties, I witnessed and I was affected by gender discrimination and chauvinism at work.  I had male colleagues who earned more than me but we had the same job and qualifications. I was often chided at work for being outspoken or for standing up for myself. I even worked with a man from senior management who avoided making eye contact with any female staff member who disagreed with him.

When I returned to school to study political science, I knew that I may be confronted with professors and scholars who had old ways of thinking and old ways of viewing the world, and  that this may affect my ability to do my work and develop my career.

I was taken aback when I came face to face with chauvinism at Glendon from fellow male students.

I am going to narrate to you the events of the past two weeks. I have changed everyone’s name to protect the privacy of individuals.

I am involved with (2) clubs at Glendon and I am also on the Symposium Team this year. The symposium identifies scholars and sponsors their travel and accommodation to Toronto so that they can present a talk at Glendon for an annual academic conference organized by students of the international studies program. A couple of weeks ago I was approached by a John D of  Club X  to help bring a speaker to Glendon. By help I mean financial help. John D did not ask if I would consider bringing this speaker, rather he told me to confirm if I had the funds to pay for his travel and accommodation expenses. I wasn’t provided this speaker’s name or institution, but simply given a brief description of who he is. When I asked John D for the name of the speaker, I was told that the scholar’s privacy needed to be protected and that I was provided enough information to make a decision. Seriously? In light of the conservative government’s  ongoing expense scandal, and as students of politics, secrecy is not appropriate in matters that concern money. I was turned off by the fact that John D thought that this was an appropriate way to ask for money from another organization.

John D said that he would speak to the scholar on my behalf and gauge his interest in participating in our Symposium, but first I needed to confirm if the symposium team had sufficient funds.I told John D that I would not consider any scholar without knowing their name and institution. It is my job to vet scholars and determine if they are appropriate for the symposium. Then, without permission, and in disregard for the privacy of the symposium team, John D took it upon himself to speak to the scholar about participating in the symposium and to get advice about speakers for the symposium. He then shared the scholar’s advice to the symposium team. He has not seen our planned program, he never asked us what we wanted, and I think he didn’t care; he had his own agenda that he was trying to achieve.

What puzzles me is that I think John D considers himself to be a voice for transparency, and democratic principles. But his approach in trying to work with us did not embody any of these qualities.

As a woman, I felt that John D’s approach (telling instead of asking, speaking on my behalf without consent, proceeding on the premise that he is the authority and I am naive) was chauvinistic.

I am open to students collaborating with one another and working together on different projects. I collaborate with many different clubs with the Glendon Mature Student Organization. Believe it or not, I am open to collaborating with John D. But there needs to be mutual respect between collaborators, not an air of entitlement or that “I know best”.

You may not agree with me. And if you don’t, I am open to having a conversation.


2 thoughts on “I jump into the fire and talk about my experience with chauvinism

  1. I think there are many men out there who don’t realize that they are being chauvinistic, when they are. Its disrespectful to women. And I think many men behave this way because they are actually intimidated by women.

    Good on you for saying something, Neena.


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