Being a woman is a given to me. It is not a property which i question. I am actually quite happy being a woman. I love my own body. I know i should loose a couple of kilo’s. Well, let’s say ten, or well, twenty. But i am not that bothered by it. Not anymore.
In the last talk i had in the company i worked at last year, my boss there said to me:
You’re such a woman!
Je bent zo’n vrouw!
To which i replied
You are so right!
Daar heb je helemaal gelijk mee!
There was also a bit of an eye movement going upwards. A bit of a sigh. At least that is how i remember that moment. This was towards the end of the talk.
After this talk, i walked a floor up and asked the team i had promised to do some work for if they really needed me. When they said no, i said i was going home that day, or rather, in few hours or so. I went back to my workplace, went out for lunch to get a bit more quiet, got back and turned of my computer and brought it to the service desk. I then gave the remaining moo cards to my then present colleagues and exchanged phone numbers. I then walked down to the cafeteria. I told the barista that i was leaving. He did react surprised. He actually got a bit more angry than me. But it was ok.
He gave me some coffee. After a few minutes my boss came in. We had a short talk, i don’t even remember what was said. Then i saw the scrummaster of my team. I went up to him, shook his hand, told him i would be at the farewell lunch the next week, and said goodbye. With my boss i walked to the reception, i gave my key and left the building.
I know it was a mess. This has never happened to me before. But i also felt that this was enough. I could see an upcoming fight to try to get things a bit more right. I wasn’t sure i would succeed at it. But i felt the road ahead was closed to me, partly by my own actions and feelings. So i left. Relieved.
The expression my boss had when he said to me ‘you are such a woman’ was mostly one of exasperation. Which to me meant that i wasn’t supposed to act like a woman. I was supposed to act like a man? Like a child? Like a hermaphrodite? Like something neutral?
I’m not even sure what behaviour of me caused that remark. But the remark is still with me. I still think about it. I’m still puzzled by it.
Today i read two articles about Joris Luyendijk and his book about the London City people working at banks and making millions: Dit kan niet waar zijn: onder bankiers (This cannot be true: with bankers), which he wrote after interviewing many of them for The Guardian. The first article was in the Dutch paper Trouw: Het amorele systeem waarin wij leven. Joris speaks about this travels through the Netherlands and the speeches he gives. People keep telling him: it’s not like that only in London City, it’s here too. There is no inherent value anymore in our work, it’s all measurable targets, figures, efficiency.
Joris: ‘Morality has become suspect. There is only one thing which gets moralized about and that is that we can not moralize anymore. But the absence of a talk about who we want to be leads to a shattering.’
The next article was in the Dutch paper NRC (you need to get a initial subscription and read Dutch): Bankiers leven in een amoreel universum.
Joris: ‘The biggest compliment in the world of the amoral shareholder value is calling someone ‘professional’. It means that you keep your emotions outside of work, including moral convictions. Those are for the home environment.’
Being called a woman by a man or a woman means, for me, being called emotional. Being called a person who feels. Being called unprofessional.
I do not consider myself unprofessional. I do enjoy delivering quality in my work. I do enjoy thinking along and together with the customer. But there have only been a handful of customers who appreciated that from me, in the twenty years i’ve been working. Most simply want me to do what they ask from me. Even if what they want is so wrong for them.
As i said before, this post does not end in a definite answer to last for eternity. I’m thinking. And talking to you, the person who reads this. I do have so many questions, about the world, about the people, about us leading our lives, with fear and uncertainty and love and friendship and loneliness.
I wish you many thoughts. Enjoy.