It’s a Guy Thing

This excellent post at CavLec frames earlier discussions that I stayed away from, the nasty little article that I commented on here, and some other stuff in one long, articulate, and convincing discussion. (And throws in a recommendation for one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels as well; you won’t see me objecting to that or to the notion that Pratchett hides real issues within his hilarious books.)

What I realized in reading Dorothea Salo’s comments is that I was never really a “guy.” I grew up wrong (my parents never taught me that women were a separate and inferior species), I didn’t have a bunch of buds who exchanged dirty jokes, and in college I was in a coop with a bunch of engineers–who, actually, weren’t very strong on either dirty jokes or misogyny, at least not the ones I was acquainted with. I’m not a real social person and don’t go out with drinking buddies…and yes, I’ve been known to object to sexist humor, which hasn’t made me any more popular.

Salo (I’m trying to avoid first-naming, although I feel I know Dorothea fairly well by now) cuts men some slack by using “insidious” rather than “subtle.” Are there men in libraries who really are overgrown guys and would knowingly put women down? I think so. I’ve known some in the past, although I’d like to think I don’t know any now. Insecurity has lots of ways of coming out, and one way is always to find a whole group of people you can pretend to be superior to.

I should also point you to this post by Meredith Farkas, who finds that she has or had become less assertive as she grew up and wonders why. She raises lots of other issues; go read the post.

Then I was thinking about what I should or could do about all this. By and large, I think the answer is probably “Nothing, unless some sasquatch expresses misogyny in your presence.” But then…

Nothing may come of this, but I was approached to do a split keynote for a state library association, half of a point-counterpoint on an issue of some interest. (I’m deliberately keeping this as blind as possible because of the “nothing may come of this.”) After noting that I wasn’t as much of a “counterpoint” on this issue as might be desired, I said I’d be interested. The “point” person turned out not to be available. The person trying to organize the keynote asked whether I had other suggestions. I provided one obvious one…

…and then, an hour or so later, sent another three suggestions of people who would (I believe) all do excellent jobs as the other half of the keynote. All of them articulate, intelligent, knowledgeable on the issues (probably more so than I am). And, oh, by the way, all of them women. The topic is, to be sure, in the realm of library technology.

We’ll see what happens. And if a similar situation arises in the future, I do believe I’ll see what I can do…when and where it’s appropriate.

3 Responses to “It’s a Guy Thing”

  1. Dorothea Salo Says:

    Thanks, Walt, and rock on!

  2. Daniel Cornwall Says:

    “What I realized in reading Dorothea Salo’s comments is that I was never really a “guy.” I grew up wrong (my parents never taught me that women were a separate and inferior species), I didn’t have a bunch of buds who exchanged dirty jokes, and in college I was in a coop with a bunch of engineers–who, actually, weren’t very strong on either dirty jokes or misogyny, at least not the ones I was acquainted with. I’m not a real social person and don’t go out with drinking buddies…and yes, I’ve been known to object to sexist humor, which hasn’t made me any more popular.”

    Pretty much describes me, except I didn’t really hang out with engineers and did have drinking buddies in college – student library assistants who didn’t drag their knuckles and mostly treated women well.

    I don’t know about you, but for me it might have come in part from working in a female-majority profession for most of my adult working life.

  3. walt Says:

    Daniel, Your last paragraph makes a good point. I’ve been working in libraries or for libraries since the second half of the summer before my sophomore year at UC. So it’s *all* of my adult working life! My best bosses (as measured subjectively) have mostly (but not all) been women. My worst boss was a man. I’d say that colleagues in systems at RLG have been about half-and-half, although most of the managers have been women.

    I’m not sure what that all adds up to. Except that gender generalizations don’t seem to make any more sense than most other generalizations.

    [I was going over a particular blog defense of generation generalizations within librarianship yesterday, and wondering how the writer would react if someone substituted gender generalizations for generation generalizations (“women are” as opposed to “Boomers are”). And no, I’m not going to go anywhere with that particular thought.]


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