I have always been an avid contributor to online forums, discussion groups and the like in my various fields of interest. I have always enjoyed engaging with people from all over the world, sharing ideas and exposing myself to new ways of thinking. Sometimes these discussions degenerate into flame wars, arguments, name calling and general silliness and sometimes they are fruitful. The point is I have always enjoyed them.
When presenting online as a male I have always been taken seriously. I have never been blatantly ignored and whilst people have always disagreed with me they have always taken me seriously. This is not always the case when presenting as female (or indeed a transgender person who looks female.
Sadly it seems this is very real evidence of male privilege and how both men and women seem to value a man’s opinions, statements, knowledge and input more than a woman’s.
I was on a political discussion forum the other day and I was struck by an argument raging between two Americans. The one was accusing the Democratic Party of being socialist. I found this very funny as in my view the two American parties are hardly discernible from each other and the Democratic Party is certainly not ‘socialist’ in any objective definition of the term. I therefore started a new thread in which I asked what other people thought about this. I pointed out in my post that I thought that the Democratic Party may be slightly left of centre in terms of US politics but that in most other countries (assuming they kept their policies unchanged) they would find themselves very far to the right of most serious left wing parties and that they may even find themselves on the right of the political spectrum.
So far all good. Some debate ensued and everyone pretty much agreed with me (I was hardly proposing a radical or original analysis). What got to me however was that one person (a male) posted the following comment:
‘The Democratic party would not know socialism if it bit them on the bum.
You have two parties of the Right in the USA. Just one is Right Wing, still a bit to the Right of the of the Right Wing British Tories, NZ Nationals or Australias Liberal party, and the others is way over to the Right.
Center Left, forget it’
I was bemused as this is exactly what I had said. They were on the left of the American political spectrum but could hardly be termed left wing. I did not however call him out on this as I thought somebody else would be sure to comment.
I therefore waited patiently and I was soon rewarded when a woman weighed in with this comment:
‘As REDACTED said, the Democrats if they were in any other part of the world would line up with the views of the center right party in that country. If you get any European center-right voters to do any of the US which political party should you vote for they in 90% of the time come out as Democrats.’
What? That is exactly what I said in my original post that started the thread off! Why would she attribute the statement to the person making a comment when it was stated almost verbatim by me at the very start?
Now, this is not the first time that this has happened to me. I have, when presenting as a woman, often made comments that have been attributed to others, or my comment has simply been ignored. I have always thought that this may just be because someone has missed my comment and only saw the most recent comment that was made by someone else who was saying the same as me. But in this particular case, the thread was short and still in its infancy and I started the thread. I mean, you cant really have commented without having read my original post, can you?
I was particularly surprised by the fact that this was a woman who was totally ignoring me and my opinion. I have come to expect it from certain men, but I had hoped women would be different. It seems my hopes are misplaced.
Why do we do this? Why are we so happy to disregard what women have to say? Do we really believe that women are inferior, not worth listening to or are so easily dismissed? Did this happen because I am transgender or because I am a presenting as a woman? Could it be a combination of the two? Is it worth challenging people who do this or do you just look like some kind of petty attention seeker? Does it actually help? Or does our silence perpetuate the problem? Do other women experience this? Do other transgender people experience this? Am I more aware of it because I have not been socialised to be quiet and accept my role?
I have so many questions and so few answers. What I do know is that I have seen this play out in business meetings were women are silenced, ignored or have their contributions stolen by or attributed to others. What are your experiences? I would love to hear from you.