Several of my female friends have commented that I pick-and-choose the elements of femininity that I like, discounting the reality. They are correct. As with any trip/visit, we seldom get the total experience choosing the places and circumstances, seeing only the preeminent.
There have been rare occasion when I have experienced what it is like to be female. When I make that statement, I do not mean having a door opened for me, a stranger buying me a drink or the ever so rare flirt. Make no mistake, as much as society struggles to make sure that gender equity is touted, male privilege is real.
Let us make sure we know what privilege is: It’s about how society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are normal. It’s about you being perceived normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It’s about fate dealing good cards from the deck on your behalf.
One experience I had that made this real to me and shocked me: I was working with a client writing and setting up a medical system. The system was nearly complete and ready to go operational with the final step being the establishment of a network for file/chart retrieval. This client/Doctor was very open in that he accepted Rhonda and allowed her to work most days that way.
To establish the network, cables needed to be installed with the needed router/switches strategically located. A company was located to do the work and a “repair man” sent. I, as Rhonda, explained what was required and diagrammed the installation. I estimated the job to be about 3-4 hours. About mid-afternoon, having worked about 6 hours, I summarized he was not sure what he was doing. I attempted again to explain the setup and at the end of the day he announced, he was done. After a quick visual check, I could see it was not going to connect, but he insisted, "try it". He was frustrated, I was frustrated and he promised to return the next day to get it working.
The next morning I returned, not as Rhonda, and introduced myself to the “repair man” as a network engineer. The first words out of his mouth – “I am sure glad that I have a man that I can work with today”. He listened to my instructions and in about an hour had everything working.
Whenever I tell this story to a mixed group, the men are shocked that this could happen in such a blatant way. The women, just laugh and know instinctively how the story will end before I get there. Yes, a rare occasion when I experienced what it is really like, to be female.
Be careful what you wish.