Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Guil-tea as charged



I had a very interesting moment today that made me stop and think. In my office, one of the duties of our interns is to make everybody tea or coffee. I know, it sounds like cheap labour, but it's actually a really nice way to help integrate them into the environment and get to know everybody - even if it's just by their beverage order. Everybody says please and thank you and thinks nothing of asking for a cup of joe every now and then. Up until now, every intern that has come through our doors has been female.

We now have a new intern who happens to be a man. Ok, that sounded really ominous but you'll see where I'm going with this. Anyway, today I was really jonesing for a good 'ol cuppa - I had a headache and a backache and was generally feeling very sad and sorry for myself. Since tea makes everything better (I come from a British family), I turned to ask our new intern to make me some, when I stopped and thought 'No, I can't ask him to do that'. Now I'd like to think that I thought that because he's new and doesn't know the ropes, or because he's a design intern as opposed to an editorial intern (they generally are our glorious tea-bearers) and perhaps had not been told about the tea rule, but alas, that would be a lie. I felt uncomfortable asking him to make me a cup of tea because he is a man.

Shocking right? I almost smacked myself in the head when I realised! Why is it that I find it more acceptable for a woman to run around after me than for a man to do the same thing? There should be absolutely no difference! And yet, here I sit, with a cup of tea that I just made because I am too embarrassed to admit to myself that I mentally discriminate between men and women. I like to think that I am pretty open-minded about most things, but this just goes to show how certain notions of sex, gender and duty are engrained in our psyches. We all do it. If someone talks about their doctor, nine out of 10 people will assume that said doctor is male. Just like a teacher is automatically female - these are stereotypes that we unwittingly follow and enforce.

But never fear, there is hope for us yet. The fact that I stopped and realised that my thought pattern was wrong is a huge step up from merely accepting the idiocy that ran through my head. Take some time and stop and think about certain ideas that you take for granted. You'll be surprised at how sexist we really are, without even meaning to be so.