By Yvonne Gilbert
We have all had bad days at work. Sometimes there is that guy who won’t let up with the comments, the guy who will try to take things out of your hand because you can’t possibly carry anything. Sometimes every decision you make is questioned, and every conversation is used to try and trip you up. Even when you are the boss, this can still happen.
Those days are hard sometimes I still have them. When I was 17 and just starting out, I thought there would come a time that it would be normal for me to be working as a sound engineer. No one would care I was a woman it wouldn’t matter. Over 20 years later I still have to deal with one of those guys now and then.
Experience has taught me to stand up for myself just like any of the guys I work with stand up for themselves if they are being challenged.
There are some people who I prefer not to have on-site with me. There are women as well as men that fall into that category, but the thing they all have in common is that they are not team players, and they are all dicks. It’s not possible to be overtly sexist and be a decent guy, it just isn’t. I guarantee if he is being a dick to you, he is being a dick to guys as well. He may not do that in front of you, and he will try and make it your problem and not his, but it’s his baggage, not yours. Sometimes it is not because you’re a woman, it’s because he has a personality problem.
So what do you do? The only thing you have any control over is yourself. Yes, it would be nice if the guys that said to you after the event “don’t listen to him, he’s a dick” said it at the time of the event. It would be nice if you could never choose to work with that guy again. Sometimes you can. But the only absolute control you have is over you and what you choose to focus on. There is a saying that gets attributed to Buddha, but I don’t know if he was the origin of it. “ Holding on to anger is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die” I love that thought. You are at home days later spoiling your own evening because you’re playing the event over again in your head. Where’s that guy? He doesn’t care; he’s at home with his family or down at the pub with his mates, and he’s not thinking about you. You’re still allowing him to cause you damage, and you’re even doing the work for him.
I’m not saying don’t get angry, do get angry but let it go when you can. There are all those days when you have a great gig. When the director/client is really happy and asks for you to come back. There are all the times you laughed so hard at work that you felt like a teenager again. The phone calls that offered you a gig you really wanted or said thank you for a job well done. Whether you focus on your allies or your enemies only affects you and the state of your head, no one else knows. You will be more at peace if the films you play in your head are friendly ones. Again stand up for yourself, acknowledge some people are bullies, take further action if appropriate and move on.
I have had those rubbish days when I’ve convinced myself the wall of overt and unconscious sexism is too much to deal with. But then I remember, a man has given me every big break I have ever had. I know there are far fewer women in the position to dish out big breaks, but that doesn’t change the huge wall of men out there who couldn’t give a hoot that I’m a woman. All the men who I sat in front of a new piece of gear with while we both tried to figure out how it worked. The designer who generously talked me through things I didn’t yet understand. The designer who passes jobs he can’t do on to me. They are allies, and they are worth far more headspace and energy than that idiot guy who became so intent on proving he was better than me.
Focus on your Allies not your enemies.