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Cover image for Dealing With Ignorance/Bigotry In The Workplace

Dealing With Ignorance/Bigotry In The Workplace

katieadamsdev profile image Katie Adams Updated on ・3 min read

"You only got the job because you're a woman."

"God, this photo makes me look like such a f*ggot."

As a woman in computing, I experience plentiful snide comments from my predominantly male counterparts.

As a gay woman, I hear even more so.

Both of the aforementioned quotes are things that I have heard verbatim in the last 12 months. In 21st century England, somebody thought it was okay to use a homophobic slur like they were discussing the weather.

I spoke to colleagues, and friends, and family about it, from whom I received varying responses.
"I'm sure he won't say it again."
"Don't go looking for trouble."
"It's your word against his."
"Perhaps he didn't mean it like that."

I was raised to believe that growing thick-skin would protect me, that taking the high road would make these type of comments like water to a duck's back.

No such luck.

After several years of endurance, sometimes to words more explicit than others, I began to grow tired of smiling through my discomfort. I began to question my approach.

How had the responsibility of stoicism and manners fallen to me? Since when was it my duty to protect the feelings of somebody who cared so little about mine? When every word was a needle, why was it my responsibility not to bleed?

The first time my colleague used the Fa-word in front of me, I spoke to him; I asked him not to use it, or, at the least, not to use it in front of me. I begged him to understand the impact of what he'd said.

Today, he said it again - and I got angry.

Yet the conversation devolved into him brushing me off once again. He "hadn't meant it like that"; it was "just a joke". It seemingly mattered little to him that he was the only one laughing. By suppertime, a few hours later, he even appeared to have forgotten about the encounter, whereas I'd left the gym early, unable to concentrate. He even had the nerve to ask me what was wrong, if I was perhaps tired.

Tomorrow I am speaking to our superior about it, anxiety be damned.

My question for discussion is simple: have any of you witnessed ignorance in the workplace? And, whether or not it affected you, how did you deal with it, if at all? How can I react in a way that is both professional and progressive? Anecdotal or not, I'd love to know your thoughts.

P.S. I did not mean for this to turn into the emotional tirade that it did, but my feelings are still a little raw. Consider me nothing more than curious; I'm genuinely intrigued to know if there's another way I could go about this or if anybody has shared experiences.

UPDATE: I spoke to my supervisor, who had a frank conversation with him about his insensitivity. He has since apologized to me. Though his apology leaves a little to be desired, I'm forgiving him and hoping for better. I'm not out to make enemies when I've got a few months left at this workplace; to be honest, I'm just glad it's all resolved. I'm really pleased with how my supervisor handled it.

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Katie Adams

@katieadamsdev

Web developer at Greggs, UK with a proficiency in VueJS, among other JavaScript frameworks. I'm also passionate about web design, and mobile app development.

Discussion

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Please let us know how it worked out with your supervisor. I’m sorry that you’ve had to endure that. Word choice is an unfortunate debate that I can’t ever seem to win even though I have fought to hard and often to prevent people from using “the R word.” (Dr. Cox from Scrubs explaining the R word). People always seem to have silly responses like “oh would you prefer that I just say, “that song is so intellectually disabled?” No, try to be more creative and descriptive. How about, “that song is repetitive and the lyrics are vapid.”

Anyway, this is me commiserating. Best of luck, and I hope that you can make a good change.

 

You're completely right, and that campaign is fantastic. I can't believe I've not seen it before. The responses make it so much harder to combat, right? It completely belittles the justified feelings that people hurt by the word may experience. Power to you in your fight; I'll seek to be an ambassador with you. :)

 

Thanks so much for sharing this! Sorry you had to go through that. In my workplace there is the occasional fragile male ego comment ("What about the guys??"), but nothing as direct as that. I think sometimes people want to be ever so politely and subtly sexist instead of directly sexist, to prevent them from being told off 😆

 

Mm indeed. I'm somewhat looking forward to making a change in my future workplaces; so many people are ambassadors for good that it's a shame the loudest few are the ones who cause the brush to be tarnished.