It was the night before a youth camp and I was in full work mode (I worked for the organisation putting on the camp). There was loads to set up and get organised and it was my job to help make it happen.
I was hard at work in one of the main areas while a group of people, of male volunteers, standing around talking. I asked if any of them could help me with what I was working on to which I received the response “gosh, you’re so bossy!”.
My heart stopped. Or dropped. Or both. What had he just said to me? I dropped what I was doing and didn’t say a word. I began to leave the room – I didn’t want to be in that space and there was plenty more that needed doing. This was my job after all.
As I walked out of the room I was heckled: “ohhhhh she’s mad now!” followed by laughter. Tears pricked at my eyes. I made myself useful elsewhere.
I spent the rest of the camp second-guessing myself. Doubting myself and my position as a paid employee of the organisation. Why was I, as a woman, considered “bossy” when all I was doing was my job? Would the same person have used the same term if I had been a man? We all know the answer would be absolutely not. By using that term, and heckling me on my way out, my position as an employee, somebody with responsibilities, somebody with knowledge and expertise, was completely undermined by a sexist term used in annoyance at a) having a woman in charge, and b) having her ask you to, God forbid, actually help out.
We’ve come a long was from Suffragettes and campaigning for votes for women, but sexism is still rife in society, and in the church. This is an example of something that happens to young women, like myself, regularly. It is ingrained into us from a young age: not that long ago I would have used the term “bossy” myself to describe women directing me, instructing me.
Join us for a round-table discussion about Gender Equality, church and society on July 27th and Crave, Kingsland. Check out our Facebook page for more details.