Course Corrections: The Manager is Not a “Gal”

I’m getting better at not keeping my mouth shut when seeing everyday sexism. I used to fume and glower and stomp outside for a cigarette, but didn’t want to open the can o’ worms. I don’t have those options now. Oh, I can still fume and glower like a champion, but since I quit smoking, I haven’t got a cigarette filter between my brain and my mouth. Also, I became a full-on feminist, and so I say shit.

You know what? It hasn’t gone at all badly.

Consider my poor former coworker, who liked me to proof-read his stuff. One of those things was a letter expressing customer dissatisfaction with our local coffee empire. In it, he’d called the manager a “gal.”

Image is a siamese cat with its ears flat and a very shocked expression. Caption says, "wut"

Now, I like the word gal. It’s short and fun and goes well with guy sometimes. But I’m one of those femiTalibanazis who cannot abide its use in reference to an adult female in certain contexts. One of those contexts is when you are talking about female management. Calling a female in a position of authority a gal will sometimes trigger a Hulk Smash reaction, especially when it’s done by a clueless youngster who’s prone to casual sexism. But I used to bite my tongue in these situations.

This time, standing over this poor young man’s shoulder, I sighed. I pointed out some minor edits for grammar and punctuation (which were very minor, because he’s a quick study). Then I advised him that it might be best not to refer to the manager as a gal.

He looked surprised. “Oh, really? Why?”

“It’s disrespectful, and it can come across as sexist,” I explained.

“Oh.” Lightbulbs. “Okay.”

So we fixed it. I pointed out that her sex was irrelevant, and he’d already used the appropriate feminine pronouns later in the same sentence, so just plain old “the manager” worked fine. And that was it. No one freaked out over witch hunts and purges and so forth. He gained a new understanding about gendered language, and in the future will understand why women might get upset over certain labels. I gained respect for him, despite the fact he’s a Ron Paul fan (he’ll probably grow out of it). Wins all round. He may be quite young and still figuring things out (and a Paulbot), but he’s already light years ahead of certain of our atheists when it comes to handling these discussions like a completely mature adult.

Now all I need to do is figure out how to get him in a room with people like Richard Dawkins so he can explain how simple this can really be.

Course Corrections: The Manager is Not a “Gal”
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9 thoughts on “Course Corrections: The Manager is Not a “Gal”

  1. rq

    Yay for the small wins!
    Like that time when Husband corrected himself from ‘That person drives like a woman’ (in reference to some bad parking) to ‘That person drives like someone in driver’s ed’! Without any snark or evil glares from me – he caught his own mistake. It was very gratifying!

  2. 3

    Reading [email protected]#2’s comment, I was suddenly thinking of a “Chuck Norris” style meme about Nobody explains to Dawk…

    Nobody explains to Dawk, he just squeezes memes until the truth runs out
    Nobody explains to Dawk, cuz explaining is more of a guy thing

    But it’s really not that funny. Of course the Chuck Norris ones aren’t either…

  3. 5

    This bugs the heck outta me too! A few years ago I had to remind my sister-in-law that simply because her doctor disagreed with her on some small point of child rearing, that didn’t negate the years of medical school and practice this woman had gone through and reduce her to a “girl.”

  4. 6

    “Paulbots” can come around amazingly when treated with compassion, dignity, and take-no-shitness. (Points at self, an ex-Paul-campaigner, now liberal enough to have moved to Europe and still be considered leftist in her new home. Ha.)

  5. 7

    because her doctor disagreed with her on some small point of child rearing, that didn’t negate the years of medical school and practice this woman had gone through and reduce her to a “girl.”

    Here in Silicon Valley, we are very informal. Even the CEO of my company is referred to by his first name. But when engaging the services of a doctor, I try very hard to call them “Doctor”, even when one of them made a mistake in diagnosis TWICE after I had suggested the correct diagnosis and was agreed with by a specialist. My GP was using her medial knowledge to the best of her abilities and I will always respect that, although her inability to learn new (to her) medical diagnoses made me leave her.
    OTOH, if I am not engaging with a doctor in their professional capacity, I think it is asinine for them to insist on being called Doctor Jones. I once worked at a store that took reservations.We would get first and last names and phone # and call them when the reservation was ready. One person insisted on being listed as Doctor Jones, until I asked her in my most innocent voice, “Is ‘Doctor’ your first name?” She got huffy and said that, yes, ‘Doctor’ was her first name. However, the next time she made a reservation, she gave her first and last names just like one of us peasants.

  6. rq

    Ha, I have a Paulbot friend who keeps getting hung up on questions of social justice. It’s a rather long and slow process, but I have high hopes for him!

  7. 9

    I actually had an experience with the word “guy” recently. In an informal technical meeting with people on the same professional level, I said “you guys should probably change this part of the design” and then realized that the group was entirely female. Knowing that “gals” would be totally inappropriate in that context, I realized that the (mis)use of “gal” in sexist contexts had essentially robbed us of a precise female equivalent for “guy”.

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