I understand that it can be harder for older generations to come to terms with and even implement current social norms and cultural expectations. I am not going to stand here and pretend it’s just a breeze for my grandmother to understand that booty calls and friends-with-benefits situations are things perfectly nice and reasonable women partake in. Nor am I going to expect my grandfather, a very private person from a very private generation, to immediately embrace the fact that I share nearly every detail of my life on social media. I get it—there is a lag when it comes to older generations understanding what is okay today. But, it isn’t impossible. And, as for working professionals—particularly men—of an older generation who want to be respected in the workplace, understanding new societal standards is a must. I say this because I’m so tired of people cutting older men a break for being misogynistic, all under the excuse, “Eh—he’s old. He doesn’t know better.” Well he should learn. Here are times age is no excuse for misogyny.
Asking why you aren’t married
It’s not appropriate for a male superior—or just an older male colleague—to grill a female colleague as to why she isn’t married, and to make comments about how she really should, as a woman, at her age, look for a husband. It’s nobody’s business in the work place, no matter their age, whether or not the women there are married or why they aren’t.
Asking why you don’t have kids
See the last thing about marriage, and apply it to children. I’ve had several older male bosses in the past who grilled me about why I didn’t have babies and even make jokes about how I’d only work until I had babies, then I’d disappear to be a stay at home mom. I don’t recall my reproductive activities being on the topics of discussion agenda for the day.
Calling you “Sweetheart”
Even I’m guilty of letting it slide and thinking nothing of it when a male boss or colleague in his fifties or sixties calls me “Sweetheart” or “Hon.” But it really isn’t appropriate. It’s derogatory, and just unprofessional. Maybe these men used to call all women of any age that, since they were young men, but those nicknames don’t belong in the modern workplace.
Preferring a female secretary
I actually have a couple of relatives who are guilty of this: they just “prefer” a female secretary. They won’t even call in male applicants for an interview. They are most comfortable with a female in the role of taking their phone calls and making their appointments for them. Like a mommy. Seeing a male secretary feels like another world to them.
Suggesting you dress more feminine
“You should wear dresses sometimes” or “Pantsuits really don’t do your figure justice” are just not okay things for men in the workplace to say to women in the workplace. Even if those men are 70 years old and can’t wrap their minds around the fact that women wear suits now.
Especially “To catch a man”
Oh, and then it gets worse. I’ve had older male bosses tell me that I should dress more femininely specifically to catch a man. “If you wore dresses, you may just get a date” or comments like that came my way. As if my sole desire in life is male attention. Right, because women are so low on that…NOT.
Asking you to cut the cake/make the coffee
Just because you’re a woman, older colleagues may ask you to cut the cake for the birthday, make the coffee, hold the client’s baby during a meeting and so on. You’re a respected and distinguished professional. Not a barista. And not a babysitter.
Watching language because, “A lady is present”
“Watch your language—a lady is present.” Here is the issue I take with that: it suggests there is still an old, secret boys club that meets when women aren’t around. It suggests that there are gross and inappropriate things men say, and think are okay to say, so long as women aren’t present. How about those things aren’t okay just…any time?
Telling you, “A lady shouldn’t talk like that”
I’ve had senior male bosses or colleagues tell me, “A lady shouldn’t talk like that” or “That kind of language doesn’t sound nice coming from a woman” when I’ve sworn or used provocative phrases. Of course, the implication here is that men can do it, but women can’t.
Saying you have attitude (because you don’t smile)
While I haven’t had older men tell me to “Smile more”, per say, I have had complaints about my “attitude” in the work place and how I really could be “more cheery” or “Perkier.” Right. Because on top of doing my job, I must do so with the cheerleader attitude these old dinosaurs expect of all women.
Making vaguely flirtatious comments
“If I were your age” or “If I weren’t married…” What? What if that were the case? Nothing. Because we would never date you, you misogynistic geriatrics. We can promise you, gentlemen, there’s a lot more than your age or marital status standing in the way of anything ever happening here.
Trying to set you up with someone
For some reason, it can be very hard for older males to comprehend that a woman would just choose to be single. That could be why some of my older bosses have tried to set me up on dates. Rather inappropriate, wouldn’t you say? They were just so uncomfortable with the fact that I would just want to be single. They saw it as a waste of a pretty woman. Because, you know, romantic relationships are all we’re good for.
Not wanting to talk about the women’s room
If a man wants to be a manager, business owner, CEO, or higher-up in any way, he’s going to have to be comfortable with discussing things like ordering more tampons for the dispensary in the woman’s restroom and adding a nursing corner for new mothers. And if he can’t or won’t, he’s not suited to oversee employees.
Sending you in to use your feminine wiles
“We’ll send you in—you’re pretty. They’ll like you.” That’s something I’ve heard from some bosses in the past when it was time to deal with a new customer, client, or potential investor/partner. How about, “We’ll send you because you’re smart and know what you’re doing?”
Allowing others to be misogynistic
And finally, sitting back and passively allowing misogyny to take place is still misogynistic. While some older male bosses may know by now not to say things like “Smile more,” they’re not quite comfortable telling younger men in the office to refrain from that behavior. But allowing it is nearly as bad as perpetuating it.