Thursday, June 22, 2006

Barbie says, "Conferences are fun!"

For a while now, I have been going to a group to improve my public speaking skills. It's a well known international organisation, but I won't name it here as I don't want this anecdote to negatively influence anyone who might be googling them and thinking of joining. Let's just say that Geekman calls them "Toastgraspers".

Yesterday before the group started, I mentioned I was going to miss the next three meetings, due to being in NZ, and then at a conference. (This will be relevant later, truly).

It was also my turn to give a speech, and the usual format of the meetings means that after each speech one of the other group members gives an oral evaluation of the talk, where they are supposed to give both "commendations" for what was done well, and "recommendations" for what could be improved.

So the evaluation for my speech duly came round, and my evaluator was a middle-aged science professor. He gave the same recommendation I always get, of "slow the fuck down!" (not said in quite those words) and a couple of commendations. Then he finished his evaluation with, "So all in all, a good speech. If you speak like that at your conference, you'll wow all the blokes."


I don't know where to even begin deconstructing that.

Does he think that's why female academics go to conferences? To impress men? Or did he mean "the audience in general" and in his personal visualisation/memory of conferences, there are only ever men in the audience? Or is this some sort of Australian use of "bloke" that includes women too? -- kind of like people use "those guys over there" to refer to mixed groups.

Anyone else have any hypotheses? Because to me it seems like serious weirdness.


shrinkykitten said...

I read it as a totally sexist statement - but it may not be, as you point out.

Morton T Fogg said...

As a foreigner (non Oz), I would parse it as a statement talking about how you (as a woman) would be able to wow all the blokes (meaning the guys in the audience). Either he thinks there are no other women in your field, or he thinks your whole goal as a female presenter should be to sway the men in the audience.

Either way, not a good thing.

StyleyGeek said...

Yeah, we need some Australians to weigh in. But I think you are both most likely right. Sigh.

Lucy said...

I think it's definitely sexist. I've never heard anyone use blokes in a non-gender specific way, and my stereotypical view of the type of person who's likely to use the word at all is sexist to begin with (given that the female version is "sheila"). Ick.

Jana said...

Lucy - I agree with you. If you think of it the other way around, and imagine a man being told after a speech that he'll "wow all the sheilas", I think it becomes obvious how sexist the original remark is.

StyleyGeek said...

Thanks, Lucy. I should have been bitchier to him than I was, then. I just said, "Not. really. the point." in a snarky tone. But I wasn't 100% sure that you couldn't use "blokes" in a gender-non-specific way, so didn't want to be too rude.

And Jana, I don't think that you can tell from that "turn it around" test, since doing that with "guys" to "gals" or similar gives you a gender-specific term, while "guys" for some people isn't. But with Lucy's Australian perspective telling us the 'blokes' CAN'T be gender non-specific, then your "wow all the sheilas" does correspond well.

And ick. Ick.

Badaunt said...

I remember a while back reading some academic bloke's blog in which he talked about a new member of his faculty who happened to be a woman. This bloke said that he hadn't thought of himself as particularly feminist or anything like that, but when the new faculty member got patted on the head by an older male faculty member he surprised himself by thinking, "If I were a woman, I would be angry ALL THE TIME."

Personally, I think that as women we should be allowed to be angry QUITE A LOT.

(The rest of the time we should just keep quiet and give the idiots enough rope to hang themselves.)