Women being women

I have limited phone-transferring skills. Via Flickr user gadgetgirl.

I have limited phone-transferring skills. Via Flickr user gadgetgirl.

Today, I’ve been answering phone calls to our office since the office manager is on vacation. Embarrassingly enough, I still have little idea how the phone system works. When I wanted to transfer a caller to someone’s voicemail, I hung up on that person. Twice.

Feeling a bit flustered, I apologized profusely to the person.

“It’s fine,” the caller answered in an upbeat tone. “You’re adorable.”

Adorable? Really?

That word felt inappropriate in a business setting. Why did this stranger feel comfortable telling me I was adorable?

I would have rather he act annoyed.

I often hear people disparage women for speaking out against perceived injustices in the workplace. I’m not talking about anything going as far as sexual harassment (though that may be included in this). I’m referring to the strange statements women hear from both sexes, like this man calling me adorable. Adorable is what you call your child, spouse, or pet. It isn’t what you call a woman in a business setting.

I’ve talked about this subject before. In the past when people have said such remarks to me, I’ve been told that I’m just overreacting — no harm is meant when people say these words, and I should really just get over it.

I know these people don’t usually mean to make me uncomfortable. In fact, they probably don’t even think about what they’re saying.

That’s the problem.

Behavior like that is so institutionalized. Some men think it’s OK to say and do what they want when a woman is involved. A man or woman would never call a man in a work setting “adorable.” Men I’ve tried to interview for stories have flirted and looked at me a little too closely. What can I (and many other women) do but ignore this behavior?

I know most of these men don’t mean to make us feel uncomfortable. But they do nonetheless.

That man on the phone was probably just trying to make me feel better about my horrendous phone-transferring skills. But using the word “adorable” says a lot more than that. I feel like he’s telling me, Silly girl. It’s adorable that you’re trying to transfer me to voicemail.

Being called “adorable” makes me feel uncomfortable. I know someone will tell me I’ve overreacting. It’s not a big deal. He didn’t say anything overtly sexual or demeaning, and it’s just men being men, so let it go.

To that person, I have a question for you: What would you think if I had called that man on the phone “cute?” Would it have been inappropriate or just women being women?

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