A straight-laced female friend of mine has been working at her job as a manager for three years. She has been trying to get along with the all male upper management and be included in the informal “Boys Club” where the real work of the day gets done in brief men’s room discussions and during a liquored up lunch hour. My friend is the only female manager — but she doesn’t feel the “ins”… “included” or “involved” — she feels isolated in one corner while her male bosses seem so far away.

The Boys Club


Then the other day she sent an innocuous email to her direct boss:

We’re meeting Laura and Debra and the rest in two weeks. We’ll meet in Bill’s office and “have this out.”

Her boss immediately replied:

We’ll make ’em bawl for their mommies… they’ll cry uncle and their fist’ll miss in the air around us!

My friend called me and asked me to interpret her boss’ response
because it was so outside the normal, the ordinary and the expected.
I told her:

He’s kidding around with you. He’s saying you’ll join
together to give them a hard time and make them cry and make them hate
you and live in fear of you!

She said:

Oh. Okay. That’s a good thing, right? What do I say back?

I replied:

Yes, it’s a good thing. You need to say something like, “I’ll kick Debra in the shin; you twist Laura’s arm to make her cry.”

My friend trusted me and sent her reply.
A moment later her boss replied with:

Hahahaha!

She wondered if that was a good response or not.
I told her it was perfect and expected and I also said:

Welcome to the “Boys Club!” You’re in! I know you’re in
unfamiliar territory, but you’ll do great now that you’re a member of
the loop. All those things your husband does that makes you crazy when
he tries to be funny are now an ongoing part of your workday! Congrats!

My friend replied by sighing.
I chucked her up:

You’ll do fine. If you don’t know what to say to a comment
like that from your boss in the future, and you can’t ask someone for
an interpretation, just reply with “Go Team!” and that will have the
same effect of bonding and understanding.

She gave me back a smile and a shout:

Go Team!

How do you feel about these gender gymnastics in the workplace?
Is there a “Boys Club” that doesn’t really include women where you work?
Is there such a thing as a “Womens Club” in your workplace that excludes men?
How and why do these clubs get started?

20 Comments

  1. I haven’t experienced the ‘ Boys club’/’Womens Club’ yet, but I’m in college. I have exerpienced the ‘Whites only’ law a few times since I’m down here in the South, and I think race is more of a discriminating factor than sex down here. Problem is, while you can go along with an unsensitive joke about members of the opposite sex to get an “in” with the club you desire, joking about racial stereotypes is a taboo with many people.

  2. David,
    I have experienced gender discrimination to a much higher degree from male customers than from male coworkers. In a field that has been dominated by men, many customers feel–and some even express–displeasure in dealing with a woman. I have been told in no uncertain terms that my expertise and skill in this field are automatically inferior to those of my male counterparts solely because I am female.

  3. Emily!
    Thank you for sharing the rotten truth of your gender in the workplace!
    What sort of field are you in and where is that pre-existing condemnation of your gender coming from?
    How do you answer those insults from customers?
    Do you earn the same money as the men on a similar line in your company?

  4. David,
    I work in banking, a field that for most of its life has been mainly populated by white, Republican men. Women are widely considered inferior to men when it comes to mathematics and logic. Customers who believe the same are very easy for me to deal with–I pass them right along to a more suitable (i.e. male) associate. I used to feel like I should “prove my worth” to them. Now I could not care less. It is not my job to change their ignorant minds. I have plenty of other customers that need my help also and they certainly do not care that they are getting it from a female.

  5. Emily!
    Your comment stuns me! So customers tell you to your face they don’t want you because you’re female?
    And you just go along with that discrimination?
    Aren’t you playing into the stereotype by giving in to their inhuman considerations?

  6. It’s weird actually that I haven’t noticed any of this gender discrimination so to speak. I did some work in whats definitely a mans world for a few months.
    I was a driver’s mate – someone who drives around in the huge delivery trucks all day delivering food to supermarket stores, (along with the driver of course!)
    Everyone I met at the stores were polite and well mannered and treated me with the utmost respect. I actually wondered why there was no discrimination and so finally asked one of the store managers one day. His answer was great.
    “It makes no difference whether you’re male or female. If you can do the job satisfactorily, why should we have problems with the fact that you’re female?”
    More people should take his view. The world would be a better place.

  7. David,
    These customers are very few and far-between. I used to feel like I should not “play into their stereotype,” as you put it, and instead of passing them to a male coworker I would help them myself and do everything in my power to prove their stereotypical ideals wrong. This proved more often than not to be a huge waste of time. Most of them would not listen to me, would purposely argue with me and try to trip me up, would throw their chest out and try to intimidate me, etc. I became bitter about the whole thing: why should I have to go out of my way to “prove myself” to someone who is obviously ignorant?

  8. Do people still have liquor at lunch?
    I was talking about how everything fun from the good old days seems to have ended for my generation. 😉
    The stuff that the old guys used to do — such as blurting out whatever is on their minds and drinking a martini or two at lunch — would get us fired or arrested for DUI these days.

  9. Dawn!
    I am so happy to hear you were treated fairly in your job. I think that’s pretty rare. Most young women I know “embedded in man’s world” have to learn to play along or shut up when it comes to the improper propagation of gender stereotypes.

  10. Dawn!
    I am so happy to hear you were treated fairly in your job. I think that’s pretty rare. Most young women I know “embedded in man’s world” have to learn to play along or shut up when it comes to the improper propagation of gender stereotypes.

  11. Emily —
    You are describing the awful reality of the workplace that many young women in college cannot comprehend and I’m glad you’re sharing your wisdom.
    Many high school and college females are taught all the wonderful things about getting along and moving up and being empowered by gender blindness in the workplace. They find great success in schooling because those institutions are closely watched and the best people — not the best man or woman or skin color — usually rise to the top.
    That experience creates a false idealism in these young women who speak of great future success when they graduate.
    Those of us who perhaps have a bit more life experience nod and wonder how they’ll react when the Reality of the World hits them square in the jaw — much like you describe in your job.
    Those customers don’t value your mind or your wisdom they probably see you as nothing more than a “girl” who cannot begin to comprehend their “big man” problems.
    It’s a sad and hard lesson to learn — and sometimes the best path is just what you describe — give in to the discrimination instead of letting it kill you by eating you up from the inside every day.

  12. Emily —
    You are describing the awful reality of the workplace that many young women in college cannot comprehend and I’m glad you’re sharing your wisdom.
    Many high school and college females are taught all the wonderful things about getting along and moving up and being empowered by gender blindness in the workplace. They find great success in schooling because those institutions are closely watched and the best people — not the best man or woman or skin color — usually rise to the top.
    That experience creates a false idealism in these young women who speak of great future success when they graduate.
    Those of us who perhaps have a bit more life experience nod and wonder how they’ll react when the Reality of the World hits them square in the jaw — much like you describe in your job.
    Those customers don’t value your mind or your wisdom they probably see you as nothing more than a “girl” who cannot begin to comprehend their “big man” problems.
    It’s a sad and hard lesson to learn — and sometimes the best path is just what you describe — give in to the discrimination instead of letting it kill you by eating you up from the inside every day.

  13. Chris!
    Liquor at Lunch has returned to the East Coast. It’s very “chic” again and since everyone walks and doesn’t drive in the city core during work hours, the alcohol content isn’t going to actively kill an innocent bystander on the way back to the office.
    I think we think that gender discrimination is dead and gone — but my friend, and our Emily here — make it pretty clear there is still nasty stuff going on and I don’t know if there’s much hope of it ever changing.
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/10/07/ogling-leering-and-drooling/

  14. I think most men cannot help having the notion that gender discrimination is a thing of the past because they are not on the receiving end of it.
    Discrimination simply will not die until those who are disriminated against stand up for themselves and refuse it. Most women I know who experience discrimination from their bosses and coworkers keep quiet to keep their jobs safe. While it would be pretty difficult in today’s society to fire someone as retaliation for reporting discrimination, it is exceedingly easy to keep that person in a dead-end job, to deny pay raises, etc. Most of the women I know, sadly, feel it is actually in their best interest to just keep quiet.
    Besides…any woman who is assertive and vigorous also risks being labeled a bitch. :mrgreen:

  15. I think you’re right, Emily. Men are protected by their whimsy and the fact that the really cruel men don’t “come out” to the mainstream men to ruin their whimsy.

    Discrimination simply will not die until those who are disriminated against stand up for themselves and refuse it.

    I agree! That’s why I was so surprised at your decision to roll over and let it wash away from you. I understand your need, but the means of your decision just seems to perpetuate the cruelty to your endless suffering.
    My feeling is the whimsical men will only stand with the discriminated against women when the women first stand up and refuse to sit down.
    We talk a lot about the B-Word here!
    http://urbansemiotic.com/?s=bitch

  16. David,
    I do feel like I have to choose my battles. I’m not going to change a few ignorant customers’ minds, and ultimately their discrimination has no negative effect on me. It would be a completely different story if I were oppressed by my male coworkers and bosses. I am very lucky in that regard, though.

  17. Emily —
    I understand your situation — just knowing you as little as I do — I find it curious that you sacrifice bits of yourself to those men so they can perpetuate their hate on other women.
    I know you may think standing up to them does no good — but I think with male rock heads like that it takes an ongoing drip of good people refusing their cruel game to crack open their minds.

  18. Is that sort of attitude still acceptable in America?
    Her boss’s replies alone would probably get in him in serious trouble here (in the UK). Discrimination is really frowned upon.