April 24, 2005

"You Talkin' Ta Me?"

On my journey through Blogger recently, I read an interesting post written by Ammo Gal regarding the difficulties she has experienced in dealing with women in the working world. Her story struck a familiar chord with me. My own experience doesn’t stem from being a business owner but rather from general dealings with women in public relations settings. Reading AG’s nicely written post, however, did inspire me to write on this topic from my own perspective.

From time to time at my job (Aquarium), I’m asked to help out with crowd control in our large Marine Theater during sea lion shows. Basically, this entails seating people, keeping the reserved seating areas clear for people who truly need them (special needs), directing people to restrooms and stroller-parking areas, keeping people from leaning on the handrails that protect the sea lion pool, and keeping fire exits clear. It’s a simple, yet important function as our theater can seat over a thousand people at a time.

I usually welcome the change from sitting at my desk, but there have been times when this simplest of jobs can be most challenging. Why? I would have to say ~ because of some women. Bear with me.

Firstly, I’ll use the same disclaimer the AG did, and that is to say that I am not suggesting that ALL women are belligerent, combative and obstinate ~ but many have those tendencies. This is no more than a personal observation made over a three-year span of time, and one that I find rather interesting.

I have noticed that when I need to ask someone to abide by our Theater rules, they generally comply, but it’s my like-gender that puts up the biggest fuss and requires some sort of explanation. Men seem to just take it in stride, comply, and move on to enjoy the show. Sure some men will make a passing comment such as “well that seems stupid,” but it’s usually under their breath and it’s stated while in the process of complying. Women generally react as though I have just asked them to tap dance on the water.

Here are just a few examples of such behavioral differences:

Me: Excuse me ma’am, you will need to park your stroller in the designated area.
She: (with a look of total disgust) WHY? Why can’t I just leave it here by me? It’s not hurting anyone.
Me: Because in case of a fire, people need to be able to exit as quickly and obstacle-free as possible.
She: (clicking tongue) I don’t see how my stroller in the aisle here could possibly cause any trouble.
Me: I realize it’s hard to imagine but people in a state of panic could easily trip and fall over it, it’s a safety hazard where it is.
She: (looking at me as though I’m dog meat) I’ll move it in a minute.

Me: Pardon me sir, but we don’t allow food and drinks in the Theater. You’ll have to discard your soda.
He: (already getting up from his seat) OH … sorry! I must have missed the sign.

Me: Ma’am, you might want to ask your children not to dangle their hands over the pool handrail.
She: (without hesitation) OH COME ON! They just want to have a better look at the sea lions. That’s what we came here for!
Me: Well, it’s like this … the sea lions are often fed from this side of the handrail ~ we cannot guarantee that they would not mistakenly hoist themselves out of the water and bite at your child’s hand in a split second. That’s why we have signs posted.
She: This is completely ridiculous. I never heard of such a thing.

Me: Sir, I’ll have to ask that you take a seat elsewhere as these two rows are dedicated to handicapped individuals.
He: (already standing) Oh sure! I just thought since no one was sitting there it would be okay.
Me: No, we do have to keep them available in the event that someone with special needs enters the theater. Sorry!
He: (smiling) No problem, I understand.

(same scenario as above)
Me: Ma’am, I’ll have to ask that you take a seat elsewhere as these two rows are dedicated to handicapped individuals.
She: Well why should I move? No one is using them.
Me: They are designated seats ma’am, it’s a federal law that we provide this seating for people who need it.
She: Oh really? (in a huff) Well I fell down my front step this morning and twisted my ankle, so I need to sit here.
Me: That’s fine. I hope your ankle heals quickly (said with great enthusiasm)

I have neither embellished nor exaggerated any of the above dialogue. Amazing, isn’t it?

Now it took me awhile, but after having many chats about this with both men and women, I have come to a few conclusions as to why there is such a vast difference between giving direction to men and to women.

Many, many men, from the time they are young boys, are accustomed to taking instruction from authority. Some were Boy Scouts, some altar boys (won’t go there), and later on in life, more men than women join the military. Each of these environments is conducive to disciplinary action if instructions aren’t followed, and at least in the military, you learn quite quickly not to ask why. You simply follow orders. From an evolutionary standpoint, for many, many years men were the bread winners while women stayed at home to tend to children. Men have had to follow rules and instruction from bosses for many years before it was even socially acceptable for women to be a part of the workplace.

Women, on the other hand, are historically more accustomed to being in charge of the home while hubby earns the money. She was in charge of mending clothes, planning and fixing meals, keeping the kiddies in line, decorating the house and making all the executive decisions that pertained to such domestic goings on.

Perhaps when her husband came home, he resumed responsibility, but let’s face it, between work shift and bedtime, there weren’t really a whole lot of hours. So basically, she ran the roost while he hunted and gathered. She controlled the house.

Now that modern women (referring to the past 50 years or so) are most often in the workplace instead of tending to the house and children 24 and 7, the roles of the sexes are more evenly shared and divided. But fifty years isn’t a long time at all in the grand scheme of things.

The whole “don’t tell me what to do” business does seem to run more rampant among females than males in public settings (I've observed this in other places as well). Now, at home ~ well, that’s generally decided upon between couples during the first month of courtship.

Perhaps women, instinctively, are still attempting to maintain some semblance of control.
Perhaps while sitting in the Marine Theater at an Aquarium, they are actually trying to hold on to the position in society that was most comfortable to their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers.

I cannot stress enough that I bring out this post from a personal standpoint. It wasn’t meant to offend or to rile. As my handy little disclaimer stated, these behavior patterns don’t apply to all men or to all women. I don’t know … maybe it’s just an aquarium-sea lion show-marine theater-strollers in the aisle-drinks in the hand-kids running up and down the steep stairs-changing diapers in the bleachers-stealing seats from the handicapped type of thing.


Blogger dan said...

Hmmm...very interesting ideas. You could be onto something here.

However, from a man's point of view, I think there is also something to do with taking orders from the same sex.

I'm a lot more inclined to do something a woman orders than a man. I know that's stupid and I also know you're all clever enough not to generalise from my POV, but that's my take on it anyway.

It'll be interesting to see what others say.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous John said...

I think it's the fact that women are in the workforce in large numbers these days, that has contributed to the "I'm in charge" attitude...

9:49 AM  
Blogger brooksba said...

Hi Carol,

You make an interesting point. I don't know why, but women do typically ask why more often than men. My experiences at work have been that men are more demanding over the phone and maybe it is because that women are looking for the why and once it is given, they back off. I think they may listen for the reasons a bit more, since they are so trained to look for the reasons.

I do see in public how women could be typically more combative, but I do agree with Dan's point. It is easier for most people to take orders from the opposite sex.

Great post, as always.


10:27 AM  
Blogger Shamus O'Drunkahan said...

I always question authority, but if that authority is represented by a woman, ha cha chaaa! Whatever they want, they get.
It's a sickness, really.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Pope Benedict XVI said...

Question authority.

11:41 AM  
Blogger frustratedwriter said...

I'm thinking it is a conditioned response from our childhood. Dads tend to be easier on the daughters, harder on the sons and moms do the opposite. That leads to sons rebelling against the father,respecting, defending, and honoring the mother while the girls do the opposite. So through life men respond positively to maternal authority figures and women respond positively to the paternal authority figures. After all, guys don't want dad to tell them how to do something any more than the gals want mom telling them how to raise the kids, do their job, or keep the house. A conumdrum to the max.

Or...(ducking for cover as he laughingly suggests) it could be hormonal...

12:41 PM  
Blogger Swifty said...

I have an alternative view. I've often been told by women their preference is for men when it comes to dealing with them at work, e-friending, or simply in general. It's usually accompanied with an explanation using terms like, "difficult", "bitching", or just plain "arsey". I think it's a general psychological principle that you see what you want to see. So with this mindset, it's possible, on receiving identical awkward repsonses from both a man and a woman, the female will register as the more antagonistic of the two

1:29 PM  
Blogger NYCbeauty said...

Love the post, Carol. I also congratulate you on putting something controversial out there! I've encountered some similar experiences. A lot of mine have to do with women in this gritty city o'mine who are not "sisters." I am someone who includes rather than excluding. I hate that feeling of being hurt and lonely. Oh boy do I have much to say on this subject....

2:41 PM  
Blogger mrsmogul said...

Just screw them ALL LOL

3:32 PM  
Blogger Raehan said...

My only piece of insight, being a woman who is in charge of the home--or would like to think I am, is that the "in charge" thiing might not be the issue.

It might be the pure exhaustion of being the one responsible for all those kids you see at the aquarium and the men just enjoying it and not having to worry so much about the details. You know, who cares if the boys are running around. Mom will take care if if there's a problem.

Just a thought. Exhaustion. Frazzled. Not knowing quite what to do about the damn stroller.

I think I take authority pretty well, though, thank you. I'm the polite type unless you're going to get unreasonable on me there.

: )

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carol- thank you for allowing my words to be an inspiration for a great post! I am going to add a link to your blog from mine. I don't have any fellow New England bloggers represented!

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Carol...as a construction electrician, (new houses, offices, renovations, etc)I come into contact with many people from all walks of life. Currently we are rewiring an old home (120 years old)for a schoolteacher, a person who has spent her entire life dealing with children (read Authorative figure, here)..she has NO IDEA on how to deal with tradespeople, a total lack of man-management skills. She has already lost one carpenter, who walked off the job.... she said to him petulantly "This wall is 3 millemetres too far over..(read less than one eight of an inch).. This job has been going on far too long... they do this with only 3 people, and two days on the tv!"....his last comment to her was (mutter mutter... you have been watching too many home renovation programs on tv...) ..where you only see the 'front' people, not the dozens of tradesmen working out of view of the cameras.
The next person she upset was the plumber... complaining about the position of the toilet bowl.. it was less than 6 millemeters(1/4inch) from the centre of the room... as he left site, he muttered to her.... "I'll leave you a plastic bucket to squat on... you can position it anywhere you want"... and she has upset me... I am about to say to her... "well, I build around 8, 10 houses a year... have been doing so for 43 years, now..... just how many houses have YOU built?"
On the other side of the coin, there is a new house under construction... almost complete, and there were 2 outside floodlights that I missed fitting during construction... and the owner (male) just said ... " ahh!... don't matter, its just at the back.... never go round there at night, anyway. Wanna coffee?"
There's the difference in people... I am not saying that ALL women are like this, they are not. (thank God!)..but the above woman has made a career of beligerence to her peers.... Huggles, Kevin - cool blue

6:24 PM  
Blogger Walker said...

Another great post.
I tend to agree with Dan. Having worked with people I have found its easier for a woman to deal with a man and vise versa. It's almost terratorial. If I was to tell a man he was cut off at the bar I would have my hands full but if the waitress told him he would say , oh well I had fun. Same with the women they listen to me and accept what I say but if a waitress would tell her there would would be a war. Lets get a multi million dollar grant and study this.

7:25 PM  
Blogger annush said...

i really like this posting. i work in PR and i often find that women can be EXTREMELY uncooperative. it's upsetting and disruptive. I understand the desiire to seek explanations but sometimes it's unnerving.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Great post...and certainly food for thought. I never realised before that it is indeed the women patients at work that I have more problems with than the men. Only sitting back thinking, after reading your post, did I see that.

10:43 PM  
Blogger L said...

I think it's women not wanting to take direction from another woman... as a group women tend to internalize the traditional idea that men should be authority figures, not women...

11:39 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

This is a great post!

I have worked in Customer Service positions (including law enforcement and military - which are very public oriented) and have several viewpoints of my own. I do agree with your statement that men are brought up in authoritative environments (Boy Scouts, Churches, Military). As girls move through these environments, the competitive attitude they develop is not often friendly, often influenced by the women who lead these groups. (Just an observation.) I may have to post the Cheerleading incident my sister went through on my own blog.

Whether this is a nature vs. nurture argument, women do appear to be more combatitive about things than men do.

My mother has posed this theory to me as well when I have been upset by women who have been horrid to me in any number of circumstances:
Many times these women actually do not have control in their own lives and often feel a need to exert that lack of control over individuals in which they know they can force the issue with. They do not necessarily have a feeling of control over the household budget, the children's behavior, the husband's behavior, etc. (Which ties into the comment made above by Raehan about the frazzlement and exhaustion).

Wow.. sorry my two cents was so long! I should probably do my own blog on my viewpoint.

Thanks for the thought producing moment.

12:30 AM  
Blogger blue2go said...

Interesting observation, I've noticed that too. But am wondering, like some others here, that if it isn't that (some) women are more likely grant authority far more easily to a man rather than another woman. Same with a man to another man.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

I agree with you completely. All women are bad and public beatings should commence immediately. Any money generated by this wonderful idea should go to me, but you should receive full public credit. :p

Actually, from my experiences on a customer service help desk I have noticed the following: 1) women tend to demand explanations more than men. 2) women tend to be bitchy and acid tongued, but only the men go full-bore screaming and profane. 3) more women tend to get upset over their tech problems, but the few guys who do really make up the difference. 4) I get more female callers with really dumb problems (just got off the phone with one who was typing in "ID" instead of her personal ID). I think this is because guys are more gadget-oriented and are a little more comfortable with tech stuff.

In conclusion, women are evil but also sexy, so I guess I'd better learn to deal with it.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Dave Morris said...

Carol, intriguing piece. Women do need an explanation for things more than men, I've noticed. Although the explanation will simply take time - and the results will be the same.

With no offense to anyone, I've told my wife (based on experience and observation) that if you put 10 women in a room filled with food, water and necessities - and sealed it closed for a week, most would come out hating each other.

Same room with guys, they'd all be friends.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Sask 1 said...

I feel i should be sticking up for the girls here.But i know from my line of work that woman question everything and men just do what i ask.

10:53 AM  
Blogger happyandblue2 said...

This is an interesting post.
Men in charge communicate with the men under them in a different way than they communicate with the women staff.
Women have more freedom to question authority..

11:25 AM  
Blogger Hick said...

Another fine post. When I was employed as a mid-level manager, I had more problems with the women that worked for me than the men. Many of the women told me flat out that they did not want to work for another woman. The men may not have liked to take direction from me but they were almost always respectful.

I think women are also more verbal then men and are more apt to mouth off...experience comes from raising two boys and a girl. The girl child has to yap about her displeasure while the boy children misbehave without talking about it and then apologize quickly to be done with the talking and get on with their adventuring.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Zube Girl said...

Hmmm...Interesting post. I work at a hotel, and have noticed things about the difference in approach of the sexes.

Total generalizations to follow, that do not apply to all folks:

Women do tend to file complaints more often that men. Some are legitimate. Some are trivial. They want explanations, such as, "We didn't give you a free night, because you booked a special rate, which already gave you a free night. And, you stayed here for only two nights. Unfortunately, your message light blinking all night does not seem to warrant us allowing you to stay here for free."

Men are more often guilty of escalating a complaint into a fight. I'm more accustomed to them shouting, "I'm gonna call my lawyer," or "Your job isn't brain surgery," to which I usually just roll my eyes right the hell out of my head. Because, yeah, calling me stupid is gonna get you anywhere with me, buddy.

12:33 PM  
Blogger bschneider5 said...

Good read!Bradsblog

3:26 PM  
Blogger The Rambler said...

I have noticed a change in some women that occurs around the time of the birth of their first child.

As Jerry Seinfeld once said "You better watch it, I can make people you know!"

The animal instinct to protect their own kicks in and anything or anyone that tells them what to do can be viewed as an attack.

They are also those most likely to end up asking for Supernanny's help! :-)

9:44 PM  
Blogger RuKsaK said...

Those conversations are wonderful. They say so much and I can almost see the faces of the people. I really enjoyed that.

10:30 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...


Wow. Great post (as usual).

I've worked customer service for years and I have to agree with some of this. Women do tend to question things more than men do. But men tend to pull out that old chestnut "The customer is always right" more often.

No, sir, I'm sorry but that's not true. Especially if what you're "right" about is your insistence over the fact that your overdraft fees were caused by the bank and not your own damn fault for using your account when you didn't have any money.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Carol (Smiles and Laughter) said...

Interesting post. I often say "I hate women". Of course, I say that Tounge-in-cheek because I AM a woman. But women often tend to be more emotional and bitchy. (Of course, I'm not talking absolutes or everyones). It is much more rare to have to tiptoe around a man's feelings. I've also often said I'd rather work for a man than woman any day.

10:34 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

I so agree. I've noticed this mentality at my work place too...nice piece of analysis Carol..

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Pearl said...

I can see the opposite gender cause of men being flattered, and the aggressive adament women being more verbal and more power-vying. There might be a matter of women seeing the world in a more emotional manner, more likely to take it personally, assume sexism, racism, unfairness and bring that real or imagined subtext baggage into innocuous encounters. Men tend to see flatter and look to end result not process and not fight on the principle of the thing as much. That ring true for anyone?

6:18 PM  
Blogger Pope Benedict XVI said...

I'd like to see a female Pope very soon.

12:37 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Wow, this really has turned into an amazing discussion. What a great post.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Lyvvie said...

I've worked in many Customer Service venues, but I must say, It's men who pick a fight with me.

Women will argue points, and demand explainations, but the men have what can only be described as tantrums. Stomping feet, screaming of my incompetence to everyone in earshot, and other misbehaviours to try and embarrass me into bending to their will. I am a mother. That behaviour will earn you either a time out, or a very well worded "Get Lost!"

With women I find it's in how you speak to them that determines the level of harshness of thir reactions. Confidence with a smile, joyful persistence (not overly sappy like Gap trained folks) and positive body language, will almost always work. Unless the woman is in some way unhinged. Even then, the medicated marvel will often deal with a person who shows empathy and sticks to their guns a lot easier than one who simply reiterates regulation and rule in a souless manner.

Men just want to fiht, and win. By any manner. Doesn't matter. I've only ever had men threaten to wait for me after work. Women would only say they'll write to my manager. I'll happily give the address of my manager, be sure to tell them how well I did my job any time!

It's a fine line. I'd take daft ladies, over daft laddies any day.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Lyvvie said...

P.S. Thanks for the comment on my blog. Very nice indeed! And nice to see a fellow New Englander in Blogdom.

11:26 AM  
Blogger eric said...

i see it as simple gender rivalry.

probably something evolutionary in that. perhaps some misplaced assertion of dominance for mating.

it is a wildlife exhibit, after all. ;)

actually, my wife often complains about women principles at the school she's taught at. she prefers working for men.


12:12 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

I love this post! So well written.

6:35 AM  
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11:05 PM  

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