Friday, February 20, 2009

Women’s Rights … and Wrongs

Big warning label:

These are my opinions. My opinions aren’t right or wrong, but they are mine. Please don’t deny me the right to express my own opinions, no matter how stupid you might think them to be.

If you don’t want to read my opinions about women and their arguments about equality between the sexes, stop reading now! Here’s a picture of Hyun Bin (현빈) to ease the rising blood pressure you may feel at just the suggestion of gender equality/inequality:

Okay. I feel like I have sufficiently warned leery web surfers.

Something popped into my head today as I was walking down the hallway. I had to turn left into a different corridor. A man was approaching from the opposite direction and had to turn into the same corridor as I did. Because he was a man, I automatically assumed that he would let me go in front of him. Ladies first, right?

It occurred to me that in the morning, a few hours earlier, I had had a similar incident in an elevator. A man and I were in the elevator together, going up to the same floor. The doors opened, and I assumed that the man would let me go first.

In both cases, the men tried to dart in front of me, and I got angry. I was flummoxed. Were these boys brought up in caves?? By rabid wolves?? How dare they?? The audacity!

Then I thought about it. By and large, men are still quite polite (I live in L.A.; my version of polite may not be all that polite in the real world). Many men hold doors open for me, let me out of the elevator first, let me leave the room first after a big meeting. Then why, oh, why this sense of frustration, of entitlement, burning in my little brain?

It's because of the whole gender equality thing, of course.

Women want to be paid the same wages, want to have the same opportunities, want to do the same things as men. We want to play the game of "anything you can do, I can do better. And faster. And while solving this little economic problem the world is going through."

I've personally always had that competitive attitude in the workplace. Part of it stems from what I believe to be natural attributes: I actually honestly believe that men make better artists while women make better producers. It's the way our brains are wired. Women are chaos wranglers, and generally tend to enjoy running around with fourteen things to do at the same time. Men are able to remain very focused, able to home in on something and do it.

Of course, this is a stereotype and definitely doesn't apply to all women and all men. I've met many good male producers, and some of the best artists I've worked with have been women. I'm just saying it's a bit of a natural tendency that I've observed.

In the workplace, though, I do believe men and women should be treated equally. In terms of work. If you're good at your job, you should get promoted, regardless of your gender. If you suck at your job, you should get fired. We should all be paid similarly (I was listening to NPR and heard that while women make up 50% of the workforce, we only get 78% of the money. That SUCKS!) depending on our skill level and experience.

However. HOWEVER. If a woman is treated equally, why does she also want to be treated with chivalry from the opposite sex? Isn't that also a form of sexism?

In terms of just regular human interaction at the workplace, I do not believe that men and women are equal. We are different- apples and oranges. I don't think it's wrong; I think it's a fact. I will expect men to hold open a door for me. I do expect a man to help me carry a box. I will always ask a man to replace the water in the cooler.

I hold doors open for men if they're behind me. I try to remember to leave the toilet seat up if I'm visiting a dude's house. I think of the things that I expect a man to remember for me and try to do onto them. I think that's gender equality.

This is all my workplace personality, Career-Jeanny. Home-Jeanny is totally different, probably a disgrace to her American friends, whose mothers burned their bras and taught their daughters to stand up to The Man.

Home-Jeanny is, for the most part, a docile Korean daughter. You read that right. I can be docile! It's not (just) because of pressure to conform, pressure to be a "normal" Korean. It's also what feels comfortable at home. I don't speak the same languages at home and work, why should I have the same mindset?

There is (luckily) only one man in my household, my father. (I have never wanted brothers, nor do I ever regret growing up without any.) He is, for better or worse, the king of the house, with no princes in sight. My mother is not a shrinking flower-- she's feisty and opinionated and has a passionate nature (she's a musician, of course she's emotional). She knows exactly how to express her viewpoints. She knows when to clash with my father (never seriously in front of us). She knows when to challenge his authority (again, never seriously in front of their daughters) and when to back down.

I believe that this relationship between my father and mother, mostly Korean with a dash of American thrown in, is the key factor to our family being a happy, healthy, contented group. We don't fight very much with one another. We all pretty much know how to read each other, when to pick our battles. We're unusually affectionate for a Korean family, very touch-y. We hold hands in public. We sample each other's coffees when we all go to Starbucks. We're that family in the restaurant, sharing food and utensils. (We share DNA, we can share forks, I promise.)

At home, I fetch my dad his reading glasses, I pour him wine, I turn the key while he tests the engine of a cranky car, I de-bug his computer. But I also demand that he fix my car when the brakes squeal, I ask him to take out the trash, I tell him when the bathtub leaks, I make him change the oil of my car every 3,000 miles without fail.

My mother cooks three meals a day for my father. She gets up with him before 5 a.m. (he works first shift) and makes him breakfast. She packs him lunch- no sandwiches for him, he gets rice, side dishes, a Korean soup of some kind, and fruit- every single day. She has dinner ready for him when he gets home. She cleans the house, she does the laundry, she pays the bills, she takes care of the dog and the cat and the goldfish. My dad earns the money, he takes care of the manual labor around the house, he takes care of the cars, he deals with the gardeners and swimming pool guy.

These are the unspoken but clearly delineated positions in my household, and I like them just fine. It works. We're not all equal per se, but equal enough. (There is a whole separate Korean mother-daughter relationship also at work, but since this post is about gender equality, it doesn't fit here.)

Even in the workplace, with something as insignificant as holding a door open, I believe that gender inequality is apparent. It's not a bad thing.


ate February 21, 2009 at 6:50 AM  

nicely said - !

and amen to all that

william February 21, 2009 at 7:26 AM  

1) hyun bin is so cute. 2) you are so sexist. 3) i want to live in your home.

la_flash February 21, 2009 at 7:11 PM  

Let's just say that I agree with you 90%.


Nice blog by the way.

jeanny February 21, 2009 at 10:22 PM  

Thanks! :)

1) YES.
2) Of course I am! We all are, I'm just 뻔뻔해 and tell it like it is.
3) If I move to Korea, definitely come visit.

I'm glad it's 90% and not 10%!

Thanks for reading- I read a couple entries on your blog, and I am so impressed with how prolific you are! I can barely manage one entry a day. I look forward to your future writings!

la_flash February 28, 2009 at 5:48 AM  

Oh thanks.

It's 90% because I agree mostly with what you have said... :D