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A Picture Perfect Workplace?

by an anonymous employee

I don’t want to seem like a prude, like some stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun. I just want to draw attention to something that

I’m unhappy with. It comes down to the pictures of women that I see displayed by the men in our workplace. They present stereotypes of women that are only what men would like to see, not how women would like to see themselves.

What is worse is that this is an accepted practice and I have faced ridicule from my co-workers when I have challenged it. This privileges the male view of gender and isn’t fair in an equal workplace. These images are disrespectful, detract from the hard work that women do here, might offend our clients and send a bad message to the younger guys working here.

There are many photographs that I have seen in our workplace that show disrespect to the women employed here. For example, the images around the workshop and behind the service desk of bikini-clad models leaning over sports cars or motorbikes show no respect to women. The juxtaposition between the women and the vehicles sends the message that women are objects, like the vehicles, that are only worth being seen if they are what men desire. A similar attitude is also reinforced by an advertisement for a vacuum cleaner that someone has stuck up by the sink in the kitchen. It depicts a man slouched on a couch with a woman vacuuming the floor. Above them is a slogan that says,

‘The man of the house does everything except clean, that’s what wives are for.’

This image promotes the belief that women are only useful if they are serving men. In this context it is meant to suggest that it’s the women who should be cleaning the kitchen area at our work. This attitude privileges the men who view this advertisement at the workplace. Women should be given more respect than this if equality is something that really is to be valued in our community. It certainly doesn’t recognise the valuable contribution that the women in our workplace make.

In my experience the women at our company work very hard and some of the images that I have seen make fun of their abilities. For instance, last week I noticed that a series of cartoons had been placed around the workshop that show women engaged in various workshop activities with t he caption ‘It’s so easy that your wife could do it.’ In one example a woman manages a drill press, in another a metalwork lathe. Their facial expressions and the beads of sweat on their faces indicate that they are struggling with the task despite its ease,

© WestOne Services 2009 – ENGLISH1162

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and send the message that women are only just able to do it. It is not accurate to assume that women are only capable of work that is easy. There are thirtyeight employees at our work, eight of whom are women, and these cartoons promote the idea that t hey aren’t capable of doing the work that men do. The women in our workplace are employed in a number of different areas including the workshop. These images silence the actual abilities of the female workers at our business. This marginalises women who think otherwise, and presents a bad image of our company, not the sort of impression that we would want to give to our clients.

There are clients who enter our business each day and it is inappropriate for them to see these images in our work environment. To illustrate this point you could note the calendar of swimsuit models in the reception area of our business. Their bikinis are very revealing and the body language of the women in the pictures is highly sexualised. Aside from the fact that they have nothing to do with our business, each model presents women as the men at work wish them to be seen. Some of them anyway. Since three out of the four people that work in the reception area are women, this demonstrates that women have less power than men to determine the look of our workplace. Furthermore, I am yet to see any images of women displayed as they would want to see themselves.

This means that the men’s way of seeing women is privileged in our workplace.

In the context of the reception area, those three female employees are juxtaposed with the desirable models in the calendar, and that is not an appropriate view to give to our clients. As many of our clients are female, they may find this idea objectionable. Also, while the images on the calendar seem to be accepted by the privileged men in our work community, males coming into our business from other communities may have an issue with them too. This different attitude is particularly common amongst younger men.

There are younger guys in the workplace, and other older men including myself who disagree with this practice and, who shouldn’t have these attitudes towards women forced on them. In one particular picture there are two people in an office situation. One is a man dressed in a suit and tie, and the other is a woman in a tight-fitting, short dress. This suit gives the man status and he looks like a boss. He smiles as he pinches a female on the backside. A caption underneath says ‘Sexist behaviour won’t be reported, it will be ‘graded’.’ The idea that males in authority encourage sexist behaviour that intimidates females is not something that younger staff members should be encouraged to believe in. It also sends the messages that this sort of behaviour will lead to promotional positions. It will reinforce the privilege that this attitude has in our community. As a result those unfair stereotypes and inequalities will continue.

I realise that by voicing my alternative views about how I interpret these images that I am likely to be marginalised by my coworkers. This is because they don’t see this as being a problem, because it is part of their everyday way of viewing women

. But that is the problem. They think that it’s normal and okay to stereotype women in this way when it isn’t fair or accurate. This view gives the men the position of power in our workplace community. The reason that I have

© WestOne Services 2009 – ENGLISH1162

raised these issues is not to ruin anyone’s fun but to encourage a happy, inclusive workplace where we all have a shared sense of community. Surely that isn’t too much to ask.

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© WestOne Services 2009 – ENGLISH1162

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