Thursday, October 04, 2007

Disregard for women

Working here has returned me to an earlier time in the US where openly expressed sexist remarks did not seem shocking but were the norm, accepted by both genders.

I thought it could be my own sensitivity, but no, it's not. I have save a store of these little acorns of prejudice

Del recently tookly two sick days, during which editors come into our office -- but then left without saying anything. They welcomed him back with one of them nodding at me saying, "Ah, the boss man is back!" We, of course, are equals.

At a recent news meeting, people broke out laughing about a story of a husband beating his wife with a stick because he's was out of sort from fasting. "Why are you laughing?" I said, "I don't get it." The women were laughing too. "Oh," the editor told me, "it's because the story says he was where he shouldn't have been -- 300 KM from the border is described as AT the border. We're not sexist!." What?

While Del and I were off getting visas, small reprisals were taken against women we'd entrusted with new responsibilities. A woman who's taken the lead in photo editing was asked, "Why are you doing that? It's not your job?" by her boss and cowed back into inactivity. A woman promoted to a section editing job is writing a daily page of recipes for Ramadan. Well, she does like cooking, so it's not a bad thing, is the attitude.

The other day we were talking with a top editor about a flamboyant and outspoken woman reporter whose confidence in her talent may be a little outsized for her actual talent. We have been trying to get her to work with us more. She's a big and pretty woman who does not wear hijab. Don't laugh, the editor told us, but she gets this sense of pride because of her father. He's the biggest butcher in Algeria, he said and then tracing the outline of a full-figured woman with his hands, added, The man who gets her is going to get a lot of meat.

I tried imaging any male editor in the US making a crack like that in front of me.

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