In the spirit of “alternative facts” I present an alternative scenario to the gentlemen who still believe women have nothing to complain about.
“Excuse me?” you reply.
“Come on, smile. There’s nothing to be upset about. I bet you look wonderful when you smile.”
The woman across the bus aisle appears to have plenty to smile about, judging from her clothing and expensive laptop bag. You, on the other hand, were thinking about how to get through yet another job interview. How do you explain that you weren’t sad, but hopeful, and really need this job? You flash a grin just to get her out of your hair, close your eyes, and start thinking about that interview.
She takes the smile as an invitation to talk. What’s your name? Tell me about yourself. Then she notices your wedding band and pivots. Got kids? What does your wife do? Why in the hell is it her business anyway? And if you tell her that you’re on the way to a job interview because your wife was killed on the job a couple of years back, you can expect some condescending remark about how it’s too bad that small kids don’t have someone around the house with them all day. Instead, you pretend you need to deal with an important message on your phone and bury yourself in the device until you get to your stop.
You make it to the interview, and the woman behind the desk can’t stop talking to your crotch, even though there’s nothing to see because you took care with your interview outfit. She’s looking through your suit to see if your abs are up to her standards. After a few perfunctory remarks, she says to your crotch, “You know, there aren’t a lot of men in this profession.” You stumble on about how you’d be a good fit for the company, but it’s no use. The interview is over.
Finally, you find a job, and at a barely sustainable wage. You have two small kids to support, and while the life insurance provided by your wife’s job was a help, it wasn’t enough to cover expenses for very long. They promise you that the salary is entry level, and if you do good work you’ll get good raises. You work hard, you keep your head down, you endure remarks about men’s cute butts at the water cooler. You go to meetings where you are interrupted at best, and ignored at worst.
A few months later a new hire shows up. She thinks herself to be hot stuff, but it’s clear that she knows nothing. While she spends her time gossiping about your butt around the water cooler, you fix her mistakes. At the next staff meeting, she takes credit for one of your ideas.
Evaluation time approaches, and you get a decent rating, which should translate into a nice raise. You were praised for your work ethic and for your attention to detail. When the raises finally come, you get something to barely cover the cost of living. You hear through the grapevine that not only was that new hire brought on at a higher salary even though she’s supposed to be doing the same entry-level job, she got a better raise. You go to your boss and dance around all that, but ask why, after such a bright report, that you got such a small raise. “Those women have families to support,” you’re told. Now get out and get back to work. So what are you, with two small kids at home, chopped liver?
There’s an opportunity for a promotion. You work long nights. You continue to correct the other employee's work because she expects it and you don't want to rock the boat. She makes several crude jokes at staff meetings and her ignorance about her job shines through. That promotion is yours! The next day there are celebrations around the water cooler. She’s your new boss. What’s up with that? Well, you had to leave a couple of times to get a sick kid home from school in the last month, and that just doesn’t show dedication to your work.
The next week there is a round of layoffs. Most of the women hired after you stay on, and you’re let go.
You’re on the bus on the way home, dejected, holding back the tears, when a woman across the aisle implores: “Smile. It’s going to be okay, sweetie.”
Every one of the above things either happened to me or a relative of mine. If you think women have it good, think again. And smile. I bet you look great when you smile.