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Sexism 2010

In our first week at an elite graduate school of business administration, I suspect the other women in the handful of us scattered amongst 60 or so men in our section of the class, imagined, as did I, that we were there on equal footing. Proud to have leapt the admissions and societal hurdles, we were eager to learn how to become captains of industry.

Picture my disgust when I learned that within the first week, the guys in our section (and by “guys” I do mean males) had already rated the women, not on our intelligence or business experience, but on our bodies, assigning us awards based on  best, or worst, body parts.

Sad story, but ancient history, you scoff?

Read today’s Boston Globe, December 8, 2010, the article with the headline New Website Lets BU Women Be Rated.

The boy creator of the site, Justin Doody, 20 years old, says he got the idea from the recent movie about the founding of Facebook. You’d think that in 2010 a male his age, instead of replicating such demeaning objectification of women, would abhor rather than replicate it.

BU Administration Does Nothing

BU’s student union—thankfully someone has guts and brains—condemned the site. Not so the administration. The dean of students, Kenneth Elmore, after trying to protect the university by saying it was not affiliated with the site, basically did a Pontius Pilate, leaving women hanging in the wind by saying anybody who objected to the site should take up the issue with Doody, that font of egalitarianism and respect for others.

I haven’t seen such cowardly behavior from a university administration in a long time. BU, shame on you! You should be teaching students—isn’t that your job? Teach them that to diminish and disrespect a whole class of people is not appropriate behavior for citizens of the world, of the United States, and of your school.

Would you have become so instantly invisible if the site rated people based on their religion? their race? their social class? How can you be sanguine in the face of such an outrage against women?

Show Support for BU Women

I ask everyone who reads this to besiege the President of BU, Robert A. Brown, 617-353-2200, fax 617-353-3278; the Chairman of the Trustees of BU, Robert A. Knox , 212-753-0901, fax 212-826-6708; and the Boston Globe, , with letters, emails and calls in support of fair, non-misogynistic treatment of women on its campus.

As for Doody, he should be sent back to kindergarten to learn some basics.


The Savvy Enumerator

What exactly is an enumerator?

They come in various sizes, ages and colors. Over one shoulder is slung a black satchel that’s waterproof and rip-stop, bullet-proof too. From a black cord around their necks hangs a badge showing a teeny US flag, the seal of the Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census, and the words: Census Enumerator.

Yes, folks, these are the brave women and men knocking on your doors to ask you sometimes startling questions—Are you male or female?—and hurriedly marking down your answers before you lose patience with the process. They enumerate in the cold and rain and heat, at all hours of the day from 9:00 a.m. till dark.

woman showing badge

That little census form that you didn’t fill out but would have taken you about five minutes to do yourself? Enumerators have been through four days of training, alternately overwhelming and boring, to learn how to fill it in for you.

They have sworn to keep all individual census data confidential for the rest of their lives. They have been finger-printed, so they will be found should they mess up. They guard even papers to be thrown away that have  PII (personally identifiable information) on them and turn them in to their crew leaders to be shredded.

Enumerators are a breed that appears in profusion only once every ten years. And I am one of them.

The Language of Enumerators

Like any profession, we have our jargon. In your line of work, you  may have to account for every quarter hour that you work on a piece of paper. You probably call that piece of paper a timesheet. To us, it’s a D-308. We fill one out every working day. The things on which we write your answers to questions are EQs. If you live at an HU part of the year with your primary residence elsewhere, you’re a UHE.

You think this is easy?

It’s weird. The work is clearly not rocket science, but it’s also not always a snap. Buildings appear for which we have no record; buildings disappear, too. People come and go. Apartments get mixed up. If you started your lease on April 2, 2010, we have to find out who was there on April 1; we also need to enumerate you if you didn’t respond to the census in your prior home, even if that home was in Walla Walla, Washington. Which requires a different form, of course.

Okay, I was kidding about the bullet proof satchel. But the handy-dandy Enumerator Manual does advise wearing comfortable shoes . . . in case we have to run!

Word to the Wise

I’m amazed at how well the whole system works. Imagine for a moment that you need to start up a nation-wide company that will last for roughly six months with the bulk of the work being done in about three months. You’ll need to hire, train, and supervise over 600,000 workers. Ready? Go!

Sure, there are mistakes and some wasted time. But the whole effort, to my former management consulting eyes, is nothing short of a miracle.

So when your doorbell rings and you see before you a census enumerator, here’s my advice: just answer the questions. If you do, we’ll be out of your hair in fewer than 10 minutes. If you hide behind your door or otherwise obfuscate, you’re wasting your own tax dollars and time.

young guy from census picsWoman from census pictures

Trust me, a savvy enumerator never gives up.

man enumerator adultWe know the census provides the information that determines political representation, number and location of libraries, day care centers, schools, and roads. We know how much businesses, scientists and other researchers depend upon accurate census data.

We’ll find you. Because if you live here, you need to be counted. And we’re just savvy enough to do the job. Any questions?

census logo


I Married a Cowboy—Did You?

I Married a Cow Boy :: Cheryl SuchorsEven though we met riding a train, not a horse, and he was born in New York City, apparently my husband is a cowboy.

He must have inherited a stray gene from Wyoming. Republican state Senator Jim Anderson has introduced a bill to the Wyoming legislature to recall the “cowboy ethics” of the old West. According to The Boston Globe, the cowboy code stresses “the importance of living with courage, keeping promises, finishing what you start and saying more by talking less.”

Whoa. My husband is just like that. He’s the most responsible, ethical, productive person I know. And he really likes horses. Maybe I should check his birth certificate.

I confess to squirming a bit at discovering I like everything about the code of the West—which no doubt cowgirls also lived by—except for the silence part. While I’d like a number of men in meetings and at parties and other public gatherings to take up less air time, (perhaps they could ask more questions of women instead of talking about themselves?) in private, I find, too many men say too little.

I have accused my cowboy husband, for example, of talking as if somebody were charging him by the word. Especially on subjects like relatives, relationships, feelings, or Christmas presents.

Deborah TannenDeborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, described this phenomenon in her book exploring communications between women and men, You Just Don’t Understand. Men, she said, were raised to believe they owned the public arena and therefore felt quite comfortable holding forth in group or public situations, whereas women were raised to believe they were responsible for private discourse and found themselves far less comfortable speaking up in more public settings."You Just Don't Understand" By Deborah Tannen

Tannen also said men tended to state their opinions as facts. Period. Women often stated their opinions as questions. (See my example of the parenthetical question in paragraph 4 above.) The result? Men thought women in public sounded uncertain and lacked self confidence; women thought men in public dominated and pontificated while in private behaved like the proverbial sphinx expecting women to do all the heavy verbal lifting at home.

Was it like that in the West? Maybe the cowboy code of ethics only worked when there were no women around, like on cattle drives or before women showed up in mining towns and such.

I Married a Cowboy :: Cheryl SuchorsOver the years, my husband’s loquacity has waxed and waned. Now we face each other in an empty nest, which means robust communication between us has become even more important.  Actually, I do find him talking to our daughter’s so-called “daughter,” our grand-dog. That’s a good sign, I think.

So long as he’s not simply treating her like a very small horse.