2 thoughts on “The Last Time Someone Said Something Inappropriate, Did You Let It Go?

  • January 20, 2020 at 5:23 am

    To be honest, I am tired of trying to correct all the misogyny, anti-LGBTQ, etc, stuff I encounter daily. This happens to all of us, I think. While I think we maligned folks have *some* responsibility to combat all the -isms thrown against us, I also think it’s not *solely* the responsibility of those targeted by such behavior to call it out. We can’t be “on” all the time. At some point, people need to educate themselves.

    Nevertheless, I’ve been asked all sorts of inappropriate and illegal questions during job interviews. Male interviewers — and they were all men — have asked me if I was married, if I had children, how many children I had, how I intended to balance family and work, if I had moved to this city for a boyfriend (commenting on my lack of a wedding band), if I planned to marry in the future (ditto), and what was my religion. Most of the time I declined to answer. Instead I calmly and reasonably asked the interviewer why that particular question was relevant to the job and did they ask it of everybody. They would reply that they were “just curious” or “just making conversation” and drop it. I left the interviews angry with them, not myself.

    Note that these questions assume that I am heterosexual, desire marriage and children, couldn’t possibly have decided to relocate independently for my own reasons, and even have a religion. At first I didn’t want to antagonize the interviewer and risk losing the job, but then I realized that if a potential employer/supervisor asks these types of questions this is not a place at which I wanted to work.

    I’ve encountered questions like these in both academia and private industry. The first time it happened, I was shocked and, frankly, needed a moment to recover. At the time, I was very inexperienced with job interviews. I think I told the interviewer that it was none of his business. I left the interview furious. I didn’t get that job.

    The times that I answered questions of this sort were in grad school. I was meeting with some faculty members about joining their labs. At the time I feared antagonizing them, being labeled a troublemaker, and subsequently losing my good standing in the program. So I answered them, and doing so made me extremely angry and uncomfortable. These were not formal job interviews, or at least I didn’t think they were. The faculty already knew me and my coursework. I eventually joined a lab whose PI did *not* ask me anything inappropriate.

    Please treat yourself compassionately for not confronting singlism every time all the time. We can only do so much, and it is exhausting.


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