Let the world read your mug
How to deal with microaggression at the workplace? With arty mugs dripping with sarcasm and which gets the message loud and clear without you having to say a word. Here’s a peek at Microaggression in BNW, the 2nd collection of Conversation Starters from Lines by Su.
I have a reputation of being a no-nonsense woman at the workplace. The polite ones call me “intimidating”. Others prefer “bitch”. In spite of the notoriety, throughout my career, like all women, I had faced microaggression at the workplace. Indirect, subtle and sometimes even unintentional discrimination or behaviour directed at me.
Early in my career, I was shy and timid, angry and confused in the face of microaggression. I didn’t know how to deal with the unwanted hand on the shoulder. The unwanted hand that appeared a bit too often on the shoulder. A hand around the waist is crossing the line, but isn’t the hand around the shoulder leaning towards friendship? Especially when the man attached to the hand happened to be the man everybody in the office saw as the “friendly and helpful sort”? Or am I reading too much into it? Should I tell the superior that he’s standing too close to me and that there’s no need for me to feel his breath on my face while discussing an idea? Or am I being paranoid? Ok, let me move a step backwards then he wouldn’t be too close. Right? Why is my colleague looking at my chest instead of my face while answering my question? Did I imagine that or did it happen? Yes, it did. But how am I to tell him not to ‘stare’ because it is rude AND it is making me uncomfortable? What if he denies doing it? Worse still, how will I work with him again after the confrontation? Will it affect my prospects in the company? After all the colleague has the boss’s ear. So, let me wear the turtle neck and stew quietly in the summer heat.
It’s not PMS; it’s you
It took me years and reaching a certain level of authority in my career before I could grab the bull by its horns. That doesn’t mean that microaggression stopped. It only means that I learned to tackle it. I learned to deal with men invading my physical space or staring down my blouse. I learned to tell “please let me finish” every time I was interrupted during a meeting. I used humour, subtle sarcasm, glares that would burn somebody’s pants off and all the other arsenal in my kitty to deal with microaggression. Tackling microaggression is tricky. It is not so in-your-face that you can haul the perpetrator to HR or seek recourse in law. It is like having a broken nail and not having access to a nail cutter or a nail file. The broken nail will not kill you, but it will irritate the hell out of you and begin to affect the rest of your day.
Thou shalt not covet my ideas
In the early days, when I was not yet an “intimidating bitch” I dealt with microaggression in many different ways — I would write down all the things I wished to say to my aggressor, I would draw the aggressor as ugly faces in my artwork, I would cut out quotes or go looking for posters with appropriate words that I felt would be subtle hints aimed at the aggressor. Often some of the perpetrators would get the hint and back off.
I know and believe there are many women out there who are in the same place that I was when I started out. Timid, angry and confused. It is to these women that I dedicate Microaggression – BNW Collection. Conversation starter mugs from Lines by Su.
Let the aggressor read your mug and get the message. Without you having to say a word!
PS: I like mugs. There’s something about it. It is a source of comfort when you wrap your hands around its warmth while sipping a beverage. It can make a statement even when sitting quietly on your desk. And of course, the right mugs are always a conversation starter.
Since you love breasts, let’s crowdfund a pair of implants for YOU
Breasts can’t talk. I can. Wanna try?
Stop claiming credit for my work!
— by Sudha Pillai
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