“Perception is reality and you cannot escape that fact.” This is something that I’ve heard billions of times in the past 20 years from my mother. At first- I resented the hell out of her for it. She was only telling me that because she didn’t agree with my image (I wore lot’s of black) and she didn’t agree with my friends (we were dorks who wore all black and did nerdy, yet slightly ‘satanic’ things) and she thought that I had a bad attitude and, well, let’s face it- I was 15 so OF COURSE I had a bad attitude! When I went to college, she continued to tell me this and I had already begun to soften my outward appearance and blend a bit more with the world, but my personality still deviated from the ‘normal’. Then, after I graduated from college and was forced into the work place, I had to embrace everything I’d spent my teen years fighting and become a suit.
Don’t get me wrong, I still wear my Pentacle exactly where it has been around my neck for the past 11 years, but along with that, I have neutral tones of makeup, appropriate shades of red on my nails, and clothing from the appropriately trendy store. You see, what I didn’t want to see was that, just like many times in every woman’s life, my mother was right. I’m not a musician or a painter or a published author (YET!!) so when it comes to being a functional adult, it doesn’t actually matter who I am and what I feel. I know that this sounds callous, but it is a sad truth for the vast majority of us.
This is also a statement that is more often applied to women. In an office, in a retail outlet, in a factory, a woman is still a woman and must be careful that she does not portray herself as something OTHER than what she would like to be seen as. If a man wears the same suit, jeans, slacks, and changes out shirts all week- nobody would notice. If a woman did the same thing, well, let me just say that I’ve been asked to sit a few down to ask them to change their clothes more than once a week. This request nearly made me want to slap the other woman who asked me to do it, but I also saw that I needed to help this other lady out- she didn’t understand that PERCEPTION IS REALITY.
Does every man with a nose ring and a plethora of tattoos spend his evening doing drugs and amounting to nothing? That depends upon who you talk to, but the answer is no. There is no generalization that generally works for this kind of assumption (eh-eh- see what I did there??), but he will be perceived as such until he can fight that perception. Is a woman with a skinny waist and large breasts stupid? Or, lets even flip that around, is a fat woman with low self-esteem not capable of being a successful sales person?
Let’s face it- at some point we all need help and we all need someone to take a chance on us. Here’s an anecdote for you. I’ve just been ‘reorganized’ for the third time in two years and unlike the first lay-off, I made it through this one with a job. The first lay-off was entirely personal and looking back, I 100% know that I deserved it. Did you really- you ask? Well, of course I did, because PERCEPTION IS REALITY. I was loud, opinionated, and tactless so regardless of what I might have had in the form of potential, I’d already isolated anyone who might have been able to help me. It took two years to get back and now that I’m here, I was ‘reorganized’ again, but this time, it had nothing to do with me. I had no reputation except for the positive one that I’d started with 800 miles away from where I’d been and the temperature warmed up greatly for the people that I needed to give me a job.
In contrast, I have recently met a woman who has been trying to break through the barrier from hourly employee to a management position. She is in the same place that I was 2 years ago and there is no easy way to make this concept hit home for anyone aside from losing it all. What do you think?
Are double standards like this fair? Are they human? Are they sexist? Why do we perpetuate this type of crap when we clearly don’t want to? Is this the kind of benign bull-twinkie that leads to white supremacists shooting up a Mosque or anyone feeling the right to pass judgement upon strangers?
Does the answer honestly matter? PERCEPTION IS REALITY. You can only see what is in front of your face.