My posting has been light this week, as I’m out of town at a work conference and haven’t had much time for reading or writing. I didn’t think I’d be able to use any of my experiences here as blog fodder, as the Married Men on Business haven’t been bothering me lately. But JessMess’ suggestion in our anniversary thread reminded me of something else.
Yesterday, a motivational speaker “entertained” and “inspired” us during lunch. Motivational speakers: nothing could be less motivating (to me) – an hour full of hokey made-up stories, goofy slogans and forced audience participation. I did laugh at a few of the man’s jokes; he had good comic timing. But most sorely need updating from the 1980s, at least. And right off the bat, I knew the speaker did not have me in mind when he wrote his shtick, because I am a woman. About half the people at the conference were women. His jokes weren’t off-color or dirty, but there were some wife jokes and they were told in that knowing way, as if to say, “you know what I mean, dear listeners – and by ‘listeners’ I mean men.”
The default audience member is presumed a man. And if not, at least she will relate to what life is like for a man, recognize her position as the Other, and double over in laughter. I am not writing this to demonize our speaker. He seemed like a very friendly, kind person. I’d much prefer him to this guy. But patriarchy is everywhere. I see unrecognized privilege everywhere.
And not just the male variety. The speaker also had us all get up out of our seats a bunch of times – “Now everybody stand up. Come on! Get up!” As a person who had just eaten lunch and was already dog tired, I was annoyed. If I had been in pain, I’d have been hurt and frustrated. Standing up is not possible or comfortable for all people. There were lots of women and older folks in the audience. His performance was not well-targeted, even if nobody else was offended or struck by his unchecked privilege. It’s important to know one’s audience. Or, at least, to refrain from making assumptions about one’s audience based on one’s own identity.