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I’m invoking the P-word for this post. Patriarchy.

Because working in an office arranged around the father-knows-best and father-is-the-law ideology is as damaging for worker morale and for workplace productivity (the biz term for making sure lots of work gets done so the company can make lots of money and enough profit to keep you in a job).

And it is the kind of workplace in which I have landed.

I’m a creative, go-by-my-gut, everything-will-get-done-if-I-don’t-have-to-slow-down-for-bureaucratic-details, passionate, part-time contrarian. Which isn’t a good fit for this workplace.

Things I have recently been reprimanded for:

  1. Wearing a nice t-shirt to work with dress pants (on a hot, hot day).
  2. Exceeding the ‘absolutely no story can be more than 500 words’ rule by 15-30 words. (Actually, until that reprimand I thought it was more of a guideline, a get your stories close-to-this mark, not a hard and fast, not one word above 500 words, because it’s too hard to edit and our customers need to know what to expect from every story, like Tim’s customers expect a certain number of blueberries in their muffins, no more, no less, kind of rule.)
  3. Taking hour-long lunch hours, even though we are provided with a lunch HOUR.
  4. Forgetting to send a day end note to my manager/editor, even though I talk with him all day and am in earlier in the morning: nothing like talking to me to find out what I am doing.
  5. Leaving the building without asking permission of my editor/manager. (Because he needs to know where I am at all times.)
  6. Beginning work on a story before consulting him, and giving him a chance to kill it and offer me some weird idea he came up with himself.
  7. Not coming up with enough story ideas. (Even though I have come up with dozens and dozens of story ideas: he just doesn’t like them. Actually, he is notorious for not liking most ideas that aren’t his (mostly from women, but also from men) and that don’t support his particular view of the world, because they aren’t HIS ideas and therefore doesn’t make him look smart.
  8. Being an experienced reporter who FORGOT to send a day end note to him, as it is absolutely essential to his planning process, without it he is lost and I am ‘punished’ with writing stories for the FORWARD section, a dumping ground for workplace issue stories.
  9. Wanting to write hard business news stories as though they were good stories, with interesting leads and fun language instead of boring lists of profits.
  10. Coming into work 15 minutes late because I knew I have a late assignment that will keep me over time. (We work 9-5, don’t you know…)

I am an adult. What’s more I am an award winning writer. Until, that is, this editor put me in a straight-jacket, refusing to let me work within my creativity, unable to accommodate my perspective and viewpoint. What I write used to be fun, quirky, unique and attention-getting. Now what I write is, honestly, boring.

If I give my manger/editor credit for being anything other than a misogynist bully, then I can say that perhaps he really does believe his ideas are better than anybody else’s.

But that is the problem with the patriarchy: the only people who can have good ideas are the ones in charge: the others – the women, the poor, the immigrants, the minorities, the men who refuse to dress in suits – their ideas don’t count because they don’t measure up. We need to become drone men-in-suits who all think the same while pretending to think outside of the box, before we can ‘make it’.

What is the damage? This place is bleeding all its qualified, experienced female journalists. It employs no non-whites. The men are beginning to feel it too: a good workplace being a place that encourages independent action, employs people whose differences create a sort of momentum and creative thought after all. All the latest workplace studies support that, if that’s the kind of proof you need.

As a journalist, the job is supposed to allow a certain amount of freedom. I am accustomed to working freely within a tight framework. I am not accustomed to asking for permission to go for a walk to clear my head because I’ve been staring at a screen all morning: I consider that a part of my job, a simple remedy which will allow me to return to my desk and write better, write more quickly and efficiently. I am not accustomed to having that time ‘deducted’ from the hour-long lunch-hour I had to fight for, though it is mine by right.

Why not get another job you ask?

The massive lay-offs in the industry, the mergers, the newspaper closures. A good experienced journalist is a dime a dozen these days. Those remaining in the industry are there by the skin of our teeth, surrounded by the memories of excellent colleagues who left the business to escape men like my manager/editor, people who struggle with their conscience every day because of the amount they are FORCED to compromise their ethical standards in order to write what is expected.

I dream of a newspaper that encourages creativity, that will allow me the freedom to explore the stories I pitch so that I can win awards again, bring more readers to newspapers, learn more, experience more, WRITE more…


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