Lessons in Chauvinism

We had a meeting in the office today, which isn’t so surprising in and of itself. That’s what we do here, is have meetings. It helps make work less efficient and last longer, so people can have an extra excuse or two to justify staying at their desk until 10 pm.

The meeting was a GOLF event (gentleman only, ladies forbidden). Or sausage fest, whichever term you prefer. I, personally, am partial to the one  that doesn’t inspire images of gay Germans. The meeting ran long, of course, there’s just so much to talk about. After about an hour, with no end in sight, or even within the realm of hypothetical consideration, people got thirsty. One of the managers decided it was time for everyone to have some tea. However, there were no women in the room. What to do? After about 10 seconds, the same manager turned to me and asked me to go out and get some tea for everyone. I didn’t want to because, you see, getting tea is woman’s work. It would set a bad precedent.

I said, “No; I’m not your waiter.”

You know how in anime, when something embarrassing or unexpected happens, people suddenly flip over upside down and fall? That basically happened in real life. After everyone regained their composure, re-got their shit together, the manager explained to me that since I was the youngest, it was my role to get tea for everyone. It is the Japanese way. By the by, I have discovered the best way to explain a concept that has no rational explanation is to dub it a “Japanese custom.” It’s like,  just being part of Japanese culture automatically makes something timeless and incomprehensible and magical: a rule that must be followed without question or consideration.

Anyway, I got up from my chair and walked over to the phone in the corner of the room, and dialed the accounting department. 5 minutes later, a 20-something girl walked into the room carrying a tray with 8 tea glasses and carefully set them in front of everyone.

When she was done, I looked at the manager and said “Actually, that’s the Japanese way.”

Everyone laughed, including the accounting lady, whom I had just humiliated. She only laughed because everyone else did; I doubt she actually found humor in the situation. She was out of the room for most of it, but i think she understood the joke, or at least its implications. But she smiled anyway.

She left the room, and presumably went back to her desk, where she continued doing her job as usual, no doubt taking a few more breaks during the day to get some older guy tea or coffee.  Did she think about what happened in that meeting today? Or was it just standard procedure? I had already left the office by then, but at 8 or 9 pm, she most likely clocked out and headed home. After 1 or 2 hours of crowded trains and slow buses, getting home was probably a relief. Whether she lives alone, in a small one-room apartment, or still inhabits her childhood bedroom at her parents’ house, I’m sure home provides some measure of escape and relaxation after her workday. Does she watch TV? Does she read? I don’t know how she spends her time off of work. She probably hangs out with friends, or goes out on dates. I wonder how much time she spends thinking about marriage and children? How long she thinks about her advancing age? Does she text friends a lot? Does she browse fashion magazines? Maybe she worries about her parents’ health. I don’t know.

However, I do know she doesn’t spend her time planning a career path, thinking about her possibilities for advancement. I know she doesn’t plan future vacations based upon higher wages. And I know she doesn’t dream about becoming a manager, leading her team to success, and navigating the corporate world. I know she spends zero time out of her day considering her myriad career options and future wealth and success.

And if you don’t understand why, I suggest you sit in on a management meeting sometime.

One thought on “Lessons in Chauvinism”

  1. Wow. I’m amazed that you said that to your boss and then handled it by having her deliver that stuff. Also appalled because that really is how shit is done around here. But, damn.
    I get out of serving everyone despite being rather young (not the youngest) and female by being foreign and feigning a general confusion as to the rules at all times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *