I Stopped Listening to Men Today

It wasn’t a deliberate choice, but I found myself politely ignoring the majority of my male colleagues today.

I am a teacher, a member of a female-dominated profession, and today was our first day back to work.

Obligatory first day of school photo.

The first day is always kind of nice. We ease into the daily routine with a breakfast in the cafeteria, time to chat with friends, the superintendent’s presentation about the year ahead, department meetings, and time to lesson plan with colleagues.

But I realized that the majority of the voices I was hearing were from men. The superintendent and assistant superintendent discussing the district’s vision and goals. The narcissistic principal flying by with a booming, “Hello there, ladies!” The pretentious white guy who insists on always speaking Spanish when he’s conversing with the fully bilingual Latinos seated near him.

I simply stopped listening to the men.

I stopped turning my head to indicate that I was paying attention.

I didn’t look up or applaud when it seemed merited.

I just stopped.

I pulled a book out of my bag and started to read during the assistant superintendent’s remarks. (I’m reading The Valedictorian of Death by, ahem, a woman named Heather Armstrong. It’s a wonderful memoir about depression. Highly recommend.)

I leaned over to the women seated near me and we talked about our children and our summers and all of the professional issues we happily juggle.

I talked to my lovely supervisor, Karen, about a new course I’m teaching and I walked away feeling so validated and encouraged by her feedback.

I reconnected with my friend, Kelly, and we had a brief, fascinating discussion about retirement and how we could potentially retire within the next 8–10 years.

I found my friend, Cheryl, at an information booth. Cheryl retired early and is now a life coach. She is trying to help burned-out, frustrated teachers and I have no doubt that her work will indirectly positively impact the lives of many students.

With all of these women, I felt heard and respected.

We skipped the small talk and got right into our discussions.

We talked about the emotional labor of figuring out childcare and managing our households and remembering all of the back-to-school details that would soon be flooding our kitchen counters.

We did not include the men.

I wonder if they noticed?

And furthermore, what is it like to be a man in a female-dominated profession? Do they notice when they are not included?

As I reflect more on this, I wonder if this is bigger than it initially appears: Is this the unintended fallout of the current political climate? When men are legislating the reproductive rights of women, are the women turning away from them as a collective mass?

It seems probable that I’ll be returning to this topic. When I am turning away from an entire gender in my profession, there is clearly a problem.

As always, thank you for reading, friends.

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{writer | educator | Ed.D. | hiker | leader | feminist} email: lorimann921@gmail.com

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