Friday Feminist – Sue Kedgley

Cross posted

It was there, in the cigar and testosterone filled basements of this ultimate male sanctum, that Germaine Greer’s warning began to echo in my ears again. As the token woman among 70 men, I was conditionally accepted – but only on their terms. If I was prepared to work 10 hour days, wear managerial woman suits, put up with cigar smoke and bad behaviour, with being treated at times like part of the furniture, and at other times like a bit of flesh they could flirt with when they needed a diversion, I could achieve a measure of acceptance. But if I wasn’t prepared to make work the number one priority in my life and conform utterly to their codes of behaviour, I would be excluded from their game. I would be squeezed out of my position, to return once again to the ranks of outsider, a marginal creature men would not tolerate in their inner sanctums.

Was this, I began to wonder, the point of all our striving. To have the same opportunity as men to sacrifice our personal lives, work 80 hours a week, drop dead at 45, and otherwise trap ourselves in lives that were as stressful and sterile as I perceived most of the lives of these chief executives to be.

Sue Kedgley, “Heading Nowhere in a Blue Suit”, in Sue Kedgley and Mary Varnham (eds), Heading Nowhere in a Navy Blue Suit, Daphne Brasell Associates Press: Wellington, 1993, pp. 18 – 19

Sue Kedgley is writing of the late 1970s.

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2 responses

  1. But if I wasn’t prepared to make work the number one priority in my life and conform utterly to their codes of behaviour, I would be excluded from their game. I would be squeezed out of my position, to return once again to the ranks of outsider, a marginal creature men would not tolerate in their inner sanctums.

    I do not recognize this phenomenon from my career experience at all. Nooooooo. Not one little bit.
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    I won’t be tolerated in the inner sanctum even if I do make work my number one priority and conform utterly to their codes of behaviour.

    In all seriousness, I’ve noticed that even though many employers now routinely deploy some form of fig-leaf regarding ‘work-life balance’ (e.g. by putting up some statement on the HR website about how much they think it’s great), the general attitude amongst management and employees alike appears to be that a desire for work-life balance (read: not wanting your job to fill up every last corner of your entire life) is a kind of laziness or immaturity, symptomatic of some deep character flaw.

    A colleague of mine, in the course of a discussion about gender issues in the profession, observed that as many women have children and family responsibilities, they have less patience for the ‘game-playing aspect’ of many careers. This was said in a way which implied that this impatience was a reasonable attitude to have – but at the same time, that these women should be happy to accept marginalisation and exclusion as the price of refusing to play the game. After all, career success shouldn’t result from doing your job well; it should be reserved as a reward for obsessive, slavish compliance with the arbitrary and punishing norms that have evolved from an unhealthy workplace culture.

  2. [...] feminist Sue Kedgley, also gone.  Just one feminist act among many, Ms Kedgley voted to decriminalise prostitution alongside all the other Green women, most of the [...]

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