Two incidents, same company:
(1) Celebrating Black History Month with a picnic. Good idea, so far!
Picnic featured watermelon, grape soda, and fried chicken as the provided food.
I did a full-body involuntary cringe when I read that on their poster advertising the picnic. I did not attend.
(2) Celebrating woman’s history month by trying to highlight women’s experiences. Good idea, so far!
They decided to highlight women’s experiences by doing something that I have to assume was meant to be social-media-friendly. The most charitable assumption I can make is that it was conceived by somebody who may not actually be a human, but is perhaps a space alien in disguise, or hundreds of bees in a rubber man suit.
They put a bright red chair in the lobby of each of the main buildings on the corporate campus. They put a banner up next to that chair that said, in giant letters:
The expectation was that some random woman in that building would decide (of her own accord; no coordination occurred) to sit in the red chair in the lobby. People walking by were supposed to… talk with her about her experiences? Take a photo with her? It wasn’t really clear, but that seemed to be the implication.
There was no desk provided on where she could work while waiting for people to happen by. The chair was a cheap metal one that had been painted red for this purpose, so uncomfortable. There were no chairs for other people to sit in. The lobby in our building was just an entry foyer – there’s not usually people there. You can’t even enter the building unless you have been granted access on your corporate ID card. And the banner really just made it seem like corporate wanted the women to… sit, listen, and smile.
I rolled my eyes very hard, but didn’t say anything to anyone. Never saw anyone in the uncomfortable red chair in the empty lobby.
My manager, a guy, pulled me aside of his own accord while this was going on. He wanted to get my opinion on it. He told me he was specifically asking me for feedback because his daughters had informed him, in unrelated conversations, that it is extremely sexist to tell women to smile. He had taken their admonition about this to heart. He wanted the opinion of a woman who worked there, because he was considering complaining up the corporate chain about the event. I gave him a thumbs-up to that idea and confirmed that yes, it is rather sexist to tell women to smile.
I told him that the colorful chair & banner instructions made it look more like a toddler’s time-out chair than a celebration of women.
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