Friday, October 16, 2009

Short post on excuses

Like Ianqui, I've wanted to write an excuse to my blog for not updating just because things are getting busy.

But one of the things I was busy at was busy work--mundane stuff for an organization that took me a whole day to do (think sorting, filing, stapling, labeling, stuffing envelopes). I'm not doing it again. Ever. I've just learned that there are machines for that (yes, I'm slow on the uptake). There are not machines to work on my major project for me. Invoking my new book review mantra, I--or the organization--can buy the service, but I can't buy back the day I spent on the task. I'm chalking this up to my own ignorance about what could be automated and not to the organization, which isn't to blame for my stupidity and probably would be happy to pay for the service.

When I thought about explaining this to the organization, at first I wanted to say that I couldn't do the task because my shoulders hurt after doing it (true). In rehearsing this with Spouse, however, he said, "Don't make it a personal issue. You're not doing it any more. You don't have to give a reason except that it can be done by machine and you won't be spending your time that way."

Dr. Isis has some wisdom about exactly that reasoning this morning:
Regardless of how you choose to allocate your time, I have learned recently in conversation with a group of more senior women in academia that there is something that we do that our male colleagues don't do -- we over explain, and that can color how people perceive us. For example, assume that you are chillin', getting ready to leave for your child's school play in two hours and someone says, " Can you attend this meeting in two hours?" A woman is more likely to say, "I can't. I have to go get my child and then attend his school play." A male colleague with the exact same play to attend to might say, "I can't. I have another commitment."
I should have known this--indeed, did know it--but one of the things I'm realizing over and over again, despite the Lessons for Girls, is just how hard it is to say no. Or say no and not explain.


Ink said...

I hear you! I'm still terrible at no. When I do manage to say it, I can't control the tone (because it takes so much energy just to say it). So I end up either barking or bumbling out something like, "No. Ok? No. Sorry. Because...well, just no. "

Good on you, though, for doing it!

Anonymous said...

I think it's some form of *guilt* that propels women into handing out these gratuitous and totally unnecessary explanations.

The less available we are, the more respect (and gratitude) we earn.

Most men appear to be born with this attitude.

I'd love to say that I'm a dab hand at saying NO minus any explanations but I still have to psyche myself up to do it. But, by God, it's worth it!

Well Done Undine and keep it up!

Annie Em said...

Hi Undine,
Consider this a TEST comment---I read your blog regularly, but for some reason I have much trouble posting to blogger!

Many moons ago the VP announced at a full faculty meeting on promo and tenure issues that it is OK to say "no": "For example," he said, "Annie said no to me just yesterday, and I applaud her!"

It was my first time saying no also...

Anonymous said...

That's weird. I recognise that as a fault of my own but I would never have thought it gendered. Isn't this just a normal reaction for the articulate but socially junior?

undine said...

Ink, I know what you mean: sometimes the "no" comes out in ways that startle the person who asked me, because I have to put so much energy behind it.

Anon, it is a form of guilt. We don't feel that we have the right to our time. I wish you weren't right about "less available/more respect," but you totally are.

AnnieEm, welcome! Your VP did what more of them should do.

tenthmedieval, I think it can be a gender OR a junior social status thing. In this case, it wasn't their fault but mine for acquiescing, in part because I didn't know there was an alternative.

Ink said...

Yes, exactly! :) (And then it's hard not to cave when the person is clearly taken aback by my barking or whatever way it comes out.) Well, at least we're saying it, right? Go, us!