A sexist workplace isn't against the law in the sense that being against the law stops it. Sure, the country states its case in legalese at the bottom of official forms. But in practice, there must be leadership in place that carries out these laws. And the sad ugly truth is that some leaders practice with underhanded actions, manipulations, and cruelty.
Offensive statements and jokes are commonplace where I work. The words degrade women, other cultures, homosexuals, emotions, sensitivity, and differences in neural capacities. But nothing is done that really stops it. I spoke up about an imbalanced workload, and my leaders did nothing of substance. When my leaders decided I'd done something wrong in a meeting, I wrote a thoughtful response to them. It included reasons why I'd been having a difficult time in the area. I spoke about the racism and sexism. This response was passed on to Human Resources. All that happened was that other managers used my words as reasons to withhold a job from me. Oh, and HR did what they consider an investigation and determined that they could not substantiate my words.
The place plasters itself as a "diverse and progressive" entity, and it's so far from that when you experience it at a daily level. As I continued to work after the investigation and after being declined a job for unjust reasons, they kept up their offensive words. My drive and ambition slowly diminished. I began to understand that I am not on a fair playing field, that my concerns will not be taken seriously. This unspoken rule became clear: to get ahead at the organization, you must be white and male or female and stereotypically feminine: beautiful or concerned with your appearance, constantly giving more than you ask for yourself, frequently asking others for advice, dependent on a more knowledgeable (usually male) source. As a confident, competent, and expressive minority female, it's been demoralizing to go to work most days. My hair fell out at one point. I didn't believe this kind of work environment still existed in such a terrible manifestation, and then a couple of years ago I thought I'd landed my dream job!
Panic attacks, stress, and a feeling of unfair treatment can go together and appear unrelated. Depressive thoughts, anger, frustration, a sense of why me or what now... this kind of experience can grip the body and squeeze tears. The sensation can feel overwhelming, like how do I stop the spinning, the downward cycle, the seemingly endless pounding sense of worthlessness.
Shame is a deeply personal experience caused by things outside of us. It is the voice of a parent who wanted 110 percent every time, laughed at us if we didn't get the best in the room. It is the absence of a caretaker for reasons good, bad, and otherwise. It's when someone won't speak with you and you aren't really sure why. Shame is not knowing how to say no, thinking you're saying no, actually saying no and still being forced by an evil you didn't think existed in your life. Shame is molestation, rape, abuse, bully behavior, martyrdom. Shame is when you're naive and mature at the same time and things go wrong and you think they're right at the time. Shame is vulnerability and helplessness and hatred mixed into moments of immobile anxiety and mean thoughts. Shame is cultures that dismiss your value, ignore your contributions, and then say to your face that you need to change because you're the problem.
Non-white look, white look, rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, straight, gay, transgender, young, old, school education, life education, those who fit in, those who don't fit in, mentally able, mentally unwell. Human expectation can create all kinds of nuances that establish value.
When we talk about any element that might differentiate one from another, it can get tense. People have strong feelings sometimes about the things they are or are not able to be or attain in life. It's understandable, this intense emotion. If you watch someone be something you want to be or get something that you want, but then you discover you can't really be that thing the other person became or have that thing the other person got... well, that sucks. It might be so much suck that you feel great anger about it. Maybe there's anxiety, too. If this suck goes on for a long time, then maybe rage develops into depression.
Well hello there.