First I feel that I must tell you something that I am sure goes without saying, I take my professional life VERY seriously. When I go to work I dress professionally. It is important to me to communicate to my clients that I take our work together seriously and part of how I do that is through how I present myself visually. Actually, and I say this not out of any kind of hubris but based on somewhat objective standards that I feel sure that most of you would agree with (and, yes, I appreciate that you have a bias that would favor me as you are my friend or at least a friendly reader who has bothered to read this far), I am fairly confident that I dress better than your average therapist and I, without question, have nicer shoes than your average Rockport/Mephisto/Birkenstock wearing male-therapist.
When my toe was broken and I had to wear Tory Burch thongs to work (as it was the only thing I could get my foot into) I HATED it. I hated that my shoes might in anyway communicate that I am not a professional and that I take my work with my clients anything less than 100% seriously. I tell you all of this to tell you what some of you already know, the guy that I rent my office space from(who is also a therapist) had the nerve to ask me if my $320 Tory Burch Leopard Pumps were “professional?”. I answered reflexively, “Why do you say that?” and I feel sure my face added the non-verbal address of , “you, in those shoes and that outfit are daring to ask me about my shoes”. He fired back without any indication that he was aware that he was entering some seriously dangerous territory in which I was, given the time and space, capable of invicirating him even though I am declawed and highly proffesional, “well,” he went on “you are psychoanalytic. And aren’t you supposed to be a blank screen? And those shoes are kind of wild-woman.” As soon as he completeted his accusation I heard the door of the lobby open, my client had arrived. I left my clueless colleague behind and walked away in my beautiful shoes. I greeted my client and invited her into my office. Want to know the first thing she said to me before we sat down? “I like your shoes.” I thanked my client and we immediately got to work.
It was when my work day was over and I was on my way home that my mind returned to my colleague’s uncalled for comment and it was then that I had the time and space to think about what exactly my colleague was saying. How dare he question my professionalism, it wasn’t like I was wearing lucite stripper heels? I was wearing designer shoes that I bought at Neiman Marcus. It wasn’t the cut or quality of the shoe that my peer had a problem with, it was the print. He was saying, in the subtext of his question, that leopard is a symbolism of sexuality. He was inferring that I was too much of a sexual object to be a professional. He was saying that my shoes made me seem like a “wild woman”. His comment was telling me that he, when he saw me in those shoes, no longer saw me as a professional but rather as a sexual object. And you know what, that ain’t my issue. That is his. He needs to get his Dockers covered ass back into therapy and look at why he has to split women into either “professional” or “sex object”. And I have to wonder if he would say something like that to some therapist dude in a surf shirt and faded and un-ironed trousers? Would he dare to bring his professionalism into question? Would he point out the impact of such thoughtless and unprofessional attire? I doubt it. Grrrrr!!! This leopard wearing therapist is mad.
The more I thought about his sexist and inappropriate comment the more that I wanted to go back and give him a taste of how fierce this leopard shoe wearing woman was. The image of him in his camp shirts and his Dockers and his VERY bad shoes and his incredible gall to infer that I was in anyway unprofessional had me in a wild fury of contempt. It has been several weeks since this happened and I am still mad about it—yet I have said nothing. And I know why, I fear that if I say something that I will lose my office space. I don’t want to have to find another office space. I am not proud of this reason for not confronting him about this–but it’s the truth.
I hadn’t planned on telling you about this here as I already vented about this a bit on Facebook but then I ran into subtle sexism from a psychology professional #2 and it started to seem like a theme in my life that I can’t ignore. Actually, I am not sure how subtle either of these examples really are. Okay, so I was in my psychoanalytic psychotherapy class and the analyst in charge was lecturing on the three different Freud’s: the American, The British and the French. All was well until we get to the French Freud and the instructor started talking about Lacan and this is where everything went pear shaped. So the instructor asked if any of us had read Lacan, before I could raise my hand, a guy in the class blurted out “I was in a practicum in which this Lacanian analyst was speaking and she was a typical French bitch.” I tell you, my friends, I almost lost my mind. I feel sure that my eyes turned into the size of buffet plates and that my jaw hit the desk below me in disbelief; I looked like an animated cartoon character. I could not believe my ears, which in true Warner Brother’s style, had steam coming out of them. Happily the instructor stopped him from further slurs with a “Hey now, guy!”.
Even as the instructor moved us onto the impact of Lacan on psychoanalytic theory and away from this guy’s gender and Xenophobic slurs, I couldn’t get past what had just been said. If the Lacanian analyst had been a man he would have called him a jerk or dumb or pompous or ill-informed but he wouldn’t have likely attacked his gender. If she or he had been from Canada he wouldn’t have brought her nationality into the equation. But because she was a French woman he attacked both her gender and her country of origin. I was relieved to see that his diatribe wasn’t going to be allowed, however something happened in that “French bitch” comment. He had, with that comment, told me a lot about who he is and, if I should I dare to say something he disagreed with, what the consequences would be. If I were to raise my hand and say that I actually like Lacan a lot and that I found Ecrits to be a fascinating extrapolation of Freudian theory that I might get dismissed and be boiled down to a stereotype. He, with that comment, silenced me and perhaps the other women in the room.
All weekend I have been thinking about this guy. I have thought about writing an email to the instructor and thanking him for not allowing that kind of speech to stand. I have thought about calling the head of the program and sharing with her that in truth I don’t think the instructor took a strong enough stance and that it is my wish that someone talk to this guy about that comment. I have decided instead to wait to talk to Igor today and see his take on this. I guess what’s holding me back is that I feel some concern that I am overreacting. Maybe I am being too sensitive. Maybe by saying anything to the instructor or to the head of the department that I will get identified as an over-sensitive troublemaker. I don’t want that reputation and yet, to tell you the truth, I can’t stop thinking about this guy’s inappropriate outburst and how it has changed my feelings about being in the class. I guess the thing is that I don’t want to be the Anita Hill of the psychology set. It didn’t go so well for Anita and, as you know, Clarence still got the job even after she dared to speak up. I will admit that I have had fantasies that I could go into class week and belt out La Marseillaise in resistance ( I can’t see this scene in Casablanca without crying)—too bad I don’t have the voice or the words, or the courage.