By The Duchess, 17th October 2015

The Female Card

Battling Women in the Workplace

Battling Women in the Workplace

I am a proud female. I wouldn’t say that I am a feminist, in the same way that I wouldn’t class myself as simply a ‘mum’ or ‘wife’, but I am a proud strong woman, with the ability to hold my own in a conversation, stand tall in a room full of business men and conduct myself in a professional manner whilst surrounded by misogynistic male managing directors.

I have worked hard at my craft. For many years I chipped away at my own insecurities and hardened them with concrete, giving me a rock-like exterior capable of warding off bullshit, yet still staying soft enough inside to allow all those around me to see my best assets – my perky smile and my lovable nature.

I was not always that way. In fact, due to being brought up by a family who tore down each and every inch of my self-confidence, I was a shy, timid and frightened young girl who managed to get through her first year of university not experiencing the least bit of joy or excitement. I didn’t ‘experiment’ – with either drugs or boys. I was proud that I was still pure and innocent until well into my 20’s, but in truth, for most of my life I was full of fear and dread. Fearful of those in the world that could hate me. Dreading the workplace and all the trappings that came with it.

At 18 I took a leap of faith that no one could have ever imagined of me. I moved away from everything I knew and embarked on a new life in a country where I knew little of their culture and even less of their language. Two weeks into my new life in Spain and at the tender age of 18 I sat in front of an incredibly intimidating woman who held my career in her hands and I CHOSE to be a different person. Right there and then. I had no knowledge of what I was doing, I had no idea the words that were to spring from my lips, all I knew was that with my teeth clenched and my hands finely clasped in prayer position and gripped between my knees I uttered the words, “I am not leaving until you give me a job.”

Photo: Markus Spiske /
Photo: Markus Spiske /

Me – I said those words. I was the kid too shy to ask a stranger for directions. In truth, I think had the woman sat in front of me actually laughed I may have cried and shot like lightening from the room. Luckily for me, the sheer fact that this clearly timid young woman was sat in front of her, determined to get a job, obviously struck a chord in her.

That day I walked away with my very first writing job. That day changed my life.

I had, in the space of a few hours, shed the skin of a timid, shy and fearful young girl and I had grown balls.

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Big hairy man-size balls.

And from that day on I did everything in the world I could to protect them.

Each day since, and with each word I write (whether it be on scraps of paper or a proper newspaper article), I think back to that day and I’m so grateful that someone saw an ability in me to be better than I was. Yet I still grit my teeth and think I’m not worthy, I still grip my hands together and clench them between my knees for fear that someone will see me shaking.

The only difference is, now I know I do it for a greater purpose.

I am a STRONG independent woman. I’ve worked in male led, high pressure environments and thrived in a career I love, but only because I’ve shed my fear and channeled it into something more productive. I’ve channeled it into power and determination.

The reason I tell you this story is not to garner sympathy or congratulations, or even a pat on the back. I say it because today I sit writing this in tears. Tears of anger and hatred at the idea that there are women out there that give women like me a bad name.

I have come across a lady who has entered a job role in much the same way I did. In fact she was given the job for many of the same reasons I was. She had left the UK and a life behind that she no longer wanted and was determined to make a fresh start in a country she knew nothing about. The person who employed her did so because he mistook her attitude for ‘balls, grit and determination,’ but quickly came to realise that she was simply scared and running away from unhappiness.

She’d walked into a male led environment and a job that she’s clearly not suited for.

Photo: Markus Spiske /
Photo: Markus Spiske /

I’m going to stop myself here, just for a moment, to say that I applaud her for making the move and I applaud her decision – so I am not a total hideous bitch for being angry at her. But I am FURIOUS with her because instead of realising that she is unsuitable for the role and moving on, or indeed pulling on her big girl pants and getting the job done, she has played what I like to call The Female Card.

I can actually hear the feminists among you now screaming. How dare I speak of such a thing! I should defend all women and their actions.

Firstly, when I say The Female Card, I don’t mean she came in one morning and blamed the fact that her work was not done on ‘Aunty Flo’ coming to visit. No. The card I speak of is much worse than that. She came into the office and instead of admitting that she is struggling with her decisions and the job, she has blamed all the males in the office of harassment, intimidation and bullying! Incredibly serious allegations that in a corporate environment can not only end someone’s job, but end a career!

The fact that there are women out there that will use this card as easily as a child uses “the dog ate my homework” excuse, is in my mind totally and utterly deplorable!

It is also an important time for me to note that I in no way condone bullying (I am a mother, so it goes without saying). In no way do I condone harassment, as I believe that harassment of any gender should be taken seriously and in no way do I think that anyone, male or female, should be subjected to intimidation in the work place.

HOWEVER. If you are going to choose a career that puts you in a male led environment, highly stressful situations and tight deadlines, expect that every now and again you will have to either act like one of the ‘gang’, one of the ‘boys’ or in the worst case scenario ignore the idiots when they are having their testosterone fueled deadline days.

In my opinion, if you are prone to bursting into tears when your boss hands you a piece of paper and says “well yes, it’s good but it’s not perfect”, then my darling you are in the wrong job and you need to get help or get out of the workplace. Constructive criticism is how we grow as human beings. It is how we evolve and better ourselves, and if you were perfect you would be the boss.

I am a big believer in BIG GIRL PANTS. You get told something is not good enough, you pop to the toilet, put them on, pull them up as HIGH as they will fucking go, and you get out there and prove every fucker that they were wrong. If you sit and cry and make complaints then I’m sorry, your career will start and end with you crying in a corner!

I have been appalled and disgusted at one of my own. I have been ANGERED that one person can bring so many to their knees simply because she has let her own insecurities get in the way of her own judgment. I am appalled to have been classed in the same gender as those who use the “Female Card” as an easy out. You are no better than those who cry wolf.

Courtney Carmody
Courtney Carmody

I work hard and play hard in equal measure. I have pitted my wits against the strongest males in my work environment and worked hard to prove all the naysayers wrong. I have felt shy, awkward and intimidated by the sheer brilliance of those around me that I never once felt I matched up to. But even I stood tall and proud and determined to be counted as one of the strong women that our generation continues to produce.

I sit here now, a stay at home mum, having had the career that I loved and one day hope to return to, but honestly, with a world full of women that will be happier to tear us down, I’m not so sure I ever want to be lumped into the same category again.

I am proud of my big fat hairy balls. I worked hard to earn them and I will work hard to pass them onto my daughters – because god help them if either of them ever turn out to be just like the woman I unfortunately encountered.

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