Exercise in public space (i.e. power walk or jog). Being able to work quietly at Starbucks. Street photography. Things ppl who do these peacefully take for granted.
— Trudy (@thetrudz) March 13, 2018
If you can do the aforementioned and more without experiencing racial microaggressions, street harassment/misogyny/misogynoir, constant interruptions, questioning of your “right” to be at a public place, police harassment etc. you probably take it for granted.
— Trudy (@thetrudz) March 13, 2018
Here’s the thing, though. I never noticed this until I was on the wrong side of it.
In Spain, I often feel exhausted just running small errands because I’m always expected to move around each person in the street. Also, I have to sidestep dog poo in every other step, so walking down my street feels like a really long game of hopscotch.
Eventually, I made a rule that only old people, young kiddos, or people with prams or other mobility issues get me to move. But that doesn’t feel better, to be honest. It feels hard.
I don’t want to be hard, but I don’t want to be a sucker either.
Did I ever notice who was moving around me in the UK? Or for whom I moved while walking? I must have moved on occasions and not moved on other occasions based on some feelings or notions I never bothered to unpack. I regret if there were people flowing around me and every other person I never noticed.
The only consolation I have is that I must be guilty of that same behaviour.
There is something very true about interruptions often being about power dynamics.
There is a person who signals to you that their time is somehow precious, while yours is worthless.
The client that doesn’t answer your email for weeks, but wants results 12 hours after they reply.
The startup that has a codetest, requires an essay, and that requires you to shoot a series of videos answering questions, edit and compress them before the form accepts them, but won’t answer your email.
The last time I worked for free, the final straw was actually setting up emails. There was a girl for whom I had reset the password and sent instructions to change it to one more memorable. Of course, I got no reply for weeks. Her time was far too precious. Then, the day before she needed to send a campaign, I got floods of messages demanding I drop my paid work and reset her password again because the original had expired.
Since we’re both from the UK, I saw the underlying attitude quite clearly. Here was a person with 14 years experience in building web experiences and consulting on web workflows being treated like BT remote support by someone who maybe had a shot at getting hired as an unpaid intern.
In my old office job, marketers emailed me for how to do the same steps over and over. So I documented those steps and sent them the links. They would reply that they didn’t have time to read the link. But it was the same instructions. To some extent, it made sense that there might be anxiety over how long the text might be and if it was an epic scrollable tome I had sent them, but not everyone replied this way.
A specific type of person would baulk at my sending the link. Over time, I realised they were upset that my time was too important to copy and paste replies to them because this signalled that their mental hierarchy was broken; I wasn’t beneath them.
This is one reason I am so adamant that work should be asynchronous. Some people get interrupted more than others as power displays, and when they try and mitigate that, get told they have an attitude. When they don’t, they get told they’re not delivering enough or managing their time well enough.
Biases are ingrained, but work habits are easy enough to change.