I started my day with an email asking me for an interview. The student addressed his email to “Mr.” I was nice enough to respond to him anyway – though I’ve been known to ignore someone who didn’t take the time to check this. I actually couldn’t help him (not an expert in what he was looking for) so there was no harm done. I got a nice apology note – though I didn’t call him on it.
Then, a little later in my day I had a conference call. It’s me, another legal beagle (“Kim”) and the woman on the other side (“Hillary”). When Hillary answered the phone, I said,
“Hello Hillary. This is Tristan (I can’t use Butch here because it will confuse you), and Kim from Blah Blah Corp.”
And Hillary says, “But not in that order, right?”
Kim and I are confused and I reply, “What?”
Hillary says, “Well, you said Tristan and Kim. Tristan first, but you’re Kim, right?”
“No. I’m Tristan.”
“But Tristan is a man’s name and this is a woman’s voice.”
“No. I’m Tristan and that’s Kim over there.” I point in wonder to Kim across my desk. We both look shocked as we realize what’s happening.
Hillary starts to sputter and apologize profusely, “But I thought – Oh I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to -”
Didn’t mean to what? Imply that my parents are idiots for naming me Tristan? Didn’t mean to imply that only a man can have a traditionally male name? What exactly didn’t you mean, Hillary?
Of course I didn’t say any of this.
Now, Kim and I laughed. Kim knows I’m a good sport. I joked to Hillary that at least we know she didn’t Google me. Ha ha ha.
This interaction left Hillary embarrassed (rightly) and befuddled (natch). Even though I’m a good sport, that’s not going to stop me from (anonymously) putting Hillary on blast.
I mean. What the hell? What on earth would lead a professional woman to be so desperate for gender conformity on a professional phone call that she would behave this way? It’s not a call set up by Match.com. It’s a professional meeting. To discuss contracts. And indemnity. And licensing provisions. Boring stuff for most of the world; not me, of course, I love that stuff.
Who the hell cares whether she is talking to two women, a man and a woman, a woman and a Butch, or – two aliens, for that matter?
Is she going to defer to the person she thought was a man? Is she going to ask me out on a date? What was she doing being so concerned? Maybe the man should be doing the speaking and if he’s not, then he’s clearly not on the call yet. Should we wait?
I’ve been on conference calls before with a bunch of men. I’ve no issue asking the people to announce themselves so I get a chance to place the voices. Occasionally, I ask if the person who just spoke was soandso. But, to get absolutely tripped up over the fact that I’m speaking and my name doesn’t match my voice? It’s a new level of gender policing.
Though I despise the bathroom double takes and mistaken Sirs, at least those have an explanation – however feeble or rooted in ignorance they may be. This one left me perplexed. Shaking my head, as it were.
News flash Hillary: Not all women are named womanly names and not all men are named manly names. Sometimes, a woman is named Pat, or Hunter, or Michael (grrrowl). Sometimes, a man is named Kelsey, or Michele, or Shannon. And sometimes, a Butch is named Tristan. A big ol’ woman-identified Butch. Get over it.
Have any of you ever experienced this kind of crazy policing on the phone?
It’s Butch to stop gender policing. Be Butch.