Glancing at Twitter I can see there’s shit going down. For those who I haven’t mentioned it to already, I know basically nothing about the story and that’s how I’m going to have to leave it for a while. I feel like I’m sort of flirting with a breakdown and waiting for various support services to get back to me to tell me what the next hoop I need to jump through is. Added to that physical pain any time my spine isn’t in just the right position or bearing too much weight, and a bunch of chores that need doing and yeah, I have no time for that sort of deal. Don’t let me stop you talking about it of course, just, if you could avoid bringing me in on it, that would be super.
Labour’s put out a new gender balance proposal which I’ve seen termed as “the man ban in drag”, whatever that means, and I felt this was a timely opportunity to remind or educate people about the escalators. This isn’t something I came up with, someone much smarter did that, and later if I have the time and energy I might try to track down who it was to give them the credit. But it basically goes like this:
There’s a company that needs to hire some people to do some work. They decide to use a meritocratous method of picking candidates, which in this analogy is that there is a room upstairs and the first forty people there will get the job. Between the ground floor and this room are two sets of escalators, so immediately people start streaming towards the up escalator. Some run up, and they get to the room first. Some walk up, and they start filling out the ranks too. And some people figure, the escalator’s going up anyway, I’ll just rest and let it take me up and then sprint for the doorway.
As it happens. everyone who gets onto this first escalator is a man, either because they’ve pushed ahead through everyone, or deliberately pushed women aside, or the women looked at those more pushy guys pushing everyone (and sometimes singling out women specifically) and thought, “there’s got to be another way up.” And there is. There’s the second escalator, the one that’s going down. At this point, a lot of women just go, “this is some bullshit” and walk out, because it’s clearly not as meritocratous as they were led to believe. Being willing and able to push people down so you can get past them just plain isn’t going to lead to somewhere they want to work because it’s unlikely those people will put that behaviour aside when they reach the room. Still, it’s a really good job and there are women who really want it, so some of them start not just running but sprinting up the down escalator. They aren’t as fast as the men who ran up the up escalator, and they’re quite out of breath by the time they get to the top, but they still manage to get there. Other women are going up the down escalator too at whatever speeds they’re willing or capable of. A few more reach the top and get the last couple of places, or reach the top and still miss out. Some are (to mix my metaphors) just treading water in the middle. Others end up right back down at the bottom again.
Up in the room, everyone looks around. There’s about five women out of the forty successful candidates and some of the men notice this and start talking about how the women must not really like the work, how strange! Or maybe they’re just not very good at it. Hearing this, the women argue back that they had a lot more work to do to get up here. The men had it easy, they were on the up escalator, some of them in that very room just stood there and let it carry them up, but the women had to fight against a backwards current. The men don’t get it. Everyone had the same instructions. There were two escalators, you could choose which one you used. If the up one was a little bit playfully rough, it didn’t mean anything, the women who were nervous of it were just being too sensitive. Why couldn’t they just push the guys back?
So the women get together and decide to install a lift. It would be pretty basic, and it would only carry a few people at a time and it would need other people to operate it, but they agree it’s a good method to get a few more women up into the room. So the next time they all get told that the first forty people will get a job, the men push for the up escalator just like they did last time. Meanwhile, the women start operating their elevator. By the time the first dozen men are there, six women walk in. Another ten men, then six more women, and finally five more men and a woman who’d decided to get there the same way the men did. The men look around and instead of five women there are thirteen now, and they get pissed. This isn’t right. They know from past jobs that only about five women make it up. Sometimes a few less or a few more, but maybe like eight, nowhere near thirteen. They troop out of the room and go and see what happened and find the women’s escalator, and now they’re really pissed. This is cheating, it’s not fair. There are two perfectly good escalators. “Yes,” the women say, “but we pointed out that our escalator goes backwards and you didn’t care. We won’t use the lift if we can set our escalator to go forwards like yours, or even if we turn it right off so it doesn’t move, otherwise we need the lift.”
A lift, the men agree, is SPECIAL TREATMENT. And so is messing with the escalators. There are two escalators and you can choose which one you take. They don’t have to take that one. It’s not the men’s fault they do. Some people come on the up escalator with them and there’s even one in the room with them. If SHE could do it, it proves there’s no problem – the other women can do it too. Just stop expecting to be spoiled and catered to so much, it’s no wonder some people (but no one here, of course!!) refuse to hire women who are going to cry and whine and accuse men of sexual harassment and have babies.
Some women are pretty disgusted by this and decide to go into another line of work. The others decide that they’re not going to give in, they really like this work, so they’re going to keep using their lift, and if the men keep going on about special treatment for women and accusing them of god knows what terrible behaviour because they’re pissed that more than a couple of go-along-to-get-along women are even there, well, at least they know the truth of it.