I've Heard a Lot Less of "You Don't Look Like a Writer" Lately. But...

Los angeles based writer content creator kate ferguson

I’ve heard a lot less of “you don’t look like a writer” since we more formally decided that sexism isn’t a good look. But, I did recently send a guy an assortment of my work and he said it was “hard to grasp” what elements of it were my doing. All of it, man. Grasp it.

The amount of sexism I encounter is actually pretty wild. In a single day I had both a store clerk and a guy at a tire shop say things to me that they would not have said if I hadn’t been with my boyfriend. Overtly assuming my helplessness, and whatnot. I can’t say that I always handle these things in the moment, but I do try to stand up to it as much as possible.

The “you don’t look a writer” thing was rampant when I spent a lot of time in bars. It was a super annoying thing to hear on a regular basis, but also a really quick and efficient way to figure out that I didn’t want to be talking to whatever guy just said it. I’m not a “tee hee but I am!” responder. I’m more of a turn into an icy cold shield as my eyes half roll back into my head kind of responder. I do realize that there is an intended compliment in that strange statement. They mean that I look good. But the obvious implication is that women who look good either can’t also be smart, or that they don’t need to be. Even “you look more like an actress than a writer” is a crazy thing to say. It’s terribly and harmfully loaded. It’s assuming that looks are a more valuable commodity than a brain. I can be witty and be blonde, people. It’s not that complicated.

Another zinger I experienced this year was in a situation where I was working with two different teams of men, on a deal that I facilitated, and was the lead earner. A little situation popped up where one man kept removing me from email threads where the financial negotiations were going down. One of the other guys caught it and asked him to please keep me on. Guy number two did recognize that guy number one was making that decision because I’m a woman, so credit to him for taking a stand. However, when guy number two called me to discuss this incident, he tried to pump me up by referencing another woman who managed to do well in the male dominated industry because she acted like huge bitch. I said, that’s nice and all, but having to be a bitch to receive common courtesy in a business situation isn’t going to work for me. That’s the old assumption, that women need to act more like men to be heard. Maybe that was true in the boys club days. But we’re not playing that anymore. You’re never going to forget that I’m a girl…and you shouldn’t need to.

I didn’t even respond to the guy who said he couldn’t “grasp” which parts of my work were my doing. He wanted to hear back that I had a single speciality, and I don’t. Thank goodness. I’m good at a lot of different things. The weird thing about that experience was that I specifically detailed everything that I sent over, so it should have been pretty obvious. Yes, I write. I copywrite, blog, screenwrite, content write, do journalism, and create funny Instagram captions. I also take photos, edit photos, do some basic graphic design, branding, conceptualize and execute projects, run and grow social media accounts, do PR, marketing, designed a couple websites, and run a digital magazine top to bottom all by myself. I also do a lot of other stuff. I like acting. I design t shirts. I have business ideas up the wazoo. What’s so hard to grasp about that? Maybe it’s unusual to focus on so many interests at once. That’s what I’ve been doing my entire life, so it feels pretty normal to me. I don’t think anyone is asking or implying to male business heads “but what part of this did you do? Who helped you out, lil guy?”

Maybe the next time someone tells me I don’t “look like a writer” I should throw my arms out into a bear-like power stance and shout “that’s because I’m a hell of a lot more than that!” I definitely could. I just don’t think that I should have to.

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