• Charlotte Dallison

What is it with Old White Guys?

Updated: Feb 10

I have one rule in my working life, and that’s that I don’t work for men. Other than the occasional exception (usually my female boss' husband) I find that men make hopeless bosses to young, ambitious, talented and accomplished female employees.

Late last year, Melbourne came out of a terribly strict (strictest in the world, at one point) lockdown and I was finally able to launch my vintage clothing business online. This was a huge relief, but once that was done, I realised I needed some cash, actually a stable flow of cash to help me on the sidelines as I built my business. I explained what I wanted from a part-time, side-job (security, stability, something in a creative field, close to our house, good enough pay...) to my partner one afternoon and little did I know, two hours later my artist friend text me out of the blue, explaining that she know of someone trying to find a publicist for his growing gallery and she immediately thought of me!

So I thanked the universe, thanked my friend, and I followed the usual course of events - phone call, job interview, job offer, see how I go. I felt that working at a gallery was perfect - complementary yet not conflicted with my fashion business plus the gallery is relatively close to my house and I’ve always loved being on the floor, and chatting to people, who doesn’t!

I started the job a couple of weeks after my most recent (and rather full on) procedure for stage four endometriosis. The week of starting I had the most excruciation period of my life, as it was the first post-op bleed. (It’s here I’ll interject and say that whilst endo does dominate my life somewhat, I don’t want to use it as an excuse. It’s just to give a bit of context...). A new office working under a dude was far from the space I needed to be in that week. I "sucked it up" and soldiered on, however, making sure my attitude was perky and attentive, and listening to the gallery owner drone on about the same thing over and over again.

The job itself wasn’t overly stimulating, nor was it in the ultra-feminine, decorated kind of office I’m used to. But that was fine. It was a job, a good-ish job in a nice-ish gallery with interesting-ish work on show. And the boss himself was perfectly pleasant, if anything shy and slightly awkward, intelligent and perhaps a little more quietly confident in himself than necessary. Was this really the way I was going to pay my rent whilst I built a vintage brand and my career as a writer - well, yes! Remember Madonna once worked at Krispy Kreme and Fran Lebowitz was a taxi driver in 1970s Manhattan whilst they started out, FFS! If they could do that I could be a part-time publicist at a small gallery...! Besides, the gallery manager and other part-timer were both female and charming, and it only took me 17 minutes to get to work each morning!

So I went on, exhausted but putting my best face forward, when late last year I noticed a tone-shift with said old-white-guy boss. He went from being professional and direct to accusatory and paranoid, all over seemingly nothing?! I also noticed that when he was a bit drunk at the Xmas party in late December, he spent the last hour ogling my tits - hello Harvey!

This unpleasant behaviour escalated when on Tuesday of this week I emailed him to confirm my January start date and he really opened the floodgates. Accusing me of illegally exited self-isolation post trip to Brisbane (um, no I didn’t, mate!) and then going on changing crucial details to my employment agreement, which were not agreed upon, and would only benefit him yet hinder me. I responded with direct and formal language to protect myself from being taken advantage of - this was my steady side job, after all and I didn't want to lose what I'd negotiated for! Well he didn't end up responding well to me standing up for myself. And rather than continuing the conversation her decided to cower behind the gallery manager, who is young and female too, and was put in a terribly awkward situation as a result. Little does he know that those old white guy powers no longer work! Didn’t you know that it’s now the age of Aquarius (and age of the witch, mwahaha)?

So today I took a deep breath, and I emailed him to say I wouldn’t be coming back. In my email I was professional, polite and honest (oooh honesty, something old white guys do not like coming from young women!). In response he emailed back immediately (usually he gives in a typical two hours - two days type time-lapse between messages) and he said he hopes I "...find an employer who puts up with my unfortunate personality.” Goodness! Well guess what, buddy, that employer is me! And today has been a brilliant reminder that last year I left a dream job to work for myself for a reason, because I knew it was right in wanting to be self-employed, and that is what I intend to keep doing. I feel I should take this moment to point out that when working for him I had to put up with his awkward stares, stingy pay and the fact his shirt is often visibly undone under his enormous and unsightly belly for most of the working day!

I do have to admit though, his comments hurt a little, not to mention felt completely out of the blue. I spent about a short while feeling gutted and confused… I know I have flaws, I know I’m not perfect, I know I’m not everybody's cup of tea, I know I can be a dick sometimes too, but I also know I have a lot of strong bonds with friends, family, connections and prior colleagues who will always back me and my work. And I’ll tell you what, I will happily post said email exchange online because I know for a fact I didn’t do anything out of line, nor would I in such a situation. I am a professional, after all!

What is it with old white guys anyway? This wasn't the first nor nearly the worst altercation I've ever had with one...! My Dad is an old white guy and he’s (usually) awesome. He gives me constant, sound advice, all from the necessarily-evil, white male perspective (which I must admit has been very helpful), along with my uncles, grandfather, ex lecturers, recent co-boss (hi Tim!) and father-in-law. Not to mention the fact that my partner is a (young, worldly and woke) white guy. Yet I’m also writing this on the same day that the president of the United States (an old white guy, in case you had forgotten) is making history by getting impeached a second time…! Hmmm.....

So, ladies, and other allies, I encourage you to continue fighting for what is right for you and right for the greater good. All of those wonderful women and other incredible people whom we look up to didn’t fight their fights for nothing. If you know something is wrong pay attention and get out before the ship starts to sink! And regardless keep striving as we all will “get there." And lastly, always remember that we can do it without those certain pesky old white guys. Just swat them away, and wait for them to die, I say!

Meanwhile, if you'd like to support me then buy a vintage frock, why don't you!

Image via Flickr of the 2017 Women's March in Washington D.C, USA.

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