Season 3, Episode 11: "People Treat Me Like a Child Because I’m Femme. How Do I Command Respect I Deserve?"

Season 3, Episode 11: “People Treat Me Like a Child Because I’m Femme. How Do I Command the Respect I Deserve?”

Take a break from seasonally enforced socializing with distant relatives and gather round, ye lads and lasses! For it’s time for another episode of the award-winning* Bitches Get Riches podcast.

Today we’re speaking directly to our spiritual Rodney Dangerfields out there: those who can’t get no respect in their personal and professional lives. Whether it’s because they look young, or femme, or differently abled in some way, a lot of people are either disrespected or infantilized because of their appearance or mannerisms. Regardless of their skills, educational attainment, or personality. And that sucks.

Today’s question-asker is dealing with this infantilization and lack of respect, and we suspect it’s due to the unconscious bias of those around them. Can we solve as big an issue as unconscious bias in a single 20-minute podcast episode? We’re sure as hell gonna try!

*As unbelievable as it sounds, we have it on good authority that the judges were neither bribed nor drunk.

This week’s question

Today’s letter comes to us from the depths of Reddit. Every once in a while we find a question there that is so universal and applicable to our beloved bitchlings… that we can’t resist it. This one is from r/TheGirlSurvivalGuide:

How do I get people to take me seriously? 

I (24f) have a bubbly personality. I’m kind, I do well with children and babies, and I like to have fun. I throw themed parties for special occasions. I like to bake and go dancing with my friends, and I dress in a feminine way. 

I don’t want to sacrifice those parts of my personality because they make me who I am, but I have a hard time getting people to listen to me and respect my opinions. I’m about to graduate from law school and I’ve done some things I’m proud of! Like drafting COVID relief legislation, winning a case against a predatory lender as a student attorney, and implementing a federal grant for disabled workers. 

People still don’t seem to think of me as a serious person, or as someone worthy of their trust, time, or attention. My own dad wouldn’t take my legal advice, and instead chose to pay $19.99 for an online consult from a sketchy website (which confirmed what I already told him). There are examples of this from all parts of my life: my roommates don’t seem to respect my boundaries when I ask, guys don’t tend to see me as someone to settle down with, my mom constantly asks me if I’m “sure” about my life decisions. It just suuuucks

What am I missing? Is there something I’m doing wrong? How can I get people to respect me? 

r/TheGirlSurvivalGuide

Our answer

Sadly, there is no vending machine into which you can insert dollars until respect comes out. So here’s the next best thing: marginally related BGR articles and episodes!

Last but not least… we want to send out a massive thank-you to our Patreon donors. We would hire a pilot to write all of your names in the sky, but that seems like a massive waste of the money that you have so generously donated for the purposes of keeping the site afloat. So you’ll just have to accept our heartfelt thanks in tiny words on a blog article. And if you’re not yet a Patreon donor, you can become one right here:

Episode transcript (click to reveal)

Kitty 0:00

This episode, like all of our episodes, is brought to you by our Patreon donors. This time, we’re saying thank you to Katherine, J, Emily, Jessica, Cora, Liz, Madeline, Milly, Amy, Jennifer, Bunyipf, and Sarch. And an extra-special thanks go to Jim, Breanne, Rebecca, and Marcella. Jim, you are a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower. Breanne, you’re a cookbook with full-color photography on every single page. Rebecca, four different singer-songwriters have written haunting ballads about you. And Marcella is a story so good that everyone begs to have it retold again and again. Thank you for supporting us on Patreon.com/BitchesGetRiches. 

Piggy 00:48

Breaking fucking news. We won another Plutus award!

Kitty 00:52

We are the Best Personal Finance Podcast of the Year according to the Plutus Foundation.

Piggy 00:57

[gasps]

Kitty 00:59

Whatever drugs they have, good for them. I’m glad it led them to this obviously correct decision.

Piggy 1:05

Yes, we deserve this more than anyone else. 

Kitty 1:09

We are the greatest of all time.

Piggy 1:11

Oh yes.

Kitty 1:11

100%.

Piggy 1:12

GOATs. We are GOATs.

Kitty 1:13

So y’all don’t touch that dial. If you think there’s some better personal finance podcast out there, I cannot tell you how incorrect you are. 

Piggy 1:22

You can’t do any better than this. Thank you, the Plutus Awards, for this very well-deserved honor. 

Kitty 1:32

Thank you for this award which absolutely is not any kind of clerical error 

Piggy 1:37

No, no. We—listen, other podcasts, they have studios, they have equipment—

Kitty 1:43

Oh, we don’t need that stuff.

Piggy 1:44

No. No, you know what we have?

Kitty 1:45

We don’t need that stuff.

Piggy 1:46

We have 2 stuffy coat closets—

Kitty 1:49

Yep.

Piggy 1:49

and some pillows for sound management.

Kitty 1:52

2 stuffy coat closets, a pillow, and a dream!

Piggy 1:56

And apparently that’s good enough for the voters of the Plutus Foundation.

Theme Song 2:00

If you need some dough
You don’t know where to go
In this patriarchal capitalist hellscape

Well here’s the ‘sitch
We’re gonna help you, sis
Because bitches get riches

Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
And so can you

Piggy 2:31

That’s enough of that, let’s get down to business! I’m Piggy.

Kitty 2:34

I’m Kitty.

Piggy 2:35

And we are the bitches in Bitches Get Riches.

Kitty 2:37

We are 2 annoying portmanteaus of words that should never be combined in decent company. 

Piggy 2:44

And we’re here to podsplain the answers to all your questilemmas! 

Kitty 2:48

[gags] Our time on this planet is limited.

 Piggy 2:52

So award-winning, and it’s for jokes like that. So let’s get started.

Kitty 2:56

Okay, today’s letter comes to us from the depths of Reddit. Every once in a while we find a question on there that is just so universal and applicable to our beloved bitchlings that we cannot resist it. So this one comes from one of my favorite reddits which is r/TheGirlSurvivalGuide. So the question is, how do I get people to take me seriously? I (24f) have a bubbly personality. I’m kind, I do well with children and babies, and I like to have fun. I throw themed parties for special occasions. I like to bake, I like to go dancing with my friends, and I dress in a very feminine way. I don’t want to sacrifice those parts of my personality because they make me who I am, but I have a hard time getting people to listen to me and respect my opinions. I’m about to graduate from law school and I’ve done some things that I am proud of! Like drafting COVID relief legislation, winning a case against a predatory lender as a student attorney, and implementing a federal grant for disabled workers. People still don’t think of me as a serious person, or as someone worthy of their trust, time, or attention. My own dad wouldn’t take my legal advice, and instead chose to pay $19.99 for an online consult with a sketchy website (which just confirmed what I already told him). There are examples of this from all parts of my life: my roommates don’t seem to respect my boundaries when I ask, guys don’t tend to see me as someone to settle down with, my mom constantly asks me if I’m “sure” about my life decisions. What am I missing? Is there something I’m doing wrong? How can I get people to respect me?

Piggy 4:36

This question is very near and dear to my heart.

Kitty 4:39

I thought it would be because like, I think I tend to radiate an energy that is a little bit fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

Piggy 4:47

Yeah, you have that big dick energy.

Kitty 4:49

Thank you, thank you. But you have this sort of like, very friendly, very personable, very bubbly, and very femme.

Piggy 4:58

Mm-hm.

Kitty 4:58

And I think you have a lot of personal experience with exactly the kind of—

Piggy 5:02

Totally.

Kitty 5:03

quiet contempt that this question asker is talking about.

Piggy 5:07

Obviously we are both women in our mid 30s but when we started this blog, we were women in our late 20s. And before that—stay with me here, readers, it gets complicated—we were women in our early 20s. I remember at my first job, at a publishing house, people would call for the acquisitions editor, who was me, and I’d pick up the phone and they’d hear the voice of a young woman and they’d say, oh, could I talk to your boss? And I’d be like yeah, sure and I’d transfer them over to my boss and then as soon as he found out what they wanted, he was like oh, you actually want to talk to Piggy. So then he’d transfer them back over. And like nothing makes you feel more irritated and starts a business relationship on the wrong foot like just being presumed incompetent and having to have people come crawling back to you when they realize, or when they’ve been told by somebody else, that yes, you are actually competent and knowledgeable in your field. It was mortifying for me because it was a situation where I knew that they had presumed me to be incompetent, they knew they had presumed me to be incompetent, and the only way out of it was to have this older confident man like, bestow respectability upon me.

Kitty 6:26

Yep.

Piggy 6:26

And that’s so unfair.

Kitty 6:28

Yeah. I want to totally validate that this user’s experience is the experience of a lot of femme women and we’ll use a lot of language throughout which I think is going to be kind of inherently binary. But we’re basically talking about people who identify as women who are presenting with overall a majority of traits in terms of the way that they carry themselves, the way that they present themselves in the world, the way that they style their bodies, kind of conforms to this feminine stereotype, this femme stereotype. But at the same time, they’re asking for like, this is truly who I feel that I am. I don’t feel that I’m putting on an act. I just do the things that I like. It just happens to be that the things that I like are very sort of stereotypically feminine. And as a result, in these areas where I do have deep expertise, really valuable insights, people don’t take me seriously. And even outside of their legal career, they’re talking about their roommates not respecting their boundaries and their dating prospects—

Piggy 7:28

Oh and their parents.

Kitty 7:30

And their parents!

Piggy 7:31

Which, if there’s anyone who’s supposed to consider you brilliant in every way and frame your fucking macaroni art as if it’s the peak of artistic excellence, like it’s supposed to be your parents. So I find this particularly tragic that even her own father won’t respect her legal advice and her own mother is like questioning her life choices. If I thought I had it bad, like this girl clearly is going through a lot of trouble with this lack of respect.

Kitty 8:02

Yeah, I feel for them. I think this is kind of a difficult question to answer in that it’s really hard to give actionable advice for this question asker and not just focus on like here’s how the people who are asking you these asinine questions or these people who are blowing you off and disrespecting you, here’s how they should change.

Piggy 8:21

Yeah.

Kitty 8:22

I want to acknowledge that that is fundamentally true. Like this should not be the question asker’s problem. This should be people writing in and saying, I’ve realized that I really speak down to femme young women. Why? What is broken in me that I can’t fix this?

Piggy 8:37

It sucks that the victim of these scenarios is often the one who is tasked with fixing them, when really the people who are disrespecting her probably don’t even realize that that’s what they’re doing. Like, it’s so internalized to them. Just assume people are competent until they prove otherwise. Go in assuming that the professionals you’re working with know what they’re doing. Don’t question them until they give you a reason to. And that reason should not be based on their gender, their age, their disability, how they present themselves physically, like those things are not qualifying factors or disqualifying factors.

Kitty 9:10

Yeah, exactly. 100%.

Piggy 9:12

Yeah. Fuck it.

Kitty 9:13

I totally agree.

Piggy 9:14

Mm.

Kitty 9:14

This is pretty universal, right? Like, I think especially for femme people who are in their early 20s. This is a really really really common thing to go through, where you’re starting to gain traction in your professional life, and you realize that people are still talking to you like you’re a high school junior. And it sucks and unfortunately, it is on you to push back. So let’s think of some things that this question asker could do.

Piggy 9:41

Totally.

Kitty 9:41

The first one that comes to mind for me is to think critically about your own tone of voice and word choice. Am I projecting confidence? A lot of women are trained to kind of like, use a lot of up speak. I don’t know, just like—

Piggy 9:59

Throwing way too many sorry’s—

Kitty 10:01

that very apologetic way. Mm-hm.

Piggy 10:01

into your emails or your language. Yeah. It sucks but we are kind of socialized as assigned female at birth people to have those kind of speech patterns. Where it’s just like, well you shouldn’t be direct, you shouldn’t be aggressive.

Kitty 10:15

Because we offend “teh menz” when we profess expertise or certainty.

Piggy 10:21

Yeah. And I think a lot of young people, regardless of gender, might have that problem as well.

Kitty 10:25

Think about how you might talk to a child. If you see a little 5, 6 year old child who istottling up to a hot stove, are you going to say hey, um, maybe you should maybe think about not touching that? Like, you would never. You would say, don’t touch that! And I think that ability to switch between that sort of soft bubbly, femme mode that you enjoy being in, that feels natural and right and reflective of your personality, and really being able to, at a moment’s notice, set it aside and go, do not sign that contract! That contract is not in your best interest. 

Piggy 11:06

I am gonna—I’m going to push back a little bit. That is very good actionable advise and you know, if the letter writer can take it, great. Like code switch to make your language choices more confident and aggressive, great. But my hackles kind of get up at that advice because I’m like, I am who I am and how dare I have to change anything about me to address a problem that is somebody else’s. So, if the letter writer’s reaction to that advice is to be like, well I shouldn’t have to code switch to put up with these people who are disrespecting me based on their shitty, preconceived notions, I would recommend almost a more direct approach. Oh, why did you say that? Or, why do you think you need extra legal advice outside of mine? You do understand that I just finished a master’s degree in law. 

Kitty 11:58

Yeah. “What do you mean by that?” can be a very powerful way of putting it on them to articulate.

Piggy 12:05

Why?

Kitty 12:06

Why is that?

Piggy 12:07

Why is that? Why would you do that? 

Kitty 12:07

Can you explain to me why that is?

Piggy 12:10

Without you having to point it out to them, it might kind of hold their hand and lead them to the conclusion, which is, oh yeah I guess I was kind of just making assumptions about your abilities that were not necessarily true. And if they do have the lack of self-awareness to be like, oh well, I just don’t think you know what you’re doing, at that point you go, okay. Well, in that case, I should let you know that really hurts my feelings because I am a highly trained lawyer, or whatever the case may be. I really feel like asking that direct question forces the person to re-evaluate their behavior and fucking check themselves. 

Kitty 12:48

Yeah. You kind of have to like, learn slowly over time what ground you’re willing to give in order to get the results that you want. And it may be in adjusting your tone. It may be in adjusting your expectations and holding people to higher standards and calling them out when they violate those standards. Either way, you’re going to experience some level of discomfort because your default setting, your natural setting is not getting you the results that you want. And there’s nothing that you can like—you can’t just put on a power blazer and get the results that you want.

Piggy 13:23

Oh god, I wish.

Kitty 13:23

Like I wish there was some really simple thing that I could tell you, just be like oh, just do some power posing and you’ll be fine.

Piggy 13:30

Do you remember the episode of Buffy where there’s like a cursed letter jacket and whenever a guy puts it on, he becomes irresistible to women?

Kitty 13:39

[gasps] Yes! Oh yes!

Piggy 13:40

Yes! I wish there was like a cursed like, shoulder pads.

Kitty 13:44

Like shoulder pad.

Piggy 13:48

Just put these shoulder pads in your blazer and people will magically respect you.

Kitty 13:52

Guys, we’re adding cursed shoulder pads into our Etsy shop.

Piggy 13:56

Great, yes.

Kitty 13:58

When you give someone good advice or a firm boundary or clear expectations and they ignore it. How you respond then I think, is going to tell people, is going to give them the feedback that they need in order to change their own sake, as well as yours. I think someone when has walked all over a boundary or if you gave them advice and they ignored it—for me personally, I will give anyone advice in an area of expertise that I feel confident in, I will give anyone advice once. I work with dog rescues and I do a lot of dog fostering. I’ve helped to adopt over 50 animals. So I am really experienced.

Piggy 14:42

Jesus Christ.

Kitty 14:43

I know.

Piggy 14:44

Is you. You are Jesus Christ.

Kitty 14:46

I am he, turning water into wine since 1987. So, I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and say like, my dog is really anxious when I leave the house. What do you recommend? And I’m like crate training is your friend. You want to teach your dog that the crate is like a pleasant, relaxing space that they can go to any time to relax and it’s just for them and it’s not a punishment. It’s a great reward. They have their own bedroom to hang out in anytime they want to. And oftentimes that person will say, okay cool. And then they’ll go away for a month and they’ll come back to me later and say, he’s tearing up the sofa and he chewed a hole in a wall. What do I do? And I’m like, how’s the crate training going? And they’re like oh, crate training seemed so mean and it didn’t seem like the right advice. And what I do in that situation is, and really this happens to me a lot, I just say, if you go back and read through my initial advice, it still applies. But the longer you hold off on acting on it, the less likely it will be to actually be effective in the way that I’ve described. Being able to stand your ground and say, I gave you advice once and you didn’t follow it. Why would I give you advice a second time? And just let that silence hang in the air after you ask that question and force that discomfort back onto them because they should feel uncomfortable. They wasted your time and they wasted your expertise.

Piggy 16:16

Yeah, especially when it comes to this letter writer’s nearest and dearest. Family, friends, dating partners, they’re the people who know her the best. Like why do they need her to keep proving her competencies? And again, maybe this is me relating too much to this scenario. But like it is very irritating and hurtful to constantly just be—I keep using this phrase—presumed incompetent. I’m going to make a book recommendation and that book is called Presumed Incompetent. It is a book written by a number of scholars who are women of color and they talk about women, people actually, who are presumed incompetent based on their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and I highly recommend that book. It’s very like scholar speak, but I highly recommend that book for anyone who’s experiencing this problem. So the other thing too that you can do is a little more passive. Keep kicking ass. Keep being the bad ass that you are and people will eventually catch up. They might even admit their error and be like, wow I really underestimated you. So yeah, just keep crushing it and the people will catch up. The assholes will realize their error eventually. 

Kitty 17:33

Yeah. I may be biased here, but I kind of think if there is like one decade of your life where you change more than any other, it’s got to be like between the age of 18 to 28. You go from being a sort of half-formed child into being a fully-formed, fully legally competent adult person. You will have a lot of relationships that you formed when you were 18, when you were 20, when you were 22, when you were 24 that you think, wow like this is a friendship that’s going to last forever. This is a perfect partner for me. This is a great company that I work for. And as you start to get to the end of that decade and you truly like comeinto your own, you may start to see more signs than you were anticipating that actually, maybe this person is not as respectful of a romantic partner as I thought they were or maybe my parents, with whom I thought I had a fantastic relationship, maybe they do kind of talk down to me and baby me, and maybe the friends who I made in college felt like the perfect fit for my life when I was 20, but now that we’re 27, kind of feels like we’re on different pages. You may find that they are still talking to you like you’re an 18 year old girl.

Piggy 19:01

Yeah, that’s annoying.

Kitty 19:02

And now you are a 24 year old woman and you’re a lawyer and you’re cool as shit. And you deserve respect. And hopefully those people can pick up on the cues that we’ve kind of coached you on like how to give those cues. Hopefully, they can pick up on them and make changes in themselves. If they cannot, I think you have 2 options. You can kind of put those friendships, those relationships on the back burner and say, I’m going to give you some space and see if you too are going through your own periodof coming into a new recognition of who you are, and maybe you will do a lot of maturing in the next year or two, and I can come back to this relationship refreshed in a better place. Or you can kind of say, those were the relationships that I needed at that point in my life and I’m ready to move forward now. Being very honest with them—I think the more you care about the person the more it’s worth it to be honest, even if it feels rude, but if you’ve given them time and you’ve given them feedback and they don’t act on it, it might be that that person, that company, that family member was a great person to know when you were 6 years old or 16 years old or 21 years old, but they are not going to be the relationship that you need as you move forward exactly. 

Piggy 20:19

Yeah. I think that’s really great advice. Like, there’s definitely a component here of you need to practice some self-care. And if that means excising some people from your life who suck at respecting you, like take the time you need to do that. Just like, leave them in the dust for a while. And one last aspect that ties into this re: self care, is find your people, you know, you are not alone in this problem. Present company included. I am sure you know somebody else who is going through this, you might know several people who are going through this. Don’t skimp on the self-care, don’t skimp on finding your people, and just go through this together. It happens to a lot of us. 

Kitty 20:59

Yeah. This is a nice reminder to all of our listeners, if this quandary either doesn’t feel familiar to you or seems like something from a long, long time ago in your life. This a nice reminder, like really try hard to always be checking yourself. There are so many snap judgments that we make about someone based on their appearance, the way that they speak, the way that they look. And sometimes those assumptions can be helpful. They can be a nice little shorthand to say, hey I bet you also have strong opinions about a 90s cartoon show that was very important to young women. Like, okay great, you can make those assumptions and they can be good, but also those assumptions can be damaging and always be checking in with yourself about, am I making those assumptions in good faith? Or is that an act of relational laziness where I’m just making assumptions about people and expecting them to conform to them? How much space am I giving to the people who I interact with every day to surprise me with their breadth of knowledge or their diverse interests or their interesting experiences?

Piggy 22:05

Well-stated.

Kitty 22:05

Don’t make assumptions. Don’t make judgments and really try hard with all of your might to resist racist, misogynist, culturally imperious definitions of other human beings that are involuntarily forced down our throats. Every single day we have a new opportunity to throw them up.

Piggy 22:24

Are you good with that?

Kitty 22:25

I am good with that.

Piggy 22:27

Listeners, if you want us to answer your question, go to BitchesGetRiches.com and click “Ask the Bitches.” This podcast is listener-supported. We are committed to never ever putting our best content behind a paywall. So if you like what we do and you want us to keep doing it, you can support the podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/bitchesgetriches. And if you need even more Bitches in your life, you can read our articles or follow us on social media at BitchesGetRiches.com.

Kitty 22:55

Hey Piggy, is there anything else that the listeners should know? 

Piggy 22:58

Why yes, there is. The most attractive accessory anyone can add to any ensemble is a dog. 

Kitty 23:08

I already know that but still, it’s good to know.

Kitty & Piggy 23:12

Bitches out!

One thought to “Season 3, Episode 11: “People Treat Me Like a Child Because I’m Femme. How Do I Command the Respect I Deserve?””

  1. Excellent podcast with some truly great advice.

    A few thoughts.

    I agree: you need to cut negative, disrespectful and mean people out of your life. Do it now and don’t look back. That lesson took me a long time to learn.

    Speaking in words and tones of absolute confidence is important regardless if you are a man, woman or however else you identify. I’ve had a lot of experience in quasi judicial settings and I cringe if my witnesses, regardless of gender, radiate something less than absolute confidence. They can be completely right and still not convey the message you need.

    Finally, if I were the question-asker I would recommend taking some voice lessons. I did so and it was a real asset. As a lawyer the question-asker would really benefit from vocal training about how to radiate confidence.

    Thanks again Piggy and Kitty for an excellent podcast.

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