MERRY MYSOGYNISTIC MALARKEY
Kathy was there to take minutes. Being our head of department, Gary’s secretary, she thinks she lords it over all of us other ladies. She sat smirking at me, tapping her pencil against her red stained lips. It must have been obvious I felt intimidated, and she was clearly enjoying it. I imagined grabbing her lanyard and wrapping it around her neck. Gary’s booming voice promptly brought me back from my daydream. ‘Molly. Whenever you are ready?’
I looked around the outdated boardroom at all the middle-aged men waiting to hear my pitch. I was sure they approve of our design, but with all the company executives looking me up and down like I was a piece of meat, I switched up my angle.
‘Good morning, gentlemen.’ Were they all gentleman? Most likely not. I was simply being polite and professional. ‘You asked for a traditional happy family gathered around the table for Christmas dinner.’ One man at the front of the group cut me off. ‘Sorry, sweetheart, but we were under the impression that the person handling our campaign was male.’
He had clearly never heard of deodorant. Faking a sweet smile, I bit my tongue before replying. ‘Well, you shouldn’t assume. It makes an ass out of u and me.’ Gary looked less than impressed. I said nothing further and started my presentation.
As I projected the image onto the screen, there were collective satisfied nods all around the room, except for Kathy, who screwed her nose up at the picture. I addressed the room. ‘So, what do you think?’ Gary gave me a reassuring nod. Oh, yeah sure, I knew you would like it, you sexist pig.
‘It’s great. Her family looks happy.’ ‘Mum has done a great job with the meal.’ ‘She did a wonderful job with the table settings.’ ‘Her husband looks thrilled he married such a good woman.’ ‘Her children are so well behaved.’ My blood boiled, and I clenched my fists. Her children?
Getting the response from the group I expected, I said nothing. I felt deflated. Will things ever change? Gary broke the awkward silence. ‘Molly? Is there a problem? The clients are happy.’ I shuffled on my high heels, now painfully aware that my feet were killing me.
‘Um, actually, yes, there is a problem.’ Kathy put down her notepad and pen, rested her elbows on the table, placed her head on her hands, and watched me with great interest. She looked like someone settling in to binge watch her favourite TV show. I am surprised she didn’t break out the popcorn.
‘Isn’t this image rather outdated?’ I got nothing but confused looks from all the men in the room. Kathy was grinning from ear to ear. ‘Mr Malodourous’ was the first to speak. ‘What do you mean, honey? It’s a picture of the perfect family.’ I clenched my fists a little tighter. The sound of my knuckles cracking reverberating around the room.
‘What is wrong with this picture?’ Kathy’s hand shot up like an excited student in a classroom. ‘Go ahead Kathy.’ All eyes were now on her. ‘Well, it implies that the woman, the wife, the mother did all the work.’ I nodded in agreement. The sea of faces turned back towards me. Gary fidgeted in his seat and suddenly looked like his tie was trying to strangle him.
‘Exactly Kathy, exactly.’ Gary shot me a look of death. I ignored him. Kathy smiled at me, and I knew I wasn’t alone in my fight. ‘So, I ask you all. Why does the woman have to do it all?’ One man appeared to think it over. ‘That’s just the way it is. Women are good at this sort of thing. Women enjoy doing this sort of thing.’ He needed to be challenged. ‘Are we? Do we? Who told you that? It wasn’t us women, was it, Kathy?’
She didn’t look up from the table. ‘Ah, no. I hate doing all that shit, and I am sure my mum does, too.’ This is great. Right now, I don't care if I lose my job or not. I confidently pointed my presentation remote at the smelly one. ‘I have a question for you, sir. Are you married?’ He cleared his throat. Glancing around the room, it now looked as if everybody’s tie was trying to kill them.
‘Yes. I am married with three kids.’ Nobody in the room made eye contact with me. ‘Do you help your wife cook Christmas dinner?’ He fiddled with his expensive watch and replied. ‘No, I don’t. My job is very demanding, so I don’t have the time.’ I maintained eye contact as I asked, ‘Does your wife work out of the home, and if so, what does she do?’ Gary turned a lovely shade of white. ‘Um, she’s a doctor.’
‘Right, clearly this backs up the point I am trying to make. Why don’t we be progressive? Show a family where this poor woman who maybe works as a doctor, shall we say, doesn’t have to do it all. Let me tell you, your wife certainly doesn’t have enough time in her day to organise everything and make Christmas happen, but somehow, she fits it in. Isn’t that right, Kathy?’
Unpublished Work (c) Hayley Walsh 2022