It has been with increasing frequency that I have encountered men at work who refrain from using certain language or recounting certain stories for the sole reason that a female is present.
It usually goes like this: I am training at a new site and find myself among a group of men from a male-dominated department, such as maintenance. They begin to joke around about something, and sooner or later the conversation takes an inappropriate (read: sexual) turn. Then, upon remembering I am in the room, one will comment,
"I'd tell you the rest, but there's a lady present."
I never know whether or not to feel offended by this. I like the idea that they want to respect women. I don't like the idea that, in order to do so, they feel the need to censor themselves. I have the impulse to cry out that I'm an adult just like them, not a delicate flower whose virgin ears need protection. That it's not right to assume that, just because I'm a woman, I need to be shielded from dangerous assaults on my innocence.
But before I fly off on some feminist diatribe I need to remember that the reason this happens is not just because of men, but also because of women. Women are still taught to be squeamish about *certain* topics and words, and many will state explicitly that they are uncomfortable with some conversations just because they're women. This bugs me, because the only other group of people I can think of around whom adults modify their language for their protection is children.
When I was young and curious about things, I couldn't stand it when adults would stop short of revealing something juicy, only to glance at each other and agree to hold off until I was no longer in the room. Why, I wondered, did everyone assume that I could not, or would not, endure and understand the truth? I couldn't wait to grow old enough to know things. But now I often find that I am still not privy to certain anecdotes and language for the sole reason that I have a vagina. And it's not the fault of the employees who won't "go there" in front of me--it's the fault of sheltered, uptight bitches who cry to HR every time someone says the word "fuck" in their presence.
I'm tired of this shit. Yes, we're all going to modify ourselves a bit in front of people we don't know as well and loosen up more around those we work with, but let's try to keep the standard the same for everyone--either keep it super professional around both men and women, or be adults and deal with the language and anecdotes of the real world.
I would much rather have my insight and perspective valued than have the door held for me but be kept in the dark. Antiquated manners and notions of deference be damned--I want to be truly respected, not placated. To be listened to, not patted on the head.
So if you have a dirty story to tell, by all means, tell the whole thing without holding back. If I'm offended, it's because it's offensive. Not because I am a woman.