Thursday, 28 February 2008

Man, woman or beast?

I'll get straight to the point, no faffing. It's always well awkward when you're not sure if someone is a man or a woman.

The other day I had to talk to someone in the archive centre about getting a tape sent to my office. We talked for about five minutes, Archive Person needed information I didn't have so I had to call them back. When I did, someone else answered the phone.

Me: Hi, this is Jo calling from That Programme.
Him: Hi Jo.
Me: I was just on the phone to someone about That Programme, I need a tape sent over for it.
Him: Ok, who was it you were talking to?
Me: Argh you know what, I didn't get their name.
Him: Not a problem - was it a man or a woman?
Me: Err...

At this point, you will realise that I have so far referred to the archive person on my first call as 'them' or 'someone'. Truth is, I didn't have a clue whether the archive person was male or female. I even recognised their voice on the phone as I'd talked to them face to face the previous week, but to be honest I hadn't known if they were male or female then either. I remember looking at them and trying to work it out; ambiguous short hair, a lumpy chest that could have been man or lady boobs, a gruff voice manly enough to be a bloke, but high pitched enough to be a butch female. I simply didn't know. So, given I was put on the spot with someone waiting on the other end of the line and asking what would appear to be a fairly straight forward question, I replied the only way possible.

Me: I'm not err, I err...I think, err, it... I think it was female but...err

Smooth, Jo, smooth. Not only have you called their colleague 'it', you've also made it clear you think they're a man beast. How can you not be sure if someone's female or male? Why not throw in that they were probably raised by wolves, just to really make things offensive?

Him: [did I detect a slight chuckle?] Ok, what tape was it? etc etc

I was so embarrassed, like he knew who I was talking about but just wanted to make me squirm a bit. Then yesterday I had to go in person to the archive place and was again faced with the SheHe who this time had decided to really confuse me by having a few copies of the Daily Star on his/her desk, complete with bare breasted laydee and 'The only paper for men' written at the top - so now I don't know what to think. And it wouldn't matter, that kind of stuff doesn't bother me each to their own n all that, horses for courses, it's only because I sort of need to know in case it happens again. So I reckon next time I'll just ask their name, that'll give me a few clues.

Although knowing my luck, they'll reply 'Alex' or 'Robin' or 'Leslie' or something.


(or not? that is the question)


Miss Understood said...

HeShe may even be called Jo. Or Joe.

How embarrasing!

Robbie said...

Or Chris.

AFC 30K said...

Ahh the joys of working in construction - We don't have names, only glib insults male or female.

Mind you there are so few women in my proffession that it would be excusable for assuming they were male.

pinkjellybaby said...

oh well that's just not on of them really... ;)

Boy said...

Ha! Actual McGenius. It's always difficult, but I got caught out worse yesterday: I saw someone that looked like a good friend of mine who I quite fancy, then it turned out to be a he. eek

Hannah said...

HAH! Priceless.

James said...

There must be some sort of gender test you can carry out. Is there a spare baby knocking about? Take that down there and if he/she goes all googoo eyed about it then it's a female, if he/she doesn't notice its presence then he/she is a he.

Jo said...

miss understood - or bobby.

robbie - or Lee / Leigh

afc - I think when I worked in a structural engineers, most of the women there were rather 'ambiguous'. (apart from the me)

PJB - It's just plain rude.

Boy - That's slightly more embarrassing, you're right.

James - Babies are in quite short supply. Maybe I could just find a pregnant woman, and wave her around and see if anyone gets broody.

AFC 30K said...

Don't knock female structural engineers - I dated one for 4 years when we are uni together doing our civil & structural engineering degree.

But, to be fair, the other three girls in our class were decidedly he/she's.

Just for the record, whist I hold the degree, I'm not a practicing structural engineer - just in case you were conjuring up a vision of me........

James said...

or failing that stuff a cushion up your jumper.

survivingmyself said...

hahaha - that person definitely knew who you were talking about.

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh you just want to waffle on about your latest bag/shoe purchase and see if its eyes glaze over or not. Actually that wouldn't work as my eyes would glaze over too and I am very definitely female.

Ask them if they know where the nearest branch of some clothes shop is. A man wouldn't have a clue.

Clarissa said...

Or Pat. That's what we used to call the person who sold us sarnies at lunch time. It was Asian, that much we could tell -- but not sure if male or female. But we never needed to know!

Anonymous said...

You could ask them if they have the cold that is going about.
When they say 'what do you mean?' then you say you have trouble telling man from woman over the phone when they have a cough or cold. Next develop this theme.

Jo said...

afc - Ok, I'll erase the structural engineerer cliche from my head...

James - Splendid idea. "Whens it due?" err...any moment now...

surviving - I know, how awkward is that!!

Reluctant - Another wonderful suggestion. All I need now is an exucse to drop shoes and bags into a conversation about archive material. Hmmm.

Clarissa - See, not knowing someones sex is fine...usually. I love "it was asian". Super P.C :D

Anon - Now there's a practical idea if ever I heard one.

londongirl said...

Eek. Embarrassing.

But possibly not as offending a remark as when I (with a cold) phoned up a call centre, got my issue resolved and the person asked "is there anything else I can do for you sir?"

I SOUND LIKE A BOY apparently


Simbarashe said...

This was what I would call HIGH-larious.


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