Saturday, May 11, 2013

being "soft"

    I bought cupcakes for the assistants for no reason. My coworker pointed out that I had a "soft" side. Several days ago, I sent a package with some thoughtful things to a friend, also with no occasion attached. That word came up again. "Soft."

   Wtf does that mean?

   The word tugged at me as I read cases, started outlines, and went through my daily tasks. I started to unpack it in my head.

    At my work, there are no female partners. All the men are younger (early 40s), so there's kind of this informal, relaxed, aggressive culture to work. Since everyone is relatively young and male, I kind of act like them. I say "dude" a lot to my bosses. Everyone wears jeans and the one time I wore a pencil skirt, one of the partners asked me if I went to court earlier that day. Against this backdrop, I come off as kind of a tomboy, which is not really something that I ever thought of about myself. I accepted this designation without much thought.

   Then this "soft" business came up. I just hated how smug she seemed, as if she discovered some great secret about me. She acted as if being a tomboy (which I still don't think I am) meant that I was trying to hide the fact that I am nice to others. I balked at this fundamental misunderstanding of my nature. I often share food, buy gifts just because, and am generally amiable around my colleagues. Why is that being conflated with "soft?" If I were a man who showed the same kind of generosity, would anyone jump on it and think that it was a telltale sign of femininity?

    Further, I am not trying to hide my femininity at work. I just don't think about it. I don't think about being anything but a smart and aggressive advocate, and somehow that translated into not being feminine. You can be aggressive and bullish without being a miser. You can be generous and kind to people on your team, and still be a fierce litigator when the time comes to be strategically aggressive. I don't understand what being "soft" has to do with any of it.

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