gender inequality

A highly accurate, scientific comparison of weight loss prep between male and female boxers

To all my non-boxers out there: you are probably aware that there are multiple weight categories in boxing, for the safety of the boxers and the fairness of the fights. Typically, a boxer will have an everyday walking weight that is heavier than their fighting weight category, and will drop weight in time for the weigh-in which usually occurs btn 4 and 36 hours before the fight (depending on the importance of the fight, and if it is amateur/pro. The time gap between weigh-in and fight is longer the more serious the fight, to allow fighters adequate time to recover from some of the more extreme weight loss techniques and rehydrate and re-energize.)

It’s competition season at the gym. Everyone is discussing weight categories, diets, strategies, non stop. I’m gearing up for my first fight in 2 years, and so I am in the midst of my own weight loss journey. It has come to my attention that the female and male boxers at my gym prep VERY differently for their weight. Here is a totally accurate, extremely scientific summary of how each gender makes weight.

Female fighters

6 weeks out: The female fighter will weigh herself furtively. Pretend it never happened. Start planning out her social calendar to see how many events she will be attending before her fight, and the nature of those events: will there be food? If so, what kind of food. Using that information, the female fighter will determine a reasonable amount of weight that can be lost in the 6 week period. Then, the female fighter will talk to Coach about her feelings: “Coach, I feel I should fight at X weight. I feel that will make me taller than the other girls, and faster. I feel that is what I should do.” Coach will ask her if she can drop that weight. The female fighter will start listing her calendar, the moon cycle, the levels of stress in her life, the situation at work, the weather as relevant factors. Coach’s eyes glaze over, and he never gets a yes or no answer to his question.

4 weeks out: the female fighter determines when her next period will be, and how the timing of it will impact her weight loss plan. Inevitably, it impacts her plan negatively, because inevitably, the female fighter forgot to factor in the entirely predictable, recurring bloat from PMS in her initial calculations for her reasonable weight-loss timetable. The female fighter shares her period symptoms (flow, number of shits, cramps, cravings) with all the other female fighters. Specific commiseration is reserved for the female fighters who are likely to get their period on the day of weigh-in.

3 weeks out: the female fighter posts hangry memes on Facebook and Instagram. She updates all her fellow boxers about each cheat meal/bite she has taken and frets that one cookie will derail her entire boxing career. She mutters reassuring half-sentences to herself, “It’s ok, if I stick to my diet, no more cheats, I should be ok. I’ll be ok. I just have to not eat anything when I go for brunch with all my best friends next weekend. I don’t need to eat anything. It’s my favourite restaurant – I’ve been there before; I can skip food this one time. It’s for a good cause.” The female fighter cuts all alcohol from her diet.

2 weeks out: The price of celery goes up across all grocery stores in the city. Every male boxer in the gym has heard about every female boxer’s weight loss struggles and is uncomfortably familiar with their menstrual cycle and impact on their body. At least one female fighter has had a freak out and questioned her place in the Universe, “If I can’t even be disciplined and stick to my diet plan for just a few weeks, what does that say about who I am as a person? I don’t think I have the mental fortitude to be a fighter. Maybe I should move up a weight category. I don’t WANT to move up a weight category: I like MY weight category. I’m just immature, I lack dedication. A grown-ass woman should be able to survive without chocolate or candy for a few weeks, no?! But I LIKE chocolate and candy. This sport is stupid.”

Daily for 2 weeks straight: the female fighter will weigh herself 1-4 times a day, and can guesstimate her fluctuations due to clothes, time of day, mood, and humidity. She’ll do daily cardio sessions, talk about her weight to coworkers, friends, teammates, strangers on the bus, and her cat.

Day of the weigh-in: the female fighter will abstain from food or liquids and weigh in at +/- 0.25lbs, stripped down to her underwear. The female fighter will then look at a protein bar or banana and promptly regain 5lbs.

Male fighters

At some point in the 3-4 weeks leading up to a fight, while they are sitting around joking with their teammates, one of them will perk up, turn to Coach and ask, “Hey Coach, am I fighting in (choose one) weight category? Yeah? Ok. I should probably drop 15lbs then”.

3 days later: “Coach, I lost 7lbs. I ate a veggie.”

1 week before the fight: “Oh, I’m still 8lbs overweight. I guess I’ll cut out alcohol from my diet.”

Day of the weigh-in: makes weight with a 2lb buffer.


Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

The author is white woman, living in Toronto. I am a white, middle-class young woman, living in Montréal. I have lived through variations of all of these stories, except for the death threats (only because I am not a loud, prolific feminist writer. Yet.)

I view these stories as par for the course. Worse, I am grateful that this is BETTER than the States, where being female gets you shot (Planned Parenthood, anyone?). In our two countries, supposed bastions of democracy and equality, this is totally normal. Acceptable.

One of my friends, another white middle-class girl, has told me with a straight face that there aren’t prevalent gender issues in our society. She wasn’t being naive. She had honestly NEVER experienced anything like what I or Anne in her post below have experienced.

I was stunned at my friend’s innocence. Then I was kind of envious. Imagine a world where this shit isn’t the norm? I can’t.

The Belle Jar


I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

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Nice and oppressive

In response to my post about achieving assertiveness as a woman in business, I got  the following tweet from a male reader:

@jsvetlo But are your results objective? I get those reactions too. Could you be subconsciously over aggressing from perceived m/f hierarchy.

So many things.

No, my reactions are not objective – by definition they are subjective. Obviously. Yes, I might be over aggressing, that doesn’t invalidate my experiences or my conclusions thereof. NO, THERE ISN’T A “PERCEIVED” M/F HIERARCHY. IT IS A DOCUMENTED PHENOMENON, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS EVEN UP FOR DEBATE. 

It’s like the (white) people who don’t believe white privilege exists. Or those that don’t feel racism is a problem (in Canada). How is it possible that these otherwise rational individuals can hold such unbalanced opinions? I’ve often wondered. 

May this be the only time I ever quote Dr. Phil


In this brilliant OpEd on gender and race inequality, author Katherine Fritz hits the nail right on the head:

I’ve noticed this thing that happens when I have these kinds of conversations with some white men in my life, men I admire and respect and love.

They become frustrated during these conversations because they feel attacked. They feel invalidated. They feel like their arguments aren’t considered valid, because they can only speak from their own experiences, and it’s hard to believe that there is a problem when you can’t see that it’s there.

They assume that they must fall into one of two categories, “nice” or “oppressive,” and no one wants to be “oppressive,” but if they argue with anything that I’m saying, they certainly can’t be “nice.” So they shut down. Or become angry. 

And that sucks. Because their voices are necessary, and need to be heard. Join in. We can’t do this without you. 

This. This is true.

I once shared the following article I Don’t Know What To Do With Good White People with one of my (white) girlfriends. She was so insulted. “If someone cuts in front of me when standing in line, I don’t assume it’s a race or gender thing, I assume that person is rude as fuck and an asshole. Maybe the author shouldn’t make everything about race. If I will be judged for being nice, I’ve no patience for that.” I was very taken aback by her reaction: I thought the article was an interesting opinion piece, that illustrates just how complex racial issues are, and how even good intentions can be patronizing or harmful. Turns out, she felt the article presented life as a sum-zero situation where her skin colour automatically made her oppressive to others – an accusation she rejected since she is a nice, polite girl. But a white girl – not her fault! (N.B. I am aware of the irony of her feelings, given the subject at hand!)

Lesson learned. For the dialogue surrounding gender and racial issues, it must be framed such that “nice” and “oppressive” are not mutually exclusive. It kinda blows my mind that that must be explicitly said, before we can talk about the real issues, yet so it is. Everyone is seeking the same thing, to have their reality and their good intentions acknowledged. Who’d have thunk?

So. Now that we’ve acknowledged that not all men are sexist, most don’t intend to subtly belittle their female coworkers, and many are good, kind men, can we get back to the discussion of gender bias in the workplace? Do we really have to argue the logical fallacy that because one hasn’t personally witnessed a phenomenon, it cannot exist? 

P.S. Please please PLEASE read Katherine Fritz’s piece The Invisible LateNight Knapsack. Best thing I have ever read about how to acknowledge and discuss racial and gender bias.

On being female and assertive – life in business

Jennifer Lawrence (my soul-sister!) is in the news recently for an essay she wrote about gender inequality in Hollywood. 

“A few weeks ago, I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-[BS] way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, ‘Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!’ As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.”

Yes. I’ve lost count how many times this has happened to me at work. (See? Hollywood stars are just like us!)

There was that time, at a 5@7, where I discussed with my coworkers how women are tagged as brash, bossy, bullies when they exhibit the same behavioural traits as men, while men are deemed leaders, team-players and straight shooters. In retaliation, later that night, a male coworker, who somehow interpreted this conversation to be a reflection on him, publicly compared one of my family members to a prostitute. He’d never met this family member and was basing his opinion on one short, amusing anecdote. (The detailed account of that fun moment can be read here.)

There was that time when I was still working for one of the Big 4 accounting firms, when the client came into the conference room where we were set up, to discuss an inventory audit issue I had identified. He addressed his question to the senior-in-charge, who deferred it to me, as I had done all the work on inventory and had much a deeper understanding of the issue. I politely answered the client. The client looked at me in disgust (whether because of my self or because of my answer, I couldn’t tell), and addressed his counter-argument not to me, but to the senior-in-charge, who gently reminded him that I was the person he should be talking to. Again, I spoke, and again the client gave his response to the senior in charge. And so it went on for the entire FIFTEEN MINUTE conversation. I was invisible to the client. 

There was that time when I was on another audit client, on the first day of the audit, and I wished the controller a Happy New Year. He yelled at me – my audit team heard him from down the hallway. His face was red and a vein on his forehead was threatening to burst. He ranted that I had been causing his staff distress by overworking them during the holidays, that I was unprofessional and incompetent and he was going to complain to the partner (my boss) about my inefficiencies. At first, I was too shocked to say anything: I’d rarely felt such animosity in my life. My next impulse was to pacify the client. But as I started to speak, I was overwhelmed by anger – how dared he cast aspersions on my ability to do my job? My voice shook from the emotion, but I pointed out to him that I had invited him to participate in all the conference calls I’d organized and had cc’d him on all my requests to his staff. If he’d felt I was out of line, he should have intervened to protect his staff, rather than tacitly agree that they fulfill my requests and blast me after the fact, once it was too late for me to modify my approach. I added that I was disappointed that he would attack my reputation, rather than have a collaborative conversation to address any issues, and determine a mutually acceptable audit approach. 

I waited in silence, convinced that after that, an irate call to the partner was inevitable. Instead, he expressed surprise – why was I so upset? He had just been giving me some helpful feedback, I shouldn’t get so emotional, geez! I responded that while I was always appreciative of feedback on opportunities for improvement, being yelled at was not my preferred form of communication. He wasn’t yelling, he said. He just always spoke that loudly. I left the room before he could see my tears. He never mentioned his attempt to bully me to the partner. He also never raised his voice to my staff, all of whom where male. Coincidence? Maybe.

These experiences are just colourful examples of a phenomenon I lived through countless times. As a result, I developed what this article describes as “Woman In A Meeting” behaviour. After too many occasions where stating my opinion calmly, concisely and politely earned me an abusive or rude response, I learned to suggest rather than state. To tentatively repeat rather than insist. To wonder rather than confirm. I’ve frequently been in meetings where I was the most knowledgeable on a given topic, but I learned that my effectiveness with my male counterparts would increase if I hid my intelligence, and played the accommodating female. I still got my own way, but only after dedicating excessive energies to ensuring I didn’t ruffle any male feathers. It was exhausting and infuriating. It was also my reality.

A year ago, I got hired at a large engineering firm. Women account for less than 20% of both management and the workforce. I was ready, my Woman In A Meeting behaviour perfected. After a month on the job, my new boss pulled me into the office and asked me why I was such a doormat in the meetings I’d been attending. Taken aback, I pointed out that I always ended up getting my way, after long discussions – therefore, I wasn’t a doormat. He was perplexed. “Vanilla, we don’t have time for your roundabout shit. Why are you worried about ruffling feathers? If you have something that you need to say, say it quickly, politely and clearly. We are too busy to deal with any fluff – cut the crap, and get to the point. And if someone can’t handle your direct approach, that is their problem. You are a professional and a manager. Speak in the way you desire to be heard.”

Career defining advice.

I still struggle with being assertive in the workforce. I still dread the male outburst, which still happens on occasion. But I am growing more comfortable with standing my ground and expecting that others treat me with the same respect they treat their male counterparts. I’ve made my peace with the fact that this approach will prevent some people from liking me: I’d rather be respected and listened to, than liked. Me & JLaw, learning the same lessons at the same time. Next step is to try get JLaw’s salary…

P.S. Check out Elle Magazine’s 1minute video about #MoreWomen – showing the under-representation of women in powerful roles, by photoshopping out the men in pictures.