“I got quoted in The Glass Hammer,” I tell my male colleague.
“What’s that?” he asks.
“It’s a website with career advice for women,” I respond.
“Oh,” he says. Then, “Why is it called that?”
“I guess it’s because you need a glass hammer to break the glass ceiling?”
“Yeah but…” he says, eyeing me.
I speculate briefly about names that he would find more logical: The Steel Hammer, The Nail Gun, The Sledgehammer, and reject them.
“Look, these are girls,” I say. “Don’t overthink it.”
“Okay, okay,” he says backing off.
After a silence, I say, “There’s another one called The Glass Heel.”
“You mean like Cinderella?” he asks.
“No, dummy, that was the glass slipper.”
“Then why is it the Glass Heel?” he asks. “Are you going to stomp on the glass ceiling to break it?”
“Maybe, but that would imply you’re standing on the ceiling.” I scowl.
“Maybe you’re going to take your shoe off and pound on the glass ceiling,” he speculates.
Over the next few weeks, I start seeing glass everywhere. A career advice book for women is titled, “It’s not the Glass Ceiling, It’s the Sticky Floor.” A reporter notes that when women are promoted too fast, failure is inevitable and then they are pushed off the ‘glass cliff.’ Another argues that we need a ‘glass door’ so that salary information is visible and comparable. A ‘glass closet’ refers to the exclusion of gays from certain jobs. Men who are promoted easily in female-dominated industries ride up a ‘glass elevator’ or ‘glass escalator.’
I start making up new ones. Do we need a ‘glass eye’ to view issues of gender discrimination clearly? Would having 30% female representation reach ‘critical glass?’ When the Republicans and Democrats accuse each other of being even meaner to women than they are, is that an example of “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones?” Maybe silly ineffective corporate programs about diversity aren’t window-dressing—they’re ‘glass-blowing.’ Does Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination lawsuit against reputable venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins mean that they are now ‘stained glass?’ Perhaps we should refer to animosity between men and women at work not as the battle between the sexes but as ‘glass wars.’ If a woman easily moves into a CEO position that has always been held by a man, is that because their glass ceiling turned out to be ‘tempered glass?’ A woman who takes things personally at work might have a ‘glass jaw.’ Does a woman leave for a position at another company because the ‘glass is always cleaner on the other side?’ When are we going to get down to ‘glass tacks’ about sexism? And I don’t even want to think about ‘glass-bottomed’ anything.
Then I can’t stop. It occurs to me that gender issues are complicated and therefore susceptible to glass half-full and glass half-empty viewpoints. You don’t want to look at them with rose-colored glasses, but you have to stay positive so you don’t end up smashing all the glassware. And if you think about it all for too long, you’ll end up feeling as though you’ve gone through the looking glass…
Copyright 2013 Jennifer K. Crittenden