The misogyny of IEP meetings.
I receive a surprising amount of criticism for catering to women on this blog. Or, writing about them and to them. Sure, much of it is constructive criticism such as “Remember, dads do this stuff too!” It’s usually in response to a post that I’ve done that has “moms” in the title, such as “The extraordinary burden of IEPs on moms.” Whenever that post has a viral spike, I get an email or two about how dads are burdened as well. Recently I wrote about moms needing to suppress their inner 4-year-old, and again, I heard from an IEP dad. For the record, this blog has been active for 6+ years, and every time this topic comes up, I re-check my stats. And every single time, my readership shows up as 88-95% female.
But back to the recent dad who contacted me. First, we are acquainted in our community. As part of our conversation, he said this:
However, the presumption is nearly always that it is going to be mom coming to the IEP meetings. So, please don’t leave out the dads. Which brings me to my second point. Often when a dad gets involved in the process, the presumption from the district is that there is a higher likelihood of a lawsuit.
I have been to more IEP meetings than I can count. I have seen first hand how rude and condescending some staff can be. I have also heard from many parents that the atmosphere of the meeting changed dramatically when I (advocate) showed up. I have known that my clients have been discriminated against based on race, command of English language and socio-economic status. I knew that my poorer clients who were also non-white and single moms struggled quite a bit in this process. But since I find that most IEP teams are largely female, it was a surprise to learn how wide spread this is among all kinds of moms.
As usual, I asked in my Facebook group.
Real life examples of misogyny in IEP meetings.
A mom in Washington state wrote:
Absolutely! Every dang time. If I bring anyone to an IEP mtg with me (husband, advocate, friend…) the whole tone of the meeting changes that when I am alone. This is my experience in 12 years of IEP meetings in 4 states and 5 school districts.
Another in New Jersey said:
Well my husband has never come but as a rule, once dads come around or call and complain, things happen. It’s a common problem in schools. I rarely ask my husband to send an email complaining or get involved but when he does, what a difference.
It may not even be a male thing, might be just a mom thing, like this mom in Massachusetts who was not taken seriously:
Yes- after 3 years of being ignored, I started bringing an educational liaison from the hospital that specializes in my child’s medical condition- even though she gave them the same information I had been telling them for years, they stepped it up when she became part of the team.
Or the Pennsylvania mom who was “just a mom” until they learned otherwise.
Absolutely! Which is no different than how women are treated in many circumstances. The patronizing tone (and calling me “mom” instead of MY NAME) changed only when they realized in addition to “mom” I also happen to be an attorney.
Though that thought process didn’t work for this mom/attorney.
Absolutely! When my husband attends, most questions/comments are directed to him even though I am the one who does all the note taking, asks the questions, attends ALL the meetings, pushes for services, etc. Plus I’m an attorney and the entire team knows that!
Ever had stuff man-splained to you at meetings?
Oh yes, I am often talked down to, cut off from talking, there was plenty of negativity, etc. When hubby comes its a bit more professional, tho I am the one who goes to all meetings and has learned the lingo, there is one staff that talks slower with me and repeats self often, but not with other people.
Yes, absolutely! The disrespect and unprofessionalism that is shown to me completely disappears when my husband is present. He has always believed me and supported me however we now make it a practice for him to attend every meeting. At our last meeting, he saw a glimpse of it and I told him, welcome to my world. At first I thought they showed more restraint around him because he’s an administrator at a school, he thinks it’s because he’s a man. Either way it’s shameful.
For the record, there were a few examples of dads being totally ignored during meetings.
Signs of misogyny in IEP meetings
Well, it seems widespread enough. How do you know if it is happening to you?
First, you don’t. Some people are just jerks for being a jerk’s sake. Unless you do a controlled experiment, meetings with dad and meetings without…you won’t know the actual reason they are being jerks. And, usually I find it futile to try to discover why people are being jerks.
Other signs to look for:
- Being talked over
- Being cut off-Sheryl Sandberg calls them “manterruptors”
- Concerns brushed off, not taken seriously
- Having things man-splained to you
- People talking slowly to explain things to you, even after you’ve made it clear you understand
- not being treated as an equal member of the team
There are other subtleties that happen, as far as not just being female, but being a stay-at-home-mom. Some examples were given above, such as a team changing it’s tune when it learns that Mom is an attorney. Which is stupid anyway–why do we take the attorney mom more seriously than the housekeeper mom? What difference does it make? But I digress.
So you’re reading this, doing some thinking. And YES, this happens to ME. What can I do?
Overcoming misogyny at IEP meetings
- Remain professional-I’ve said it a zillion times–this is a BUSINESS meeting, and even if it is your baby, you treat it as a business meeting.
- Don’t cry. No really. Not being judgy, but this is something you need to learn to address and overcome. We don’t cry at business meetings. Men do not cry at meetings. Shouldn’t matter, but it does.
- Be assertive and use strong language. What I mean–ask a friend or your spouse is you use upspeak, which can make you sound less confident.
- Use strong words–instead of “I think Josh needs…” change it to “Josh would benefit from this because…” or “Josh needs this because…” Take phrases like “I think” and “I wish” out of your statements. Rehearse!
- Stay child focused. This goes with the first one, but stay focused on what your child is or isn’t receiving, and word everything that way rather than focusing on what staff is or isn’t doing.
- Dress the part of a business meeting. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.
- Step out of your comfort zone and confront. If someone calls you “mom,” say “thanks, but you can call me Lisa/Mrs. Lightner.”
- Be prepared with facts and data.
- Make this a year-round process for you and your family. If you expect your team to think about the IEP more than once a year, you do the same. You should be practicing this and rehearsing your phrases in the car, in the shower, until you are more confident.
I’ve also said a zillion times that everyone else on the IEP team is being paid to be there, so you need to treat this as your job/business too. Hey, these are the cards we were dealt, up to us how we’re going to play them. But, my point is, this is very similar to a workplace situation, and Newsweek has an excellent article of 7 ways to combat misogyny in the workplace. Some of them are quite applicable here.
As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, right? Good luck!
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