June 26, 2020: Unraveling The Office (Episode 1)
To kick off Unraveling The Office, host, Brenda Turcios, discusses with a guest sexism in the workplace in the premiere episode.
BRENDA: Welcome to Unraveling The Office, the show where we will be exploring the Emmy award-winning sitcom, The Office, the US version, breaking down the social issues presented throughout the television series. I am your host, Brenda Turcios, and today we will be discussing sexism in the workplace. Airing live from 2005 to 2013, now streaming just about anywhere, the show depicts everyday life in the workplace through a satiric lens. Sexism, while often indirectly discussed, is heavily referenced throughout each episode, targeting the women of the show as the punchline of just about every joke. Today I have with me former business entertainment student Luis, who is currently working in the entertainment industry. Hi, thank you so much for joining us today.
LUIS: Yeah for sure. Thank you for having me on your show.
BRENDA: We are going to start off by discussing the lack of female representation in the workplace in the show The Office. As you know from watching the show you can recognize there are significantly less female characters as opposed to their male counterparts. In their roles, they’re doing roles that are seen as less than. Have you encountered this sort of dynamic within your work experience?
LUIS: Oh for sure. I mean I’ve definitely had a lot of jobs where I’ve worked at that you see the women that are working there are secretaries, or the assistants of people never really positions of power so to speak. I’ve also noticed situations as well where there have been more men than women. It’s not to say what you see on the show is far-fetched; it’s something that’s relatable so to speak. Something that you see on a day to day basis in many work settings and maybe even more office settings sort of speak.
BRENDA: I hear what you’re saying, and what was that experience like for you?
LUIS: I mean as a male in that type of environment, I can’t say I have any personal experience per say but I can only imagine that the dynamic does create a feeling of being uncomfortable, if that makes any sense. I mean even as a guy you can kind of see it’s unnecessary and it crosses boundaries, it plain and simple crosses the line, it’s personal, it has nothing to do with the workplace and work setting or not it’s disrespectful and it’s something that doesn’t need to be said.
BRENDA: Yes, that makes sense and going off of that in Episode 21 Women’s Appreciation of season 3 manager Michael Scott’s goes over with his Branch his reasons as to why women should be valued.
SMALL CLIP FROM THE OFFICE IS PLAYED
BRENDA: After hearing this clip what are thoughts and how does it make you feel?
LUIS: I mean as a guy I can’t necessarily speak on that from you know experience in the workplace being on the other end of that but how would it make you feel? For example, being in that type of environment or that type of atmosphere feeling that hostile that someone in a managerial position in your job is regarding you?
BRENDA: Personally I believe, what someone decides to do with their hair, with their clothes choice, with any of their personal choices is their own prerogative and someone in a higher power shouldn’t be speaking down upon it or putting their input on it unless it’s inflicting harm or impeding work.
LUIS: Yeah and I agree, it definitely goes both ways, it shouldn’t matter what your appearance looks like for work. And anything that has to do with how you look and how you dress, if it doesn’t impede the workflow I 100% agree it has nothing to do with work it shouldn’t be a concern of anyone in a managerial position or just anyone at work, those are two separate things.
BRENDA: Going off of the misogyny evident in this clip, another character, Dwight Schrute embodied this when he created a dress code targeting just the women in the office. To give you background on this scenario, a perpetrator flashed Phyllis thus igniting Dwight to create strict rules to prevent such occurrence from happening again.
SMALL CLIP FROM THE OFFICE IS PLAYED
BRENDA: Would you consider a dress code policy like this prejudice?
LUIS: Actually yeah, You know I remember as early as school time, like elementary middle school. Girls would be sent home for wearing shorts that were skirt sorry skirts that were too short, shirts that were too exposing, whereas guys can wear whatever the hell we wanted and it was never a problem for the school policy so you even bring that into a work setting I mean, I can imagine, its unnecessary, it’s prejudice, it’s uncomfortable to think that as a female you’re being regulated as to how you can dress, but as a guy you can pretty much dress however you want. It definitely I feel like it is directed toward a certain group more so than another or so if anything it’s only one group and not another.
BRENDA: After hearing this clip, I was personally offended as these restraints that Dwight was trying to impose on the females were just more so for his gratification and not a real reason. But I also understand the school aspect of it that you were referring to. While I was in high school I experienced similar aspects with dress code violations or what they thought was deemed as a dress code violation, when it in fact wasn’t because it was part of the rulebook. One of the more prominent fixtures used throughout the show is the fixture “that’s what she said”
SMALL CLIP FROM THE OFFICE IS PLAYED
LUIS: Wow, that’s something that as a guy we hear those things in the office, we hear those things at work, at school, anywhere in social settings. I’m not the most innocent when it comes to those as well, we definitely hear that everywhere you go. That’s what she said is a common innuendo to make. It’s a tag to the most common of phrases, so I don’t know, that was a lot to take in. That definitely was a hefty amount of that’s what she said throughout the show and I get it it’s one of the prominent set fixtures within it.
BRENDA: Well as we heard in the clip Micheal justifies using “that’s what she said” as a way of making light of a tense situation.
LUIS: And I mean, I get that, to be quite fair that’s kind of the point of all these shows, in general, is you know the satiric mindset to make light of these tense situations, tense moments and the society that we live in. You know a lot of the things that are going on in the world around us I guess these shows serve as an opportunity for you to have a lighter take on these things. So I can definitely understand his point to it all.
BRENDA: Yes I understand what you’re saying but the sexual innuendo of that’s what she said shouldn’t even be brought up or discussed in the workplace. But to switch gears women aren’t always the butt of sexual jokes. Micheal has even experienced it too when he mistakenly bought a women’s suit and he wore it to work. When he went down to the warehouse he was referred to as a queer just because he mistakenly wore a women’s suit, and Michael hasn’t been the only one to experience this, Oscar has as well, just because he’s the only character the show that’s one with his sexuality about being a homosexual.
LUIS: Yeah I think it’s kind of cool how this show highlights how it can go both ways and they show it through instances like these where sexism in the workplace can occur for both parties. I think that’s definitely an interesting point to bring up.
BRENDA: Definitely, this show does bring to light instances where both sexes can be the punch line of the joke, but it’s not to say that one is more significant or important than the other. But this just comes to show how pop culture in its way can demonstrate how sexism in the workplace occurs. I believe that is all the time we have today but thank you so much for coming on the show, it was a pleasure having you here today.
LUIS: Yeah, of course, thank you for having me.
BRENDA: Thank you all for listening to this episode stay tuned for next week’s episode discussing relationships in the workplace and how it is depicted in the office.
SHOW NOTES: The small clips were snippets from the NBC show.