Sometimes been a professional, while being different, can be a difficult thing. I know that I have to maintain a professional bearing but I also know that I have to stand up for myself whenever I can when facing ignorance or prejudice. Let me give you an example:
Last week I was on the phone with someone, a business call, discussing things of some importance. A joke was made, something simple, and we both laughed. Then the caller said, "You know the weird thing, you really don't have a fat voice."
I'm going to pause here, in a way that I couldn't on the phone and say: WHAT? What the hell is a fat voice? For that matter, what is a skinny voice? Do these things exist? Is there a measure I don't know about. Can my voice be weighed? All this to say, WHAT?
But what I said, without pause, was, wait for this witty rejoinder, "Pardon?" The surprise in my voice was no deterrent to my caller, "Yeah, you really don't have a fat voice. If I didn't know you were really fat, I'd never know by talking to you." Now there was a pause. "Oh, I hope you don't mind me mentioning your weight, I've heard you lecture and joke about it so I thought it wouldn't be an issue for you."
I'm going to pause again, like I couldn't on the phone, and say that while its true that I do make jokes about weight in my lectures, my jokes aren't typically about 'my weight' they are typically about people's reaction to my weight. Even so, yes, I am comfortable with my weight, but I'm not really good about my body being discussed casually on a call. I don't imagine that anyone, even skinny people, or muscular people, or any people of any type would feel comfortable with having their body become part of a work discussion. Anyways ...
After the briefest of moments I asked, "What does a fat voice sound like anyways? I've never even thought about voices as being fat or not." The caller said, "Well, you know kind of slow and maybe a little dumb." Now, work or not, I have to speak up. "OK, I'd like to get back to the subject at hand. This conversation has made me very uncomfortable, and for the record, I think that prejudice sounds dumb, not voices."
We had a brittle few minutes on the phone and finished up, the caller ended by saying, "I think I offended you but from your lectures I felt like I knew you a bit and that you wouldn't be so thin skinned." We signed off.
Now the caller knows about the texture and thickness of my skin ... wonder if they got that from my voice too.