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[trigger warning: depression/anxiety/self harm]

Not academia but, after nearly two years spent isolated with depression and anxiety, I finally built up the courage to resurrect an old passion and join the - almost entirely older male - backstage crew of a community theatre group.  It is fair to say that I am smarter than average in a number of disciplines, so after such a long time spent with my brain switched off I was really enjoying mixing with other bright people and sharing my ideas in the group discussions.  However I was soon put back in my place and informed in no uncertain terms that this was inappropriate.

On two separate occasions, while getting a lifts home from one or other of these men, I was told that everyone else was very experienced and knew how they liked to do things, and I needed to be careful of stepping on toes and ruffling feathers by speaking up.  It was not my place to be voicing my opinions in front of these men who knew what they were talking about.  One of them even felt it necessary to preface his lecture by kindly explaining to me how he’d been in ‘over a hundred’ productions.

Neither of these men actually took the time to, you know, get to know me and discover that I actually had considerable experience and expertise in the areas I was helping with.  I have never felt so belittled and humiliated, and while I brushed off the first instance, after the second I had an awful anxiety attack, my already fragile confidence destroyed by men who decided it was their job to tell a woman how to behave.  It was the first time I had considered harming myself in months.

Curiously enough, nearly all of my suggestions were used in the final production, and were mentioned very positively in the review.  I have chosen not to return.

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