‘Direct’ is a description that’s come my way a few times over the last year or so. It’s a new one on me, and I guess that what was ‘articulate’ when I worked in publishing, is ‘direct’ in an organization beset by business jargon. I’m tempted to create a Business Jargon Bingo card that we could all take to meetings, just to liven things up a bit. Mind you, it would hardly be difficult to win. Sorry, did I say ‘difficult’? I meant ‘a challenge’. (Yes. Precisely that sort of thing. And may the gods have mercy on us all.)
I hadn’t particularly minded being ‘direct’. Lord knows there’s enough bullshit around offices without me needing to add to it, and so I aim to be clear and objective. But you know how it goes when something gets said a couple of times, and suddenly develops its own, unchallengeable truth. You find yourself slapped with a bloody great label that no one can see round and you aren’t allowed to change. I’m also aware that ‘direct’, at least in the current context, is not something that is viewed entirely positively.
What I’m genuinely uncertain about is how much the label is influenced by gender perceptions. It is, seemingly, considered an admirable business skill to be straight talking, to cut the crap, to cut to the chase, to see to the heart of the matter. But you don’t get those descriptions applied to women very much.
So what does ‘direct’ actually mean? Well, there’s only one way to find out: the next time that adjective gets applied to me, I’ll ask. And then I’ll ask if my interlocutor would describe a man in the same way. And if they wouldn’t, they’ll get a very direct response.