It was quite clear. My hosts wanted to put me in a position that made the event so unappealing that I would decline—and their social problem would be solved. (Editor’s note: T&C apologized and expressed regret over its handling of the incident in a tweet on Thursday.)
And a year ago, that is exactly what would have happened. Just like the 19 years before it, I would have allowed myself to be R.S.V.P.-shamed into not attending. And, equally important, by some unspoken but tacit agreement, I would not say anything publicly.
This time, I decided, screw it. It’s 2018, people. I stood up and called B.S. publicly.
O.K., so it was a minor social dis. But underneath it all, there were some interesting lessons in outmoded power structures, in outdated ways of thinking and modeling behavior, in the evolving definitions of inclusion—and in the ramifications that come when you deliberately choose to exclude. What happened to me happens daily to millions of people in myriad ways—especially women. And, especially women who have been marginalized in society. Sometimes it’s just an innocent (though no less rude) faux pas, but it’s often a reflection of the more implicit pragmatics of control and politeness—that is, the implicit messages (in the pauses and silences and things unsaid) that people in power send about how they should be treated by those of different status.