When I first considered writing this blog post, I hesitated. The second and third time I considered it, I still hesitated. It’s not a funny post and it doesn’t really give you warm fuzzies. Actually, it’s a topic that tends to piss people off or make them feel like you’re including them in blanket statements. That’s not my intention. I’m talking about what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen in the world. That’s it.
Here’s the thing: when talking to guys, I’ve realized a lot of them have no idea what it means, in practical terms, to be a girl in a still-somewhat-sexist world in 2015. Since they don’t experience the other end of it, they don’t know how a lot of seemingly harmless actions come across. So I thought I’d share my own experience in a couple of areas.
I’ve worked as a (terrible) waitress and hostess a couple of times in the past, and I wasn’t really surprised by errant bits of sexism here and there. In the service industry, it’s almost expected. If you launch into rants every time a slimy guy calls you “honey” as a waitress, you can wish 50% of your tips goodbye, so you bear with it. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s what happens. (Don’t get me started on why the entire tipping system is flawed, as well, because that’s a whole other post.)
Anyway, when I took on a more business-y job last year, I thought I was done with all of that. You can’t be expected to deal with both pantsuits and sexism at one time, right?
I’d heard women talk about their experiences, and I knew about the gender wage gap, but nothing compares with experiencing things for yourself. One night, after a long day of work, five of us sat at dinner. I was the only girl (in my horrid pantsuit) at our table of coworkers, and I was having a good time, since we all got along pretty well.
The waiter came over for drink orders. I asked for a glass of red wine, and that’s when the problem began. “Five ounces or nine?” he asked.
“Five please,” I said.
Which is when Buddy (let’s call him Buddy), at the other end of the table, spoke up. “No, she’ll have nine,” he told the waiter. “I’ll pay.”
Maybe he was just encouraging the festive spirit of the end of some tough work, but I wanted to hit the gym after dinner. “Nah, thanks. Just the five ounces, please.”
“No, she’ll take nine,” he insisted.
“No, I really only want the five ounces. Thank you.”
When the waiter returned, however, he did bring back nine ounces for me. I clarified my order, so he only poured me half and left the rest on the table. Trying to ignore the strange start to the night, I enjoyed the rest of dinner. The food was good, the conversation was great, and my coworkers are genuinely awesome people. (I have to admit, I did want the extra wine by the end of the meal, but I am nothing if not stubborn, so I left it where it sat.)
At the end of our meal, though, a different coworker wouldn’t shake my hand, though he’d just done the same with three of our male coworkers. So we hugged instead, and I left the dinner feeling weird and shitty about everything.
That coworker and I are still friends now, and I asked him if he remembered the incident. He didn’t, but laughed. “It’s probably because you’re a girl, it’s not the same.”
Which is exactly my point. If you’re a dude and you’re unsure of how to treat a girl at work, just ask yourself how you treat the guys at work. Rinse and repeat for the girls. It’s that easy.
When it comes to relationships, I’ve had my own fair share of unreciprocated crushes. I get it — it sucks, but I’ve accepted it as one of the inevitable disappointments that comes with having good taste.
The problem is — from what I’ve seen — men and women react to rejection differently. Girls, when they realize that their feelings aren’t echoed back, tend to get embarrassed, a bit ashamed, and drop it. Whoops. We may recount the incident to our friends along with an “I can’t believe I did that.” We’ve all been there, and it usually doesn’t play out like Taylor Swift’s happy ending in You Belong With Me (throwback, anyone?).
Guys, however, often seem to get angry. This is not a blanket statement — but it is a trend I’ve noticed more on the male side of things, while I’ve honestly never seen a girl react this way. While a girl might blush and be like, “‘K, whoops, abort mission” when she gets shut down, guys will often be more relentless: they ask you why not, they want an explanation as to why you’re not interested in them, they won’t accept anything less than the fact that you’re already committed to someone. In these guys’ minds, they’re the nice guys or they’ve been good to you, so you owe them something.
But here’s the thing: nobody owes you anything. Sometimes you get the short end of the stick. It’s part of being human. Feel whatever you like — emotions don’t tend to run on logic — but realize when it’s misplaced and put it into your art or something. Don’t act on it, and don’t think it’s somehow a girl’s fault for not acting in a way that you’d like her to.
Hey, women are better positioned than we’ve ever been, and things continue to change for the better. As a girl, there’s no time or place I’d rather be than in the developed world in 2015 (except maybe in the future, because it looks like things are only going uphill, and also because maybe by then I won’t be scared of LASIK eye surgery). You still end up with misguided campaigns — see IBM’s ad below, #HackAHairdryer, which aims to get more females into STEM but totally missed the mark.
— Stephanie Evans (@StephEvz43) December 7, 2015
But we’ve got Emma Watson killing it with #HeForShe; each day a new company announces paternal leave policies and makes it easier to be a working mum; and feminism is more often being equated to strong men and women rather than solely to bra-burning and refusing to shave. Now if we could just get people to trust that we know exactly what we want — whether that’s more wine or a relationship with them — we’d be a few extra steps forward.