Most everyone has heard the expression "chivalry is dead." I disagree. There are some extremely sweet people out there who truly believe in helping others. I consider myself an independent woman, but it's nice when my fiance opens the door for me or pulls out my chair at dinner. It isn't because he thinks I can't do these things, but it's because he respects me. He thinks so highly of me that he takes pleasure in doing these things for me. I don't see it as him "asserting his male dominance." I see it as an act of love and kindness.
I have worked at a grocery store for going on eight years. My position basically consists of bagging groceries and wheeling them out to the customers' cars. Up until a few months ago, it has been a male-dominated position, with only a few girls hired on here and there. Whether this is because of the heavy lifting that goes along with the position or another reason, I cannot honestly say. Being one of the only women in this position, I am faced with acts of both chivalry and chauvinism.
Many older customers (mostly men) are quick to lend a helping hand. If they see me with a heavy bag of salt or several pounds of ice, they will kindly offer help. I consider this chivalry. An act of kindness that they extend not because they think I'm inept, but because they are decent human beings. But, being a woman (and one of short stature of that), I also face many acts of chauvinism. Snide comments and snickers greet me when I offer to help them out. I often hear things like, 'Oh, a boy should be doing this," or, "Why don't you call one of the boys to do this? You don't need to be doing this." And these comments hurt. If I wasn't capable of working this job, would I have been here almost eight years? One specific instant that stands out to me brought me to tears. I was helping a gentleman with a propane exchange. It is our job to help out as much as possible, so I offered to carry the full tank to his car. He looked me up and down and then started laughing. Then he said, "Is that a joke?"
This is just one instance of unfair, unequal treatment. Why do those people talk to me like that and think it's OK? It's just a form of bullying. And it's hurtful. Am I too thin-skinned? Yeah, maybe. Maybe I take things too personally. But I see no reason to be talked down to or laughed at just because I'm a woman doing a "man's" job.
I don't believe that I deserve special treatment. I don't believe I'm better than the men I work with. But I do believe that I should not be put down just because I'm a short woman. I don't believe that I should be talked to like I'm less of an employee because of my gender. Dealing with chivalry brings about a level of respect, but dealing with chauvinism brings about hurt and feelings of inferiority.