As college students, we are always working. Aside from the work we regularly dedicate to schoolwork, internships, and extracurriculars, we often have a part-time job (or two..or three) to add to our workloads. Even though carrying the complete work package can be tiresome, I've always liked to work. I like to save money, to stay busy, and to work hard. What I don't like, however, is when customers treat me differently because I'm a young girl.
To supplement the two work study jobs I do during the school year, I recently started a summer job at a movie theatre in my hometown of Snellville, Georgia. When I did my initial on-the-job training, things went much better than I had expected. Occasionally, I'd have a question for the shift leader about how to ring up a certain discount code or voucher, during which I would ask the customer if they would wait just a moment, apologize for the delay, and thank them for their patience. A few of these momentary learning moments happened to occur when I was serving either middle aged or older men. Whereas most customers were understanding and patient, it was the older men who consistently laughed at me or scoffed when faced with what was, really, a five second delay.
It felt as if the more accommodating and friendly of a worker I was, the more these customers felt it was acceptable to condescend to me and to view me as a silly, ditzy little girl who has a cute little job-- just a cute little job that somehow doesn't require me to be an adult, manage my time, learn new skills, and work hard.
Although this could seem completely to do with the fact that I was in training, the same thing happened during completely unflawed, uninterrupted transactions. It became clear that even in the absence of a question, training moment, or delay, a number of middle aged to older men still found it appropriate to condescend, make unnecessary comments, and, ultimately, make me feel uncomfortable doing my job.
If I were a young boy in training, these customers would have treated me differently.
Although this was the first time I truly registered how I felt about these interactions, this wasn't the first time I had been condescended to on the job. I had experienced this when volunteering at a professional theatre and when directing traffic at volunteer events, among other customer service interactions. Whether I'm being paid to work or volunteering my time, I'm often not taken seriously by grown men.