What It's Really Like To Be The Only Woman In The Workplace
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Politics and Activism

What It's Really Like To Be The Only Woman In The Workplace

Let's start accepting that "women's work" can be anything.

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What It's Really Like To Be The Only Woman In The Workplace
MacKenzie Maccaux

As a woman who has worked consistently since the age of 15, I never truly understood the concept of feminism until I was the only woman in the workplace.

No one can entirely comprehend the suppression women go through every day until they experience it first-hand, especially when gender inequality in the workplace is still as prevalent as it is.

There are far too many fields that have jaw-dropping, skewed gender ratios, which in turn naturalize that 'women do not belong' in a certain sector. A great, recent example is the first female vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris.

The truth is, we can post about feminism all we want, but we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to real-life scenarios, even considering all of the incredible progress that has empowered women and shattered the glass ceiling that has been hanging over women's heads for centuries.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I was hired for a mow crew position for a city's public works department in my hometown. This job entailed operating commercial lawn mowers, driving a truck and trailer, and maintaining outdoor parks for the entire summer. It's OK, you can associate that type of work to be a man's job, because, really, what else is anyone supposed to think when they were brought up in this society?

It was not until I walked in on my first day to a room full of men that I suddenly felt inferior to everyone else. Luckily, one of my good [female] friends started working with me a couple of weeks later, which made me feel more confident in what I was doing.

This ended up being my favorite job — I learned a lot, I was outside all day, and I did not have to fit the standards of what society holds to be a woman. I did not have to dress nicely or do anything to my hair. I could be "one of the boys." I could go outside, get dirty, and enjoy the sunshine.

It wasn't until the following year that I really noticed that there is something quite wrong with that phrase; why does one have to be a boy to partake in jobs or activities like this? Why are women supposed to be fragile, self-effacing, modest, the ideal beauty, and obedient? Furthermore, why are we belittled for standing up for ourselves and petitioning to be treated differently?

Since I loved that job greatly, the following year I applied to a city near my college town where I was hired, based on my past experience, and was well-qualified for.

I walked in on my first day and received many strange looks; I figured it was because I was a woman, but it was not until one of my coworkers later told me that I was the first female to ever work alongside them, that really confirmed my assumption.

I am not going to delve into all of the ways I was inconvenienced and discriminated against, however, in summation, I was never given the job that I was promised — the position that was written into my job title. I was demoted to a lower position right away and was never given the chance to really prove my proficiency in the field. Instead of giving me the job that they promised, they hired another man to do it.

Besides that, the amount of sexism that was thrown at me, overt or not, was to great extent.

"She was probably too busy putting on makeup to realize."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I can't say 'whore' around you."

"Are you strong enough to do this?"

This not an exhaustive list by any means, but rather some of the really bothersome remarks that have stuck with me since.

Every day I was looked at like I did not know what I was doing, like I was not meant to be there. Every day I had to prove myself. Every day, the myth that claimed I was not meant to be there started to feel more and more true.

The unfortunate part is, I never stood up for myself. Society suppresses women that way; women are supposed to oblige. If women defy what they have been given, they are heavily scrutinized and belittled, only making the situation worse.

In summation, if you took one thing from this article, "women's work" can be anything at all. There should never be any job that is off-limits or yields fewer opportunities for a woman. Start educating each other. Raise your daughter to believe she can be anything. Break the misogynistic pattern.

Lastly, if you still consider women to be below you and do not understand the problem of misogyny, I do not have the time nor crayons to explain it to you.

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