I recently started a new restaurant job to hold me over while I search for jobs in journalism. It's different than what I'm use to, though. I'm working back of house. I'm use to serving. I'm the person who deals with the angry customers by flashing a smile and saying, "Yes, I'll get that for you right away." In serving, I've worked with a pretty even number of men and women, but in the kitchen, I'm surrounded by guys. I've had the thought before from the outside looking in, "I wonder how she feels being the only woman back there?" I've seen women fight their male coworkers for a pay raise or a change in position. I started the job with 3 men, so as of now, we're all on a level playing field. We all lack prior experience, and we all are being trained at about the same rate. But even my coworkers brought it up: "It's strange that you're here. They never hire women for the kitchen." It's not that they don't accept me. It's that they seemed genuinely surprised to see me there. But why is that? It's always been the stereotype that women belong in the kitchen. Why is it that when the task becomes more than a hobby or a daily activity it's a man's job? Maybe it's because it's messy, or because some of the equipment is heavy, hot, or sharp. I didn't get the job to prove I could do it. I got the job because I needed a job, and so far they say I'm catching on really fast and I show a lot of promise. My trainers have been patient with me, and I've made conversation with most of the guys I've met so far.
The atmosphere is different to say the least. The moment when time freezes because everything at work is a mess is different when you’re in the front. You stop, evaluate what you have to do, and the order you’ll do it in, and you look around at how everyone else is doing, and then see if you can help. In the kitchen today I had a moment of panic similar to the rushes I’m use to. But I looked around and saw chaos. I had trouble listing what I needed to do, partially because I’m still learning, and partially because I was listening to everyone else panicking. Working around mostly men will take some getting use to. They’re vocal, yelling at each other to move, and that they need something right this second. Even being a feminist, I can admit that it’s intimidating, and for a second today I questioned if I was cut out to do what they do. I’m just getting started, so this is just a first account of what I’m experiencing, but maybe this job will be a positive challenge. I’ll learn to speak over people to tell them what I want, and when I want it. I’ll aim to become a leader as I do in every job. I don’t want to be small and fragile, I want to get my job done alongside everyone else. There’s no such thing as a man’s job or a woman’s job, there are only certain fields that may be dominated by one or the other. It’s more a matter of putting your mind to something and learning something new.