Well, we’ve all survived the holiday season once again. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day. Whew. Glad to be looking at them in the rearview mirror, if I’m honest. At least until they roll around again, with all their unhealthy food temptations.
It’s pretty much assumed that all of us are going to gain weight over the holidays, but I get irritated with how much people tend to laugh this off. It’s our health we’re talking about here. Our very lives.
I have a supervisor who always brings us chocolates for every special occasion. Don’t get me wrong. I love chocolate. I mean, I love it to the point of actual physical pain, because too much chocolate gives me migraines, and yet I can’t resist it if it’s sitting right in front of me, calling my name, for 8 hours a day.
I know this about me. This is why I do my best to avoid chocolate. I try not to bring it into the house. I try not to look at it while I’m waiting for the cashier to ring up my purchases in the grocery line. But I have a lot less control over the workplace.
I know this supervisor means well. But by bringing chocolate to work, she may as well just say, “To celebrate this holiday, I have chosen to spackle 5 pounds of fat to your hips, along with a heaping helping of inner personal conflict, guilt, low self-esteem, and a whole host of health issues. Merry freakin’ Christmas!”
Bringing sweets to work is really rude. What if someone is diabetic and can’t indulge? You’ve just automatically excluded them. What if someone is trying to make healthier food choices? You’ve just made their struggle that much harder. Yes, we all have free will, but so do you. Have you taken the time to really ask someone whether they want this stuff around them? Or did you bring those cookies in simply to look generous, and to hell with what anyone else feels about the subject? If one of us craves sugar, we obviously can obtain it ourselves. That’s certainly every person’s prerogative.
I do know that there’s a lot of cultural workplace pressure out there. We once had a monthly departmental safety meeting, and the topic was health and wellness, so rather than bring the traditional boxes of donuts to the meeting, I chose to bring fruit and a veggie platter. I mean, how do you say, “Here’s some healthy food recipes to pass around along with the glazed crullers?
Well, you’d think that I had set fire to a basket of kittens or something. I mean, people were furious. I was never asked to provide refreshments for a staff meeting again. (Which, in retrospect, was a gift, but that’s another story entirely.)
Next holiday season, please consider the fact that sweets are coming at people from all directions. Don’t add to the assault. You may have the best intentions, but your kindness is actually a cruelty to some of us.
If you really want to do something nice for me, make sure I have the office supplies I need to do my job. Or give me a raise. Or say thank you when I go above and beyond. Just please keep the bon bons to yourself.
Recently I got to watch a video of a conference that took place in honor of International Women’s Day. It counted as credit for a work requirement. I have to have a certain number of hours of Race and Social Justice training every year. But I was actually looking forward to seeing this video regardless of its mandatory nature. It’s refreshing to see feminist issues being addressed when you spend the bulk of your time in a male-dominated workplace.
The majority of this particular conference addressed that very concern: how does one cope in a job where women are often discounted or shunned? So, I settled back with a notepad and a pen and prepared to be enlightened.
A lot of the pearls of wisdom were things that I had already learned just out of pure survival. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Don’t try to change yourself into something you are not. It’s not only okay to be who you are, but it also brings value to your workplace. While this information was not new to me, it was comforting to have it validated.
I was also listening closely to what was being said because there was a short questionnaire that I had to fill out in order to get the training credit. They were questions you couldn’t answer unless you watched the entire conference. That makes sense. No cheating.
But of all the takeaways from this forum, I was a little befuddled by the one the training department really seemed to zero in on. The question was, “What is QTIP?”
It turned out that the subject was brought up by one of the last women to speak at the panel discussion toward the end of the video. Her main coping skill, she said, was QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally.
That’s their primary takeaway? The words of a woman who is propping up that male bias? Seriously?
How many times have we heard some version of QTIP? “All you gals (and I hate the word gal, for what it’s worth) need to stop being so emotional.” “Don’t worry your pretty little heads.” “Stop being hysterical.”
Until people stop equating having emotions with weakness or a mental health issue, most women are going to be sidelined. Because most of us do have emotions. And when it comes to sexism in the workplace, we have a great deal to be pissed off and upset about.
How can you not take it personally when you’re being singled out because you’re the only woman in the room? That is personal. That’s highly freakin’ personal.
Now, I agree that how you express those feelings makes a difference. It’s never good to have your head explode during a staff meeting. But you have a right to be heard, and to speak your truth calmly and clearly.
No human should fly off the handle. It gets you nowhere. But take it personally? Heck yes. It’s personal. And anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying to you, gal. Make no mistake about that.
I always cringe when a female says that. A friend of mine said it recently, and it nearly broke my heart. She referred me to Judge Judy, who, according to this article, says, “I never felt I didn’t have equal opportunity as a woman.” But in that same article Judge Judy admits that there were only 6 women in her law school, and the professors didn’t treat them well. She also concedes that she did all the housework and child rearing even though she and her husband both worked. I’m not sure how she characterizes opportunities for women, but this seems kind of contradictory to me. Yes, she may have overcome those hurdles, but the point is, an attitude of “suck it up and deal with it” does nothing to remove those hurdles.
Here’s why I think everyone should be a feminist: It means you believe that women should be treated equally. It means equal pay for equal work. It means not being harassed. It means an equal level of human rights. It doesn’t mean we’re out to get all men or expect special treatment as is often claimed by those who speak out against feminism. If your primary focus are those who occupy the radical fringes of this movement, then at least acknowledge that every movement will have its fringe elements.
When I have this debate with friends, they often state that they are not feminists because that equality of which I speak should be the way it is anyway. As if the unfortunate need to ask for equality or demand it somehow delegitimizes the right to have it. You may not want to be identified as part of this group, but like it or not, by virtue of being a woman you are being treated like it by outside forces.
Should equal rights be a given? Abso-freakin’-lutely. But here’s the thing: It isn’t the case. Judge Judy is the exception, not the rule. It’s awfully easy to not support the minority that you’re a part of when you’re at the top of the heap, but there are a heck of a lot of us below you, your honor.
And Judge Judy couldn’t have reached her successful pinnacle were it not for the work of feminists. For example, according to this article, here are things American women could not do less than 100 years ago:
Have their own name printed on a passport.
Wear whatever they wanted.
Work in “dangerous” jobs, such as in bowling alleys.
Maintain US citizenship if married to a non-citizen.
Work the night shift.
Hold a job while pregnant.
Enlist in the military.
Serve on a Jury.
In theory, we finally got the right to vote in 1919, but it actually took decades for that to be universally practiced in this country. Some Trump supporters, even in 2018, want to repeal the 19th amendment. Women fought and were tortured and jailed and force fed and died for that privilege, and yet only 63 percent of eligible female voters turned out for the 2016 election, and 42 percent of them voted for a man who admits to grabbing women’s private parts. I’ll never understand that as long as I live. Do we hate ourselves?
And if the Me Too movement isn’t giving you a sense of how shabbily women are treated in the workplace, your head is buried in the sand. I’ve written a couple posts about my personal experiences with harassment, and I’m pretty typical. Eighty-three percent of American women believe they have experienced discrimination in the workplace. That’s a statistic that ought to be hard to ignore.
The more education a woman gets, the higher the wage disparity becomes. The average woman will earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.
Only 30-40 percent of all small businesses are owned by women, and they generate 61% less revenue.
In my workplace alone (the Seattle Department of Transportation), in one of the most liberal enclaves in the United States, of the 99 field positions, only a handful are held by women. And when I suggested that they make more connections with Woman in Trades organizations, to attract more female electricians, mechanics, welders and engineers, it went in one ear and out the other. That’s probably because the administration of SDOT is overwhelmingly white and male. I still work with people who use the term “cat fight” and don’t believe women should be bridgetenders.
Women’s rights are under threat all the time. We have to constantly fight to have birth control covered by insurance. No one has to fight to get Viagra covered. And there’s little or no support for affordable child care in this country. There’s constant political pushback against us making our own decisions about our health. Keep us barefoot and pregnant and out of every man’s way. Yeah. That’s the ticket.
And if we are in such an enlightened country, how is it possible that sex trafficking, child marriage, and domestic slavery still exists here?
So when a woman says, “I don’t consider myself a feminist,” what I hear is that they are comfortable enough in their situations to not have to stick their necks out. They have no desire to address the many outrages that they’re in denial about. They have theirs, and to hell with everybody else.
It would be nice if feminism were not necessary. If only wishing could make it so. But now, more than ever, we need to show a united front. Even if you don’t feel like it. If we don’t step up, why should we expect anyone else to?
A friend of mine recently pointed out that I have a thankless job. As a bridgetender, I’m always shocked to discover the vast number of people who don’t even know I exist. People tend to assume that all drawbridges are automated. They don’t realize how lucky they are that most aren’t. People can easily die on drawbridges. We’re talking about millions of pounds of steel and concrete in motion. You really want someone there who can think independently; someone who actually cares about your safety.
But oddly enough, I’ve never really thought my job was thankless. Actually, thanks has never been something I’ve even considered one way or another. Granted, it’s a rare boater who thanks me for opening the bridge for them. Pedestrians and commuters certainly don’t thank me for slowing them down. In fact, I’ve had things thrown at me more than once.
There was one vessel captain in Florida who would give us gift certificates to Red Lobster every Christmas. That made me feel good, but I looked at it as a delightful surprise. It is nice to be appreciated, but for me it’s not a requirement.
When I think of what I need for job satisfaction, thanks doesn’t enter into it for me. I’m sure the criteria is different for everyone, but for me to be satisfied with my job, the thing I need more than anything else is to be left alone to work within clearly defined parameters. I do not thrive on drama. I don’t go in for office politics. I prefer to work independently. Of course, adequate compensation and benefits are quite nice as well. If I were only able to flourish in a career that gave me frequent opportunities for positive feedback, I wouldn’t have lasted for two days as a bridgetender.
I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give to someone who is making job satisfaction a priority is to find out what you need to feel content in the workplace, and then seek out a career field that will provide those things to you. There’s no right or wrong answer. Only you can answer that question for yourself.
What would make you happy? Being a caregiver? Producing things with your hands? Being creative? Once you know what rocks your world, you’ll know what to do. Ignore what your inner voice is urging you toward at your emotional peril.
I probably shouldn’t be writing this, but hell, I’m thinking it, so why not? I have to say I love working with men. Well, I do now, anyway.
For most of my working life I’ve been in male-dominated jobs; the lone female in the pack, so to speak. At first it can be awkward. Some people, no matter how hard you try, are never going to accept you.
When an entire group of men are uncomfortable with your presence, it can feel pretty awful. They’ll be tense and formal with you, and you’ll get a very strong sense that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that isn’t being shared with you. There’s nothing like a group of disapproving men to make you feel isolated.
But man, when they do accept you, it’s so much fun! They treat you like one of the guys. You get teased and picked on, but that is just further evidence that you’re liked. Once I figured that out, I was golden.
So today when a group of guys came to do the biweekly pumping of our septic tank, rather than knocking on the door and stiffly notifying me that they were on the bridge, one of them unlocked the door and shouted up the stairs, “Hey! Your shitter’s full!” And I responded, “I didn’t do it!”