Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Question of Dominance Within Competitive Work Enviroments

On the books, I have only had six jobs in my life, and I started working when I was fifteen years old. I worked at a movie theatre (everywhere, but eventually became a projectionist), a basket warehouse (I unloaded trucks, made flower arrangements & displays; there was no air conditioning), a silver and stone jewelry shop (with friends & surrounded by beauty), a bookstore (with friends & surrounded by books & coffee), Nordstrom's (fashion), and now I teach English and writing at a university and a college (which is a dream; I could not think of a better career).

Each of these jobs is a far cry from one another, and though all engage my absolute interests, the disparity cannot be ignored. The greatest difficulty with disparity is that it simulates the idea that growth is not ascertained. However, each of these jobs taught me a similar lesson in different ways:

1. At the movie theatre, I was passed by on a promotion because my manager considered me "too emotional".

2. At the basket warehouse, I was not only surrounded by surly men that also ran the concessions at the Flea Market, but I was also sexually harassed by a creepy man with band aids all over his face that was referred to as Uncle Donnie. Uncle Donnie would bring young girls from the flea market to the warehouse and buy them wicker furniture. He was 60 and lived in his mother's garage; no one batted an eye. I quit shortly after he gave me an inappropriate present for my birthday.

3. At the silver and stone jewelry shop, new rules would pop up that would strictly relate to my fashion sense, which they found too sexualized; no one ever spoke to me in person.  Eventually, when the owners began to pressure us into attending Scientology meetings, I quit.

4. At the bookshop, not only did I get harassed by creepy customers, men that were out on the strip for the night, walking around the shop carrying red, plastic cups, and a cop, but I was asked on dates by strangers (the worst was when I said no, and a man called the shop for weeks to see if the "blonde lesbian bitch" was working in the café), and eventually I experienced the kind of horizontal violence that only women could do to other women.

5. At Nordstrom's, there was the same horizontal violence; the president was an awful ex-make up counter girl, and she actually wore tights with open toed shoes. On one such occasion, while wearing said ensemble, she picked on me for the tights and Koos Van Den Akker dress I was wearing (which I had gotten an insane amount of compliments on), and she was angry that I wanted to go home and change instead of buying something. Also, a bag of panties that I had purchased was stolen by security, only to be given to me the next day.

Though through all of these jobs I became even more of a feminist, and I definitely noticed the lack of gender equality in the workplace, I was never prepared for the aspects of politics and dominance that definitely play out in more competitive working environments, especially in the arena of advanced education, where I currently find myself.

I have been teaching for three years, and I seriously love my work more than anything; teaching has completely reorganized so many aspects of my spiritual, emotional and logical psyche, that the change cannot be understated. I am fully committed to my classroom environment and building a sense of community. I want my students to be curious and interested and to approach knowledge as this colossal, attainable mystery that only takes strong detective work, inspiration and logic.

Despite these facets, I am still incredibly green when it comes to political dynamics. Everyday, I still feel so lucky to be in love with everyday, and maybe it makes me naïve. I lack the ability and know-how to compete in my work environment. I don't know how to be cut throat; I don't know the politics, and I definitely do not understand the business machine.

I teach because I want to change things, because I want people to pay attention to the world and histories and conversations around them and change those conversations; I teach because I want to start my own club where everyone is an equal, card carrying member. I don't want to join another club, where I automatically make myself secondary just because of my gender or political views. Without being specific, this is just something I don't want to do.

I don't believe in the mentality that a woman has to join the boys club to be taken seriously. When I first started teaching, I was told to buy a suit (I am so so sick of the power suit), talk in a lower voice and wear my hair in a bun. I'm serious. And I did none of these things because I want to grow organically and be something that is authentic, constantly, which is exactly what I feel that education should be.

1 comment:

From the Woods to the Wild Unknown said...

Awesome article! It's unfortunate that more is not being done to right the wrongs that take place at work. Any man that needs to assert some sort of dominance over a woman at work is just showing signs of weakness not strength. They are showing that they don't have the confidence, and most likely the ability, to compete fairly. As far as creeps go, they just need a good ass beating bc their parents must've forgotten to give it to them.