Working Girls

Working+Girls

Cher Amio (Creative Commons)

The unmistakable truth about unwanted and unwelcome actions and words is that if it makes you any bit uncomfortable, it is harassment, plain and simple.

Ever since I started working, I have had to ignore my low tolerance for physical interactions and stupid pet names. I barely even let my friends touch me, let alone strangers, and I wear a mandatory name tag with my name clearly printed on it. I have had unknown hands on my body, caressing my hand, my sides, have had men grab my wrist and pull me into a dark corner, have been called “baby,” “sweetheart,” and “honey.”

It is a subtle form of belittlement, to demean the person who is serving you/you serve alongside with by disrespecting their personal space and identifying them with insulting nicknames. My customers remain oblivious to how irritating it is to me due to the fact that if my robotic kindness isn’t cranked up all the way, I will literally get fired because the customer is always, always resentfully right. However, my coworkers are on a different end of the spectrum. The ones that decided to invade my personal space have gotten a taste of my wrath, in fact, they eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner now.

It’s difficult to put down in words how I feel, or how to describe the humiliation and degradation I’ve experienced. The shame I feel when old men wink at me with their wives following closely behind. I’m constantly internally conflicted between quitting, or getting fired on account of calling out every rude piece of scum there is. I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable in my workplace and I definitely shouldn’t feel uncomfortable outside of my workplace. Every time I mention the cons of working as a female teenage cashier, the responses are always the same: “At least your pay is good.”

How can I argue with that? I do get a good pay, I do have a problem with asking my parents for money, and I am on the verge of becoming a college student, so money is a huge factor. I felt terrible because instead of looking on the brighter side, I was disappointed that several of my friends didn’t support me or understand what I was going through (thankfully, I guess). They tell me to wear less makeup or present myself in a different, less attractive light. But I don’t dress or wear makeup this way to impress anyone, it’s because I feel good and confident in it. And I’m far from being the only one being objectified against, a handful of my other (female) friends have also experienced the same things and then some, which begs the question, why should we, as women, be taught to cover up and physically lessen ourselves rather than teach men to control themselves?

And there you have it, a small problem that could be easily fixed snowballs into a larger, more serious issue. I find that it’s a prehistoric notion to refer to women with “such and such pet name” and men with “sport” or “slick” or something along those lines, or to make “innocent” physical contact. Maybe it’s a psychological thing, to gain some sort of authority or upper hand (as if my inferiority complex needs that). And I do know there is a fine line between intended and unintended  physical contact, but I think that if this person is a total stranger (or even an acquaintance) and there is no form of connection between either of you, you shouldn’t impose yourself upon them and disregard any type of social anxiety or social diseases they might have. Or in a simpler sense, respect everyone around you and put yourself in their shoes, don’t try to humiliate or shame anybody, even if you “weren’t even thinking,” learn to. The world would most definitely be a better place if everyone was/were to be educated on the subject of inequality, sexism, etc.