Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Little girl!?!

I broke my no swearing at work rule today.

Most people at work are fine, it's just the exceptions that piss me off. A few people asked me if I was a new secretary (what does mechanical engineering intern mean to you?), which made me a little grumpy, especially since they received an e-mail saying who I was and what I would be doing at the company. And an introduction from my boss. One person, Mr. Y, despite repeated corrections, keeps referring to me as "the secretary for the engineering interns". Perhaps somewhat ironically, most of the work I have been doing thus far would be better suited to a secretary, but things are looking up.

Other people insist on holding doors open for me. Why is this a problem, you say? I don't know about you, but I feel awkward when someone sees me coming from far down the road and holds the door open for a good 5 minutes waiting for me to get there, like I should tip them or something. And they get this look on their faces as though they've done something amazing and I should be super thankful. Or maybe I read into it too much. Point is, it's awkward and uncomfortable when taken to such an extreme. Also, if there are 20 people in an elevator,all going to the same meeting on the same floor, and I'm in the back of the elevator, nobody else will get out until I leave first. It feels pointedly awkward, as though I'm being singled out for something. I actually tried waiting for a while to see what would happen, and after the polite coughing and "Ladies first!" proved ineffective, I actually had someone PUSH me out the door first, from the back of the elevator!

A salesperson at a lunch meeting started making jokes about how few girls there are in engineering and kept on bringing it up. Yes, it's true, there aren't a lot of girls in my program, and some of them are butch, so what? Why bring it up? You wouldn't go up to a black employee and ask, "Were you the only black person in your class? Are there other blacks in your classes? You don't seem to be as much of a thug as the others! Boy, I didn't think a lot of black people went into XXX field! Sure weren't a lot when I was there. Man, I bet you're going to get hired right away when you graduate! Y'know, equal employment..." Thanks for discarding the notion that any of my accomplishments are due to merit.

While these things don't always bother me on their own, it's slowly been getting me for the past few weeks. This week was a week full of awkward stares, awkward building entrances, awkward elevators, and awkward conversations about why I chose engineering as a career. I guess everything just adds up until a bunch of small things feel like people don't take me seriously and like I'm being singled out for something. But anyway, back to today's adventure.

Mr. X walks into the office. He asks for Mr. Y, another student, who is clearly not there. I offer to tell Y that he stopped by. X asks what Y's schedule looks like this week, where Mr. Y is, and when he'll be back. Mr. Y is in a different department, so we don't share schedules. I mention this to Mr. X, and suggest that he ask someone in Mr. Y's department because I don't have access since I'm in (unicorn engineering group). Nonetheless, he gets angry when I can't tell him when Mr. Y's next free slot is, and makes some comment about how I really need to learn how to do my job better. I hold my tongue.

Mr X then starts politely coughing while gesturing at a sheet of paper. Unfortunately, I can't see all the way across the room to other student's desk where X is standing. Then, X was so kind as to take the pen and paper from Y's desk, walk across the room, and thrust them in my face to demand that I write down a message from him to Mr. Y. Word for word. I don't say, "Write your own message, you lazy ass." or, "Why don't you just e-mail him or leave a voicemail?" or, "I'm not his secretary, dammit." After I write down the message, he smiles and says, condescendingly, "There, that wasn't so hard, was it? That's a good little girl." And then he gets the pleased with himself look for putting a woman in her place and doing the woman a favour and teaching her how to do her job (which is, incidentally, NOT to be a secretary for the other engineering students).


I'm above the median height for men. I am by no means little. I spent the better part of a decade playing "enforcer" in sports, and when I'm in good shape I can keep up with anyone on the field. My calves can crush diamonds (seriously, they're amazing). And he's lucky that my calves didn't activate my leg muscles to crush his face in.

I'm not even sure what I said, but I think it involved the words "fuck", and "yourself". Oh, that's right, I told him to go fuck himself! Yeah, not my best moment. But the funny thing was, the same part of his brain that won't let women have man jobs, also won't let women swear, so he just got a funny look on his face and walked off. I'm pretty sure he couldn't process what I said properly or I'd be out of a job. Although I'd kind of like a job right now where the other employees had seen a girl before.

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