Since taking this job, I’ve been hearing various feedback and comments from friends and relatives along the lines of “Isn’t that hard as a woman?”, or “That’s kinda a man’s field”. I usually field these concerns with a shrug and, “Its a tough job for anyone” or “There are some women in the field.” It’s time to come clean- it IS hard as a women, specifically. And it IS a man’s field. And since moving to the Middle East, I have to be honest, I feel it everyday.
It is tricky to articulate the subtleties of a culture. You can not pin point something which is just “in the air”. I’m also reminded that perspective make all the difference. When people collectively think one way- you can not point out something obvious which they just don’t see.
Last week, I went to lunch with a group of co-workers. These are not only gentlemen I work with, they are people I watch the sun rise and set with the majority of the time. These are people I live with, people I depend on. Over the lunchtime banter, one co worker matter of factly stated, “That’s the only time I wish I was a woman. In Whataberger, woman can do whatever they want. Even if they f*ck up, they won’t get fired.” Hearing this from someone I consider an ally in the trenches- I had to speak up.
My opposition to his comment was met with furious denial from all parties at the table. I simply stated, “its difficult to go to work everyday knowing everyone you interact with thinks that about you, merely because you’re a woman”. I immediately wished I hadn’t said anything- because again- they just didn’t get it. No one even saw anything wrong with the frame of mind. They all challenged me to name examples of why they personally treated me badly. How do you explain- its not that you treat me badly- its how you all, collectively think? It is a mentality so entrenched in the culture that you can not even point it out to very level headed, mature and progressive members of the culture.
These last couple weeks- I’m facing the subtleties of sexism here as I’ve had a couple rig jobs go awry. Everyone has mistakes on jobs, and from the very early stages of my training, I can still hear Dave in Elk City telling me, “You’re going to f*ck up. Everyone does. Just know it when it happens and accept it.” The difference here, is the reaction from my supervisors and managers, they approach me as if I am the only one who f*cks up. I’ve been patronized and my competency questioned over simple things I’ve been doing for the last three plus years.
I wonder, am I seeing it correctly? Or am I just seeing the nature of the beast?