Sexism and misogyny are an ever present force in my life. For those of you who don’t know, I work in the trucking business. No, I am not a trucker. But I wear many hats at my job. I’m an administrative assistant, the (entire) HR department, the secretary, the policy writer, the parts go-getter, and many more things. I spend my days doing everything from writing emails, picking up truck parts, writing 25 page drug and alcohol policies, and coordinating with our lawyer to compile information for the DOT, to running to the grocery store, making coffee, and scheduling maintenance on trucks. I am our filing system. I do everything. And my boss does three times more (a truly incredible feat if you ask me).
In my dealings with various companies for my job I come across a multitude of men who either 1. Think I’m a “dumb little girl” who doesn’t actually know what parts or services I’m asking for or talking about, 2. Treat and/or speak to me like a piece of meat that just has to accept their advances, leers, or comments or 3. Are outright patronizing and disrespectful. I get pure joy out of proving them wrong. Granted, I absolutely don’t know even a quarter of the things I want to know about this industry; but I do make sure I understand what I’m asking for or am talking about before I ever call or visit these people.
Last week I went to get some of our compressed air tanks filled. The guy behind the counter literally didn’t even attempt to look me in the eyes. He spent the entire time ignoring every other customer and just staring at my tits. It was gross. The guy just felt like a rapist. I know that sounds ridiculous but I trust my gut. On some animalistic level, he made my skin crawl. I got our tanks filled and left. 20 minutes later my boss tells me I have to go back for something; so I go. I walk back through the door, the guy gives me this creepy smile and says, “You just love being here don’t you?” I don’t know this man, had never met him before that day, and he did not say it in that joking “sucks you had to come back” kind of way. It was just creepy.
That same day I had to go exchange a 20 ton air jack and a 1 inch pistol grip air impact wrench. The air jack was heavy and covered in grease. I take these things into Harbor Freight and set them down on the counter. The guy who “helped me” with the exchange was so fucking patronizing I wanted to punch him in the face. Let me just say, I’m not one of those women who refuses help or thinks a man’s an asshole because he offered help but there is a way to go about offering it. Saying “Let me guess, you’re gonna want someone to help you get the new air jack aren’t you? Just wait a minute”, is not the way to do it. He said it in an incredibly sarcastic tone and was visibly sneering at me. That face got much worse when I walked away, grabbed the new one, and brought it back by myself. Then he messed up and said “This isn’t the right one. You have to get the same jack if you expect me to exchange it.” We then spent five minutes arguing over it before he finally listened to me and realized the part number was the same and I had grabbed the right one. He was practically purple by the time I left the store because he was so angry. Why was he so angry? I didn’t mess anything up. I wasn’t a bitch. I brought in everything necessary to do the exchange. I didn’t even need the help he should have nicely offered to start with. I didn’t ask for anything outside of his job description and he was perfectly nice to the man he rung out before me. His attitude only changed once he saw my 5’2″, blond, female ass walk up with parts to work on trucks and other similar things. He assumed that I was going to demand help when all I had said was that I needed to exchange these things and that they were both under warranty. He saw me, a woman, in a harbor freight, and his entire demeanor changed. When I then proved his assumptions wrong, he got even worse. So much so that the people behind me were staring at us with their jaws dropped the entire time.
These are just two small examples. On a daily basis I get asked things like “What are you doing with these truck parts?”, “Where did you get all this stuff?”, “Why did they send you to get these fixed?” (generally referring to big Mack truck tires). It’s almost always said with a small chuckle. It isn’t that these people are blatantly mean. They may not even realize they’re being sexist. But at the end of the day, to them, a woman and anything involving big trucks do not belong in the same place. It isn’t that the parts were asked for or that the tires need recapping or patching. It’s the fact that I’m a woman and I’m the one asking for it.
Now I realize women being involved in the trucking business is rare. I realize a lot of these men have probably never seen a female drive a big truck into a yard, back it perfectly into a bay, and then ask for parts that most people don’t even know exist. I’m aware of all of this and if these men simply said “Wow I’ve never seen a woman work for a trucking company before” I would be fine with it. Why? Because neither have I and it’s honest. That’s not what bothers me. It’s the fact that not all, but most of them act as if it’s insane or laughable that I’m even in this business. They treat me like I don’t have the right to be. They assume I have no idea what I’m talking about, try to sell me shit I don’t need, and stare at my tits without even attempting to look at my face. They make “jokes” that are sexist, expect me to laugh, act as if I expect them to do stuff for me when I don’t, and then treat me like a weakling if they do do things for me that I never asked for. It’s ridiculous.
So my boss and I were talking about this and the fact that there’s not many female truck drivers the other day. There damn sure aren’t any where I work. Not because my boss wouldn’t hire them, but because no female has ever applied here. I asked him why more women don’t drive trucks and he said “I really shouldn’t say this but women tend to be… No I can’t say that because men do dumb shit too. They’re assholes.” He was going to say that not many women drive because they don’t have the brains for it but then he realized some of his male drivers do dumb things too. He does in fact have these inbred, preconceived notions; but he puts the critical thought into them that breaks them as well. So as he was saying this, he corrected himself and I couldn’t help but point it out. I said “See! That right there, that is what I write about all the time. You almost said women don’t drive trucks because they’re dumb but then admitted that some of your drivers are assholes who do dumb shit too. So when a woman does some dumb shit it’s because she’s a women. But when a man does dumb shit it’s because he’s an asshole. Right?” He said “Yeah you’re right. You’re right.” I then proceeded to say, “See that is where sexism is born. Only women are said to do or not do certain things because of their gender. It’s super common to hear ‘It’s because she’s a woman’; but how often do you hear ‘It’s because he’s a man’?” He said “You don’t.”
And that is the fucking point. When a man defends himself, he’s a man. When a woman does, she’s a bitch. When a guy holds off on sleeping with someone, he’s a gentleman. When a woman does, she’s a prude. When a man has sex with a lot of women, he’s a playa, a ladies man, a pimp. When a woman does, she’s a slut. When you want to insult a man deeply, you call him a pussy. A slang word for the vagina, a female body part. We associate “bitch”, “prude”, “pussy”, and “slut” with the feminine. We associate these words with women. And if you call a man these words, well then it’s extra disrespectful because it’s considered worse to call him a word that would normally be used to describe a woman. It’s more demeaning than calling him an asshole or dick. Why? Insulting him is already demeaning. But insulting him in a way you would insult a woman? That is much worse. It implies he’s weak, not strong or masculine, less than a man. All things that our society relates with being… A woman. So essentially the worst thing a man can be is anything that our society defines as being a feminine trait.
While I don’t agree that women are weak or pussies, obviously, from this line of “logic”, our society does. If that wasn’t true then the feminine based insults wouldn’t be the worst ones. It’s not just the gender reversal that makes it worse. If that were true then calling a woman a dick would be seen as being just as bad as calling a man a bitch. But it’s not, is it? If there is still any doubt left in your mind that I’m simply stating the truth then tell me this, how many times have you heard someone say “You’re such a girl!” in a derogatory way? Now many times have you heard someone say “You’re such a guy!” in the same way?
It’s not so normal and acceptable when you take away the social norm behind it all and look at it for what it really is, is it? We have made the worst insults ones that refer to women. The bringers of life. The beautiful. The feminine. Our sisters, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. Regardless of whether that insult is being used on a man or woman.
I mean after all, women aren’t really people, right? We’re only here to be fucked, breed, cook, smile pretty, stare at, and be quiet; right?
Men: think about that the next time you look at your daughter or your mom.
Women: think about that the next time you look at your best friend or a woman you’re fighting with.
Sexism and the results of it are everywhere and men aren’t the only ones perpetuating the problem. We women treat each other like shit. Sure it’s probably because we were taught to, but it’s still our responsibility to end it. And I’m not saying all men are like this; however, for the ones of you who aren’t, don’t just assume or act as if it’s normal and ignore it. Use your capacity for critical thought and really examine what you’re choosing to be a part of. Pretending it’s okay or isn’t wrong is just as bad as doing it in the first place. And women, yet again, let’s support each other. God knows there’s enough working against us in this world without being distrustful of our fellow women.
Think. It’s the greatest ability we’re given.
by Ashley Hebner
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