naodrith: (uncertainty)
([personal profile] naodrith Feb. 26th, 2010 06:19 pm)
I am not fantastic at my job. I don't have the blazing speed or physical strength of most of my coworkers, including most of the women. But you know what I certainly am? Competent.

I have been at this job for a year and a half now, and I have never sustained more than the occasional cut or bruise, nor have I ever injured anyone else or damaged a piece of equipment. I'm not some delicate, wilting flower who needs to be helped with every little thing; I'm not some stupid twit who doesn't know to watch and listen to make sure she doesn't get hurt.

Yet some of the men I work with still persist in treating me like it is their sacred and vital duty to protect me.

Example: today I and two or three other people had to pull an open case down a small bump, about two inches high. Because I do not care to lose my fingers, I was slow and cautious about pulling the case toward me, and I pulled by the handles, not the edge, even though it was more awkward. This despite the fact that one of those moving the case with me had a firm grip on the lid; those things are heavy and sometimes the angle can surprise you, so I wasn't about to trust my limbs to that.

As the front wheels slipped down from the little ledge, the lid wobbled slightly, and our movement forced me to lean forward to balance, my head just barely bumping against the lid. Instantly, Dan called down from the stage above, "Careful, Caitlin, don't get your head caught!"

This is not something Dan would ever have said to a male coworker - or to most of the women, either. It was blatantly obvious that I was being careful, that I was not working alone, and that no part of my body was anywhere near being caught in the case, even if the lid had slammed shut, which it was obviously not about to do. And this isn't something he caught out of the corner of his eye; he was standing there the whole time, watching instead of working, and he decided I was in so much terrible, terrible danger because of my own inability that he needed to call out to me and me specifically.

Again, it's not as if I make a practice of tripping over my own feet, smashing my fingers, or swooning onto cases. I'm a good worker, and Dan knows this, because he has marveled, marveled at my "toughness" in the past. But apparently a pretty young woman, no matter how tough, could never be aware enough or cautious enough to avoid getting her neck broken by a slow-moving open case.

Let's be clear: I don't have a problem with people telling me they'd behind me, or to watch out, or even gently moving me aside, if they genuinely believe that I have not seen the thing they are afraid is about to hit me or happen to me. These people don't patronise me or condescend to me; it's a completely different tone, it's completely different situations. You have to be there, I suppose, to really see the difference.

If Dan genuinely believed me to be in imminent danger of getting my head chopped off, it requires one of two things. One, he is unbelievably obtuse and jumps at the slightest hint of trouble, which I know him well enough to say with confidence is not true. Or two, despite a year and a half of evidence to the contrary, he still believes that I am too much of a ditz to protect myself in a controlled situation.

Oh, there is a third possibility. He wants to prove that he lurves me cares about me and is watching my back, in order to score points.

Fuck him. This is demeaning. I feel objectified when men stare at my ass or my breasts instead of my face, but you know what else makes me feel like an object?

Being treated like I don't have a brain.
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