Worksite Sexism

Right now as I’m writing this, it’s night 3 of Mission Week 2017. Today was our second day on our worksite and I am already exhausted. To switch it up a bit this year, all of the seniors and recent high school graduates are together on one work site that is over an hour away from the church. It’s very different, but for the most part I like it.

The homeowner that we are helping is a man whose home experienced massive flooding over a year ago and still has a ton of damage. A few groups have come before us and helped with small projects, and we’re redoing insulation, dry wall, repairing the foundation, clearing out trash, replacing doors, building a new deck, etc. It’s a massive project, which is why we have a team of about 36 high schoolers and 8 adults there at the site. The sad thing is we won’t even be able to do everything that needs to eventually be repaired in these short four days.

But what I’ve been thinking about, and what my friends and I have been talking about quite a bit, is how sexist some of the guys in our group are. We’ve been mocked, ridiculed, belittled, and been manhandled by quite a few of them. We’re doing the same amount of work and performing at the same level, yet they treat us like we’re inferior. It’s interesting because I haven’t noticed this on a Mission Week before, and this is the sixth year I’ve participated. I think it may have to do with how many more guys there are on the worksite than what I’m used to, and I notice it more now than I ever have. I try not to get offended easily, but some of the things I heard were just downright disrespectful.

Here are a few examples of the things that have been said to my friends and I:

  • “Are you sure a pretty thing like you should be down here? You’re gonna get dirty.”
  • “You’re so skinny. You’ve always been skinny. You’re so nice to look at.”
  • “Geez. It must be her time of the month.”
  • “I’m surprised you’re helping with the ice since women usually don’t do anything.”
  • “Yeah women are property.”
  • “Why don’t you let us boys do this job?”

It’s super insulting, because us girls signed up for Mission Week to work. And we’re working our asses off, just like the guys. We’re climbing ladders, using saws, carrying heavy loads, crawling underneath the house, etc.

Yesterday, we had to clean out old insulation that was underneath the house. Most people didn’t want to do that job, because there were a ton of bugs, a potential for snakes, and many people are claustrophobic. Three guys stepped up and put on the white suits, mask, and safety goggles. When the work team leaders were going around asking who was interested, they pointed the question at the boys, for the most part assuming the girls would not want to.

I hate bugs, spiders give me the heeby jeebies, and if I see a snake I’m likely to scream. But every Mission Week I like to do something that scares me so I can grow and push my boundaries a little bit. I volunteered to go down there and clear out debris. Most girls applauded me, but many of the guys tried to talk me out of it. I suited up and went down there. And then I stayed down there, longer than any other guy. The suits get hot, but I wanted to prove that girls can do anything that guys can do, and we can do it just as well, if not better.

I thought of it like this. A few months ago I spoke at Mansfield Speaks, a speaking event that my school hosts that’s similar to a Tedx Talk. I spoke about feminism and why men should be feminists too. But I can’t give a speech about feminism and then turn around and say “I can’t do that, that job is for a guy.”

Today, I suited up again to help install the new insulation. I also helped repair some plumbing that was underneath the house as well. As I was climbing out from underneath of the house I was thrilled to see two more girls underneath the house on the other side. I was proud to see two more powerful young women showing the boys that we can do anything, just like they can.

As a young woman it’s frustrating and infuriating to hear guys my age talk about women in such a derogatory way. And most of the time they don’t even see how what they just said or did was wrong. Today when I finally snapped at a guy for manspaining me and calling me “sweetheart” even after I told him to stop several times, he accused me of being on my period. That shouldn’t matter. I was doing just as good of a job as he was, and even if I was bleeding out of my vagina, that would of just made what I was doing that much more impressive.

I’m forever hopeful that as guys mature and continue to witness the powerful things that the women around them are doing, they’ll eventually see that we’re just as strong as they are. But until then, I’m going to continue to challenge myself and show the boys who is boss, and encourage other young women around me to do the same.

——————————————————————-

Below is my speech from Mansfield Speaks, in case you are interested.

“About a year and a half ago, I was at a drag race in Ennis, Texas. My dad had worked for a drag racing team for the past ten years, so I’ve grown up around the sport. I decided to take my boyfriend at the time with me, because they’re an interesting way to spend a Sunday and I thought we’d have fun. We were standing near one of the pits, watching the cars warm up, when a guy who was probably in his mid fifties walked up to stand next to us. Now granted, he may have been a little drunk, but he started talking to my boyfriend. He mentioned that the drag races were a perfect date to take your girlfriend on. Keep in mind, I was the one wearing the John Force Racing tank top, and the one pointing out different racers and cars. I politely told the man that I was actually the one who took my boyfriend to the races, not the other way around- and he looked shocked. He then began quizzing me on the sport, asking me about five questions about the drivers, cars and history of drag racing. When I was able to answer all of his questions, he then turned to my boyfriend, said “good luck with this one,” and walked off, calling me a ‘feminazi’ underneath his breath. A few days later, I was telling a friend about it, and she told me I shouldn’t have said anything, because I could’ve embarrassed my boyfriend, and that I shouldn’t have worried about being such a feminist.

It was those two events that pushed me to learn what being a feminist really means. In today’s society, feminism tends to be a dirty word. People think it means that you hate men, or think that you’re better than them, when in reality that couldn’t be farther from the truth. They confuse feminism with misandry, which is really unfortunate, because feminism actually kinda rocks. The real definition of feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of all genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, religion, ability, and sexual orientation. Which I know that sounds really long and scary, but it’s actually quite simple. Feminism means equality.

When I first auditioned for tonight, my speech had a different direction. I was surprised to learn that many men think that because they are male, they can’t be a feminist. I’m here to tell you that feminism is inclusive to everyone, which means men can be feminists too. Because believe it or not, men benefit from feminism as well. 

Up until the age of 8 or 9 boys and girls cry about the same amount. And then suddenly it’s not okay for the boys to cry anymore. Boys are taught that showing emotion is emasculating and that if they want to be seen as a man, they shouldn’t cry. This leads to men learning to bottle up their emotions without a proper outlet to let those feelings out. Because of that men commit suicide at a rate of 3:1 to women.

Having emotion is normal. It’s human. And we should not look down upon men who choose to show it. If a guy is grieving, let him grieve. It’s not girly or gay. It’s healthy, it’s normal, and it should be encouraged. Feminism promotes the idea that everyone should be able to share their emotions without fear of retaliation.

According to a recent study at the University of Michigan, men on average receive 63% longer prison sentences than women who commit comparable crimes. The study also found that women are twice as likely than men to avoid going to prison if convicted of a crime. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, currently 93% of their inmates are men. Another example is if a couple with kids is getting divorced, the mother is granted primary custody 68% of the time. 

Feminists want equal rights of all people, even in the areas where the patriarchy benefits women. We want an equal playing field. The idea that women are delicate flowers or that they are naturally better caregivers is simply not true. And if you commit a crime, your gender should not come into play. 

In commercials and and on TV in general men are depicted as bumbling idiots who mess up the laundry or don’t know how to handle their kids and then their wives have to come in and fix it.

Once again, feminists believe that men are just as capable of carrying out household chores and raising their children. What gender you are should play no role in your ability to do anything. Likewise, women can do anything that men can do, and it should not be seen as threatening to her partner. Just because your significant other excels at something, does not mean that you are any less amazing.

When a girl walks out of her house wearing shorts and a tank top because it’s Texas, and it’s crazy hot, she’s often told that what she is wearing is too revealing and that she is asking to be catcalled, or worse– raped. This idea that men are incapable of keeping it in their pants is absurd.

Feminists like to believe that men are capable of controlling themselves. That they aren’t controlled by some animal instinct. And most importantly, that men are decent human beings. This isn’t hard to understand. Feminists like to believe that when a girl tells a guy no, their ego is strong enough to handle it. Feminism is basically saying that we see you as a human, past your gender and past what society stereotypes you to be.

But men shouldn’t be feminists just because it benefits them. They should be feminists because they respect women and strive for equality in all areas. Feminism is awesome. It should be celebrated. It should be encouraged. And it’s something everyone should be a part of. Tonight I hope I changed your perspective that men can and should be feminists too, because feminism matters.”

5 thoughts on “Worksite Sexism

  1. Phyllis Smith says:

    Abby, I am so proud of you for writing this article, as well as doing the hard work that you are doing. I am concerned that it doesn’t sound as if anything is being said to these boys about their attitudes and comments. I strongly think that this needs to be addressed by the adults (especially the men) who are with your group. These boys need to be made aware of how disrespectful and offensive their comments are and that it will not be tolerated. If your leadership is aware and condones this behavior, maybe this is a place you and any other self-respecting female shouldn’t be. You should not have to put up with this. With much love and respect, Grandma

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Annette Randall says:

    Abby– your grandmother, Jeanne, shared these two articles with us last night. AJ and I are so impressed with your writing skills and your position and thoughts on feminism. WOW what a future you have. We will be watching, observing and enjoying. –The Randalls

    Liked by 1 person

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