If you haven’t been reading or are completely, blaringly oblivious, then you’ll be surprised to know that I’m female. Most of you, however, already know this. Most of you also know, that I spend my time as an Electronics worker in a local Target – the only full time female Electronics worker on staff. As always, the Electronics section is a man’s world. Women will temporarily visit, find what they need, and get the hell out of there. The men, however, linger. Let me begin with some stories.
A few months ago, I was the only worker in Electronics (The other was on break) when a British man nearing his mid 50’s approached with his younger son, about four years old, seated in the cart. The man began to look at our new 50 inch Plasma Panasonic TV, and eventually motioned me over. “Does this have an SD slot?” he asked. I explained to him that it did, showed him where, and included some other tidbits about the TV. Suddenly he responds, “Wow.. thanks.. It’s not often you get good looking help in Electronics.” As this man says this, he reaches his hand around, and begins rubbing my back. While I could have dropped him to the floor in seconds with my black belt level training, I was more stunned than pissed off. Here, a man that is obviously married, with his son right there, and he has the balls to approach a girl in such a way. I quickly stepped away, told him where to find me if he had more questions, and conveniently placed myself at a spot well seen and well guarded. Now was this Fifty some year old man a threat? Probably not. He was older, out of shape, and with his son. But I certainly could never say this was an isolated incident.
Working at Target is usually the only time I get out in a social setting where I am vaguely alone. If I go to the mall or stores, I usually only do so accompanied. Throughout my time at Target, I’ve had older men ask me if the service plan number is actually my cell, tell me to ring up their condoms first with a wink, if they get any ‘special benefits’ with certain expensive products, and so on. (Note to Reader: Sexual Harassment is not usually the best pickup line, and will not really get you the type of girl that you'd like to keep around.) But of all the things that anger me, that isn’t the top.
While women have no problem approaching me to ask me a question, men will walk completely around the department to the other Electronics worker, obviously male, to ask him about a certain Television or Camera. If I happen to be the only one there, they’ll walk around for a bit, and then ask, “Do you work in this department?” (No, I just stand here for the tan off of the LCD TV’s, leik, so awesome!) . A lot of times when men are forced to ask me the question, some of them will be begin with, “Well, I don’t know if you’d know the answer to this,” or, “You probably won’t know, but,”. What makes me laugh is that when these men avoid me to ask my coworker, my coworker will most likely find me and ask me anyway. It’s Target, we don’t employ rocket scientists, and I’m one of the most knowledgeable we have. When I give these guests their responses, they’ll quickly look back to the male worker that brought them there, as if asking if it’s okay to believe me.
I’d love to say that this problem stays at work. However, that’s far from true. As a girl on Cybernations, I’m probably one of maybe a hundred active female players on a twenty nine thousand player game. Cybernations is also a Man's world. It’s IRC that’s finally introduced me to the concept that some men enjoy sending pictures of their penises as a nice ‘hello’. Now, I’m sure that not many of our players would ever say ‘hello’ to another male player by broadcasting the thing between their legs (though I’m sure exceptions exist). I can say that in this game, I’ve already had four people randomly link me to a picture and follow up with, “Like it?” Usually, since I sometimes feel like a nice person, I brush the question off and let you keep your fragile ego, however, it’s not cute, and it’s not attractive. Similarly, I’ve learned that when bringing a male player down politically, you go after their faults, exacerbate situations they’ve been in, and spread rumors of distrust. However, when bringing down a female player, the best offense is usually something concerning her looks, her obviously slutty nature (sarcasm), or the blatantly simple comment that she can’t rule an alliance because she’s a woman. It’s painfully obvious why most women that reach a powerful position while still fully intact started out role playing as guys. I’ve had rumors spread about me, I’ve been sexually harassed, and the kickban feature has become a necessary tool in my every day IRC use. I’m sure that if I talked to any female player online, they’d say something similar.
I don’t think anyone reading this would disagree that electronics and online simulation games have always been associated with men. But what about the women trickling through? While I’ve certainly met my share of horrible males, I’ve met quite a few nice ones from both of the locations I’ve talked about above. While some women will shop, get their hair done, and giggle during pedicures, I choose to spend my time reading Time Magazine and setting up programs for an online game. I wish I could change behavior that I’ve specified above, but with every amount of good comes the bad, and I accept that wholeheartedly. The good is worth it. So while women will go the mall and chat about the newest hot actor, I’ll be answering questions to men who’ll be shocked that I know something. And later, I’ll go write a speech to a few hundred people that will hopefully gain enough respect to avoid penis pictures for a month.
But hey, that’s just being a woman in a man’s world.