Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One of the Boys: The Wednesday Rant


People who've seen my shoe collection might laugh at this, but I used to be a tomboy. My idea of fun was making mud and rose hip pies, scrounging around with my dog, and getting dirty with the neighbourhood boys (I mean this very differently than young girls get dirty today--I'm talking actual dirt). My mother was always despairing over the state of my nails. Anyone who bought me a doll would be horrified to know what happened to it, and anyone who threatened my cousin better run for their lives.

Even today, I usually relate better to men. The women who become my closest friends were tomboys themselves--there's not a girly-girl among them. They can kick ass, take names, and still look great in a pair of heels. But it took a lot of effort, time, and aggravation to find them.

I gave up on girls altogether in the fourth grade. Before that, I had a nice mix of male and female friends, but suddenly most of the girls I knew went through this strange metamorphosis. Everything was about the BFF, and God forbid if you had the same best friend from one day to the next. I couldn't keep up with someone liking me one day and deciding not to speak to me the next. It was exhausting. So I went over to see what the boys were doing, and it was a hell of a lot more fun than that "want to be my bestest friend?" crap. Also, they were strangely loyal. If they liked me on Monday, I could count on the fact they'd also like me on Tuesday. And if we had a disagreement, they might have blown up, yelled, or stomped off, but once they cooled down, we were still friends. An argument didn't turn into the end of the world.

By coincidence or design, I've lived my life competing in a boy's (or man's) world. Journalism was an old boy's club, and when I worked at an insurance company, all of the power players were men. Kickboxing was dominated by men when I started training--there were very few women at my first club, and I sparred with men more often than not.

As much as I love being one of the boys, I do acknowledge that men and women are different, and I think that's a good thing. What I can't stand is when it's assumed that I can't do something--or do it as well--because I'm female. Tell me a guy is automatically stronger just because he has a Y chromosome, and I want to kick your ass. When I was in Africa, a scientific report was released that confirmed what I've known (and experienced) all along--physical strength has nothing to do with gender, but with size, build, and fitness level--and sometimes with weight. Unfortunately, I brought this up at the breakfast table and two of the men staying at the camp with us were unbelievably sexist. You would have thought I'd suggested world-wide castration with the way they reacted. My best friend, a kickboxer herself, watched in amusement as I argued for our gender. This is a fight I've never been able to back down from.

When it comes to my red prajioud test, there's only one aspect in which men and women have different requirements. Men are expected to do 36 push-ups (three sets of 12), while women are expected to do 24 (three sets of eight). Guess how many I'll be doing? Is being female really going to make me incapable of an extra 12 push-ups? I. Don't. Think. So! Actually, I already know I can do them--did them yesterday. :)

How about my female readers? Ever feel like you have to prove yourself in a man's world? Was it hard to be accepted? And if some brave men want to weigh in on how awesome women are, that's cool, too. :)

6 comments:

  1. Your school-days story read very much like my own. As an adult, I've been working in the creature effects industry, which is predominantly male. I push and pull and drag and sweat as much as the next guy on set, but I never try to BE one of the guys. I won't burp, fart or join their goofy reindeer games -and when I dress up, any heel below 3" is considered "casual wear".

    My motto: if you step into mans' territory, don't be offended if the men notice you're a woman -as long as they don't make a big deal out of it. If they do... take their feet out from under them for a second and they won't do it twice!

    I think that rule got me accepted quicker than if I had set in to make a major statement on day one because, these days, my work precedes me and not my gender.

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  2. As the unrepentant tomboy who is the daughter of a self-proclaimed 'fashionplate' I can relate with what you are saying Holli. I've always worked in a male dominated field where women had roles which were anything from supportive to subservient.

    Media, farming/ranching, fire fighting and other aspects of emergency services. I've carried the weight, hauled the hose, pulled the calves, drove the equipment and gotten some good laughs and shocked looks when I 'cleaned up and dressed like a girl'!

    Most interestingly it was women, girly girls, who gave me the hardest time about not being 'womanly enough' or 'feminine' enough - with the assumption that if I work with men I was manly. I'll kick yer ass, no doubt about it, but I'm still a woman.

    I like to think my warrior, pioneer, get it done while the men are at war ancestors are proud of me - I am what I am and I do and along the way I try to honour their legacy and teach my son that a strong woman is just that.

    Good for you Holli, for doing the extra 12!

    One thing I've learned is that when you do a task - man or woman - make it about the task and not the gender of the person doing it! When we are working around animals or when I was in the fire service gender didn't matter, having someone's back and making sure the job got done safely was.

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  3. How appropos...I just blogged about "Boys and Girls" last week: http://lisatakesflight.blogspot.com/2010/10/boys-and-girls.html...we share many similiar points Holli...Maybe that's why I'm drawn to your blog...;0)

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  4. It can be very difficult to prove yourself in a man's world. I'm an Engineer. My particular field of Engineering is still 80% male.

    I was once turned down for a summer job after three interviews because a man had also applied at the last moment. At the end of the summer he told me, "Don't feel bad. No woman would have gotten that job." He thought he was being reassuring.

    I had been denied the job on the basis that the boss felt I was "Not physically suited to the work." Ironically, the man who got the job broke his leg quadding two weeks in and was stuck at a desk for the rest of the summer. I think I was more physically capable...

    I find I have developed my own code of conduct. It includes:
    1) A strong handshake. Men respect you when you can give as good as you get.
    2) A no-nonsense attitude. I tell it like I see it.
    3) A willingness to take responsibility for my actions, good or bad. I make sure I can justify my original decision to take action.
    4) A willingness to do fieldwork, no matter the physical conditions.
    5) An aversion to gossip.

    No offence to the women out there, but I have run into my fair share who would, on any given day - violate more than one of my personal code of conduct rules. I have met a few men who act the same, but they tend to be the butt of jokes. For some reason, this behaviour is acceptable when done by women (or more acceptable, anyway). I get respect for dong the work, and I keep that respect through my attitudes and behaviour.

    Like Mystic Mom said: "make it about the task, and not about the gender of the person doing it!" That's how you get respect in a "Man's World."

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  5. Everytime I get on a bike, I have to prove myself in a man's world.

    It is a problem that has plagued my entire life too. I however, stupdily ended up in a female dominated profession and I feel I've suffered for it ever since. Big mistake.

    But aside from that I hone in on your point about "male loyalty" -- when I was in high school and some of my best friends were guys, that was always something I appreciated.

    It is too bad that this "loyalty" and blow up and shake hands attitude doesn't cross over to when they are romantically involved with you. Sigh. There have been more than one, two, or three situations in my life where a man has made my life miserable by being passive agressive about some hurt I've dealt him, unawares -- and then won't admit to when I figure it out.

    I agree with you about physical capabilities. If a man and a woman have the same fitness level, the man should come out ahead every time. If the woman has a greater fitness level, she can and will come out ahead (much to many men's chagrin.)

    Good post.

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  6. Thanks for your great comments! Always fantastic to get other points of view.

    @ Lynette - you bring up some male territory I won't venture into. They can keep the burping and farting - I don't need to compete in that category! Ick.

    @ MM - I was hoping you'd comment, since I knew about your firefighting experience. :) Great insight! I completely agree. My issues have always been with women, too. There's sometimes jealousy that occurs when you're "one of the boys". It can be taken the wrong way.

    @ Lisa - thanks for the link. I'll take a look

    @ Kungfusinger - I've definitely seen that type of behavior on the part of women in the workplace, too. It's very frustrating, as it can give us all a bad name.

    @ Kim - oh yes, when you're in a romantic relationship with them is a totally different story! But I disagree that the "man should come out ahead every time". Typically, we have greater lower body strength. I think MM would back me up on that. ;)

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