I’ve been in male-dominated fields most of my life. This isn’t because I’ve got male interests, it’s because almost everything is male-dominated because the men of the world can’t share, especially when something is fun to do or garners admiration and success. Male is the default, the standard, the starting point. Men feel entitled to everything (can’t blame them as the idea that they are has been reinforced since birth thanks in large part to their mothers; irony if ever I saw it) and set standards based on what they personally can do, and insist that everyone else be just as good as those things to qualify for life, remaining blind to the fact that there are a lot of things that men can’t do easily. Those things are filed under “unnecessary for success” because if they were necessary, the world wouldn’t be male-dominated. It’s a senseless circle based on dominance, not facts. I asked a bunch of ski guides why they thought there weren’t many female ski guides and most of them said something like “well, it’s a physically demanding field” which left me totally speechless, because I guess it really is the prevailing view that women don’t like and can’t do physically demanding tasks. It’s the easiest answer that comes to mind if you’re a dude standing in a group of other dudes and you’re asked to consider why there are hardly any women there. It MUST be because what you are doing is “too hard” for anyone but a dude, right? Considering any other answer is either too uncomfortable, or perhaps they are just really that oblivious. In almost-2014, the fact that there are hardly any women in a particular field is still dismissed as a consequence of women being weak. Okay, that’s one theory, I suppose.
I wonder, though, if the dearth of women in these fields couldn’t possibly be related to sheer fatigue of the inane behavior from the men in the fields? I wondered this, after asking my “where are the women in ski guiding” question after listening to ninety straight minutes of intense discussion from the men in my group about the phenomenon of other men putting things up their asses and then having to go to the emergency room to get them removed.
This was a topic of immense interest to my colleagues. Every single one of them had a story about someone they knew or read or heard about and how something came to be lodged in his ass. They listened to each and every story with mesmerized zeal. From light bulbs to zucchinis to household appliances, apparently the details of each story were vital and had to be scrutinized. The men in the group provided the desired details, but were sure to apply just enough derision into the conversation to make it clear they were mocking the hapless object-inserter, but after an hour of this I spoke up. “It’s apparent that you’re all fascinated and curious by this,” I noted. “There’s only one way to satisfy your curiosity, and that’s to just go home and put something up your butt. You’re dying to know why these men do this, so why not just give it a try? Then you’ll know for sure and you can stop endlessly speculating about what other guys put up their butts. I can tell you are curious. Just go try it. That will help you guys out.” There was some eye-shifting and nervous laughter but no one ever brought it up again.
I don’t know if anyone ever tried it, or if anyone even caught the point that an hour of rectum discussion was plenty. What’s clear is that it occurred to none of those present that maybe there weren’t more women around because over the years we get sick of the endless conversations consisting entirely of out-raunching one another, tired of the constant fight for space, sick of being consistently the outsider, sick of the idea that to participate in any of these fields we have to allow any and all bad male behavior to remain in place and to tolerate it without comment because expecting a grown adult to behave in a more mature and professional manner is just too much to ask. Or perhaps that has occurred to them and they like it that way, because of that sharing thing I already mentioned. The good jobs in the world are fun! By working hard to keep women out they’re cutting their competition in half. Is it that simple?
The whole man’s-world debate aside, my chosen fields have been absolutely infested with men. It’s not just a small majority we’re talking about here, with slightly more men than women, or an office full of female junior staffers with an all-male executive cadre – it’s an absolute flood of men, with me and maybe one or two other women around, putting up with the dick jokes and the fascination with all things anal, and trying to squeeze sufficient space for our gear in a building full of people taught to spread out, figuratively and literally, from birth. From law enforcement to ski guiding, I’m used to being the only woman in the room. For me, that’s not really a big deal as I’m used to it. The problem is that, to men only used to male company, women are Too Visible.
I guess if you had fifty women and one man in any situation, there would be bound to be a few women who act out in inappropriate ways. I’m just guessing, there’s no way I’d know about that. I’ve never been in that situation. But what I do know is when I’m around a bunch of men, there are always a few that decide that as The Woman I’m there for their amusement and gratification. What is one to do with a woman in a field of men, besides come on to her, anyway? What male parts go allegedly un-used during a full workday or, heavens, a full season of male company that could use a little airing out now and then, and seem more worthwhile to have when viewed by feminine eyes?
Yes, we are talking about penises. They’ve been brandished, displayed, talked about, and alluded to, all by co-workers and colleagues, all throughout my career, by co-workers and colleagues bewildered by their proximity to a female, desperately searching for a way to relate to her presence. “She can’t POSSIBLY be an equal, she must be a sexual object? Or a mother substitute? She won’t apply bandaids and coo over my injuries, so she must be a sex object, right? What on earth are men expected to do with a woman in their midst? She’s not supposed to be able to do the job, there’s got to be some other reason she’s here. Well, let’s pull out our penises and see what happens.” Is THAT the thought process that happens in the male brain?
In my considerable experience it’s not possible to be part of a male-dominated field without being accosted by dicks. This seems to be the way the unimaginative and overentitled make sexual advances – pulling out their penises and letting the nearest woman take a gander. Who knows, she might like what she sees, right?
And when it’s not as blatant as that, it’s still pretty blatant. In a month of ski guide work two men, with whom I’d no more than a passing acquaintaince as co-workers, made sure that I knew they slept naked. I could come by anytime, if I got scared or cold during the night. Ignore that ring they’re wearing, it’s not realistic to expect there’s only one person to be attracted to, and they’ve all worked it out. Just in case I was wondering, because it would be nice for them if I was wondering, because there could not possibly be another reason for me being there if not to find a man. I find this endlessly amusing. Though it is completely exasperating and reprehensible, and while I truly wish that I knew for certain if I turned these men in to the people (men) in charge they’d be fired immediately for inappropriate behavior, I must admit that, lacking any real way to stop this behavior, it’s pretty damn funny to watch them squirm when I run into them and their wives (which also happened over the last month). What’s not funny is that pervasive worm of doubt that if I turned these guys in to their superiors that anything corrective would happen to them at all.
Petty karmic revenge aside, there’s simply no way to win in a male dominated field when your co-worker whips out his dick or comes on to you in some other way or acts generally creepy and gross. Sure, you can go to your boss, but I know, also from experience, that most men really don’t understand the pervasive nature of this phenomenon and are so discomfited by being presented with its presence that they are left impotent in all matters of HR and will likely just decide that the perpetrator needs a talking to but after that everyone just has to get along, so that you’ll not only have had to endure some vile lecherousness, but that you’ll have to pretend it never happened in order to keep your job and any semblance of peace in the workplace.
And that’s really the best case scenario.
Chances are your boss will just say to you, “Well, that’s just the way he is,” and do NOTHING, just like the police chief did to me after the detective sergeant (coincidentally the police chief’s best friend) invited me over for some “training” and, after waiting until his wife left the house, dragged me down on the couch like a giant squid enveloping a pirate ship. Spurning his advances ended up ending my career at that department, as dealing with the fact that one of the department’s commanding officers was a lecherous pig was simply too much to ask of a police agency, and instead the detective sergeant was allowed to wage a war of endless criticism and my hours were cut and cut and cut some more until I could no longer afford to work there. That was about fifteen (or more) years ago and I STILL have to go to work, even in a different field, expecting that some asshole will put me in the same position. And it still happens.
I’ve flown across the country for a project only to find that the project simply did not have the room in the budget for a hotel room for me, and I’d have to share with the my-father’s-age project manager, and that strangely enough all the clients seemed to have the impression that the two of us were dating. Now, how on earth does that even cross someone’s mind as a reasonable thing to do? I’ve had penis pictures sent to me based on my web presence in the outdoor industry (seriously, a penis picture, from the opposite coast. What is this actually ever going to accomplish for you, dude?) on top of having to endure the sight of truly creepy, desparately lewd leering at a blow-up doll as well as at actual women at industry events.
I don’t know what it is about having a woman around that makes these men zero in on us like they’re entitled to stare at us, rub us, touch us, talk to us inappropriately, come on to us, and generally see us as objects and not people. To these men, we are either totally invisible or simply too visible – we’re not people, we are FEMALES. Females equal possibility of sex, full stop. Females are not co-workers or viable humans, they’re just Sex Potential until they’re not, based on availability and positive response to the exposure of the penis. But always worth a try, right guys?
Of course the majority of men do not behave like this. For every lecherous, gross idiot, there are twenty awesome guys who I have respect and affection for. It’s common for the decent men to be happy there is a woman around to break up that testosterone cloud that covers the entire operation. Some men get just as sick of macho posturing as women do, and if it’s better when I’m around, I’d truly hate to see it when I’m not there, it must be awful. That’s lucky, because the thing about the leches is that they are ALWAYS there. You can count on it.