Sunday, September 22, 2013

femme is not fragile

So, as I've said before, I work for Wyoming Highway Patrol as a Port of Entry Officer.  I don't carry a gun but I work with Commercial Vehicle Enforcement.  Most days, I work alone or with one other person.  We're a 24/7 Port of Entry, so we have tons of shifts.  Meaning, we're "shift workers."  Which translates to, rotating shifts (two weeks of afternoon shifts, one week of day shifts, one week of graveyard shifts).  A vast majority of afternoon shifts and ALL graveyard shifts are one person shifts.  So we spend a lot of shifts alone.  The other night I had a group of truckers in the port while I was writing them overweight permits.  The men were talking among themselves while I worked and they kept commenting about how a "woman like me" shouldn't be left alone without a man here.  I heard this and it troubled me.  So I asked them what a "woman like me" meant.  Their comments were the following:

"A pretty, young woman."
"Someone so feminine."
"You're too beautiful to just be left alone."
"Oh come on, you wear nail polish, your hair is done up fancy and your face is made up.  You wouldn't stand a chance if a man attacked you."

So this begs the question, since when did being feminine translate into being fragile?

It is a common misconception that being feminine in the work place translates into being "unprofessional."  Which, to be frank, is a load of crap.  The Webster's Dictionary defines professionalism as: "the competence or skill expected of a professional."  Is there anything about the way you dress that is involved in this?  No?  That's what I thought.  Also, I've found in the professional settings I've worked in, my femininity is appreciated.  Employers like employees who take care of themselves.  Who look good for work, who give a good image to the company.  It's a definite pro to be feminine in the work place, at least in my experience.

For some reason there is a social stigma that being feminine means I am completely against the feminist movement.  Let me be very clear about this: Being feminine does NOT mean I am trying to appease misogynistic gender roles.  It means I genuinely like to look pretty.  I believe that the government shouldn't be allowed to make decisions for me just because I have uterus.  I believe that we all deserve to have a fair shot at getting paid the same amount for the same job.  I believe that women's rights matter.  Not because I am some man hating woman how likes to burn my bras in my spare time.  It is because I am a feminine woman who happens to care a great deal about making my own decisions and earning a fair living.

Another is that because I am feminine, I have no idea how to be an "independent woman."  Guess what, I am probably the most fiercely independent woman you'll ever meet.  I love being married, I love my husband and I believe that we complement each other perfectly.  However, I don't believe that we "complete each other." The idea that you are not a whole person without someone else is ridiculous.  Of course you're an entire person with certain thoughts, ideals and ambitions.  You are that person regardless of if the other person is there.  Femininity does not mean lack of independence.  
Relating to the point previous, being feminine not only signifies that you're completely dependent on someone else, but also gives the impression of weakness.  For some reason, because I like to dress nice and put on make up, I am seen as weak.  In a society formerly dominated by misogynists and with some still promoting the male dominance today, women are fighting the battle of showing that we are not the "weaker sex."  At work, I have had drivers threaten me.  I have had people call me expletives.  I've had drivers hit on me.  However, I've still been able to hold my ground.  Just because I like to look pretty, DOES NOT mean I am weak.  When drivers belittle me or threaten me, I stand up for myself and tell them to get out of my building before I get a trooper to make an arrest.  When they hit on me, I tell them to back off because I'm married (also, even if I wasn't married I'd probably lie and say I was...because yeah, not interested).  I am a strong woman.  I don't feel the need to be bullied by anyone, regardless of gender.

So, let this be a lesson to you.  Femininity has nothing to do with personality traits, job performance or dependence on men.  Femininity has to do with loving your female gender identity.  Femininity has to do with liking to use make up.  Femininity has to do with liking to wear dresses or looking pretty.  I'm sorry that because I wear makeup there are societal assumptions made about me.  I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable that I can wear nail polish and also stand up for myself at the same time.  

Also, I'm sorry this became a much longer post than I intended. And I'm sorry if you feel this is preachy or weird.  I just have strong feelings about how I should be treated, regardless of how I look. 

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