Not bad ... For a Girl
Text and art by Tania Grace Knuckey
Let’s get one thing straight: my period manifests itself every twenty-eight days, I have successfully completely all of my higher education, I work, I vote and I *drum roll* even pay my taxes. I only style my hair in pigtails to make a fashion statement, and my lipstick isn’t for dress-up. I am not a girl, I am a fully developed thirty year-old W-O-M-A-N - that’s MADAME not MADEMOISELLE, thank-you-very-much.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I was, after all, warned by my mother, but it was the 1990’s and I didn’t listen. Why should I? “Race, religion, sex - who cares?” I thought. “By the time I make it to adulthood all of these old generational problems will be problems of the past, and the past only.” Or so I thought…
In spite of my many, many privileges I was thrown a few curve balls at birth, the first was not being born with actual balls and the second was my ‘exotic’ complexion - neither of which are actual problems (and God knows I think my mama and papa made me just right!), but in our world today, these two unchangeable features of my being can be somewhat problematic. Especially in this current competitive workforce environment; post-recession, mid-political instability (funny how I get “randomly” checked at airports, but my blond-blue-eyed boyfriend doesn’t…), pre-oops-sorry-there-are-no-more-jobs-due-to-overpopulation. Great.
I quickly came to realise that as a girl/woman you have to bust your pussy off. AND I MEAN Britney Spears style WORK-BITCH-bust-your-pussy-off because being a female means proving yourself ALL-THE-FREAKING-TIME. ALL.THE.FREAKING.TIME. ALWAYS. EVERY MINUTE. ALL THE TIME. EVERY DAY. CONSTANTLY. Secondly, you have to put up with sexist, crushing comments by men who, more often than not, bathe in a pool of self-entitlement.
As a designer/artist I recently finished a small job for a client. Nothing complicated, and well within my field of expertise. I take a lot of pride in my craft, my execution of it and in my overall presentation. When referring to my manner of organising the project, the client turned to me and said: “You are actually very professional”. His comment crushed me. He managed to make me feel this small: . (Full stop size small). It royally sucks when you are doing your thing, feeling pretty swaggy, and then BOOM - someone drops a crappy handful of casual sexism all over your flow. Why would I not be professional? I am a professional!
"I have had colleagues tell me I look better in tight clothes and that I should dress less like Ugly Betty, more like Beyoncé."
That same man tried telling me that there is no such thing as male/female discrimination, nor is there a race discrepancy in the work place. I tried to keep my cool and explain to this white, privileged male that by the time a girl reaches 15 years of age, she’s had random guys in the street grope just about every part of her body; respect towards women is not a given. There is this casual lack of respect which is deeply embedded into our culture, and it doesn’t just stop once people go to work. It is carried on and seeps into just about every crack of our society. Men drop small, cutting comments about a woman’s ability/inability to work, about her degree of professionalism, about her bossiness, her ability/inability to look charming, about how she should smile more, wear more flattering clothes, but not look vulgar, and so much more. Honestly, I never cared for feminist, pro-female discourses until I understood how much shit women get thrown at them and how resilient women are. It’s actually pretty astounding that we can be mocked, abused, walked on, and yet we just trek on; we build careers, families, and we simply carry on in spite of all the butt slaps and breast gropes coming at us.
I have had colleagues tell me I look better in tight clothes and that I should dress less like Ugly Betty, more like Beyoncé. I’ve had men laugh when I bring my toolbox to work (how else can I drill, screw and hammer my way through wood?). I have also been asked by a manager, during my first week at a new job, what music I enjoy listening to whilst having sex. That same person openly joked about wanting to rape women on Halloween. Hmmm… Where do I even begin?
Angry feminists? We are not angry. We just aren’t high-on-drugs-joker-like-Cheshire-cats with permanent beatific smiles on our faces. Perhaps we aren’t smiling because we just walked out of a meeting and had a client make offensive remarks to us, about us, about our work, about our professionalism, or maybe we’ve had a shit day, or someone made us feel really small and unimportant? Or maybe we are tired of men acting like jerks when we just want to be. Just be. Simply be and not be underestimated every minute of the day. I don’t want to change my attitude to fit a male-centric world, because I truly believe that the combination of both female and male counterparts make for the best possible outcome. It is not about female vs male, it is about a total and unapologetic, equal and respectful mix of both.