Retail made me uh…Feminist.

I have two jobs. I work at a shoe store and a gas station. My jobs are relatively simple, and that is to stock inventory and give good customer service. A job I initially found stressful, due to my early realized introvertitis. I spent most of my life avoiding people and now I have to engage them with some iffy marketing strategy…

But this changed me. The caste-like system in high-school had taught me that silence is my best asset, but in the real world a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. So learning to communicate properly and effectively helped me network and maintain relationships. In a way, my job is an experimental playground for me to learn myself. I educated myself on my confidence, how to capitalize on my awareness- it is extremely beneficial. With that said, I’ve noticed how much more stressful it is to communicate with men. Something as simple as suggesting an accessory is an intimidating act. Why? Because of the endless reservations I, a woman, more so a woman of color is concerned about regarding the mutual respect I’ll get in return.

I’m often rejected by men who I engage whilst explaining a sale that most likely they’ll benefit from. Many of them, “know what they want” so they wasp me away like a fly. And because I expected this most times, I developed a certain dread anytime a man was present. The hyper masculinity I assumed for every male customer, turned me into this submissive silent woman. The familiar kind I was in high- school, that left me emotionally trapped. The effect, the exploitation of masculinity had on me in a shoe store, I imagined could get quite severe if on a macro scale.

This revelation taught me a few things:

1. I can be as good as I want myself to be.

2. Assumptions are dangerous- don’t let one event, or even 100 events contribute a vast judgement on one person. A couple rude men, crippled my services to the rest. That wasn’t fair for me to do that.Gender is not the enemy, bad character is.

3. There is nothing wrong with masculinity. The problem comes when it is exploited. This can happen with femininity as well.

4. I am a feminist. Like the popular Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I believe in the equality of the sexes. The way I felt because of a man’s presence, I’m sure is shared. And vice versa that men feel this way with women. Yes, to be a feminist, also means I’m interested in women’s rights and interests.Considering our world history, women are still searching for their harmonious place in society. I’m on that road myself, and devoting myself to building my identity only strengthens my convictions.

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