Dear cis guys:
1. What the fuck?
2. Fucking why?
3. Fuck off.
Unnecessary disclaimer: Obviously this is not directed at all cis men. This is mostly a rant and I’m pointing out cis men because they have privilege-blindness and are the ones who most often do this to me. Also, clearly there’s going to be a lot of cussing in this post, so be aware of that… Now, on with the story.
I work in a convenience store. I see a lot of people–at least a hundred per night. Based on probability theory, I will inevitably have creepy dudes staring at me and offering me their number and shit. I’ve written about it before, so clearly this isn’t a new thing. But it still drives me up a fucking wall.
Last night, there was a dude who came in to buy something; I don’t remember what it was. But he was staring at me throughout the transaction. Not just staring, but leering. I could not come up with another word for it: he was staring and smiling this creepy-as-shit smile. I did what I always do: offer up my best customer service and quickly end the interaction so I could get back to the other work I needed to be doing.
Ten minutes later, this same guy came in to get $10 of gas. A negligible amount, which I suspect he only got so he could leer at me some more. I have to greet everyone as they come through the door, and I groaned internally when he walked back in. Again, I just went through the motions, politely accepting his money and giving him change, thanking him for his business and telling him to have a good night.
Probably fifteen minutes after that, the store phone rang. When I answered, there was no sound from the other end. I spent a few seconds saying “Hello?” to an empty line before hanging up. Probably another ten minutes after that, a call came in from the same number. It was that guy, asking if I was the “girl” (fuck I hate this more than anything) running a register, the one with red hair? Then he proceeded to tell me that I’m attractive and asked if he could give me his number. I told him that I’m married. He balked, exclaiming that he hadn’t seen a ring (I had taken it off because I was cleaning greasy grills) and that he just wanted to tell me that he “liked what [he] saw.”
I hate my reaction to this almost as much as I hate him for putting me in that position: I acted gracious and a little flattered/embarrassed by the compliments. I said thank you and bid him a good night. This is basically how I respond every time I get this stupid attention.
[I would like to note, before continuing, that this ONE PERSON interrupted my work and took up my attention four times over the course of an hour. He not only succeeded in making me uncomfortable, but held me up in completing my other tasks.]
Less than two weeks ago, I had another guy launch into a proposition with “I’m a good, Christian guy,” something about having a steady job, never been married, no kids and can he take me out to dinner Friday night? (It was Black Friday anyway…) Again, my escape route was indicating that I’m married by waving my left hand at him.
When I’ve written about this shit in the past, I’ve made a point to say that I’m AT WORK when these things happen. I’m in the service industry, automatically at a power disadvantage to any and every customer. Not to mention being at a power disadvantage as a female to men.
Let me make this abundantly clear to anyone (especially cis men) who thinks hitting on someone at work is a good idea: It’s not. This kind of attention does not make me feel flattered, it does not make me feel pretty, it does not make me feel good. It makes me feel trapped. It makes me feel like I can’t be female while at work without automatically submitting myself for review as a candidate for Sexual Object of the Night.
I’m not at work or out in public to attract male attention. I’m at work because I need money; I’m polite at work because I need to keep my job. I’m not there to attract a mate, nor do I give a shit what most strangers think about how I look. Yet my very presence seems to invite people to offer their comments on my attractiveness. I also get comments on my socks and shoes, since they’re usually out-of-the-ordinary, but that’s a different annoyance for a different post.
This is especially frustrating because I can’t whip out the brutal feminist lashing that I wish I could give these people. Receiving this attention makes me angry and sometimes I wish more than anything that I could take off my nametag, cover up the “EZGO” threading on my shirt, and verbally face-fuck any asshole who thinks he can size me up like a piece of meat. But while I’m on the clock and in uniform, my behavior is reflective on my company as a whole and can result in punishment if I say the wrong thing to the wrong customer. I’m not certain, but there’s probably a number of these situations that could end in me losing my job.
On top of everything else, it infuriates me that my go-to defense is that I’m married. It’s been discussed at length in other spaces, but my desire to be left alone as a female is not as significant of a deterrent as my relationship to a man. It is not as relevant in the thoughts of men that I would actually not care to receive that attention. The man’s response “I didn’t see no ring!” and something my husband said when I was telling him this story “You know your wedding ring is like an amulet against these things,” just goes to show that, to the common mind, hitting on people you perceive to be women is totally okay as long as they aren’t legally bound to another man.
I end up playing into these ideas when I offer my married status as a defense against propositions, but I know that they’re more likely to press me, waste my time, and make me feel even more uncomfortable if I do something as stupid as using my own autonomy to ward off unwanted advances. My desire to be left alone is just not as important as my husband’s ownership of me.
I shouldn’t have to wear my ring all the time in order to escape that kind of attention. I like wearing it, yes, but I have to take it off for comfort if I want to do dishes, or anything involving wearing latex gloves, or cleaning greasy things. I don’t always put it back on between tasks if I know I’m going to keep doing things like that, so sometimes I spend half my work night without it on. My ring should not be the primary motivator behind not hitting on me. Respect and empathy should be.
And none of that even touches on how being overwhelmingly praised for my feminine characteristics makes me angry as a genderqueer person. Or how I’m not even attracted to cis guys at large right now. (My husband excepted: my level of attraction to him is basically the same all the time.)
I would also like to point out that I’ve written about being hit on at work four times now, over the course of the year-and-a-half that I’ve worked at EZGO. These posts have been separated by mountains of time and are in no way an accurate reflection of how often I receive this attention. As I’ve said before, the intensity of the flirtation varies from being called “babe” to being outright propositioned, but it happens in some form or fashion at least twice a month, being very conservative in the estimate.
And it pisses me off even more that I’m even thinking this, but I guess I should just be glad I don’t get groped on a regular basis. Amirite?