SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies


Living In a Man's World

    In September of 2011 I was hired on at Costco Wholesale. I was a temp and had to earn my spot as an employee. When I was hired, I was asked if I would feel comfortable anywhere they could put me and because I wanted to stay I said yes.


    A couple weeks in I was finally put in a different spot than the register assistant. I was put on cart crew. The aromas outside were so much different from the inside smell of the delicious bakery and pizza cooking that I was used to. Outside the odor was a mixture of In-n-Out fries cooking across the parking lot and the sour smell of sewage.


    When the cart crew guys were showing me what was expected I had a great feeling that the day was going to be fun and going to go by quickly with all the work I would be doing. I was very excited to be learning something new.


    It was the summer time and very hot outside but the day was going fast. I was sweaty and felt like I smelt but the guys that I was working with said I was working harder than most of the men out there. That was probably the most positive thing said to me throughout the whole day. There were very different views about me working out there and most were hard to take.


    The first bad experience I had was from an employee I work with. Her name is Becky. She is an older woman and has worked for Costco for many years. In all her time though, she had never seen a girl on cart crew. It was very troubling to her especially, since it was over 100 degrees outside. She made plenty of comments to me throughout the day like, “ why don’t you get a guy that is supposed to be out there do it,” or “ make sure you are keeping cool and taking as many water breaks as you need, girls like you shouldn’t have to be outside.” Her comments, even though they were heartfelt, hurt. It made me feel as though she felt should get special treatment just because I’m a girl. She has no problem with the guys being out there and possibly overheating but it was a big concern that I was. It concerned her so much she brought me out a towel that is made to help keep cool. Given the advancements in Women’s Rights Acts, I did not expect to hear this view.


    Another incident happened with a Costco member. The guy had purchased some wooden flooring that is relatively light but just awkward to lift. He asked for assistance loading it into his vehicle and that is one of the various extra tasks that cart crew does, along with bringing carts up. I was the only one out there at the time, and when I reached the man’s car he looked very agitated. When I greeted him, he skipped the hello’s and went straight to making the comment “ Are you serious? This is a joke right? You are going to help me find someone real to load my car up, right?” Just because I am a woman, I was not real to this gentleman.


    The whole day was a series of incidents that concerned me. I had this vision that we as a society, were past this. That women were making advancements in equality. For example, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) had their first ever all-star game in 1999, whereas the men’s NBA all-star games started in 1951. The women have had them ever since proving that they are equally as talented and exciting to watch. I was raised to try everything and try to be the best at anything I am doing. I was not held back by my family for wanting to try any sport. In any sport I did, I was always accepted. Why then, was unacceptable for me to work in the same position as a man.


    I have had a very blinded view of women’s advancement though. I thought we were breaking more barriers than we were. As of 2013, women are still making 78% less than men, in the same full time, year round jobs. Women lose about $431,000 in their careers even with the Equal Pay Act of 1963.


    I have had my view altered from the start of this project to now. I came in to the assignment feeling as though the walls had been broken down for me. That women before me had led the way to our equal future. That is not the case. Women then, now, and in the future will be breaking down the wall together. I was just one woman making it possible. I worked a job that most people view as a man’s job. Just like women in politics have to fight, I have to fight. In 1996 Madeline Albright became the first woman to become secretary of state and in 2008 the first African American woman was appointed secretary of state. These women paved the way for the ones behind them in politics, just as I have to pave the way for women working cart crew. There is a historical imbalance in the world that people feel uncomfortable changing. There are boxes that we are put into to keep this comfortable. Men are the hard workers, they make the money to support women, they are in the most demanding jobs, work longer hours, and are expected to support the family. Women have a different role. They are supposed to have simple jobs, keep pretty, take care of the house, take care of the kids, and make sure dinner is ready on the table when the man comes home from his grueling job.


    Until we are able to feel comfortable enough to disturb this imbalance, then there will be no change. Women will continue breaking down the wall. As of 2013 the 113th congress had reintroduced the Equal Rights Act. In 1980 the ERA was short just three states to be ratified. Women have been trying since 1923 to get the Act passed, and we will have to keep fighting until it does.


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