Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I work as the only woman on a labor team with 8 male coworkers. I like my job and am good it but I am not as naturally strong as my male peers. No one at work disrespects me to my face but I feel they do not often listen to me or my concerns. I am not one of the boys. Unfortunately I do tend to take things personally and get so frustrated at being blown off or written off as a soft female that indeed it can make me cry all day which I know just makes it worse. I am at my wit’s end. I do not want to give up the job, it’s a great job. What do I do?
Not one of the Guys
Currently our culture has a lot of information available on domestic violence, hard abuse, and rape, but there is not a language on the more subtle soft abuse that is essentially bullying. What people fail to realize is that soft abuse feels just as bad as hard abuse and can be worse for woman who feel they do not have the right to be angry or feel bad, as you do.
Unfortunately men raised in our culture can have a lot of soft abuse training wrapped into their role expectations.
There are issues of changing rooms, restrooms, tampons and childcare that in an all male crew might never have come up before; but if you do not vocalize these issues with confidence, they will not be dealt with respectfully.
You are not “one of the men” but do not need to be either. You have a duty to maintain your self respect as well as get your job done, so approach your needs on a practical business level. If this falls on death ears you might talk to your union manager or someone in a position of authority with your company. If this still falls on death ears I would befriend and talk to the guys’ wives at the next job function. Bullying is best met not alone.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I’ll be honest, just from the tone you took in writing, I have the feeling that if I were working with you, I’d be as prone as the guys are to write you off as a soft female. All I heard was a lot of whining.
I’ve been on many an all-male crew in my time- from painting crews to cast stone installation to dojo brawls. I am a small person, just over 100 lbs and no more than 5’3″, but I’ve never had a problem integrating myself with a male group. I have a few tips for you.
1. Don’t try to be one of the guys. You aren’t. Be a woman with a sense of humor and it will get you a lot further.
2. If no one is disrespecting you to your face, then stop being such a freaking’ girl and don’t creep around imagining you are being dissed behind your back and crying about it. Men don’t care that much what other men say behind their back. If you respect them to their face, they take it at face value, or believe they are so tough that even men who don’t like them are afraid to openly diss them… unless they are gay, in which case, they will react pretty much like you.
3. I’m not sure that playing up to the guy’s wives will help your case. In fact, it might make the men even more hostile because they prefer not to have one of their co-workers discussing them with their mates and getting them to take sides. I wouldn’t like it either.
4. Understand this about yourself- you offer something completely unique BECAUSE you are a woman. Your intuition will be better, you will be more flexible and able to adjust to the work problems that arise. Why do you think you were hired? Because you are meant to be a scape goat and punching bag for the guys? I doubt it. Right now, you are inviting the men to judge you because you see yourself as the weak link. See yourself as a valuable addition to the mix and I predict that the others will start seeing you that way too.