What its like to be a woman in the retail industry

I started working as a cashier in a store that will remain unnamed almost ten months ago. In the almost ten months I have been working there it never once occurred to me how difficult it is it to be a woman not only in retail but in the workplace but also in the world. Firstly, lets start with the fact that my male counterparts who have the same position as I and do the same work that I do; they earn a dollar while I only earn .78 cents. How about from now on I only do 78% percent of my work. I’ll come in later and and leave earlier and expect to get paid for my full shift. When bagging a customers items, I’ll only put 78% in and leave the rest. Lets play a little role reversal; to all the men out there, how would you feel if you busted you ass at a job and for every .78 cents you made, a woman made $1. Would that make you feel like you are less valued? Would you feel like you are not worth as much? How would you feel if you had to fight for the right to vote or to decide what happens to your body? How would you feel if the history of humankind deprived men of their rights and stereotyped them to ‘be in the tool shed’, or ‘get back to fixing the car.’ How would you feel if you still didn’t make as much money as a woman despite doing the same work in the same position with the same amount of experience. I can tell you firsthand it doesn’t feel too great. Why is it our society as well as many others has decided that a woman’s value, worth and her rights are not as important or crucial as a mans? Can you think of a reason? Any one at all?

I wall to and from work. It’s not too far. About fifteen minutes from my house, ten if I leave from school. I quite enjoy my walk to work. My headphones are in my ears, I have a catchy song playing and during the spring or fall seasons, I look at the changing colors of the leaves or the blossoming buds on the trees. It’s the walk home I don’t enjoy as much. I always wear my jacket. Even during the summers when the nights are hardly any cooler than the days. I cover myself as much as possible. I don’t want to wear or show anything that could attract the wrong kind of attention. I keep my keys firmly pressed in my hand, ready to be drawn out at a moment’s notice if need be. I don’t have any mace, but if I did, you can bet it would be out and ready. I keep my belongings close to me. I Cross the street to make my commute as short as possible. If I see anyone at all on the side of the road I walk on, I cross to the other side despite my efforts to shorten my commute. If I see any men on their porch or stoop, talking, smoking a cigarette or hanging out, I keep my eyes on the pavement in front of me. I don’t look at them. I don’t make eye contact. I NEVER make eye contact. I never let them see how afraid I am. I hurry past them as quickly as I can without running. I want to get by them as quickly as I can without making it too obvious that I am trying to get away or in a hurry. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see the tower of my school building up ahead. I am close to home but I am not out of the woods yet. I continue with my fast pace until I am safe at home. I walk as fast as I can avoiding any male attention I can. When I arrive at home, I lock the doors. I work the night shift and often I cannot go to bed unless the doors are locked. I live in a good neighborhood, but I still always lock the doors. You never know now a days. You just never know. I heat up dinner I prepared earlier in the day for a quick meal before bed. When I get to my room, I take my running shoes off and leave them by my bedroom door. I always wear running shoes to work. Because like I said, you never know.

I didn’t realize how hard it was to be a woman in the workplace until yesterday. I went to work and I felt fine beforehand, I felt fine during my walk. I felt like everything would be okay that day. Let me start off by saying, before my shift, I usually go for a run or swim or get some kind of workout in. It makes me feel good, gets all the bad feelings out and its how I keep in shape. I didn’t go yesterday because I have been having sleeping troubles and I don’t fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning and when I wake up it is too late for me to get a workout in before work. (For the record, my workouts take a minimum of an hour and a half). Even if I get a workout in, I still have to go back to my house and shower and get ready for work and then actually walk to work. Back to the original story; maybe I didn’t feel like myself because I didn’t workout or I didn’t get enough sleep. But I just didn’t feel like the friendly, bubbly, exuberant Maddie I usually am. I just didn’t feel like it. I take a vitamin that has a mood support just to help with dealing with customers. That last sentence should speak volumes. I have to take a mood support vitamin just to deal with customers. I am not saying that to speak negatively about myself or any customer in any way. I have a hard time dealing with a lot of people at once and often times people forget that cashiers are people too. We deserve respect. My job has minimal requirements. Mostly anyone could work my job. My job has very little impact on the world around me. These are all true statements. However, I am a person. I deserve respect and I have feelings like anyone else. These are all true statements. I had two customers complain about me because I wasn’t ‘friendly enough.’ I get paid to be nice and kind to customers. Yes, that is a true statement. However, I will not bend over while one spreads his or her ass cheeks and kiss his or her hairy, smelly asshole. I have had customers curse at me, yell at me, scream at me, solicit me for sex and everything short of propose to me. A lot of them get upset when I say no to sleeping with a random stranger. I still have to smile and say, ‘It’s alright. It’s okay.’ What really grinds my gears is how while being a cashier, I cannot have any emotion. I cannot be upset because a customer false accused me of something I did not do, or a customer yelled at me because of a mistake they made. I cannot tell a customer to ‘stop making me feel uncomfortable’ because they were continuously commenting on ‘what a body I have’. I can only be friendly, and bubbly and perky. And perky. Being a woman, I often have to deal with unwarranted and unwanted attention from males. I wear a buttoned up polo shirt as a uniform. It is loose on me. I wear a sports bra to conceal my ample bosom. I wear loose fitting yoga pants and black running sneakers. I wear a scarf over my chest, In the winter I wear long sleeved shirts under my shirt. I wear my hair up in a pontyail or bun with a headband. I wear studs in my ears and a running watch on my wrist. I wear no make up. I am in no way trying to attract attention. Men still come up to me and talk to me, treat me, act like I am a piece of meat. ‘Hi how are you, beautiful. Boy, if my wife weren’t here, let me tell you what I would do to you.’ *Man licks lips.* “Ay, mama cita. Esta bien? How about you’s and me get together sometime?…No? Puta!’ (Puta means bitch in Spanish). I still have to smile and wish them a good day. Because I am a woman and I am a cashier. I cannot defend myself. I cannot stand up for myself. I must send them on their way with a smile and a wish of a good day.

I am a feminist. I am not against men or mankind. I believe in equality for all. I do not believe in advantages for women and leaving men in the dust. However, I want my voice to heard and it to be known that I am a woman. I am not a piece of meat. I am not someone to be fought for in the hopes of winning. I am not a toy or a prize. I am not a damsel in distress. I am a woman. I deserve equal rights. I deserve equal pay. I deserve to work in a job where I can stand up for myself, I deserve to feel things and emotions beyond happiness. I deserve for those emotions and ideas to be seen as more than ‘a woman’s thinking’ or ‘its her time of the month’ or ‘shes too emotional’. I deserve to be taken seriously. I deserve to feel safe. I deserve to feel like a man in a man’s world, instead of a woman in a man’s world.


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