Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the girl card

My last post was about advantages to looking younger than I am. But part of the reason I’m considered to be more helpless or unthreatening than, say, my coworkers, is that I’m female.

Sometimes this can be an advantage, especially if you’re lugging something heavy and awkward or you can’t get something unscrewed. Joe public is a lot more likely to stop by and offer to help if I’m fighting with something mechanical than if a male coworker is. Young women who are feeling lazy can “play the girl card” and find someone else to do it. It’s not something I’m a big fan of, but it often works with the general public (I would highly recommend not trying it on your coworkers).

Having said that, I have run into situations where I couldn’t get something done by myself, and I have gotten assistance that a male coworker may not have – or at least, not as easily. Two examples:

1. I got stuck in the snow at a large facility where most of the population was male (I got help in less than 5 minutes of floundering). When I got back, I was asked if I “showed a little leg.” Um, no. Since I was wearing snow pants, jeans, and wool long underwear tucked into my socks, attempting to show a little leg would have made me fall on my ass. The reason I got stuck in the first place was because the six inches of snow had 3 inches of ice underneath.

2. A female coworker and I tried to open some old flush-mount wells (rusted bolts) near a rest area, and we ended up with an entire road crew trying to wrench them open. We felt somewhat vindicated when the road crew eventually gave up.

In both cases, we didn't really ask for help. People just appeared. In most cases, though, if I get an unsolicited offer for help, I don't take anyone up on it. If I'm doing fieldwork that requires an extra hand, I plan for more personnel to be there, rather than trying to play the girl card once I get into trouble.

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