Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Object of... Desire? Sexism? Testosterone?

I have been reading around the blogoverse tonight about the hysterical column over at Buzzscope called "What A Girl Wants #13- Ten Ways to Get the Bitches to Read Your Comics" by Ronee Garcia Bourgeois. For a link, here you go: http://www.buzzscope.com/features.php?id=1244.

Next there is the sad announcement from Lea Hernandez quitting comics. That link is: http://www.livejournal.com/users/divalea/270448.html. A big thanks to Kalinara (http://kalinara.blogspot.com/) and Ragnell (http://ragnell.blogspot.com/) for bringing it to my attention.

The bottom line is that unfortunately - big drumroll - women scare the hell out of men so rather then try and figure us out, for the most part they take the safe path and just guess. Now, I am not pointing the finger at all men, so don't get up in arms too quickly. I work in a male dominated industry and was raised in a mostly male environment so I have seen it my whole life.

Rather then go into a big discussion tonight, let me give you an example of what I dealt with at work about seven years ago. I work in an animal health distribution center. I was raised on a farm and have a bachelor's degree in animal science. I am not a genius, but I know my stuff. I have worked for my company for 17 years now, so I had been in the game for a decade. The office consisted of my male boss, several male warehouse staff members, and pretty much all women in customer service and accounting. That's the set up.

An older farmer came in and wanted to buy medicine for his cows. I walked over to the counter and asked very politely if I could help him. The response I got was a rude and gruff "Missy, go get a man to come up here to help me." Okay. Super. I went to see what my boss was doing, and he was at lunch. The only men in the building know a lot about inventory control and warehouse management, but not a thing about animal health. Conundrum.

Here is where I had to improvise. I asked one more time if there was any way I could help him. "Now listen girly, go get a fella up here pronto" the customer replied. Now I was pissed. I went and got a guy out of the warehouse, he wrote down the customer's questions and brought them out to me. I answered them via this poor co-worker, and back and forth until the deal was done. Without so much as a good bye, the customer stormed out, secure in his manhood and superiority.

What is the moral of the story? This manly fella thought he was in control. The truth is that I input the order into the computer, and as I was entering each line item, I added an extra 5% on top of retail price. Smart male bonding SOB paid an extra $100 for his manhood.

Whenever I have to deal with a man in other similar situations, I think back to that day and smile. It may look like I am eating crap and being cut down to size, but I am maintaining my dignity in spades.

More to follow tomorrow.

10 comments:

kalinara said...

That sounds awful! I'm glad you got him back for it though. Egads. Some guys really are...well, they're the reason that we need all of this discussion really. Whether we always agree on individual situations/events or not.

Thanks for posting this. It's really a strong message and the sort of thing we definitely shouldn't lose sight of.

(Oh, and thanks for the link! :-))

Ragnell said...

Man, I am so glad I don't work in any sort of customer service anymore.

I'm impressed. I don't think I could have dealt with it calmly.

markus said...

impressive work and the guy was an asshole, BUT
the story doesn't mean a lot for the present case.
Customers service is hell and you're bound to have to deal with racists, sexists or just plain assholes who are taking their bad day out on you every once in a while, in some places more than others. It's a pity management doesn't back up their salespeople more often and simply refuse service to people who can't behave, but there are limits to what a customer can get away well. Still, it's taken as part of the job.

Lea's case (repeated groping) and Ronee's story are different, because here the perpetrators are co-workers. Co-workers, in a very small industry, where everyone can indeed be expected to watch out for each other. Further, for co-workers, the expectations are different: they are expected to behave (because they are around constantly) and if they are having a negative impact on other workers productivity, the boss is not only expected to get rid of them, it's also almost always the smart thing to do. Of course there are exeptions and individual cases to the contrary, but by and large co-workers are different from customers in the aspect under consideration.
As Lea explains, the problem doesn't end with with individual instances of co-workers (which again, you'll have everywhere), but is part of the product and part of the distribution. In short, unlike most other places, you can't escape by simply avoiding an asshole or two. Sexism will be with you when you talk to other creators whom you _know_ are aware yet say nothing, will be with you when you enter yet another shop manned by the guy from the Simpsons (yes, there are others, but the sleazy kind is far too prevalent) and it will be with you when you want to enjoy the product, even if said product is not marketed as such, even if it is by a creator who you know can write strong female characters.

The bottom line is this: the comics industry likes to think of itself as a gathering or bright and creative people with a very good sense of humour, love of the arts, comradeship and whatnot.
The stories surfacing now (along with e.g. Chris Priest's experiences of racism, see also the tiny Byrne cartoon on some cover (no link handy, please ask if the story is unfamiliar), along with Dave Sim and Byrne's blonde hookers comment) all make a very good case that the comics industry is actually more like the (softcore) porn industry. And that everyone is currently busy at denying that ugly truth to themselves day in and day out.
(Which is the other reason why your tale is not relevant IMO: it does not speak to the perception of your branch of work as a whole, nor does it intend to.)

Melchior del Darién said...

Heidi,

That guy was just a pr*ck, and you handled him quite nicely, given the circumstances.

For me, though, this is the big question:

How do we handle the fact that the prevalent images of (and attitudes about) women being produced by DC, WildStorm, Marvel, Image, SLG in superhero comics might be fostering or reinforcing the negative thoughts and attitudes of younger, comics-reading, woman-disrespecting pr*cks?

redlib said...

There's a lot to think about in your post- no wonder why your a top lady blogger!
I'm the only female librarian and much younger than my male coworkers. I get asked "do you work here?", even though I am sitting at my desk behind a reference sign. More often, they think I'm most approachable and patrons walk by 2 guys to talk to me. Sometimes patrons hit on me, ask me out, leave me notes. I try to walk the line of feminism and humor.
Being in comic stores and at comicons puts me in the unique position of getting lots of attention, wanted and unwanted. Those con-sluts don't help my "i'm here for art and writing case"

Heidi Meeley said...

I am absolutely overwhelmed by your comments.

Kalinara and Ragnell- I have been enjoying your thoughts on this a great deal. It was an interesting experience to say the least.


Markus- I shouldn't have been so vague last night, but I was having problems sleeping and didn't elaborate. Today I gave a more detailed account of my own experiences.

I do agree that we shouldn't hide behind a happy face and say that there aren't problems, but I do think that has to come from the inside, like it has from my past experience. Unless the players are in the game, not a damn thing the fans say is going to help them get a home run, you know?

You made some great points and I appreciate the thoughts.

Melchior- I have been thinking along those lines as well. You put it beautifully.

"How do we handle the fact that the prevalent images of (and attitudes about) women being produced by DC, WildStorm, Marvel, Image, SLG in superhero comics might be fostering or reinforcing the negative thoughts and attitudes of younger, comics-reading, woman-disrespecting pr*cks?"

That is a hard question to answer. I am going to think on it and see what I can come up with tomorrow or this weekend.

Redlib- it sounds like you encounter some of the ouchy things I have. It is an art to walk that fine line between politeness and professionalism with the urge to say what you really think!

I like your spirit and know that you handle them with aplomb. I appreciate that so much!

Oh yes, cons. The sad thing is that at the last con I was at, there weren't many girls, and the ones I encountered had mean things to say about the others. Sigh. That is another place we have to work to clean up our own backyard for sure!

Thank you again for all your comments. I am planning a spin around the blogoverse to see what the pulse is.

Carl said...

Hmmmmmm, for the most part, I perfer to deal with women in a biz sense. I am this big guy and I suppose I intimidate men, I guess. So, I either get indifference or this "oh, you are a big dumb guy, I'll talk to you like you were 5" or whatever. Most of the time, women are more polite, more understanding and business-like. Hmmmm, guess it's who you deal with. Still my gut is to go with the female employee, about 90 percent of the time they are more helpful then say the cleaned-up grunge kid, the mean semi-retired old guy or the guy that's God's gift to the world and so on...

RonéeGB said...

Glad ya liked the column. Funny thing is some people did not realize I was being sarcastic until the end!

Look for an interview with Lea Hernandez as well as Beatrix Kyle and Colleen Doran this week talking about the treatment of women in this industry.

Heidi Meeley said...

Carl, I can see what you mean. Too funny!

Ronee, thank you for the heads up on your next column. I look forward to it eagerly. I really enjoyed the last one!

RonéeGB said...

Heres the link.

http://www.buzzscope.com/features.php?id=1250