Be forewarned, this is a blog about the inner struggle of an attractive college girl.
To set the scene, I was at my job doing my business when someone came in to pick up a stack of paperwork. Being in college, I am rock bottom of the corporate food chain and seated closest to the door. This is usually nice because I have the opportunity to meet everyone who sets foot into the office which provides a lush environment for networking.
When the man picking up the paperwork came I was pretty deep into my work coding a project that was set to go live in the next few days. We had a light conversation which is very common for the office setting. I shared that I was really challenged by the current project I was working on and he responded that I am an attractive college girl. Implying that I do not have to work that hard. Questioning my place in the organization. Minimizing my efforts and qualifications. Diminishing my existence to my age and appearance. Calling me a girl or a child when I am a grown woman.
I laughed it off and kept the conversation short after that. Sometimes I choose the path of least resistance but that leaves a lot left unsaid. I acted as though his comment was fine but at the sametime come on man, I work here. I wish I would’ve asked him to leave, tell him he is being inappropriate, excuse myself, or shower extensively to get the ick off. But I felt stuck in that situation. Confound to a social script as to not make “a scene” or be combative.
Maybe this seems like a mild case, not worth getting upset over, certainly not writing a full blog post about. Trust me, I’m shocked I’m doing this as I sit here typing. But I thought I needed to share an all too common experience we deal with daily. The microaggressions and seemingly meaningless interactions that leave me feeling drained.
The fact that I feel silly writing about such a small comment should not be my reality. I know that I should not have to explain myself or the way that I feel. To come into my place of work and leave me feeling so judged, so icky, I have a right to respond. I should not have to wear an armor of my qualifications to be heard but I have my guard up from all of the past experiences I have had.
Maybe I should wear attractive college girl like a badge of honor. When the paper stack man was talking to me I could have stood up and done a little dance. Sometimes my actions are based on my perceptions of others’ expectations for me when in reality there is no rule book for how to feel or respond. I have to acknowledge the pressure I put on myself to act a certain way and navigate situations in a “correct” fashion. I cannot ignore the cultural expectations and gender roles engraved into society, but to an extent I play right into that. What is my responsibility in the perpetuation of this kind of culture? The real question is: am I strong enough to break out of the chains I lock myself in?