Being from Texas, I thought that I was well conditioned for a male dominated field of work.
I was used to a world where someone walked you home at the end of the night, and someone who opened the door. I was used to being both cared for and celebrated as a woman. I was also used to having to hold firm in my opinions, and at times unwaveringly object with the room and demand respect. My years growing up under the vast sky taught me to stick to my guns and stand up tall.
During my first class at Emerson, the lab monitor came in to give his spiel on working in the labs (no bologna in the disk drive, thanks). When he was nearing the end, he walked over and put his hand on my head as he addressed the class :
“… and if I see any of you dirty boys getting in the way of this young woman having a chance on the equipment, you’ll be banned!”
We all giggled nervously, me most nervous at all from the unsolicited attention, and moved on. As we did, I looked around the room. There were twenty students and only two girls, one of whom was me.
Over the next few years, as I completed school, gender differences would indeed arise. I would have to ask my boyfriend to step in and negotiate (or translate) for me at times, which was both ridiculous and humiliating. However, conversely, I have met many wonderful men in this profession and those who remain genteel are those who are the most successful. Honestly, would Paul Newman treat someone disparagingly?
For where I grew up, for what I chose to study, and for the field of work I’m in now - machismo is a completely fascinating, and sometimes female, trait. The nuances in gender roles, expectations, and perspectives are intricate and endless.
It’s what Burnside is all about.