Friday, May 22, 2015

The Mulan Effect

Hello everyone! I hope your weeks have been better than the thought of a party hosted by intelligent pelicans.

It is no mystery that I have worked a plethora of interesting jobs. From stable hand to Japanese language tutor, my jobs have not been in the sphere of 9 to 5 normality.

Quite a few of my jobs thus far have not only been a bit on the odd side, but have also been ones that have, in the past, been traditionally held by men. I've been a bouncer, head of security for a homeless shelter, lighting technician for a concert house and self defense instructor.

Now, before I get a ton of comments saying, "But women's equality has come so far! You can't seriously think your gender matters in modern jobs!" let me tell you how much bull pucky that is.

What It Feels Like Working In A Male Dominated Field
I have found that as a woman my credibility and my experience are constantly called into question.

I once literally had a customer when I was a lighting technician for a concert house say, "Move over sweetheart, I'll focus that light."

To which I promptly replied, "What is your profession?"

"I'm a salesman."

"Uh-huh. And how much experience with lighting has that afforded you?"


"Then no thanks, cupcake. As I'm the trained lighting technician I think I have the lights. If I need to sell something I will let you know."

The way that I have come to cope with this kind of behavior I like to call The Mulan Effect.

For those of you who never watched Mulan as a child, and therefore I assume had empty and sad childhoods, it is a film in which the protagonist, Mulan, takes her father's place in the army by pretending to be a man.

While I have never claimed to be a man during any of my jobs (and certainly never had a lucky cricket or talking Dragon to help out) I found that taking on certain masculine characteristics helped keep some of the sexism at bay.

It was during my lighting tech days that I started going by Al. Somehow when clients heard that their lighting tech was going to be Al instead of Allison there seemed to be fewer instances of, "Oh, do you have anyone else available that day?"

Of course it was always interesting when they found out "Al" was a 5' 2" blonde twirling a giant wrench, but since no one ever had anything negative to say about my lighting sets, being Al got me through the door to work with customers.

As a bouncer and security personnel, I always got a better and more professional response when I was wearing heavy steel toed boots, a more loose fitting t-shirt and black straight-cut pants than if I wore anything even slightly alluding to my femininity.

Even lowering my voice an octave or so dramatically shifted the level to which others perceived my level of competence, even if I was talking to the same person when I lowered my voice.

This Mulan Effect as I like to call it does have it's limitations of course. There have been times when despite my efforts to suppress my femininity while in the job, I have had people walk off because of my gender.

The fact of it is, that I find it incredibly sad that in 2015 I still have people shaking my hand while saying, "Wait, you can't be the head of security here. I mean, wouldn't he be better at it?" (And yes, I have had that happen multiple times.)

I find it even more depressing that to be taken seriously I have to suppress things as core as my sex and gender to be taken seriously at jobs simply because it has traditionally been worked by males.

So has anyone experienced the Mulan Effect? What about men, do you find that taking on more "traditionally feminine" roles you have to hide your masculinity at times?

I really would love to hear from everybody.

As always I can be found on Facebook and Twitter and my books can be found here.

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