Work Place Entrapment

Not asking for it

“I did work at a mall in college- I think working retail/customer service is one of the most hideous jobs in the world.” – Jayma Mays (Actress/Singer)

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so. I have in worked in retail since high school, in almost every capacity. While I made some great connections while working at those places, the job of putting on a happy face and trying to help everyone is exhausting. And what made it worse? Even after I was at my job for two years and was trained as a manager, no one believed I, a young woman, knew anything.

They would ask to speak with the department managers, or in a few cases, ask if there was a man they could speak to. Both men and women have done this and are probably doing it somewhere right now, much to my chagrin. Most of us are familiar with this narrative, but unless you’ve worked a service job or talked intimately with someone who has faced these issues, you can’t imagine how retail employees feel trapped. I think it’s high time to shed a little light on this.

Every retailer store I’ve worked at uses the classic model “the customer is always right”. That’s not a bad way to treat people who have gotten a bum product or have questions, but it is very seldom true. The customer is not always right.

Correcting customers in the wrong is like herding cats. They could just go with it, they might realize what you’re trying to do, but most of them will go their own way or may snap at you. This creates fear of the customer, especially when they change very quickly.

You’re probably thinking, but wait, isn’t the company supposed to protect employees? Can’t management handle these situations?

Companies, say they can and managers can only handle so much and most of them aren’t even prepared to handle situations. Training videos might describe and demonstrate how to handle a grumpy customer or when to get a manager, but every situation is unique and management just can’t always be there. This creates both a feeling of independence and one of isolation.

Now for the most part there is hope—grumpy customers usually just vent or go to Customer Service or can be handed off to a department. The problem I have faced as a woman is when primarily male customers start to get to friendly, flirt, ask out, or in a few cases make blatantly sexual advancements. In my case, I’m lucky none of them have gotten physical, but that is not always the case.

I worked with a girl, we’ll call her Gene. Gene worked in a clothing store, and she was helping a man find some pants. Management was in a meeting and while we all had our radios on, we all had different projects in a fairly large store. Gene helped the man even though she could “feel his eyes wandering.” They talked for a while, because in the world of retail you want to get to know your customers to help them. He started making comments, trying to flirt. Gene felt uncomfortable but was polite, trying to keep things professional. He took this politeness as an invitation to ask her out. She declined. He got very mad and started yelling all sorts of obscenities which I heard, and I rushed over to ask the man as politely as possible to leave. He called me and the other mostly female workers other obscenities, and then management escorted him out of the building.

Now if you’re wondering why Gene didn’t radio for back-up initially, let me remind you. In retail/customer service positions, politeness is key. Presentation is key. You cannot be rude to a customer unless it is a last resort, because bad behavior on your part reflects poorly on the store, and in many places can get you into trouble. We had a good management team but it’s hard to call for back-up when your customer is standing right there watching your every move. In some cases, it’s genuinely terrifying. So radioing for back-up vaguely usually results in “What do you need?” “Is it a question I can answer?”, and when you don’t have a radio, you can’t just hand a customer off to someone else in the same way at all.

I can tell you that after this, we developed phrases, we had signals, and for a while we tried to help customers in pairs because it was so scary. There is no one you protect more than your friends at work, because they really do become your family.

The worst thing is though, while not to this extreme those little microaggressions that have made me as a woman uncomfortable happen every day, and retail workers have to put up with them. Eyes will look everywhere they shouldn’t, people will get asked if they have significant others, what they’re doing later, when they get off, etc. Certain regulars will pick you and go only through your line and say “See you later” in an all-too-familiar tone. The worst things that happened to me were verbal, but I refused to interact with those customers again, and I told my management so. Did I still have to interact with them if there was no one else around? Yes. Did I plan my quickest escape route as soon as I registered they were in the store? Yes. Did I smile and do my job despite my skin crawling? Yes.

Is politeness while someone working a reason to flirt with that person?

No, it is not. It never is. They’re doing their jobs and their job should not include compromising themselves so that you leave happy.

Or at least that’s what every retail handbook says.

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Las Niñas del Buen Pastor (The Girls of Buen Pastor)

chapel
The internado sits behind the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Vicky Diloné

I first came to UI in 2016. I was here for a semester and doing well academically but I was struggling with anxiety. After talking with my parents, it was decided I would go live with them in Mexico. It was a decision I wasn’t all too excited about, but I came to be grateful for the opportunities it gave me. I found myself in my mom’s home state of Guanajuato and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I was taking Spanish classes (a story that deserves its own post) and exploring the state’s beautiful capital city. But I wasn’t feeling all that productive. I wanted to do something meaningful so that I wouldn’t feel bad for leaving university. I was prideful and the cure for pride is humility.

That is when I found out about the Convento del Buen Pastor (Convent of the Good Shepherd), and I immediately knew I wanted to volunteer my time with them. Though their website hadn’t been updated since 2011, others confirmed that it was still open, and I was able to talk with the social worker on the phone. Buen Pastor is a church-run  and state-sponsored foster home for girls and a women’s shelter that supports those in and outside of the state. The website describes their mission: Continue reading “Las Niñas del Buen Pastor (The Girls of Buen Pastor)”

Remington: The Beginning

Author of article stands in pink shirt leaning on golf club at a driving range
A photo of Remington Jensen, the top PGA prospect of the 21st century

By Remington Jensen

To whom it may concern,

Hello, I am junior Journalism student at the University of Idaho with a minor focus in Creative Writing. The opportunity to write for the Women’s Center as a blogger was offered by a previous mentor, Lauren Westerfeld, who now teaches writing at Washington State University. I’m a column writer for the Arts and Culture section at the Argonaut in Moscow who decided to pursue a career possibility like this writing internship because I have been a strong advocate for women’s rights and equality for a significant portion of my life. I also want to provide an apt minded male’s perspective to issues like non-binary gender disproportionality and inequality in a changing era that alludes towards an overdue female renaissance.

Aside from being a passionate writer in the non-fiction and poetic fields, my life revolves around my music intake. Bands like Radiohead or lyricists like Phil Elverum — lead creator from the Microphones, Mount Eerie — have prompted me to take writing into the commonly overlooked coincidental reality I am in by promoting me to focus on similes, metaphors and abstract sarcastic prose writing that — I hope — has rarely been attempted before. Although music is my central focus, I enjoy authors like Chuck Klosterman and Kurt Vonnegut and enjoy the films of David Lynch and Terry Gilliam. I DJ at the Moscow-based radio station KUOI on a weekly basis and I am a non-fiction previewer/reader for the University of Idaho founded Fugue Journal.

In addition to the experience this internship will provide me, I hope to come out of it a more culturally aware and observant person. I wish to promote the lives of my fellow XXs and remind my XY brethren that respecting women in 2018 is an underrated quality to have. I want to change thinking processes, adjust the scope of masculinity and fixate more on the power of inclusion of all kinds rather than the exclusion that is so vehemently loved by extreme thinkers such the alt-right. I wish for enjoyable peace, a decrease in global disruption and a place of mind devoid of bias that avidly encourages forward and critical thinking.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
-RJ

What I Would’ve Told Myself When I was 17

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A graduate listens during the commencement at Yale Law School on May 23, 2011.

By Delaney Hopen

I graduated from high school in 2016 at the age of 17, and I was so excited to start fresh in Moscow Idaho. When I first got here, I didn’t realize how much I would be changing in just a short period of time.

When you look forward at what you believe and hope is a long life for yourself, 4 years is like “4 pages” in your 80 or so page “life” book. I find it’s easy to feel like these pages could last forever, and when it’s over it feels like they barely happened. But, these 4 years are for you. They aren’t for your parents, your boss, your future or present husband, wife, or kids. Entering at 17 means I will be exiting at 21, and I can only imagine who I will be, by then.

There are things I wish I had known when I arrived at this stage of my life, but there are some things one cannot explain. I wanted to write this post to initially help the future young women attending U of I, or any other university, because although there are lessons that must be learned, some can at least come with a warning.

Continue reading “What I Would’ve Told Myself When I was 17”

How I Can Help (And Not Hinder)

By Dave Eubank 

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A picture of a learning curve

I have learned a lot since beginning my stint this semester as Editor of the Women’s Center Blog. This position has put me in contact with many strong, intelligent, kind, and patient, Feminist women.

I place extra emphasis on patient.

Why?

Because, I have been on a learning curve, so to speak. I have been getting an education about Feminism and how to interact and exist in this world. I have also been proven wrong. A bunch. Consequently, I have done and said things that were offensive to my feminine colleagues and friends. Patience, on their part, has been valuable to me as I stumbled along.

I spent some time trying to muddle through things on my own. Eventually, I decided to reach out and ask some of these women for their opinions/input regarding two areas:

  1. “What does a Feminist need from a male ally?”
  2. “How can males help in the struggle against Rape Culture?”

  

Here is what I found out…

Continue reading “How I Can Help (And Not Hinder)”

Choosing Not to Report

By Makayla Sundquist

Trigger Warning: This post discusses multiple survivors’ sexual assault experiences and may be triggering for others who have also experienced sexual assault. 

A woman holds a sign that depicts the words "#MeToo"
The #MeToo movement created more awareness about the presence of sexual assault. Photo from Poynter.com

If you have been keeping up with the University of Idaho news lately, you will notice the attention a 2013 sexual assault case is getting. The Idaho Statesman recently discovered a survivor’s testimony on a blog site, and ran a story that covered the investigation. (Read here). Long story short, the survivors did not receive the help from the athletic department they needed. Both people involved were athletes at UI, but the athletic department only protected the assaulter. The survivors then went to the Women’s Center, and the staff there took the case to the Dean of Students for an investigation. The assaulter was no longer allowed to play football at UI. However,  he is now playing for a team in New York (which I do not agree with, but that is a conversation for another day).

Throughout all of this buzz, I have heard some comments questioning why the survivor did not go directly to the Dean of Students. Some of these comments were in poor taste. Others were genuinely curious. Even though the two women who were sexually assaulted at UI chose to report their assault to the police and the athletic department, it is common for survivors to never report. But why?

Continue reading “Choosing Not to Report”

Gender and Role Play in Kids

Colorful graphic of androgynous figures illustrating different genders
Graphic illustrating different genders

By Beatrice Santiago 

Do you remember when you were 9 years old?

I vaguely remember what I was doing at that age. And I remember experiences in which I felt inferior to men, thinking as a young girl that I was not capable of certain tasks just because I was a girl. Society’s ideals can be cruel. Especially when you are told that if you do something a man does, you are not “acting like a lady.”

I recently read an article, “I AM 9 YEARS OLD: Children Across the World Tell Us How Gender Affects Their Lives.”  As the title implies, children were asked questions like:

“What is the best thing about being a girl?”

“What is the worst thing about being a girl?”

“How might your life be different if you were a boy (or a boy instead of a girl)?”

Their responses were shocking. However, they were answers I was expecting. Although many were positive, some were really sad to read. These children were interviewed from all different parts of the world by National Geographic.

Continue reading “Gender and Role Play in Kids”