Sunday, November 29, 2015

I recently started working for a clothing store as a cashier, which definitely falls into the feminine realm of work, as shopping for clothes is something only women are supposed to have an interest in. In talking to the other cashiers the other day, we realized that every single person designated as a cashier on our work schedule is a woman. Men will come help us out if the line gets too long and we need backup, but men are only officially ever scheduled to work out on the floor straightening things, putting things away, and helping customers.
My coworkers and I came to the conclusion that this is because all men are supposed to be able to lift things, while only some women can show physical strength. It would be a waste of the manpower to assign them to sit behind a register for hours on end. Even beyond this assignment, men are never assigned to work in a section of clothes for women. Men are only ever assigned to shoes, the home department (heavy picture frames and bedding sets!), the men’s clothes department, and electronics, never customer service, infants/children’s clothes, women’s clothes, teen girls’ clothes, jewelry, or intimates. It seems like there’s this implication that men wouldn’t know their way around these sections, as if men blinded by their own masculinity wouldn’t be able to learn to tell different types of bras apart. Even if it’s common sense (I managed to figure out how to navigate the different sections by myself), there’s this sense of having to act purposefully clueless when asked to find a particular thing in a women’s section.
Masculinity imposes even in a location and job as feminine as a clothing store. Men are expected to be active and strong, not passive and still as cashiers have to be, and it’s become bizarre to me how no one points this out. The standard only goes the one way—women can work the men’s department, and are assigned there regularly. Even though this lack of well-roundedness in the male employees slows things down as women have to rush around making up for men’s lack of knowledge, nobody questions or makes changes because it’s so unthinkable to adjust the way we think about male employees.

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