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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

‘Smile more and quit it with the attitude’


A narrative on toxic masculinity in the workplace

I’ve worked in the food industry since I was a junior in high school. Since then, I’ve come to realize the reality of every job I’ve had where a man was my boss or manager: the workspace is an environment where I am made to feel worthless and inadequate.

Whether it is being constantly talked down to or not being given raises that my male counterparts are receiving, the toxic masculinity in the workplace is pernicious to the treatment and equal rights of women in society and continues to reinforce the idea of this world being “a man’s world.”

My first job was at a little mom and pop sandwich shop right down the street from my house. It was owned by a man who, at the time, was in the middle of divorce number three and an ugly custody battle.

I was one of the first high schoolers hired at this establishment, as they were newly opened at the time and started out with more experienced and older individuals. It was my first job, and my boss was very welcoming and very friendly.

I ended up working at this place throughout high school and into the summer prior to my first year in college. In this two year timeframe, the adult staff slowly diminished and the population of high school girls increased.

“Fine,” I kept thinking. “More friends to make and people to relate to about inappropriate comments our boss would make.”

But things only got worse.

Our uniforms were changed and we were required to wear leggings with our restaurant T-shirt. For some of my coworkers, this change was a miracle, but for me it was extremely uncomfortable. I rarely wear leggings, and when I do, I absolutely need a sweater or jacket that extends to cover my butt.

I complied with the new uniform change, until one day one of my coworkers, who was about a year older than me, went to climb a ladder to display a flag outside as asked by our boss. As she ascended the ladder, my boss said to me, without taking his eyes off the other girl, “I only asked her to do that so I could look at her butt.”

Since then, I have never worn leggings.

As a teenager, I didn’t quite realize how wrong this behavior was—I knew it made me uncomfortable, but I thought that was normal from a middle aged, male boss. Because, of course, he’s older than me and knows a lot more than me.

After this experience, I worked in retail under a woman, which was a much more pleasant experience. But, I realized that I would make better money if I continued in the restaurant industry.

At the start of my senior year here at St. Joe’s, I realized I didn’t want to miss out on fun opportunities because of a lack of funds. So, I got a job at a restaurant nearby. For the first few months things were great; some of my managers were a little too friendly, but I have a habit of thinking the best of people so I just appreciated being in an environment where I wasn’t made to feel uncomfortable.

As other girls my age were hired, the patterns in my previous job repeated. I came back from winter break in January, and I was instantly getting yelled at left and right by my managers. I was told not to make a waiting list when we were busy, which resulted in those with reservations sitting and waiting for their table, and when I try to help out the wait staff, I am told I am not allowed to “decide things.” I have been retaught how to do my job, despite the fact that the other hostesses and I handle seating arrangements for the whole night with minimal issues.

When I call out of work or express that I am feeling unwell during a shift, it is usually assumed to be because of a heavy night of drinking the evening prior. If I need weekends off, it is assumed that I am too lazy to work.

Now, I’m not going to place the blame on only men because to make a change in society, everyone needs to get on board. But, it is the constant idea that men have to be emotionless and tough that can turn people with power into disrespectful and pompous jerk.

Despite the treatment I have received at work, I now know what I am worth and I know that I am a hard worker. But, I am 22 years old. I work with high schoolers who are being spoken to like this, and just as I did, they think it is okay to be treated this way since they’re “just teenagers” or “just hostesses.”

The hardest part is that I don’t know how to change this for young women coming into the workforce. That idea scares me more than any of the inappropriate comments made to me by men in the workplace.

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