It is not the number of years that you have lived that shapes you, but the number of experiences you have been through is.
After moving abroad by myself when I was nineteen years old, although my professional experience has not skyrocketed, my experience in writing cover letters, updating my resume and attending interviews, on the other hand, has well improved. Job hunting can be a tedious process for anyone in all these respects. However, only half of the population will most likely be able to relate to one of my most recent experiences.
‘They believe that you are too young, especially to work late at night in this neighborhood.’
As I was getting more impatient in my job search, I received a text from an employee in a shop I had dropped my CV in. I finally saw a beam of light when he invited me for a chat to discuss the role. The informal interview seemed to be more about the position than my professional experience. The employee, who was not part of the HR team but had been asked by the owners to conduct the hiring process, kept on bringing up the fact that he would like to add a female member to the team. He also highlighted insistently that the neighborhood could be quite hazardous, especially in the evenings and on the weekends. Needless to say that I was well aware of it, considering that I had previously been living in this area for almost two years and was well acquainted with its nightlife. In my mind, the interview had gone really well and the friendly man asserted to me that he would talk to his employers about my application, adding one more time that he was eager to welcome a female team member. Two days later, I received a text saying that the owners’ decision was based on the fact that I was too young to fill up the cashier position and mostly to work in the evenings, and therefore I did not get the job.
Although it took me some time, reflecting upon the reasons for this rejection was eye-opening. My age may have been a significant downside for them because of all the clichés that get associated with it — inexperience, irresponsibility, innocence… Yet, let’s not turn a blind eye on my gender. If I were a twenty-one-year-old male, the owners would have most-likely hired me. For a boy or a man is seen as able to defend himself, he is supposed to be inwardly and outwardly potent, compared to the sweet little girl who can only grow up to be a damsel in distress, desperately in need of a knight to save her from whatever danger she might be at risk. All in all, this was merely a result of benevolent sexism, a thinly veiled form of sexism, and perhaps one of the most retrograde.
Of course, there are numerous factors that may put a woman more at risk working at night in a shop located in a busy and unpredictable area. I have witnessed it with my very eyes countless times that these streets can become the epitome of the misogynistic society we live in. I have been subject to the catcalls, the degrading stares, the insistent conversations. I have had to bear these situations when I was walking by myself or accompanied by people, in daytime or in the late hours, wearing the most casual of outfits or dressed up for an occasion, with earphones on or not, when I was on the phone or having a conversation with someone face-to-face, sober or after one too many drinks. This is merely a run-through. Moreover, I am just one of the many persons who go through all of this, daily. But I also consider myself one of the lucky ones for not having undergone any situation more dreadful than this — how insane is it to think that?
Thus, I am no stranger to the reasons why the owners of a shop would like to preserve harm to somewhat happen. And yet, I keep wondering how does anyone expect to see change in the near future if nothing is acted upon today? If we are willing to see change, we need to start somewhere. Alternatives always exist. The owners could hire security guards or purchase one of the high-technology security systems that exist nowadays. Or, in a more realistic, cheap and easy manner, they could’ve simply defied the clichés of the damsel in distress, given her a chance to prove that she can defend herself — or simply trust, that maybe, just maybe, the world is not always that bad when you believe in it.