"You're Pretty Good at This for a Girl"

  • Laura Jeanne Portera

I would like to start by stating the ideas discussed do not reflect all men in the theater industry. While I reflect on unfortunate instances that have occurred, I want to make it very clear that these were only a few individuals I have had experiences with. Furthermore, misogyny in the workplace can take form between any genders, not just from men towards women.

As a female carpenter in a predominately male environment, I have witnessed my fair share of misogyny. From comments on my strength, technique, all the way down to my physical characteristics, I have been a target for male co-workers to criticize.

Comments I have either heard towards myself or fellow female co-workers have included: “Look at that little girl in the grid’, ‘I thought we’d be working with men’, ‘Do you know how to use this drill?’ ‘Don’t work too hard, let the men do it,” and lastly, “You’re pretty good at that, for a girl.” I’d like to share these experiences in hopes to bring attention to how important equal treatment in the workplace is for the theater community. While my personal experiences come from my background in carpentry, these ideals can be applied to any female-identifying technician in the theater world. So to any male-identifying technicians who feel they’re superior, please listen to what I have to say.

1. Do Not Take Over

More times than I can count, I have been working on a project, carrying a flat or attaching a set-piece and a man has tried to take over. I have had set pieces that I intended on carrying to their location, taken straight from my arms without a single word said to me. My natural reaction is always, “No thank you, I got this.” More times than not they continue to rip the set-piece from my hands, making me feel inferior.

2. I Know What I Can Carry

Although I am small, I AM STRONG. I know how much weight I can carry. If I know a piece is too heavy, I will not offer to pick it up. Then, and only then will be the time when I ask for assistance. But if I am already carrying a piece, I am comfortable with the work I am doing and do not need your help. Although your comments MAY come from a place of a gentleman-like manner, I signed up for this job, I know what I am getting myself into and I would like to be treated as an equal.

3. Please Don’t Mansplain

The definition of mansplaining is as follows: “A man explaining something, (generally to a woman), in a way that is considered condescending or patronizing.” Please don’t do this. Speak to me as an equal, for I do not like being spoken down to, as no one does. I can understand carpentry terms, as it is the field I am working in. If I do not understand something you say, I will ask. If you do speak down than me, I will immediately take offense to it.

4. If I Am Your Supervisor, Please Trust and Take My Direction

Getting to a place of supervision takes a wild amount of work, either within the company or with training. If I ask you to do something, or tell you how to do it, please take me seriously. I have been trained and know what power I do and do not have in my position. I would not steer you in the wrong direction, and if I do by mistake then that is my doing, and you are not at fault.

5. Please Ask For Me to do Work

I signed up for this job because I want to work and learn. I would love as many opportunities as possible to perfect my craft. I do not want to be looked at as inferior because of my gender. I am ready to work as hard as possible to make this show happen. As I have stated, I am not calling out all men in the theater world. The majority of my time in the industry I have only experienced respect and equality. However, the times I have experienced misogyny in the workplace have stuck out at me due to the disrespect and patronizing demeanor take towards me. I love my job, I love this business and I would love to be treated with equality and respect.