Is There A Bra On My Bench?!
For months, I have been trying to write a blog about working in a male dominated industry. But, have decided I must first see the humor in it- if not, I fear it will just become another overly whimsical depiction of history or an angry bitter shout at the world. So, I am writing this letter instead…
Dear Young Ladies,
Don’t be so scared. When you walk into a music store, when you walk into a repair shop, when you walk into a wood working shop… Don’t be scared because, with or without experience, you have every right to pursue your desires.
Don’t be scared when male customers shout at you, saying, “I knew this would happen (because you are a female).” Don’t be scared when they ask you if you slept with any of your past coworkers, managers or mentors. Don’t be scared when you call up a company for parts or questions and customer service treats you like an idiot…. In fact, don’t be scared when anyone treats you like an idiot. Don’t be scared when an introduction to what you do is constantly met with disbelief. Don’t be scared when men question your repair choices. Don’t be scared when they ask you if you feel comfortable working around men. Don’t be scared when, in an interview, a man asks you if you get emotional or makes a point to say that the shop can’t afford crying. Don’t be scared when you ask a question and you are greeted with, “you don’t know that yet?!”
Don’t be scared when customers call you “girl”, even though you are a grown woman. Don’t be scared when you are treated like a secretary by a customer on who's guitar you did all the repairs. Don’t be scared when you are told you are too emotional after sharing an opinion that was different from your superiors. Don’t be scared when a customer asks you out - or tells you that you remind them of their mother! Don’t be scared when your coworkers don’t talk to you. Don’t be scared when someone gives you a half-assed compliment by concluding that whatever awesome thing you did wasn’t because of time-put-in but because “you’re a female”. Don’t be scared when your coworkers only compliment you on your appearance and not your work. Don’t be scared when the girlfriends and wives of your coworkers ignore you. Don’t be scared when anyone walks into the shop and blatantly ignores you. Don’t be scared to say you don’t know something, and Don’t be scared to say you do know something. Don’t be scared to share your ideas, even when your superiors and coworkers laugh it off.
Lastly, don’t be scared to look for a repair shop that shows you more respect.
There are going to be a lot of situations, as brief as they may be, thrown to your feet because someone else is scared or intimidated or just sexist. The anger you will feel is brought on by their fear. In those moments, take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and stay professional. The power and beauty you have within and without, combined with the power of creation at the tips of your fingers, means you will intimidate some men - with that, you have the responsibility to yourself to meet their fear with an open heart and a level head.
My promise to you is that there are way more cool, funny, interesting, smart craftsmen, both old and young, who would be more than happy to accept you for the whole person you are rather than judge you for the penis you do not have.
I speak this from my heart, to every repairperson, woman or man:
Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Repairing guitars is a life of service; it’s a life that is full of stress and problem-solving challenges. It is a wonderfully fulfilling life that can be heartbreaking if you start listening to fear. So, be kind to yourself and surround yourself with positive, cool, funny, interesting people.