I documented every single sexist thing men said to me during my internship
‘Oh, is it ~your week~?’
by Sarah Hall
This summer, like any other college student, I got an internship to learn more about potential careers, and of course to make that $$$. I worked for an environmental consulting company in Ann Arbor, MI, as an environmental hygienist.
My job was essentially to travel to K-12 schools in the state that were undergoing summer construction. Specifically, it was my responsibility to monitor air quality of abatement projects to ensure the safety of the workers and the people and kids who occupy the building. The health and fate of young Americans was basically in my hands. No biggie.
It may sound pretty dull to some, but as a science freak, I loved it.
When I started my internship, I understood that I would be directing and mostly working with middle aged men in the construction industry, and with that, I knew they’d probably say some pretty offensive shit to me.
Being the blossoming lil feminist I am, I decided I should keep a log of what these men say to me that I deemed sexist or offensive. Here they are:
‘We’ve got a little girl answering all of your certification questions’
My first week in the office was packed with learning EPA and OSHA laws, and we were regularly quizzed on them. In this case, the company I interned for was hosting a certification seminar for abatement workers where they could renew their work cards. All 15 of us were in one room being grilled on the same topics. Time after time I answered questions because no one else knew or bothered to answer. One of the outside contractors finally threw up his hands and said this to everyone in the room.
It was the first quote in my summer journal.
‘Wow, pretty strong handshake for a woman’
I met this shitty man as I arrived at the site of a six-week long project. We shook hands upon our initial meeting, and he said this to me. Of course I shrugged, and then he followed up with, “What, did you grow up on a farm or something?” Yeah, I actually did, sir. Fuck off. To make things worse, we shared an office for the next six weeks. Don’t worry, I kept him in his place each day with my sass and zero tolerance for idiots.
I think older men think it’s alright to say things like this, which is pretty repulsive. Do me a favor and never call me “hun” again.
‘Do I make you nervous?’
This gem was said to me when I walked past a group of electricians and dropped a stack of paperwork. What are you, 65 years old? Sit down.
‘Oh, she’s strong!’
This was probably the most common thing said to me this summer. I typically lugged around a lot of equipment and machinery, so I often made multiple trips to my car and back when setting up new projects. It only really bothered me because I hate being seen as a weak little woman. No; I’m strong, I’m independent, and I can sure as hell hold my own.
‘You should really park closer, you know, being a woman and all’
What was even going through this man’s mind when these words spilled from his mouth. Like, what? Do I need to park closer because I seem feeble? Maybe because parking further away increases my chance of assault? Do me a favor and mind your own business.
‘Are you the air monitoring chick?’
Are you serious?
‘Oh, is it ~your week~?’
This first class asshole asked me this after I was rude to him. Yeah, I’ll admit, I was not nice to him. Because I worked in so many schools this summer, I had master keys to school districts. An electrician locked himself out of a classroom he was working in TWICE, and the second time I unlocked it for him, I said with a side of sass, “I don’t work for you, you know. Why don’t you just prop the door open?” To which he replied with that incredibly small minded one liner. And yeah, he even used “air finger quotations.”
‘You couldn’t get one of those strong men to carry all those boxes for you?’
I mean I probably could, but I don’t want to ask them. It’s not their job to help me, and I don’t want their help.
NOT. YOUR. BABE.
After my experiences this summer, I’m definitely more aware of my ‘place’ as a woman, and I’m proud. I know what I’m capable of, I know I’m tough, and honestly, I’m ready to take on any man that tries to cross me.