Ok. Here’s the disclaimers.

  1. I wrote this 10 years ago after being in Corrections for a couple years in one of the worst prisons in Canada. I’ve worked in 2 prisons since. The information in this post is still relevant today, to more or lesser degrees depending on what prison you are at. Some prisons see more potential with the women in their employ. Some are the same. I post it now because 10 years doesn’t seem to be making it better for women out there.
  2. This is not a post about transgender people or alternative gender identities and is not meant to reflect anything about those communities. The title is as such only because that’s what popped into my head when I wrote it and I think it is not fair to change it. There is no disrespect to any gender communities out there and by no means am I saying that women are the only challenged communities in the working world.
  3. Names have been changed. All of these examples are true. I still know who said and did each and every one. There are many examples no one knows. Those are burdens for me to carry, and no one else.
  4. I know that in some sectors, things are starting to change. I am encouraged by that. Women are becoming more educated, in more fields, and are working in more fields than ever. Sadly, our biggest opposition tends to be younger men. That remains unchanged.
Me at Corps Training for Correctional Officer in 2006.

                                                                                     Genderf*cked

So I’m going to write a rant.  It may jump back and forth between prose, poetry, or outright ALL CAPS YELLING but here it is.

I’m genderfucked.  Yes, that’s what it is.  Fucked.  It started 32 years ago and ends sometime when I’m ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  As I get older, I discover more and more that my gender defines me, deprives me, enslaves me.  I can’t escape it.

In case you don’t know, I work in a prison.  For BOYS.  NO GIRLS ALLOWED.  Well, if you have long hair and hit on all the guards, you can join the crew.  But the boys, well, they secretly look down on you.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’ve worked in male dominated work environments before.  I’ve been looked down on for being missing the key elements of masculinity.  I sold cars for a living, for one. My manager told me women don’t get promoted in his dealerships because women aren’t smart enough to control what they say and may be off-putting to customers. This was because, during a coffee break, we all told jokes to get to know each other better and mine had the word “shit” in it. Yeah. I am not kidding.

I’ve been a forest fire fighter.  But when I did it I wasn’t paying for school, oh no.  I was making a political statement.  Only the boys were using it for school.  A girl on the team, well, she’s trying to make a point.  “You’re just here for gender norming.  Affirmative action.”  You didn’t earn that even by passing the same tests with no gender norming.  And I never forgot that.  Never was allowed to forget it.  And the abuse.  The taunts, innuendos, vulgarity scared more than a few women from the ranks before they even made it.  But, if you want to make it, you gotta take it (no pun intended).  Gotta be a man.  Gotta talk the talk, walk the walk, or get eaten alive and spit out on the side of the road.  My father told me to suck it up or quit (before you think my dad is an as*hole, keep in mind that I was getting paid almost double the minimum wage, and dads just didn’t understand sexual harassment 25 years ago, so I’m sure I just sounded like a spoiled teenager – he gets it now).  And god knows you can’t stick up for yourself, can’t tell them it’s wrong to talk to you that way.  If you do, you’re done.  Career suicide.  My own boss told me women are only good one way…on their back. Another one threw me through a screen door and arm barred me into his truck when I argued with him about how he spoke to me in front of other staff. Women weren’t allowed to drive the trucks at work because “women can’t drive standard.” You want to feel like shit about yourself? Be 19 years old with a 17 year old boy driving you around work because you can’t drive yourself. And, we wonder why men in this era still view women as second class.

 

When the boys bend you over a couch and pretend to fuck you,

You take it in stride,

“Because GIRLS, this is the BOY’S game,

And you’re just along for the ride.”

 

I worked management, too.  Learned what the glass ceiling was all about.  Bounced off it a few times.  Hurts the head, let me tell you.  But I’m a slow learner, it seems.  Can’t pick a girl’s job.  Gotta keep being ambitious, want to move up and up.  “That’s a boy’s job you’re filling.”  Equality be damned.  If you think we live in a world where girls aren’t seen as secretaries and boys as bosses, you’re deluding yourself.  When a boy gets the job, he was the best man for the job.  When a girl gets it, it’s affirmative action.  Just once I’d like to deserve something because I’m fucking good at it.  Not because my tits got me it.  And screw you, affirmative action, I fought tooth and nail for every bit of respect I managed to glean from this misogynistic society.

 

But I digress.  I said I work in a prison.  I’ve jumped headlong back into the world of BOYS vs. GIRLS.  The men don’t respect you because you’re a girl – you’re small and weak and should be at home with the kids.  You don’t get to come in and be part of the “in” group.  You don’t get invited to the parties or the barbecues.  The women hate you even more, if you can believe it, because you’re stealing the boys’ attention (most of them, anyway).  Harassment against women is not limited to male perpetrators, sexual or otherwise. The very people that should help you often are part of the problem. Working here has been an interesting experience thus far.  “You’ll go into administration,” they say.  No shit, because I think getting respect from the men is like drawing a black crayon with white out.  I’ve learned, since I started here, that women become parole officers and men stay as Correctional Officers.  I find that fascinating.  Can you believe, that because that little X sperm swam just a bit faster than the Y sperm, that I’m going to be a parole officer?  It’s amazing.  I wish the doctor would have told my parents that when I was delivered.  I’d have saved all kinds of money on education and all that time working other jobs.  Women sometimes become Correctional Officer II’s as well, before parole, because we’re girls.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the girls are pressured from day one to become II’s and parole officers, and that the boys get the posts with the guns.

And this is keeping in mind that in a class of 14 men and 11 women, I was the best shot out of everyone (and had the highest marks throughout training).  I received the award at my training corps for Best Firearms Proficiency.  I can surely see why I’d be in parole while the boy who’s ass I kicked shooting gets the armed post.

Interesting to note, too, is the fact that in training, I was asked by the Self Defence instructors if I’d like to be on IERT one day.  IERT is the Institutional Emergency Response Team, which is basically the prison SWAT team.  They do all the fancy stuff in emergency situations.  Again, they asked because I won the award for Best Self Defence Proficiency.  And this is after spending a night in the hospital, missing an entire day of training, and still getting the highest mark.  I learned, in 30 minutes before the practical exam, what took the rest of the class an entire day.  I know it sounds like bragging, but I want to impress upon you that I did well and worked hard, while extremely ill, and scored the highest with no gender norming.  Good enough to be a boy, but just a few key inches short.

When I got to my first prison, though, I got a whole new story.  In no uncertain terms I was told “women always seem to get that fucking self defence award, and they never should, because no woman can beat a man at it.”  I’ve also heard “why don’t you transfer to EIFW (Edmonton Institution for Women), because the IERT there is all female, and you could get on.”  No fucking kidding.  Thanks for the advice.  I was told on several occasions, “don’t bother trying to get onto the IERT, because you’re a woman, and you’ll never get in.”  Or “I’m just trying to save you the disappointment.”  Hmm.  Discouraging, but unfortunately, I feel it’s true.  The more I meet the members of the IERT, the more I feel like a lone female on an NFL version of Survivor.  To get onto the team, you must be voted unanimously by the all-male members of the team.  Not one person can vote no.  What are the odds of that, do you think?  That in the boys club of SWAT, where a woman gets little respect as it is, will I ever get on the team, even though I scored better than most of them in my training?  Well, I’ll tell you this.  Only one woman in over 125 years of this prison’s history has ever been on the IERT.  And guess what, when you ask about that, you hear “she was just trying to make a statement.”  Gee, I’ve never heard that before.  I’ve also heard “Oh fucking Dana*?  Have you seen her, she’s not a fucking woman.”  Oh right, she has short hair and doesn’t fit the “gender norm” of what a good looking woman is, I guess.  When I met her it was clear to me that she was female.  She’s even heterosexual! I guess I’m just more perceptive than most.

 

What I’m hearing is in this career I’m set up to fail,

That I’m just not the right kind of person for the job,

What I’m hearing is that I’m a little bit too frail,

Just a little bit too FEMALE.

 

My Unit Manager talks like a trucker because she thinks that it makes her fit in with the boys.  Little does she know they hate her because she apparently “sucked her way to the top”, and didn’t earn it because she didn’t spend enough time on the floor working with inmates (I guess they forgot women go to administration).  Serves her right for working hard.  They don’t respect her, and never will, unless she shows up one day male. Did I like her? Not really. But I know exactly why she acts the way she does. Survival. I was a good employee. Great performance reviews. Well liked by most of my peers (some were not cool about my sexuality – to each their own). I worked hard. Was on the union to protect my officer brothers and sisters from poor management practices. I can tell you right now, however, that I can count my written commendations on one hand, but I can write a sexually harassing comment, behaviour, or harassing abuse of power for every single week I was a Correctional Officer. And that is being conservative. I was propositioned constantly. “Let’s have a threesome with your girlfriend” was a common gem. Calls in the middle of the night from my “brothers” and “friends” wanting to come over for a hook up, regardless of my relationship status or theirs. Requests for me to reveal my sexual proclivities, from both fellow officers and management. I could write a book with all the lesbian related slang words I heard (in 10 years of Corrections, I NEVER once was called anything untoward about my sexuality  by an inmate, I might add, and all my inmates are male). For the most part that shit all just runs off my back. It’s not acceptable, though, and no one should have to listen to it. You see my pictures here; I’m not the prom queen, either. I am sure the pretty girls got it much, much worse.

 

What they’re saying is this is an equal opportunity employer.

What I’m hearing is that because I’m 5’5″, 130 pounds, and a C cup,

I’m just not quite good enough.

What I’m hearing is that if I was 5’5″, 127 pounds, 3 ounces (minus 3 lbs of breast, add 3 ounces of cock),

Welcome to the club; you’re made of the right stuff!

 

My career as I anticipated was over before it even started.

 

I’ve heard so many reasons why I shouldn’t be working here I can’t even remember them all.  All because I’m XX and not XY.  Or not enough XY to make the cut.  I have short hair and I’m confident.  But that just makes me different and odd.  It makes me not fit in.  I need to either grow my hair out or start packing.  Or pack up.  One of those.  Go into parole like I’m destined.

 

As you can see, I am genderfucked.  Too girl to be a boy, too boy to be a girl.  Never enough of anything to be a man.  I thought this was 2007, where gender didn’t matter anymore.

 

Gives Genderfuck a whole new definition, doesn’t it?

Me at Corp Training for Correctional Officer in 2006.

You know what, Gender?  Fuck you.

*Names changed.