By: Jill Salvucci
I come from a pretty well known place, Boston, Massachusetts. Growing up I have never truly felt the effects of gender stereotypes. For instance that boys are stronger than girls or that boys are capable of doing long hours of hard labor while girls need to take breaks often. I haven’t felt as though those beliefs have been every pushed upon me until this week in Mullens, West Virginia.
Mullens is definitely a different place then where I come from. Sometimes it feels as though it is a town stuck in the past. For instance they still believe in the gender roles of the past. They see girls as delicate and that they constantly need a man’s help to lift heavy things.
Working at the store I volunteered to help the men with the landscape outside. There was not one woman working with them till I showed up outside. When I went to tell Gary I was his worker for the day he seemed a little shocked to see a girl standing before him. He was never rude, he was actually very kind to me all day. However, I could tell he hasn’t seen many girls doing yard work in his day. I worked for about an hour and I am almost positive every man out there questioned how I ended up out here. I simply responded, “I volunteered!” They then referred to me as super women, when in reality I wasn’t exactly doing anything special.
The next day rolled around and I once again volunteered to work on the landscape. This day, however; was different. I felt like I accomplished nothing. The men would hand me a tool, give me a task, then five minuted into that task would take the tool out of my hand and do it for me. It was odd. I am not use to being seen as lesser because of my gender, I mean at Pine Ridge I was using chain saws for crying out loud. I was a little more frustrated then I was the day before, but like I said I was never mad at any of the men.
What I realized though is they are not doing it to put me down its just their culture, it is how it has always been. Girls don’t do manual labor that is left for the men. It is just the way it is here in Mullens. It was for sure tough to get use to the first day but the men I was were with were genuine people, they never meant to make me feel inferior.
It was very interesting to experience such a different culture in our country. Going from Pine Ridge where women are seen as the powerful leaders to Mullens where women are seen as delicate flowers. I know that moving on to Washington D.C. I am going to be in a more familiar environment when it comes to gender roles. However, I should always have an open mind to other peoples culture.