First, watch this video:
Excuse Me, Sir, That’s My Seat
By: Elizabeth Bower
Sheryl Sanberg said, “Sit at the table.” As a woman, it’s really empowering to hear this. I also have a daughter, whom I want to sit at the table and not underestimate her abilities and worth. However, like Sheryl pointed out, there are so many stereotypes and sacrifices women put up with that make us feel we aren’t worthy to sit at the table. Also, there are moments or events that can happen in a woman’s life that could subconsciously hold her back or pull her down.
Encounters, words, and situations where stereotypes, sexism, and prejudices that could cause a woman to hesitate before sitting at the table. I can recall a time where one word was said to me that could have caused me to hesitate before taking my seat at the table.
It was the first time I have ever been away from my family for more than a week. For 6 weeks, I was at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas in basic military training. The day started off with predictable trash can banging, yelling and crying girls. I stopped trying to understand why some girls kept crying. Perhaps they never watched a movie with a boot camp setting. We all wore clothes we brought from home since our battle dress uniforms wouldn’t be issued until later in the week. After researching the weather before I left for boot camp, I packed solid light-colored tank tops and black cotton shorts.
That day, for the first time, we had classroom lessons to learn some military fundamentals and to test our endurance to stay awake. I remember sitting there in the classroom, quietly. Then the door to the classroom swung open and the sound of metal shoe heels entered the room and slowly made their way to the front of the room where I was sitting in the first row. I made accidental direct eye contact with the drill sergeant, who was a man.
He squared up in front of me he growled, “Whatcha looking at? You gotta problem?”
“No, sir,” I replied, forcing my eyes to look through him and not at him.
“What? What? You say Drill Instructor Sir, I do not have a problem, Drill Instructor Sir.” he screamed. I played the game and repeated the correct response. He leaned against the wood teacher’s desk.
I thought the confrontation was over then his lip curled up on one side and he snarled, “Look at you, looking like a hoochie.”
My jaw dropped and my eyes widened. At first, I was confused. I knew what ‘hoochie’ meant and I didn’t understand how he concluded to such a label. The tank top I was wearing was reasonably loose and there wasn’t an ounce of cleavage. The only difference between the other girl’s shirts and my shirt was mine happened to be sleeveless, which was deemed appropriate by my recruiter in preparing for boot camp. I clenched my jaw and continued to stare straight ahead. He snickered, knowing he hit a nerve, then moved onto the topic for the day.
I will never forget how that comment made me feel and I wonder how many other women have had an experience like this where one word or stereotype can forever be burned into your memory. Thankfully, I have had many other experiences and support systems to help me be a confident woman and not let something like that bring me down or keep me from taking my seat at the table of opportunity.
Sandberg, Sheryl. Ted Talk: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=928&v=18uDutylDa4