Workplace Equality? Not So Much…
One of my sisters owns a daycare facility. It’s a pretty big enterprise (for a small business) and it’s something she started completely from scratch, out of her own home with no business experience. I’m very proud of her.
I was in her office the other day, helping her out by rendering some helpful brotherly business advice. One of the business problems she relayed to me was very interesting.
“I can’t hire any men,” she said, “It sucks.”
“What?” I replied, “You can’t hire men? Why not?”
“Every time I try, we get parents who freak out. If they find out we’re even interviewing a man, they scream at us and complain that he’ll be a pedophile. Lots of people don’t want men near their kids. They don’t mind if women they’ve never met take care of their kids, but not men. It’s stupid.”
“You vet your applicants, right? Criminal records and things like that?”
“Of course, we’re required to. We background check the men and the women the exact same way. The parents don’t care. They don’t want any men here.”
My sister wants to hire men, yet her company is 100% female because she has no choice. The reason this conversation started was because she was talking about how she was finally able to hire a male bus driver, but even then, several moms called in to complain, because, oh no, he might be a pedophile. Now, she actually might have to fire the guy, or lose a bunch of business.
Fire him. For being man.
A few days later, I was talking to a friend of mine I’ve known for a long time who has spent several decades in education. I told her about my sister’s problem and how insane I thought it was.
“I mean, Jesus,” I said, “I realize that statistically there are more male pedophiles than female ones, but that’s irrelevant; you can’t discriminate. It’s a proven fact that women take way more sick time than men, but if an employer refused to hire women on that basis, he’d get sued into bankruptcy. Even if he didn’t, the government would crush him.”
“Actually, it’s worse than that,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there are more male vs. female pedophiles only if you look at the entire population. If you look at education and daycare specifically, we have more problems with women behaving inappropriately with children than with men.”
“Yeah. Every few months, I see a news story about some super hot female teacher getting it on with a 14 year-old boy or something. But I don’t see many stories about male teachers doing this with young girls.”
“Exactly. And you know why that is? Women in positions of authority over children aren’t nearly as careful about that stuff as the men are. Male teachers and daycare providers are constantly walking on eggshells. I mean, let’s say you were a decent-looking man in your 20s or 30s who was a high school teacher. You’d be really, really careful around those cute 15 year-old girls, because you’d know everyone would be watching you like a hawk, and you’d be right. Even if you were a creeper and were secretly attracted to those girls, you’d still make sure not do anything even close to what might be deemed as inappropriate, since you know you’ll instantly lose your job forever and go to prison. It’s a big deal. Men feel this.”
“But,” she continued, “If you’re a cute woman in your 20s and you’re in charge of young kids, including young boys, you don’t feel this kind of pressure. Male teachers are often terrified to lay even a finger on a female student, but often female teachers don’t have any big problem touching, or being touched by, male children in their care, appropriately or not. That’s why sometimes one thing leads to another with these female caregivers. So frankly, if your sister hired all men in her daycare center, she might actually have a slight decrease in the odds of something inappropriate actually happening. Not because women are more likely to be pedophiles or have those kind of desires, but because men in these positions are usually more fearful, so they’re usually more careful.”
This whole thing made me think back to something that happened when I was little. It was no big deal, and I hadn’t thought of it in decades until these conversations came up.
When I was in the fourth grade, which meant I was about eight years old, we had a teacher aide in our classroom who I’ll call Ms. Onion, because she smelled like them. Like most of my teachers and aides in the small Catholic school that my parents forced me to attend, Ms. Onion was a wrinkly, cranky old lady who was always upset about something.
One day, when the class was preparing to go to Mass (that means “going to church” for you non-Catholic heathens), Ms. Onion saw me standing by my desk, and stormed over.
“You need to tuck in your shirt!” she cried.
We wore uniforms back then. Boys had to wear blue corduroy pants with a white button-down shirt that was supposed be tucked in at all times. Girls had to wear the same white shirts with green and grey plaid skirts that were required to be longer than the knee. You know, the usual Sex Is Evil™ right-wing Societal Programming.
I looked down at myself, and saw that my shirt was tucked in.
“It’s already tucked in!” I said.
“Not in the back!” she snapped.
I turned and looked. Sure enough, the back of my shirt was out, clumsily hanging out over my butt. Ms. Onion snarled, grabbed me by the belt, pulled me over with her behind me, and shoved the back of my shirt down my pants, all the way inside my underwear. For several seconds, her hands were actually inside my underwear, the backs of her hands and fingers clearly touching my sweet little eight year-old ass.
Once she was done, she snarled at me again and moved on to go bitch at the next child. (Ah, those were the days. No wonder I couldn’t wait to be an adult.)
I thought nothing of it at the time and still don’t. Yet, as I thought about my sister’s problem, I started to wonder about something. Would any of the male teachers at my school have done that? Even if they were just as Catholic, unhappy, and pissed off as Ms. Onion, would any of them have pulled me over and shoved their hands down my underwear to tuck my shirt in, instead of verbally forcing me to do it myself?
I thought hard about it and came up with the answer: no.
What if I was an eight year old girl? Would any of the male teachers have done that?
Still no. The male teachers at my school (what few there were) would never have done such a thing regardless of my gender. No matter how angry they were, they’d be terrified to even try. But Ms. Onion did it without even thinking, like it was no big deal. Because she intuitively knew that, as a woman, she could get away with it.
As a side note, I know what some of you are thinking. Some of you heard the phrase “Catholic school” and immediately thought of priests. Yeah, plenty of Catholic priests, who of course are men, molested kids and probably still do. Priests molest children for the exact same reason normal monogamous people cheat on their partners; dysfunction always occurs when you stupidly attempt to deny biology for longer than about two or three years, as I’ve explained many times at this blog. My point here is that priests are not teachers nor daycare providers, so they don’t apply to what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about normal men and women whose job it is to hang around kids or underage teenagers all day long.
My sister can’t hire any men, even though she wants to. How many millions of people and/or businesses are running into the same problem?
Next time you hear a woman scream about workplace equality, send ‘em this article.