I mean, does anyone really know what to put there? I feel like we all have the same basic mental dialogue when we come across this line:
I came across this line on an application on Friday, and it really made me pause. After all, that line is asking for more than just a number. It is asking for me to put a value on my time and effort, and that is not an easy task at the best of times. Last week, however, I was already struggling with some self-concept issues.
You see, someone was flame-slinging on the internet recently. To make a very long story short, Joe Peacock claimed that most pretty girls in geek culture are exploiting the boy geeks, because said pretty girls are incapable of getting non-geeky boys. In essence, attractive girl geeks are not likely to be true geeks, but instead are a ‘hollowed-ego’d pox’ on geek culture. They dress up in sexy costumes to get attention from boys that they wouldn’t ever actually date.
This kind of attitude really bugs me. While Mr. Peacock is correct in stating that there are girls who will go “slumming” at cons just to get attention, in my experience those are few and far between. The truth is that there are all different levels of geek, and just because someone is not capable of reciting every line of Star Trek: Nemesis does not mean that they are faking their fanhood.
These generalizations about women in geek culture perpetuate the idea that girls can’t be viable geeks, and therefore can’t be treated the same as male (or “true”) geeks. This makes my life really suck sometimes.
You see, I am a girl geek, and I work at a video game store.
If I had a dollar for every time a customer has asked for a coworker “who knows about war games,” “who actually plays video games,” or “who understands Call of Duty,” I’d be able to fund NASA’s return to the moon. These comments always come with the not-s0-subtle implication that because I am a girl, I do not play or even understand first-person shooter or war-based games.
People, GameStop did not hire me because I have pretty eyes. I had to prove that I know video games across genres and consoles, and can explain those games to customers. I am expected to know release dates of upcoming games, stay current on reviews of best-sellers, and help each customer who walks through the doors find the perfect game, just the same as my male coworkers.
And quite frankly, I can do it better than some of them.
When the idea goes around that girl geeks don’t actually exist, or that girls aren’t able to be as geeky as guys, I end up with days like last Thursday.
Last Thursday, a customer referred to me as a “chick.” As in, “Hey man, look! They have chicks here!” (True quote.)
Now, I live in the South and I look much younger than 25. As such, I get a lot of nicknames: “Sweetheart,” “Darling,” “Honey,” and even a memorable “Sugar.” When said with a touch of Southern gentility, I don’t mind these. It’s a cultural thing, just like the young boys who call me “ma’am.”
That said, there is nothing cultural about calling a girl a “chick.”
This particular customer was a bundle of charisma. He followed up on his initial comment by walking straight past me to ask my male coworker about war games, since “that guy probably knows more.” When I rang up the customer’s purchase of Battlefield 3, he called me “sweetheart” twice.
To him, I was just a girl working at his local video game store. I wasn’t a reliable source of information, and I certainly wasn’t worth referring to by my name (which is clearly written on my nametag, by the way). I was just a thing to be smiled at and placated with nicknames. That customer left with more than just a new video game. He left with a good chuck of my self-esteem.
So when I came across the “salary desired” line on Friday, it made me pause. I thought about the amount of money that I’d like to receive for my work, yes, but I also thought about what other recompense I desire from a job.
I desire for my job to pay me for my work, because that provides a way for me to enjoy the things that I do. I do not desire for my job to define me, but I do want it to become part of who I am. I desire for my job to make my time and effort seem important, and for my work to result in something in which I can take pride.
But most of all, I desire for my job to not make me feel like less of a person at the end of the day.
As long as we allow negative stereotypes to continue, we allow people to treat others like that customer treated me. Perhaps he wasn’t intentionally trying to patronize me, and perhaps he’s never heard of Joe Peacock or the myth that girls can’t be geeks. In any case, his actions were hurtful, and just another example of an attitude that I see far too often.
I’m not going to let one (or even a hundred) guys’ ill-informed manners keep me from pursuing my geeky interests. If I did, I’d be no better than the stereotypes that Mr. Peacock rails against. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I be able to work at a job that I enjoy without having to worry about when the next customer will talk down to me or treat me as less important simply because of my gender.
So what salary do I desire?
The one that includes self-esteem as an eternal benefit.
Do you think I can fit all that onto that one line on the application?