I recently experienced my first instance of sexism firsthand. What I mean is, not only did somebody say something to me that was somewhat prejudiced against me due to my gender, but the organization that that person works for made a decision—a hiring decision—not to even interview me due to the fact that I am a male.
Before people read only this first paragraph and fly into an outrage, let me explain a little further.
The business I am referring to is a daycare. In respect to this daycare and the person(s) involved, I will not mention any names, locations or even give subtle hints as to their identities. I will, however, say that this daycare is a ministry of a church so, unfortunately, it would seem that the church therefore also was sexist.
The daycare caters to children whose ages range from toddler to four and five years old. The representative from the church who I had talked to about applying for a job there told me that they would only be willing to consider me for a position in the four and five year old classroom and not for any of the younger rooms, where all the open jobs were. The reason they gave me was that they were worried that parents would be uncomfortable with a 24-year old male watching over their young children. The daycare was worried about being sued so I was barred from employment from those classrooms. There are twelve classrooms in the daycare, and I am eligible (theoretically, as there are currently no openings in the four and five year old room) for only one of those twelve rooms.
So maybe they were not being entirely sexist, but in my opinion even a little sexism is sexism nonetheless. And if it is the parents who really are concerned about a young guy like me babysitting and teaching their kids, then they, too, are acting sexist.
I am not trying to make a big deal about this, but I want to know what some of these parents and the daycare/church are thinking. For one thing, Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Denying me certain positions because I am a man and not a woman is discrimination, so theoretically I could sue the daycare and the church for sexual harassment. Now, I am not going to. It’s a church, after all, and in some ways I see where they are coming from. I talked to several teachers and teacher’s assistants who work there (all of them women, obviously) and they all think I would be a good fit there. However, one of the older ladies warned me against seeking a job in their profession, as it would put a target on my back from the get go.
The question I have for these people is, “Why?”
By the time I graduated high school almost a dozen students—half of them male—were parents. This means that before they were 18 they had entered into the realm of parenthood. I am 24—if I had been one of those young fathers and if I do the math correctly it would mean that I have almost six years of parenting experience. It would also mean that my child would be older than even the oldest age group at the daycare. Would these same parents worry about MY children being watched and taken care of me on a daily basis as their father, or would they not give it much thought since it was my kid in question? What makes their children any different? If I can take care of my own kids without being labeled as some sort of predator, then why should I be denied the opportunity to watch kids for a living?
I mentioned earlier that the daycare was worried about being sued if I was hired. Naturally, if I had done something horrendous and illegal I fully expect the law to fall on my head. One thing the daycare and parents do not seem to realize is that men are not the only ones capable of wrongdoing. I read in the news all the time of female teachers being arrested for having sex with students, among other things. To worry about a male and not worry about a female being hired to watch children from seven in the morning until six at night is prejudice at its worst.
I thought that in a day and age where women have finally been allowed to serve in combat units and the Federal government has outlawed any form of discrimination in the work place that employers would be willing to overlook the fact that I’m a male and look at my references and experience. If the daycare reps had, they would notice that not only do I have extensive volunteer experience (a lot of which came from that very church) working with kids those same ages, but I have also been babysitting for years. My mom and I watched a six-month old baby and his two-year old sister for months late last year, and their parents did not seem to care. I watched them with my brothers when my parents were not available. (You see, THREE guys watching little children. We had a great time watching Sponge Bob and crawling around on the carpet.) On top of all of this, but I could name off a long list of people who could tell you that I love kids and am great at taking care of them. My dad, whose favorite compliment is “Cool” even went so far as to say that I’ve always been good with kids. I am no expert or anything, but I know for a fact that if I were in charge of a daycare that is the kind of person I would want looking after young ones while their parents were away. To deny me because I’m a guy deprives the kids of a mentor figure and friend who would give his all to take care of them and be there for them.
That concludes my venting for the day. Carry on.