A Little Short-change Matters


The other day, I had one of those moments when I was particularly aware of being a woman. Even though it was a minor event, I felt so frustrated and unsettled afterwards that I want to put it out there in case others have had similar experiences.

I was at a gas station getting some transmission fluid and imagining everyone thinking to themselves “what is she going to so with that?” There was some mild stereotype threat, (psychology fun fact: fear of confirming a stereotype about your own group), so of course I couldn’t seem hesitant or like I didn’t know what I was doing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threatThe situation reminded me of an article about a poll that asked women which activities made them feel most aware of their gender status. The most common responses were things like walking into a car dealership or going to a sports bar – in other words, designated male activities (if anyone knows of this article please post it!). The point was to show the discomfort that many women feel while doing daily activities because of gender stereotypes.

Next, a strange series of things happened. First, even though there was a long line, another cashier came out of nowhere and asked me specifically if the transmission fluid was all I was buying, and if so, he could help me next. Second, the cash register didn’t show the price. Third, he clearly short-changed me. It was $3.99, paid with a $5 and got 50 cents back. Fourth, when he handed it back to me the price tag was missing. Fifth, I walked outside and immediately found a quarter on the ground, (not really part of it, just coincidental good luck!)
I knew the change seemed wrong when he handed it to me, but I didn’t think to say anything until I had already left the store. Normally, I wouldn’t have cared about such a small amount of money anyway (PS I did factor in tax). What really got to me is that I couldn’t help but to feel like he targeted me because, hey, I probably wouldn’t know how much transmission fluid costs anyway.
I walked all the way home in a fury until I of course started second guessing myself. “Maybe, it rang up wrong…maybe he does that to everyone… maybe he figured the difference was to too small to matter.” After all I probably only concluded this because I was already feeling self-conscious.
I will never know if his short-changing me had anything to do with me being a woman. Thinking about it more, whether he did or not, the whole incident leads back to the larger problem that the poll I mentioned earlier brings to light.
From the moment I entered the store I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable and the negativity only progressed from there. I’ve had countless experiences like this in my daily life and I doubt that I’m alone in that.
Our lives should not be dictated and defined by gender and we shouldn’t have to feel out of place because of it. Next time there’s a girl in the weight room or a guy in the makeup isle high five them for being there 😉
Have you ever felt that you didn’t belong or were not welcome somewhere because of your gender? What are your thoughts when you see someone doing something not typical for their gender? Have you ever done anything to question these stereotypes?
Note: gender ≠ biological sex, I just used gender for simplicity
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3 thoughts on “A Little Short-change Matters

  1. Name Required says:

    Matters like this are why people think it’s okay to make a commercial like this

    Sorry you had to experience this



  2. lexismanzara says:

    Just for the record, I did consider tax in my calculation!

    Someone mentioned that tax could have been the difference, so I feel that need to put that out there.


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