A person is wearing a baseball hat, a polo shirt, and an apron. Who do these clothes belong to? A girl? A guy? Or both? How do we know? More importantly, why does it matter?
Recently, I was employed by Dolce Gelateria, a gelato shop located in the heart of the West Village which is the most progressive, diverse, and LGBT friendly neighborhoods in New York City. Talking to people and being around gelato is a cool way to scoop up a few bucks to spend on ramen noodles and subway fare. I put in a lot of effort learning to scoop ice cream, which isn’t as easy as it sounds, coming from someone who has to google how to boil an egg.
The uniform suited my andro style: apron, polo shirt, and baseball cap. The manager who hired me said, “Dolce Gelateria believes in diversity; we employ a wide variety of people” and after a few days everything was indeed going well. I was scooping ice cream better, providing customer service, and happily rocking my baseball cap.
However, on the afternoon of Sunday April 19th, I went in to work, put on my uniform,and prepared for what would hopefully be a big tip day. I was soon greeted by the owneer who told me about some of the things that had happened before my shift started only he left out important policy changes that I would later have to hear from my manager who came in later to relieve him. The manager and I chatted about the shift and about our new flavors. It was then that she asked me to go upstairs to wash some scoopers. While washing the scoopers a co-worker came upstairs and handed me a bright orange spandex headband. “You have to wear this,” she said.
I stared at her and could feel my cheeks begin to burn. I thought to myself, headbands aren’t my thing, they’re too feminine. Feelings of discomfort started in my stomach and crept up my skin like a million tiny spiders. I finished washing the scoopers but left the headband on the table upstairs. As I walked down the stairs I tried to forget the incident and figured that my hat was perfectly fine as I’ve been wearing it for the last few days without an issue. I handed over the scoopers to my manager and hopped back behind the register. The manager looked at me and asked “Where is your headband?” I could feel my cheeks ignite again. With as much confidence as I could muster I said, “I’m not comfortable wearing that, I’d much rather wear the store baseball cap.” I could feel myself becoming smaller and smaller, I could hear my voice crack at the end of the sentence. I knew how uncomfortable I must have looked. The manager looked at me angrily, “No, you must wear it. Go put on the headband.” I could feel my knees start to shake. I looked at her, cleared my throat and repeated myself, “I’m uncomfortable wearing that. I would much rather wear the store’s baseball cap.” She stared at me and said, “You’re not comfortable? Ok, go home. We’ll call you.” I felt utterly humiliated. I was being sent home for not wearing this headband that wasn’t even a part of my issued uniform? Absurd I thought. Clearly there had been a mistake, they couldn’t do that…Could they?
“Even though they were in the epicenter of arguably, one of the most accepting parts of the city, and preached about their belief in diversity, they fired me over not wearing a headband. Showing that their ideologies about gender are more aligned with those of the 1950s than now. A time where women had to adhere to unwritten rules about clothing and attributes, headbands being a part of that.” While I do identify as female I am openly gay and prefer to dress more masculine. This was the first time in my entire life that I felt humiliated and uncomfortable in a work environment because of my choice in clothing. I didn’t like having a gender role thrown at me because someone else thought that I needed to do things a certain way.
This event has left me with a lot of questions, including who do these things belong to? A hat, a polo shirt, and an apron. Are they strictly meant for girls or boys? But more importantly, why?
Written by Samantha Gonzalez
Edited by Anya Ferguson