A helping hand isn’t always vital

Brenna Enos, Twitter.com/brennasenos

The other day I was working at my restaurant job when a male coworker snatched plates out of my hand while I was cleaning a table. Utterly confused, I asked him what he was doing to which he coldly responded, “I don’t want my customers to think that a girl is doing the hard work.”

At first I wasn’t offended — he was trying to help me out and be a gentleman, right?

But as the night progressed I wondered: why did it matter to him that a girl was working hard?

Perhaps he did not want to be outshined by another employee, but the fact that he brought my gender into it is what made his gesture very questionable.

It was nice to have some help, but when that help was tainted by an insincere motivation, it quickly made me feel incapable of doing a job that I knew I was very competent in.

I have seen this same type of belittling “help” many times before in classrooms, at home, between friends and especially in the workplace.

It often occurs when a man feels the need to step in and “help out” a woman in something she is doing — typically pretty successfully — because he feels as though it is something he is entitled to do, despite never being asked to do so.

Of course this is not an action that every man engages in, however, it occurs widely enough that it has become an issue that should be discussed.

For years now, women have been encouraged to take on higher roles of power: women are being pushed to join the STEM field, to be the next generation of CEO’s and political leaders, and there has definitely been an increase in women assuming those positions.

But when women step into positions, whether they are high level or lower level roles, and then receive less-than-encouraging comments and unwanted assistance from their male counterparts, it’s a big step back.

The same principle goes for women as well. Women should be actively encouraging and uplifting other women and not tearing them down when they feel threatened by their hard work. 

Both men and women need to be actively empowering other women and not belittling them when they feel threatened. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving help or with being gentlemen-like, but it shouldn’t be done in a way to make women feel lesser or dis-empowered. 

It is very easy to provide help to women without making micro-aggressive comments. My coworker could have easily asked if I needed help without snatching plates out of my hand or making his comment.

If he had asked if I needed help, I would have politely turned it down because I was effectively doing my job without a need for additional assistance. It really upset me that someone would jump to the conclusion that I need help because I’m a woman.

It is important to make everyone, regardless of their gender, feel as though they are valued. A big step toward doing this is by trusting women’s efforts and offering to help instead of  assuming they need help.

I never want to feel as though my gender is a limitation to what I can do, who I can be or what I can accomplish. 

Whether it is running a business, making political decisions, or even something as trivial as cleaning a work space, men and women should show respect and not step in when their “help” is unwanted and unnecessary.