Service of Sisterhood: Does it Exist?

July 22nd, 2021

Categories: Customer Service, Friends, Friendship, Retail, Sisterhood, Wine, Women

Image by Jacquelynne Kosmicki from Pixabay

Drives me nuts when women don’t treat women as well as they do men. Fortunately I don’t notice it that often in restaurants and stores. I last wrote about a particularly irritating instance in 2015 in “Service of Sales Promotions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” In my example of “ugly” a young woman attended to a man when a woman was next in line.

I write today about one of my favorite places, Trader Joe’s Manhattan wine store. I’ve consistently been nicely treated there which may be why this occurrence annoyed–and disappointed–me.

Here’s what happened.

The scene: An employee is posted at the exit. His/her job is to take from customers the empty little red TJ marketing carts.

Last Saturday the middle aged woman at this post left it and raced, all smiles and hearty greeting, past several cash registers to the farthest cashier from the door to relieve a handsome white haired man of his store cart. He was also encumbered with a personal shopping cart. I was at the register nearest her and had the same two carts to juggle. She didn’t budge to take mine from me and she hissed, “thank you misssss,” when I handed it to her. [I haven’t been called miss for decades and haven’t heard anyone use the term either.]

After a dozen years at an all-girls school and at least the same number at a woman’s industry association I have no rose colored glasses where women treating women respectfully or helpfully is concerned: Some do; many don’t. In my experience the sisterhood word is a figment of a creative or wishful marketing person’s imagination.

That said, I’ve always been blessed with a wonderful number of supportive, dear, beautiful women friends–men friends too. I enjoyed mentoring both men and women and representing men and women in business.

Have you noticed when women end up on the cutting room floor in retail or restaurant situations that another woman is wielding the scissors or is my experience/observation a one-off? When organizations of women refer to “sisterhood,” or sisterly relationships among their constituents, is there something to it or is it fiction?

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19 Responses to “Service of Sisterhood: Does it Exist?”

  1. MarthaTakayama Said:

    Regrettably I can only confirm all your sentiments about sisterhood or it’s mythological existence. My most recent example is what took place in my household 2 days ago. The Director of a supposed service-based Senior Life organisation in my town who had been less than forthcoming about housing options failed to give my husband and me essential information even though I politely requested it multiple times during a tour. She gushingly responded to my husband’s phone request for the same information and emailed it to him immediately! This is just one of thousands of similar experiences I have had that are too annoying and depressing to recount. However, I must note that many of them were part and parcel of job interviews!

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    Thanks for sharing! You have a very good eye for human behavior… In seven decades, I can’t remember having observed any movement pro or con with male and female in retail situations. Just employees with chips on their shoulder in general! Thanks for making me think!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    The situation you describe is frightening and far more significant than the brushoff by an ignorant woman at a store.

    I wrote a few years ago about a student I mentored who had a foreign name. American human resources staff/future employers couldn’t tell by looking at her resume whether she was male or female. At the time I conducted a casual survey of mentors on my team and others to ask if she should make obvious that she was female. A human resources person who answered my question admitted that if there were resumes from equally qualified job candidates, one a man, one a woman, the man would get the interview. She suggested we keep the resume gender free. Some responses went into the illegality of favoring candidates because of their sex but we can be pretty sure that, like sisterhood, is only talk.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    There are employees who make shopping or dining a pleasure and others whose bad mood infiltrates a place. I am hoping that the prejudice by some women against women is in my mind and not real, although Martha’s example above unfortunately proves my point.

  5. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: I often have experienced that in restaurants…shameful!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Nancie,

    For years we went to a restaurant and were very well treated. I invited a friend there to celebrate her birthday. She arrived first. They’d seated her in the worst place. More to the story that went downhill from there…. but the upshot: we never returned.

  7. lucrezia Said:

    It’s possible a dislike for shopping and attempts to make such excursions as infrequent as possible, that I don’t run into the surly folk as described above. When needed, both sexes have bent backwards to help…..so far!

    I was very unhappy during five long years in a girls school, seeing myself as trapped in an unrealistic therefore toxic atmosphere, so no sisterhood for me…..Ever!

    There must be successful sisterhoods, but they aren’t for everyone. This little lady enjoys variety, so it’s not “Me too” but “Men too” which best suits!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I wonder what happened to a concept in the land decades ago when I was an Air Force wife. We were asked to donate to the construction of a building in Texas where Air Force widows could live. The literature boasted that women would be safe in the building as men would be forbidden above the ground floor. We all thought that this was a terrible idea.

    I actually liked the all girls school while I was there but I didn’t know anything else. I liked going to a coed college where I made my first men friends. Before men/boys were dates.

    I suspect people are nice to you wherever you go because perhaps they are simply more pleasant and less angry in the suburbs. Or maybe you’re lucky.

  9. Kathleen Said:

    Definitely notice that women get the worst seat. Many years ago we arrived early, the first diners, for a reservation in Santa Fe, NM. Our cousin expected this based on her experience since when she had become a widow. We were placed in the back next to the kitchen She asked for a better seat and they moved to the front – no other diner was there yet.

  10. ASK Said:

    People need to stop thinking that all women all think alike. We don’t. There are women who are just as competitive as men. There are women who can be nasty to both men and women. And there are women who will always defer to or treat men better than they do each other. One size does not fit all. Sisterhood is a politically correct term; yes, it can exist, but sometimes it does not.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Kathleen,

    I have many examples of such treatment as does Nancie who reported this situation in a comment above. It’s sad and depressing.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    I did not mean to give that impression or to speak for all women or to imply that all women think and act alike. Thank goodness this isn’t the case. However I criticize women who blatantly favor men over women and resent them, especially if I am the target of their prejudice.

  13. Charlotte Tomic Said:

    Charlotte on Facebook: It’s a subtle bias linked to jealousy usually about looks. That’s what I think. But women should recognize it. It’s not cool.

  14. jmbyington Said:

    Charlotte,

    Between strangers, yes, in an age old competition for a man.

  15. Charlotte Tomic Said:

    Charlotte on Facebook: Yes!

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Charlotte,

    Professionally there are other competition-related issues.

  17. Charlotte Tomic Said:

    Charlotte on Facebook: Yes that’s true too.

  18. Deb Wright Said:

    In my years as a teacher, I noticed my bosses (the principals and assistant principals–men–) generally speaking were easier to work with than women. I felt the men respected me as an educator, a compassionate person, and a hard worker who would go above and beyond.

    When we got a woman principal, she had been a math teacher. She did not understand language arts; she was too busy climbing the career ladder and above all, did not want to challenge some of the ridiculous “Best Practices” that the curriculum people were pushing. So there was no point talking to her about education. Generally, she left me alone.

    However, one of the new assistant principals was a young woman. She was a cold and calculating person. A friend of mine who had been raising her granddaughter from babyhood on asked me what team would be the best fit for the child who was entering 6th grade. I went to see “Kim” and explained why it would be a wise decision to place the child with a certain team. She looked at me as if I had just crawled out of a sewer and said it was district policy not to honor parental requests. So, the answer was no. The last couple of years that I taught there was another young woman who became an assistant principal. She was assigned to spy on me or she took it on herself. I would be quietly grading some essays in the library and she wanted to see what I was doing and if it strayed from standard practices.

    One reason I retired at sixty was the stress from women like these. As I said, the men had enough sense to realize that the parents liked me and the test scores were good and they themselves were clueless about language arts curriculum. They knew they did not have to visit my classroom to check on me.

    Sisterhood among friends? Absolutely. At 73, the unhealthy friendships are gone.

  19. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Deb,

    Gut punch! What a loss for the students you didn’t teach because you retired early and how sad you had to fight to do your job under such despicable bosses. Gives me the shivers that they were permitted to act unchecked as they did. I was once verbally attacked by a client in front of her committee members none of whom came to my defense even though they knew her claims were false. Later one said with a shrug, “She can be that way–we all know it. Don’t take it seriously.” I was shaken by what she said, her tone, anger and the experience. Later she tried to pull me in on an accusation against another person and I refused to play or answer. There are people who keep their jobs regardless of their behavior. One wonders.

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