I am a gloom cookie, a mistress of the dark, a “goth” as the norms call us. I wear black clothes, color my hair, and sport elaborate makeup. I’ve worked for employers that don’t care what I wear and ones that have dress codes that make me alter or tone down my look, but at the core I am still me and I will be me whether they like it or not. Those of us who live alternative lives… whether you be a goth, lolita, punk, gay, or have an uncommon religion, are different. We see things differently. We process things differently and have different answers to mainstream questions. Some of us hide or disguise our differences so that we can have a simpler life, but in the end, we are different and you have to be a pretty good magician to hide it at all times, even in the workplace.
I don’t have to tell you that the “norm” perception of us is bad. Apparently we are evil, devil worshiping, spell casting, curse making, sexually perverse, murderous fiends who will stop at nothing to “turn” them (fill in the blank- goth, gay, evil) . God forbid you fall into two or three of these different alternative categories. To them, a gay male, goth, pagan, has one intent: To corrupt their way of life and turn their sons into flaming voodoo priests! I’m not going to tackle how we change that impression in this post… that is so much bigger than ourselves. However, given that the impression of the general public is this, do we have to work harder in the workplace to prove our usefulness? To earn respect, do we have to be better, faster, and sharper than the “norms”?
I think we do. Because not only do they think we are “weird”, they also believe that we spend our work hours thinking “weird” things. It doesn’t matter that your cube mate is obsessed with her pet tabby cat and has pictures of the feline plastering her side of the cube wearing sweater sets. No, that is an acceptable hobby. Yet if we mention just once about a concert, book, or a movie we like, they instantly place us in the antagonist position. I can hear the conversations by the water cooler. “Omg… she said she just LOVES the Saw movies. What do you think her house looks like? Do you think she has meat hooks and table saws? Do you think she’s going to kill us all?”
Something that goes along with their perception of us is that we are lazy or try to get out of work. You know, because we need time to plot our destruction of their lives. Do you feel like, as a goth in the workplace, you are treated unfairly or held to a higher standard? Or perhaps judged more harshly because of your outward appearance or special interests? Do you find that you have to work harder for respect when your “norm” co-worker is constantly late and plays Farmville on Facebook all day but earns kudos easily? Do you think the way you dress or things you enjoy on your off-time hinder you from getting raises, promotions, or special incentives?
I once worked for a company where I was the token goth. I was the person they liked to put on the forefront to show others how diverse they were, but even known as the diversity proof, the stereotypes didn’t end. The fact is, unless you are willing to abandon your look or personality completely, you will be discriminated against. Until our general populace starts to really accept people’s differences in truth- not just in word, we will have to continue to wear down the prejudices that plague people of our kind.
I’ve worked with people who thought my dress code had something to do with my religion and they were shocked when I handed out holiday candy. Hum… do all Catholics wear pink? Not really… so why would all people who wear black be Satanists? It’s a color people! Just saying. A lot of these stereotypes are not even logical.
I’ve been blamed for bad business deals because I like the number thirteen and good friends (or not so good friends it turns out) have accused me of putting curses on them. I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to plot against you. If I had the ability to cast voodoo magic, I would definitely use that power to improve MY situation in life… not bring yours down. Here’s an interesting thought: If the majority of norm public doesn’t believe magic or spell casting is real, why do they assume we can wield it against them?
I’ve worked for good people too. Ones that understood or at least try to allow for my way of life, but these are not common. Why? What’s going to happen if you get close to a goth? I have to admit, there is a slim chance of getting black eyeliner on you, but beyond that, we are good people. Sure, there are the bad apples, just like any set of people, but for the most part we are kind, imaginative, interesting people and you are missing out on some terrific friendships.
I pride myself on being good at my job. No matter what the task is, I take time management and execution very seriously. I am a perfectionist and list maker and I rarely slack off. I work hard and I expect to be treated kindly and respected by my co-workers and managers. For these reasons, I have been able to earn respect at several companies by showing what I can do, but it wasn’t easy. If I was the cookie cutter worker, would I have more opportunity for advancement sooner? Who knows. It feels like it. Being a goth in the workplace almost feels like being on probation from day one. Guilty until proven innocent.
Because we are constantly trying to break down the stereotypes and work harder to prove we are not flakes or idiots, do alternative lifestyle people in the mainstream workforce have more stress in their lives? Do you find yourself getting sick more than others do or feeling exhausted at keeping up the charade? How long is the life expectancy of a goth in the modern office? I bet that’s one they haven’t tested! Why? Because we may melt in the light of day?
I’ve been very sarcastic in this post, but I really want to know. I’m interested in your view on this subject. How do you feel you are discriminated against in your office? How have you dealt with the hurdles you’ve faced? If you are not a goth, and are scared to get to know us, why? What fears can we break down for you? What makes you so scared?