Years ago, when I first graduated the police academy, I spent a weekend with my 86-year-old grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s. My grandmother, who never can remember the day of the week, the season, or the year, was raving about my new career choice.
“I’m so proud of you,” she told me during lunch. “I tell everyone I know that my granddaughter is a policewoman.”
(My grandmother, by the way, lives with my parents, and does not know or talk to anyone outside of our family.)
For the rest of the afternoon, my grandmother, and her broken-record mind, told me over and over again how proud she was to have a “policewoman” granddaughter.
The next day, she asked me if I had graduated high school.
“Yes, I did,” I told her. “I actually just graduated from the police academy. I’m a police officer now.”
My grandmother gasped loudly, her eyes widened, and she grabbed my arm and said, “But that’s a man’s job!”
While my (forgetful) grandmother has a much different perspective on gender roles than me (which apparently vary greatly, depending on the day), many people share her perspective, whether it be friends, coworkers or regular ol’ tax-paying citizens.
I, at one point, had a similar perspective. I never knew any police officers growing up, much less any lady officers. Law enforcement never occurred to me as a career because I thought cops were bulky, bald white men with no necks, college educations or patience.
And now, while some cops fit that description, I know most don’t. (I have PLENTY of college-educated skinny male coworkers with full heads of hair and plenty of patience, thank you very much.)
And even though it’s 2017, I’ve met plenty of men and women who adamantly believe men are a better fit for policework.
For example, a few weeks ago, a man, who appeared to be in his 40s, approached my patrol car and we had the following conversation:
“I spoke to a female sergeant a month ago and I can’t remember her name. Do you know her?” he asked.
“What does she look like? We have quite a few female sergeants.”
“What?!” The man looked at me in complete disbelief, as if I had just lied to him. “How is that possible?”
I responded by staring at him for about 20 seconds of dumbfounded silence before I finally said, “You know what, I actually have to leave.”
And I got back into my patrol car and drove away, because sometimes, some people are too stupid to chat with, even if they are law-abiding taxpayers.
While it’s annoying to hear this nonsense from a stranger, or even my grandmother, it’s worse when the distrust of female officers comes from within the profession. There aren’t many women in this line of work (less than 12 percent nationwide) so when one of us fucks up, or sleeps with a married coworker, or gets “undeservingly” promoted, that’s what people remember.
I cannot count how many men (in real life and on Twitter) who try and justify their perspective on women in law enforcement to me:
“But most female cops aren’t like you!”
“All the girls at the police academy liked to party so they earned ‘reputations.'”
“The problem with hiring women is that sometimes they get pregnant and can’t work patrol for a year.”
“The females in my academy class could be considered 2s on a good day, and they couldn’t shoot.”
(These, by the way, are verbatim things my male colleagues, whether it be online or in real life, have said to me. Every single one made me want to eyeroll myself into another dimension where I wouldn’t have to explain to other cops that shitty — and ugly — cops come in every gender, race and background.)
But all this gender-politics bullshit is worth it when I’m on a domestic dispute and a 6-year-old girl walks over and tugs my jumpsuit leg and tells me she wants to be a “policewoman” when she grows up, just like me.
Over the past few decades, this profession has made leaps and bounds in how it views and treats female cops. And while policing still has a long way to go, the only way to change it is to show those 6-year-old girls, the forgetful grandmothers, and male cops that yeah, girls can be cops, too.
Because maybe, by the time that 6-year-old enters this profession, things will be easier for her than it is for women now.