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Gender Inequality
by Kerry E.B. Black

As enterprising preteens, my brother and I shoveled neighbors’ driveways every winter to earn a little cash. One winter afternoon, we trudged along, shovels slung over our shoulders, noses and cheeks pinched red by wind and cold. Our feet crinkled in our boots, because our mom made us wear plastic bread bags over our socks to keep dry.

We hunched over heavy piles of accumulated snow, shoulders and backs straining with the effort. We set up a competition. “I’ll get more done than you,” we’d taunt, and the good-natured rivalry helped speed the tasks. In truth, though, our labors pretty much equaled out.

We hurried up the driveway of a widower whose surly reputation preceded him. With some foreboding, I knocked and asked if he needed our services. He narrowed his eyes. Under his scrutiny, I grew conscious of our mismatched outerwear and shabby coats. I squared my shoulders and repeated my question. “Mr. Penney, do you want us to shovel your driveway?”

He pointed his cane at the braids poking from beneath my tassel cap. “You a girl?”

My words puffed out like dragon breaths. “Yes, sir.”

“Well, shovelin’s boy’s work.” He nodded to my brother. “You can clear the snow.” He shoved me in the chest with his cane. “You go home and learn to sew or bake or something.”

I felt as though I’d been slapped. “Sir, my brother and I work together.”

“Go home, girl. I don’t want any of your feminist crap, and don’t you start crying, either.”

Nostrils flaring, blood pumping, I turned homeward. “Let’s go, Chris.”

The old man’s voice quivered. “Pay you double what you’re askin’, son, if you do a good job.”

My brother stayed, and I, indignant and disgusted, huffed home, feeling betrayed and enraged.

IMAGE: The author as a young entrepreneur.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kerry E.B. Black writes from a small suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, the eldest of her siblings and a virtual slave to the responsibilities of parenthood and pet ownership. Follow her on Facebook Facebook and Twitter.