By Miranda Victoria
It didn’t matter how small I tried to make myself — I was noticed. Walking with my head hanging down, eyes locked on the dirty floor, I could still feel the stares from dozens of men trying to make eye contact. Some smiled at me as I passed, while others peered intently with a caveman hunger.
No, I wasn’t on stage. And no, I wasn’t naked. I was walking from my camp room to the cafeteria to grab breakfast, like I did at 5 a.m. every morning. Dressed in old, unfashionable jeans from high school, a long-sleeved shirt and steel-toed boots two sizes too large, I was getting checked out more than Taylor Swift at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
That’s the perk of being one of the only women in a 3,000-man camp in Northern Alberta.
Before flying to Fort McMurray, I had heard that every girl gains three points on “the scale.” A five becomes an eight; a seven becomes a 10. But in reality, the only thing every guy walking past you is sizing up, is whether you are a zero or a one; a day-one of rotation or day-14; a yes or a no; fuckable or not fuckable.
“Dude, I’d totally fuck that chick right now,” I heard one man yell out from across the hall.
I guess that meant I was a one.
Coming from an average suburb of Vancouver, this attention mortified me. I did not know how to handle it. Sure, I’d get “the look” sometimes while dancing at The Mirage on student nights, but I worked hard for those looks.
In Fort Mac, the only thing I did to get celebrity attention was simply being there. I could be dressed in a parka, dressed in my dad’s old shirt, have dirty hair, wear no makeup, it didn’t matter. I was female and therefore an object to be gawked at.
And there was no way to stop it.
I wasn’t tough like most of the other women up there who could dish back every catcall ever hollered at them. As my cheeks burned and my neck began to sweat, the only defense I had was silence. I would put blinders on, and pretend it wasn’t happening. I would walk straight past every man as if he didn’t exist, and put my headphones in with no music on just to make it look like I couldn’t hear what was being said.
But as disgusted and embarrassed as I was, a part of me began to love it. Me, the nerd from high school, getting checked out by every wealthy — and not to mention, jacked — welder, ironworker and carpenter I saw. Even in the town of Fort McMurray, which was an hour south of our remote camp, and where many gorgeous West Coast women live, I was still at the top.
So, I began to play into it. Yes, I did buy tight jeans to accentuate my ass cheeks, and yes, I did my best to become “one of the boys.” Going to the strip club every Thursday night didn’t faze me, and seriously, only pussies order light beer and single highballs.
I had way too much fun.
But without realizing it, I was completely demoralizing myself as a human being. I was putting more value in what a man thought of my ass than what he thought of my mind. I allowed guys to treat me with disrespect because I thought sex was the same thing as love. I was manipulated, lied to and cheated on, and all because I bought into a storyline that women exist solely to please men.
No, ladies, we don’t.
It took moving back to Vancouver almost a year ago to figure that out. I didn’t even fully recognize what (and who) I had done until I was removed from the scene. While I thought being a “camp 10” was boosting my ego, it was actually destroying it.
And that’s not to say that a whistle or a “where ya ‘longs to, sexy?” (that’s a Newfie joke) aren’t great to hear sometimes.
But being loved and respected for who you really are, not just your body — that makes a real 10.