The Dudettes

The FITTEST dudettes

(Peterpedia: “a dudette: female version of a dude”)

“Who the f**k has put pink paper in the printer?”, I hear one of the guys shouting in the corridor. Loads the cupboard doors bang as he is looking for the normal plain white paper… Loads of cursing..
I duck.. I did not put the pink paper in the printer, but I know who did.. Well, I kinda know.. I also know she got away with the blue paper, too. And with the light-green.

But that was two weeks ago, and none of the technicians was around then. Mats, Zouhair and me were the only men in the office. All the others were out. In Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey. We were the only three men… Three men against the rest of the world. And ‘the rest of the world’, as far as the office was concerned, was female. I mean, what were we supposed to do? Against all those women? They took over the place. They overrun the office. A palace revolution! And those in power wanted “pink”.

Traditionally, we have always been a “real men’s outfit”, since we started with our team, FITTEST, several years ago. FITTEST. “Fast IT and Telecoms Emergency and Support Team”. Pretty sexy, no? We are the ‘special forces’ of the humanitarian organizations. We’re the ‘dudes’ they send in when an emergency occurs, before anyone else is sent in. Or is allowed in. Somalia flooding, Darfur refugee influx, Pakistan earthquake, Tsunami, Iraq war, Hurricane Mitch, Afghanistan war, Angola, .. You name it. We’ve been there, done that.. And not only “been there”, but also “been there before the rest”. We’re the dudes who fly in with equipment to build the basic infrastructure with electricity, communications, IT services, so that other relief workers can do their work. I mean in short, in case you did not get my drift yet: “WE ARE THE DUDES !”

Think of us as razor short hair, safari jackets, bagged tropic trousers, sturdy mountain boots, minimum six feet tall, bronzed by the sun in seven continents, honoury member of frequent flyer schemes on at least ten airlines. And that only in the past three months. You get the picture? That’s us. I mean, “WE ARE THE DUDES. Yeah!”..

And now, these women… Grrr.. These women… This girlie figures, with their high-pitched squeaky voices, platform shoes or tower heels, and their (flap with your hand with a floppy wrist) their, their… delicate manners, manicured nails… We need four of them to lift one of our toolboxes… And we carry two. In each hand that is. Ha! But now, those tiny things… They took over the office. They run the outfit now…

“Can anyone tell me where the FFFF**K I can find plain white paper?”, I hear from the corridor again, “I refuse to print my mission report on f**king pink paper!”. One of the women chuckles: “Pink Rules!”

It was not so long ago when we had no women in the team. As the unit grew, and we moved our base from Kampala to Dubai, we needed more support staff… In came Judith, then Anisa, then Lorraine. Sure, understandable, these were all administrative staff. We could even get used to the idea they did all of our finance and travel. But then Amel joined in, and took over procurement. Bouran came in and she took over the management of logistics and warehousing. And so on. And so on. They moved in swiftly and quietly. They worked long hours, without making a lot of noise, like we, the dudes did. And before we knew it, we had more than twenty of them.

Twenty women. They became the backbone of the office. Brave women, standing up against ‘The Dudes’, twice as tall and three times as wide as them. They looked up, with their finger pointing sky-wards: ‘No, you will NOT get your ticket before you fill in your previous travel expense claim !’. or ‘No, you can not get into the warehouse to take whatever you want. Fill in this request form, and we will get it to you’. Finger sky-wards… Each time, the FITTEST technician would look down at those tiny little things and grunt his teeth “These… women… “ but in the end they would all shrug their shoulders, and .. comply.

It was an interesting process to see these two parts of the team becoming one, as time went by.. The male and the female part. The mountain boots and the high heels. The ‘North Face’ and the ‘Louis Vuitton’s. Not only did we, the dudes, start to print on pink, but the ladies also got us to wear pink FITTEST T-shirts. But the dudettes also started to wear the macho yellow-print-on-dark-blue with just as much pride. Symbolic of the female side of the dudes and the male side of the dudettes joining together..
Not only did Astrid help the guys pack their suitcases when they were late for a flight again, and would Anisa and Lorraine always succeed in putting together a surprise birthday cake, but soon they also joined us on missions. Cecelia in Kinshasa, Larisa and Nadia in Baghdad, Sophie in Banda Aceh and Beirut, Ekram in Khartoum and Damascus.

Cheers to you, the dudettes of the world ! This is an ode to you. Combining being a mother and a wife, with a professional career. Juggling your professional time between all three jobs: two at home, and one at work. My hat off to you. It is much easier being a man in this world, than a woman. It is always much easier to be a dude than a dudette.

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