Subtle and not so subtle sexism

Posted: January 8, 2014 in Personal, Women's Issues
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I experienced another incident of sexism over the Holidays that I thought I’d share with y’all.

I typically put up Christmas lights every year the day after Thanksgiving. My usual design is white icicle lights across the eaves of the house and then colored lights on the windows and bushes. A funny thing happened this year. My neighbors to the west of me are an elderly couple, the man retired and his poor wife is bedridden with COPD. He is very friendly coming out to talk with us and the other neighbors while he putters around his yard and his garage where he does various hobbies. I was balanced near the top of an 8 foot ladder with a staple gun in one hand and lights in the other behind a corner of the garage where the guy next door couldn’t see me. I heard him say to the neighbor across the street, “Let me go say hello and see what this young man is doing.”. He came around the corner, saw that it was me and not my boyfriend and stopped short, surprised. He recovered nicely and we joked briefly about how we should make our kids put up the lights. He said something about me being “amazing” or “incredible” before he beat a retreat.

I didn’t think anything about it at the time but later it occurred to me what he thought and said to me was pretty sexist. He assumed it was my boyfriend and not me and then he commented on how “exceptional” I am for putting the lights up, which is ridiculous. Why wouldn’t a healthy full grown woman put up her own damn Christmas lights? Because I had a man in my life, he should automatically do it? Actually, I didn’t see any other women on my street doing it but that doesn’t mean they can’t. It just means that the men in their life prefer to do it.

He has a pattern of this behavior. When I first moved in he would take my trash and recycling bins down to the curb for me until he learned I had a boyfriend and then he just stopped. He also used to offer to help me whenever he saw me doing work in the yard and that stopped at the same time too. And then there was the time where I cleaned up the garage and put together a shelving unit…that blew his mind too so he had to comment on just how “capable” I am. These are the kind of subtle and not so subtle things that women notice but men often don’t that wear on us…those things that say, that assume, that I as a woman am incapable of doing pretty basic things.

I’ve never said anything about it to him and I never will. He’s elderly and from a completely different era that expected women to all be June Cleaver, so there is little likelihood of “converting” him to my way of thinking. But it’s annoying. And when you’ve heard stuff like this almost every day, your entire life, it adds up to one big burden that I and all the other women in the U.S. carry (whether they acknowledge it consciously or not). Just because I have a vagina AND can operate a staple gun on a ladder does not mean I am extraordinary. Sigh……

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Comments
  1. I know lots of people who don’t have a vagina and the combination of staple gun + ladder would baffle them (or leave them injured badly). But of course I know where you are coming from. I’m glad I have a man who realises that I LIKE to do things like assemble flat-pack furniture, and is more than happy to let me do it!

    I got that at work the other day, and it annoyed me. I work in a flippin’ warehouse. If I can’t lift an empty pallet to stack it – even well over chest high – what damn good am I in a warehouse? Someone offered to do it for me. Feic off, I love the exercise!

    • drangedinaz says:

      LOL, your work experience reminds of a time I was in Home Depot. I grabbed and tossed a large bag of rock salt that probably weighed 40 lbs or more into my cart. An old guy was walking by and by old I mean he had to be in his 60’s or 70’s. He said, “I was going to help you lift that but you don’t need my help. I’m scared of you!” He thought he was hiiiii-larious! First of all why the hell would I, a woman in my 30’s at the time, need an old man’s help? Second, why would he assume I couldn’t lift 40 lbs? My son is 3 years old and he weighs about that. I lift him about a million times a day. Our days of pretending to be helpless are long gone, thank goodness!

  2. patricia gooding says:

    Time to get real and find somethng real to complain about. We’re all so worried about sexism that we forget there are people starving in the world.

    • DRangedinaz says:

      I think if you read beyond this one post you will find that I talk about poverty and hunger quite a lot. In fact the economy and how that affects the poor in this country and around the world is one in which I spend a good deal of time and attracts visitors from around the world. Here’s just a few times I talk about this particular issue…

      It’s just food
      Belt tightening is all the rage in DC
      Law of Increasing Poverty

      This last one is one of the most, if not the most, visited blog post I have out of a total of 778 I have done over the last 3 years and, lo and behold, it is about hunger.

      In regards to your complaint that sexism is not as much of a problem as hunger, you’re missing something very important. Did you know that 1/2 of all “food insecure” people in America are children. Did you know that 1 in 4 children in America live below the poverty line? Did you know that there is a direct link between poverty, children in poverty and the mother’s economic and social standing in patriarchal societies (regardless of whether she is married or not)? We know this last bit not just from research in the US but from all over the world. There is a direct correlation between the economic and social status of women in a culture to the patterns of poverty and hunger in that culture. Here’s just one example–What does gender have to do with hunger?

      And while the sexism I complained about is subtle and seemingly inconsequential, it is but symptom of a much deeper and more dangerous disease that infects our culture. From a personal viewpoint….I have experienced much more direct and obvious sexism, perpetrated by men and some other women to keep me in my place (some of which I have written about on this blog). Most of these incidents had to do with my chosen profession and were specifically meant to stop me from being perceived as better than male colleagues. Those kinds of actions directly affected and to this day still affect my income and my ability to feed by children. I got derailed in my career choices as a result of sexism and I am much worse off from it.

      Ultimately, no one should be talking about poverty and hunger without addressing the causes and concomitant issues such as the way women are treated in our and every other patriarchal society around the world. So, yeah, I bitch about sexism, even if it seems inconsequential to you because I know in the larger scheme of things it is VERY important.

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