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……