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Tag Archives: just a thought

Feminist Esprit D’escalier

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I witnessed an act of sexual harassment this evening and I didn’t do a damn thing about it.

We don’t go out to eat very often at nice, sit-down restaurants in large part because my schedule is such that I don’t get off work until after supper time. It’s usually just easier to make something, reheat, or for me to grab something for us on my way home. But we’re working a modified holiday schedule right now and there is a group Mr. Pirate joins for dinner on some Friday nights and the restaurant they had picked was one I hadn’t tried before.

So we packed up some dinner for Elle and went.

This is the part where I say that one of the members of the dining party tends to be something of a lech and a shameless flirt with the waitstaff. Usually, it’s in good humor. Usually, he tends to be polite about it. Always, he says these things in the presence of his wife.

Tonight, while taking drink orders, he said something to our server in such a way that completely soured my dinner and has caused me to seriously reevaluate my continued attendance at these outings.

Server to Lech: “And what will you be having this evening?”

Lech: “Other than you, what is being offered?”

I should have called him out.

I should have apologized to our server for his inappropriate comment.

I should have done any number of things other than sit there, with Elle next to me asleep in her car seat, and neither do nor say anything.

I should have handed the server my feminist membership card and excused myself from the table.

I am ashamed of and disgusted by my failure to act. Because I did not speak up when something needed to be said, I became complicit to his harassment. If Elle’s ability to understand conversations were greater – we’re still working on connecting “Mummm,” sounds to me as Mum – my silence would have communicated to her that his comment was socially acceptable.

It’s not and I want her to know that.

I don’t care if someone harkens from a generation where treating a woman, regardless of her profession, any different from her male co-workers is acceptable. As long as people from my generation neglect to do anything about it, then Elle’s generation will be forced to continue to deal with the bullshit that is sexual harassment.

This is not the tone I wanted for my first post of 2014. In fact, I wanted to return to the blog from my writing hiatus with positive, upbeat zany stories about the juggling act that is being a mom and a mechanic and a wife and a friend and all the other labels that I identify with.

Instead, I used my first two curse words in a public forum.

~*La.

Playing House

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I remember playing house a lot when I was little. Not so much with my friends, but when I played alone.

We had this little miniature cardboard kitchen with a red sink and a window that looked out onto a backyard with a tree. I would prepare brightly-colored plastic meals for my Cabbage Patch kids and would talk to them as if we were a family. I folded and refolded their clothes  — infant onesies leftover from when my sister and I were tiny — and mimicked chores my mom did around the house.

I never imagined what this house actually looked like. Everything revolved around the kitchen though. The doll bunk beds were in the kitchen. We drove to the store in the kitchen. The kitchen was basically the only room in that world of pretend.

Maybe my earliest imaginings about a home are why Mr. Pirate and I do not have a deadline for fixing up the Jade House. Perhaps, I am still not yet sure what this house looks like either.

That’s why I drool a little bit when I read articles in the newspaper like this one about a family who built their dream home with repurposed materials. Their home seems so funky and thought out. They knew what they wanted and they made it happen with hard work and dedication.

Here at the Jade House, we have moments of inspired progress. This winter we worked on the baby’s room in large part because with three weeks left, the baby’s room just needed to happen. The walls are still a little bare, but all the furniture is in place. Or at least, in place until we figure out how this space is going to be used and we end up rearranging to make it better.

There are even fewer rules with your own house than there are with the pretend house of my childhood games. I feel embarrassed at times by the clutter and overall state of work-in-progress-affairs. And then my cousin just randomly stops by and we stand around in the kitchen and talk about books and life in general and it’s all good.

There’s no stress about making our home neat and tidy in that moment. Just laughter and an overall moment of peace.

When you get right down to it, I think that’s the home that I want the Jade House to be. That’s the house I want this little person to grow up in.

~*La!

 

Living Women’s History

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We never made a big deal out of Women’s History Month in grade school.

Black History Month was a chance to learn about men like George Washington Carver and the Tuskegee Airmen and women like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.  And for the longest time that was it. Then in Georgia I interviewed the co-owners of the funeral home that assisted in the preparations for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral as part of our paper’s month-long series on notable black people in our local community. And that made me reassess the way we Americans celebrate our history.

Basically, I think, we ignore it. That is, until it’s convenient to remember because of a mandated month celebrating where we’ve come from.

We overlook your Average Joes — people like H.E. and Evelyn Shelton of Hanley-Shelton funeral home — who left their own little mark on history. We neglect to remember that no matter how insignificant, everyone has a story. Even people whose distinction is that they were the only civilian to die at the Battle of Gettysburg.

So today’s post is a little tribute to all the things that other women have done to let me be who I am. This is my own celebration of Women’s History.

I am, however, also forever grateful to three dynamic, everyday women:

  • My mom, who hasn’t yet given up on me. She instilled in me one-third of my work ethic (Dad’s responsible for one of the other thirds, but that’s another post) and taught me that you can go off on completely random adventures with no more preparation than, “Hey! That looks like fun. Let’s go ride go-karts in our wedding clothes.” She’s also the one who had to personally deal with my rear-first entry into the world which has forever become one of my very best stories for why being stubborn isn’t a bad thing. It’s just part of who I am.
  • My big sister. I fly my nerd flag high and proud because of her. She exposed me to sci-fi and fantasy. To video games and to fencing. My alma mater is her alma mater because by the time she graduated from college, there was nowhere else I wanted to go. She is unbelievably awesome and my idea of a true Wonder Woman.
  • Mlle. Holt, English and French teacher extraordinaire … wherever she is. Her wit and defiance to curriculum conventions provided me with the role model I needed in high school. There was no fence-sitting in Ms. Holt’s class. She encouraged us to have opinions and to defend them. Even if it was only that Romeo was a milquetoast and not actually a character worth dying for. She also always had time for her students which counted for more than she may have ever imagined. Should I ever teach, I want to be my own version of her.

That is all.

~*La!

Editor’s Note and attribution:

soomo publishing also does a really great video on the Declaration of Independence. They’re working on rethinking how materials are presented to students by integrating technology with learning. I think they’re seriously on to something.

RSVP Dad On That Baby Shower

Recently, my male coworkers threw me a baby shower.

It was coupled with our monthly staff meeting so it wasn’t any big to-do. Just cake, pizza, me awkwardly being the center of attention, and then back to work. Baby is still 10 weeks away from go-time, but it is nice knowing that they too want to celebrate this new beginning that Mr. Pirate and I are about to embark on.

When I thanked my supervisor for the shindig he commented that I’ve started a new tradition. From now on, he said, we’ll have baby showers for all of the garage babies. Score one more for gender equality y’all.

As a lady mechanic I work in a male-dominated field. I am beyond fortunate that my fellow co-workers don’t treat me as inferior or less capable. My toolbox is pink, but beyond that, I’m just one of the guys.

The fact that my pregnant self has provoked a new tradition regarding celebrating life events is somewhat bittersweet though. We send around an envelope for weddings, retirements and funerals, but this was the first time that any of them had the opportunity to plan a baby shower. Our female administrative assistant confided later that the guys had no idea where to start or what you actually do at a baby shower. The sad part is compounded by the fact that the youngest garage baby (as in, person born while his or her dad was employed at our garage as a mechanic) is 14 months old and the oldest was married last summer.

As a society we want dads to be involved in their children’s lives.

And yet, there is this tendency to push dads to the sidelines when it comes to birth and babies. Products are marketed largely toward the female consumer. Very few restaurants feature a diaper changing station in the men’s room whereas it is a standard item in public women’s bathrooms.

Common workplace practices even shunt dads to the side. I get 12 weeks of maternity leave. Mr. Pirate gets one. As though one week is enough time for him to get acclimated to the presence of a new person in his life.

It isn’t fair.

Hands down I support gender equality. I want to go back to work after kiddo is born in large part because I want to demonstrate to my son or daughter that they really can be whatever they want to be. Male stylist. Lady plumber. Gentleman nurse. Female president. Gender should not dictate what a person can or cannot do.

But gender equality is not a one-way street. I don’t want to advocate for more professional opportunities for women and tell my husband he doesn’t know a thing about babies. For Pete’s sake — I don’t know a thing about babies.

Caring for infants is not some ingrained, natural part of my wiring exclusive to me being the one incubating this child. There are some things I’m apparently just going to know how to do (like the whole pushing thing), but there are other things — such as changing a tiny 8-ish pound baby’s diaper — I am going to have to practice. The same goes for my mister.

So maybe a good place to start when it comes to encouraging gender equality is to include men in the lives of these new people from the get-go. Invite men to baby showers. Advocate for dads to have actual paternity leave. Even, and maybe this is a little too new-age, treat men as though they are an important part of the family equation instead of pretending that their work is done once the bun is in the oven.

It’s just a thought.
~*La!