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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.



A Response to Misogyny

This is not related to the house, but rather I need to get your opinion. I need to figure out an appropriate response to men who address me as “Sweetheart.”

I am neither referring to the man who is married to me nor the men to whom I am related. But rather, complete strangers who see me and think it’s acceptable to address me as if we were familiar.

Today, while taking a 1986 F-250 formerly dark green now green/brown/rust beater truck to the emissions testing place for work, one of the technicians addressed me as “Sweetie.” Taking the district’s lightweight vehicles for their annual emissions test has recently become one of my tasks. As such, I’ve become familiar to the folks at the facility and it’s become my garage away from the garage. They’ve hired on some new techs, one of whom thought my name was “Sweetie.” Turns out, New Tech couldn’t test the truck because he couldn’t read the VIN. Never mind that it was visible on the door pillar and under the hood. It was too dirty on the dash plate so he sent me away with a form explaining why he couldn’t do it. Not, however, before he had his manager sign off on the sheet.

His manager, like me, is one of those weird lady mechanics. I casually noted that she had new staff and then added that maybe New Tech should refrain in future from addressing their female customers as “Sweetie.” She took heed and I went on my way.

I’m glad that I could directly and effectively address this particular situation but unfortunately it’s not the first time I’ve felt belittled and insulted when strangers use familiar terms with me. It happened when I worked the library. It has happened at the garage, although not with any of my immediate co-workers. Occasionally some of the vendors who do business with us and who can see my name clearly written on my uniform have done so as well.

In Georgia, I was willing to overlook it because of the fact that everyone is “Darlin’. ” Since I no longer live in the South I won’t accept that as an explanation. I refuse to dismiss it based on the man in question’s age. Being over 80 is the only age bracket where I can see people having different opinions based on their generational exposure. Since none of the people who have put me in this situation are octogenarians then these working professionals should know better.

I’m considering using one of the following terms as a verbal riposte:

  • beefcake
  • bro or broskie
  • shnookums

Do tell. What should be my new word?

Dear 2011: Where is my flying car and my robo maid?

It’s kind of crazy, but we’re living in the future.

We have robot vacuum cleaners and the conversation continues about improving an automobile’s fuel economy. But there are some instances where we might as well still live in 1951.

Like cooking.

Why do we tell men they can’t cook?

It’s as bad as telling little girls they’re not as smart as boys. And yet, it’s something that we continue to reinforce.

We reinforce it with novelty calendars such as “Porn for Women” that depicts buff and/or scantily clad men doing house work.

Last year Quirk Publishing released a cookbook titled “Recipes Every Man Should Know.” It’s a cookbook intended for the man in the bookstore who may otherwise walk past the cooking section. Never mind that there are plenty of male celebrity chefs and foodies (Jamie Oliver, Alton Brown, Wolfgang Puck, Sam Zien, etc.).

What makes me wonder is this: why do we as a society continue to encourage such sexist expectations?

Just by referring to it as “women’s porn” suggests that it’s illicit or inappropriate for men to cook, clean, or do things around the house. Muscular men without their shirts are titillating, sure. But calling it porn implies that it’s still not something to talk about in polite conversation. A cookbook marketed toward men leads me to believe that there’s something inherently feminine about the cookbooks I’ve collected over the years and that honestly makes me a little uncomfortable.

My pirate husband and I tend to eschew gender roles.

I have an interest in cars, so automotive maintenance in our house is my job. Before we were married, he’s the one who went out and bought a sewing machine because he wanted to patch his own clothes and make costumes for DragonCon in Atlanta.

We both enjoy cooking so it’s only natural that it should be something that we both do.

Growing up, it never occurred to me that it should be one gender or the other’s job to cook. Both my parents cooked. My dad makes a mean stir fry and if there’s a pie in the house, it’s because my dad made it. No one beats my mom’s spaghetti and I can’t eat fast food burgers because her hamburger patties are by far the most succulent slabs of meat you’ve ever encountered.

In eighth grade, my friend Jimmy joined the Future Homemakers of America and he was ridiculed for it. He was teased because he enjoyed to bake. I guess that’s just what you do in the eighth grade, tease someone because they’re brave enough to do something in which you might have a hidden interest. Now, some 13 years later he has his own business, Jimmy Cakes, where he makes specialty cakes for all manner of celebrations.

Plenty of folks put as little stock in gender roles as you’d put in Betty Crocker’s recipe for chicken soup (about 4 cups). But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s 2011 and a person’s abilities continue to be judged based on their sex.

It might be the future soon, but we all still have a fair bit of housework to do.

tags: cooking, gender, sexism