One of the hardest things I’ve constantly dealt with on a nearly daily basis is sexism.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those bra-burning femi-nazis—when someone opens a door for me I thank them. What I’m talking about is the constant belittlement of my intelligence by people who lob me into the same category as every other 20-something dingbat who knows how to tie their shoes but thinks tying a slipknot is something to do with a heavy metal band.
The brunt of this happened to me when I worked at a retail store as an electrical department manager. Daily, people would come in and ask me if I could find someone to help them with their electrical questions. They were sadly disappointed when I stood there in front of them and proudly declared “right here.”
On several occasions, and it was mostly men who did this, the person would say, “I don’t think you’ll know what I’m doing,” and walk away, find another associate, who in turn would call me. Then the associate would bring the person back to me so I could answer his question. This usually led to a lot of tension. I’ve found men don’t like it when a woman knows more about a “man’s work” than they do.
One of the bigger insults I hear (still) is “Wow, you’re really smart for a woman!” It makes me want to say back “Astute observation; you must be an excellent judge of character.”
Still more, once when I was changing a 600-pound roll of 00 gauge copper wire, I had a man try to help me because I was “doing it wrong.” Mind you, I’d done this several times without fail. It’s a very lucky thing I’m never long separated from a pair of good boots because this man’s “help” lead to me nearly having a broken foot.
As the fork truck driver maneuvered the roll of wire into place on the racking, I began to feed the rung from which it hung into the slots, and as the wire roll was being dropped, the man decided I hadn’t properly positioned the rung, removed it and the entire roll scraped down my right shin and landed on my foot. The man promptly turned and blamed me for the whole accident. After the fork truck driver lifted the roll of wire off my foot, I went inside, pulled the splinters out of my shin and found someone else to cut his damned wire.
This is an example of something I like to call “chivalrous chauvinism,” which is basically a polite way of saying “I’m a sexist prick, but it’s okay because I’m just trying to be nice to you or help you.” I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist.
Just the other day I had a gentleman tell me that “persons of the female species prefer expensive things, that’s why it’s a good thing men are stronger so they can tell them ‘no’ without fear of retaliation.” This man gave me and my other coworker a nearly 10-minute dissertation on why women weren’t equal because they weren’t strong enough to take down a man. At the end of this speech, I politely asked him, “Have you ever been hit by girl rugby player?” He was thankfully silenced. My next suggestion was to give him a swift kick in the balls. That’s science’s way of equalizing the world—girls don’t have that disability.
Here we come to the axiom of this piece: If I need your help, I will ask. Furthermore, for the rest of the women out there: Stop thinking you can’t do something because you have the wrong set of genitalia for the common social norm. If I find one more of you ladies out in the world who insists she needs a husband to do certain things, I’m going to give you a very special lesson in Jax Anger’s Women Studies Course 101.
Also, boys, don’t think you can’t do something just because it’s women’s work. Want to take a good guess where my fiance is right now? In the kitchen, doing the dishes and making me a sammich.