Posts Tagged ‘sexism’


It’s not perfect. There are a couple of essays in here that I wasn’t feeling and the faux-blog format acts to divide it a little too much,

but this is an IMPORTANT book. This is a crucial book. This book starts a number of conversations that need to be had on a massive scale.

My mental energy is currently overtaken by some recent events in my life, but I do plan to discuss this book in depth soon. I’m throwing this post up as a reminder to myself to do that.

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[Scene] Virginia, in uniform. All black polo shirt and dress pants, hair harnessed up in a ponytail like an afterthought. It’s eight-o-clock in Massachusetts morning and she’s readying the outdoor section of the restaurant she works at. Nine metal tables go out on the patio, accompanied by nineteen metal chairs, to be followed by nine sets of sugar caddies (a rainbow of yellow Splenda, blue Equal, pink Sweet-N-Lo, white sugar, and brown Raw Sugar in each), nine pairs of salt and pepper shakers, and a silverware-napkin roll-up per chair. She’s moving slightly slower than usual this morning. Just warming up, mirroring the day.

The tables can be found in a hallway, stacked on top of one another. Not heavy, but slightly precarious, she takes them down, carries them approximately ten feet, and lands them in their home for the day. Five tables and eleven chairs properly placed. She enters the patio carrying the sixth of nine tables. As she lowers this table onto its place, a man is walking by outside the patio. He gives his best stranger grin to the girl and says giddily:

“Shouldn’t a man be doing that?”

A wink.

Dumbfounded and still fuzzybrained with morning, Virginia sputters for a minute and says softly but clearly:


The grin grows quick and steadily. If he’d winked again it surely would have been deeper a wink than the last. She might have been surprised if his entire eye didn’t collapse in upon itself.

Loudly, with a faux-air of being impressed:

“Strong, strong!!”

He whips away with his briefcase and muted-colored button-down shirt off quick as he came towards his stagnant deskjob and she snarls under her breath.

“Fucking barfy boring-shirted idiot.” Why should a man do it when I am perfectly capable. I do this on so many mornings. And furthermore, why was that statement made in such a manner? The man was very clearly using flirtatious techniques. A playful tone of voice, playful facial expressions, winks. He tossed around his short statements as if he were commenting on universal facts we both, we all, knew to be true. Number one: girls are weak. Number two: men are strong. Number three: girls are not as capable as men in terms of lifting heavy and/or precarious objects. Number four: girls, or at least me as a girl, would really prefer it if men just did all the physical labor, because it’s just such an inconvenience for us and we’re/I’m surely better at other things (like maybe sewing).

That’s just the way it is, we all know that and I’m going to joke about it with you because obviously we’ll understand one another and be on the same page.

Heavens, he didn’t mean any harm by it.

Except that everything involved in that exchange was about hierarchy in terms of his power over me. I can do nothing but agree with his statement that a man should clearly be carrying these chairs – my response [“No,” a man shouldn’t be carrying these chairs] was glossed over with sarcasm and ignored as if I hadn’t said anything at all. And by his rules (which are really a reflection of our greater society’s rules), I should both expect and be grateful for his flirtatious advances. Why does he feel it acceptable to wink at me? I do not know this man. Why does a strange man wink at a woman he has never met or seen before? Does he expect her to enjoy it? Grow, learn, or gain from it? This strange man’s wink does not make me feel worthy. His wink does not make me feel sexy or beautiful or smart or whole or empowered. Just the opposite, his wink is very clearly demoting me to the position of someone who can do nothing but accept this advance. Crucially: his wink does not make me feel like an individual. His wink (especially when combined with his patronizing statements) places me in the role of girl. Female. His wink recreates me as an object or idea rather than the whole woman I am with a soul, brains, interests, talents, personality, family, past, et cetera. Very clearly the picture emerges. He is a man, I am a woman, I am lesser and will submit.

Virginia, brain now warm, uses her untiring strength to place the last three tables where they belong. She deftly sets them – sugars, saltpeppers, silver – and waits wearing black in the emerging morning for her first customers to arrive.

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