Real Life Conversation: Misogyny

In the car on the way home from work last Friday a real life conversation happened and half way through I was already crafting the blog post in my mind.

Kamel: You know, something interesting happened to me today. I saw my first ever Tesla with a woman driver!

Lauren: Oh fun!

Kamel: And… I have to admit something. My first impression of it was totally not good.

Lauren: …. why?

Kamel: Well… my first thought was that she was driving her husbands car. It’s AWFUL! I know! Why is that my first thought? Isn’t that bullshit? It’s just so pervasive and part of this weird gender thing that happens in society! But, I mean, there is no reason why that could not be her car. She looked professional and everything!

Lauren: It IS pervasive! It is everywhere! I definitely have my own assumptions on what “Soccer mom” cars look like and stuff.

Kamel: But really expensive cars I always assume a male owner/driver. Except for the Porsche Cayenne.

Lauren: Because that is totally the stay-at-home-mom-mobile!

Kamel: EXACTLY! And if I saw a man driving it I’d think…

Lauren: … oh, his car is in the shop. And his wife must be soooo annoyed.

Kamel: YES!

Lauren: Yeah, this is really fucked up.

Kamel: It is.

 

**Do you have secret gender norm ideas? What do you default to?

12 thoughts on “Real Life Conversation: Misogyny”

  1. I used to think that if the car in front of me was going to slow it had to be a woman driving. Most of the time I was wrong. I was able to get rid of that way of thinking. My generation, baby boomers, grew up listening and learning all this discriminatory attitudes and even more so in old Mexico. Sad that it is still present there, big time.

  2. not at all…. these are first impressions, but your conversation showed for you to be smart, thinking people.

    saludos!

  3. I think these unfiltered reactions are so, so important to confront and discuss, so I love that Kamel brought that up and that you shared it here. I am only recently starting to confront these ugly ideas in myself. The other day, my husband was telling me that story about the employee who donated her kidney to her boss and then got fired by that same boss for needing time off of work to recover. My seething reaction? “That is a bad, bad man.” Well, it turns out the boss is a woman, and how messed up is it that I assumed it was a man, not just based on the power dynamic, but also on the asshole-ish behavior? I have several, much more shameful examples that made me aware of my own secret biases.

    While I think public acknowledgment is super important to help others recognize such biases in themselves, and then work to break them down, I admit that I don’t always know the best way to discuss such latent prejudice, especially when it has the potential to have a more harmful outcome than the example in this post. For example, I generally feel comfortable talking about instances where I, as a woman, catch myself entertaining sexist or misogynistic thoughts, but I am reluctant to discuss instances in which I have been racist. Setting aside the shame I feel about those instances, I get the feeling that, it many circumstances, it would do more harm than good.

    For example, did you ever read that essay on XOJane by the woman who came face to face with all her privilege as a thin, white person when she took a yoga class with a black woman? She got a ton of negative backlash for centering an important conversation about race on her own feelings as a white person confronting bias, and that’s something to be wary of.

    I also don’t want to make people re-live negative experiences they’ve had with racism. Like, it was really painful for me to read all horrible things that CEO admitted she did to women with children before she had kids (article here: http://fortune.com/2015/03/03/female-company-president-im-sorry-to-all-the-mothers-i-used-to-work-with/), because I know people still do those things to me, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m glad she’s educating people, but as a member of the oppressed group in that circumstance, it sucked to read. I definitely don’t want to do that to other people.

    I’d be interested in thoughts from others regarding when such observations are useful, or worth causing discomfort.

    1. Thank you SO much for your thoughtful response.

      I think there is a lot of difficulty in discussing race because there is a lot of anger involved. There is anger from the privileged people that think that other groups are getting a free pass based on the color of their skin, and there is a lot of anger from people of color about the injustices they have experienced so it’s so easy to let the root of anger/prejudice change the tone of any well meaning conversation.

      I’m white. (Hi! White person here!) I find it incredibly uncomfortable to discuss any race-fueled assumptions I make even privately. I definitely don’t think it is useful for me to always talk about the little ways that I challenge myself and work to fight against the race fueled moments that pepper my way of thinking sometimes.

      But at the same time I’m hoping that our generation (vs our parents) will be more capable to have those conversations in a way that isn’t so angry or finger pointing. Outrage has its place and usefulness. Outrage is powerful and can be an excellent tool for positive change. But people are human, people make mistakes, people are brought up in ignorance, people are kept there by their own choosing and by society because it is easier that way. I think kindness is underrated. More kindness, more respect, more listening, that would be such a step in the right direction.

      I read that article about the woman who had all of these assumptions about her own gender and it made me soooo angry. It also seemed very brave for her to admit all of these faults. That’s hard. But like you, it made me angry because these thoughts and ideas are so prevalent and so harmful professionally and even though this woman sees the errors of her ways, others don’t. And her actions had ripple effects.

      I think recognizing moments within ourselves where we have an immediate thought and then are able to say “omg, why did I think that?” can be so powerful.

  4. The one think of a lot is about dads with kids… “how great that he takes the time to play with them” or “what a great dad to take his kid to the park”. You know, that sort of thing. Just last night a friend posted a video on Facebook about her husband bonding with her kid and gushing about how great he is. I NEVER see similar videos from my guy friends about how great their wives are as moms. I think it is the same sort of reaction that Kamel had. Women are expected to be good care givers and their actions are often over looked. Or, even worse, are criticized when they aren’t and don’t want to be.

    1. I’ve had this also, and tried to self-correct. But sometimes it backfires. For instance, I was telling my father that I saw a man on the train with a baby on his front and a toddler holding his hand, and he was carrying a briefcase and two bookbags and assorted other things, and I was like, “Wow, that guy must be having a really hard time. He is juggling A LOT right now. What a dad!” and then I instantly was like, “God, Kristin, would you say that about a woman who was juggling all of that? No, no you would not. This guy is not doing anything special. He is just being a dad. Lay off.” And after I told my father that story, he pointed out, “Um, maybe you should see any parent in that situation and think that they are doing a lot. Because they are, regardless of their gender.”

  5. We had a Dean of the University called Kim – and a lot of people assumed the person was a man before they saw her photo. It’s a powerful position and even women defaulted to that assumption.

    I find I still do the car generalisations – if there’s someone driving recklessly – weaving in and out of lanes on the freeway to get just that one spot in front – yeah I always assume that’s a male driver. I’ve been finding myself really thinking hard about how I talk about masculinity around Dear Boy. Someone at his childcare centre is telling him at the moment that “big boys don’t need dummies” (pacifiers) and there’s this idea implicit in that, that boys shouldn’t want comfort or need help, etc. Now he’s in a room with much bigger boys I’m also seeing how their socially acquired ‘masculinity’ and hormonal realities are creating this sense of ‘boys being boys’ in the room. It drives me nuts.

  6. As I shop for baby clothes i think would be fun or appropriate regardless of if Hops turns out to be a boy or a girl I am embarrassed by how few girls clothes I think would work either way.

    Trucks? Fine. Dinos? Sure! Space stuff? You bet that my girls going to be in space stuff!! But then when you flip it, ballerinas? Flowers? Even just the color pink? That feels way more like I’m just forcing my could-be-boy into girls clothes to make a statement. It embarrasses me that I see boys clothes as unisex but girl clothes as girl clothes.

    1. The way I battled this in my own life was strategically buying pink things for gabe. Ok, so I didn’t put him in dresses, but he had several pink pacifiers (which were SO CUTE and my favorites!) and he had several pink bibs that came in multi colored packs (also some of my favorite photos of him during the drooly days are him toddling around in a baby pink bib) and we have a peptobismal pink booster seat right now. Because I want him to see colors, I don’t want him to see “That is a girl thing and that is a boy thing” I also find boys clothing SO BORING. OMG.

      I was window shopping for Fae last weekend at nordstrom. And oogling over rompers and ruffle butts and summer dresses. And on one side of the wall were girls things: Color! Animals! Patterns! Textures! on the other side boys: Blue, Green, Black, Grey and STRIPES. That was IT. Wow.

      Whenever I can I buy the bright option for Gabe. Yellow and red and purple and neon. If he becomes an 8 year old who loves Blue and trucks, great. But that will be because he likes those things, not because that’s all he had to work with as a toddler or that’s all he was exposed to.

      We do the best we can. The kid clothes battle is real though. I FEEL YOU.

  7. Timely clothing discussion! I *just* bought my 2.5 year old son a t-shirt that’s a girl’s shirt, complete with glitter. It’s got Jesse (a cowgirl) and her horse from Toy Story, and he *looooves* them. He was beaming when I showed him the shirt, but I’m definitely anxious about him wearing it in our Midwestern suburb which has a recent history of bad reactions to boys wearing nonconforming clothes. We’ll see…

    I ran against some gendered crap running errands recently, and was curious for other perspectives: I made a quick stop at a local grocery store, and overheard a (male) worker joking about rape with a (female) coworker who was maybe 10 feet away. (Specifically, he said that he “wouldn’t mind being raped if he got paid for it.”) I confirmed with my husband that he’d heard the same thing, contacted the store manager & eventually resolved things. A few days later I was buying socks (pink) for my daughter at a different store, and the male cashier made a remark about he hoped they weren’t for my son (who was with me at the time). I didn’t respond that time, in part because I don’t have it in me to respond to every example of that that I run across. But! If they had been for my son, I would have said something. Or maybe if I hadn’t just dealt with the rape joke at the grocery store, I would’ve? So I’m curious how other people decide when to respond to this kind of casual sexism. Related to the article you posted on Facebook, Lauren, I feel like my husband (who is generally great about gender stuff, and is actually rocking a manicure our daughter gave him at work now) thinks I’m on the overreacting side of things. Where I feel like I let too much slide.

    1. I am really interested in this question of when to respond to casual bigotry or statements I disagree with and when to let things slide. The hardest instances for me are when things are said in a tone where it’s clear the speaker thinks that their opinion is a fact of life that everyone shares. If someone confronted me with some strident statement I would be fine confronting them right back. I find it really hard to take a congenial tone and turn it into a “actually, I really disagree with you” kind of conversation. BUT! In that kind of hey-everyone’s-with-me-haha situation, as a bystander you are in a way complicit in their statement, like by not disagreeing you have implicitly agreed. And I hate that! I usually settle for a kind of mumbly, “Well, that’s not always the case…”-type response. I would love other people’s examples of how to gently and respectfully speak up in those situations. Like, what are the exact words you use? I am so curious and I think I need better models.

      1. My go-to is to play dumb. “Yes they are for him, why?” blank stare. No sarcasm. It forces them to acknowledge and actually voice their prejudices. I used to do this all of the time when people would use “gay” in a derogation way. “Oh! Good for them! Are they dating someone?”

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