Mixed Company

Last summer, Mr. Spit and I had to take the refuse from the front porch rebuilding to the dump. We rented a truck and figured, while we were at it, we would take the neighbours couch, left to molder at the end of their drive way. Mr. Spit went and got the neighbours, to ask about the couch, and they stood around and watched while I carried refuse to the truck. They stood around and watched a woman do the heavy lifting.

You can call me old-fashioned, you can call me unreasonable, you can call me oppressed by gender roles, but I am offended. I’m horrified. I’m disgusted. I looked at the men standing there watching me work, and I was dumbfounded. Astonished. And you call yourself men. The truth is, while I would have welcomed their assistance, I am quite capable of hauling refuse to the truck. I would have said thank you, told them what needed hauling, and carried on helping out. But to stand and watch a woman work? My goodness.

One of the particular features of my childhood is the way women were treated. My father, the uncles, the men in my life had very clear ideas about what happened in the company of women. These men were what you might call red-necks, not particularly educated, working with their hands, and yet.

They don’t discuss things like sex, they don’t insult women, they hold doors open, and never would they have stood around watching a woman do manual labour. They wouldn’t. It would have offended, deeply, who they were. It would not have happened. It is not how real men behave. They hold to a notion of mixed company.

I am, well, I’m shocked when men behave badly around women.

I was at coffee a while back, with Mr. T and another male colleague. After I changed the conversation topic for the third time, I was a bit staggered.

My mother gave me some useful advice many years ago, she told me that if I didn’t want to be a girl who found herself in those sorts of uncomfortable situations, a girl who was considered one of the guys, I shouldn’t act like a guy. Now, I realize that some women aren’t offended by men who discuss strippers in front of you. I am. I am very offended. I am disgusted by men who discuss their sexual partners with anyone. I am particularly repulsed when they discuss them with other women.

It’s rare that this happens to me. I don’t know what I do (and I seem to have male friends, so it can’t be that offensive) but the men of my acquaintance are polite and gentlemanly in my company. They seem to genuinely respect women. They seem to understand limits. After this awful conversation, I posted a status update in Facebook that said something about how astounded I was at what men would discuss in mixed company. A great many women told me not to be shocked. They told me not to be surprised. They seemed to be saying I was out of touch, and that  I should just put up with it. (As I established yesterday, being born 120 years too late, that’s not going to happen. Ever)

It just so happens that I am married to a man who goes and gets the car and picks me up at front entrances when it is raining. I am friends with men who offer me their arm when I totter down steep stairs in silly shoes. When I get into the elevator at work, and I get in with a bunch of older men, I know they will wait for me to get off first. I tend to expect that men will hold doors open for me (and I have held doors open for people behind me. This is simply courtesy).

And I don’t feel oppressed. I don’t see how this oppresses me. I am thankful. I feel appreciated (for what, I don’t know). When Mr. Spit gets wet so I don’t have to, I feel loved.

Which makes me wonder, apart from being born 120 years too late, are any of you offended by men who behave badly?

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14 Responses to Mixed Company

  1. Mom2GCNJ says:

    Mostly when I am offended it is because people are generally rude – regardless of gender. When I have three clearly unhappy children in a long line at the grocery store, and another lane opens and the people, sans unhappy children, who got in line behind me a minute ago rush to get into the newly opened line before I can even think of putting my cart into gear – well I think that is just plain rude and it offends me.

    It makes me feel all the more fortunate that I too am married to a man who fetches the car for me on rainy days. :0)

  2. loribeth says:

    I’m offended by anyone, men or women, who behave badly. It’s not a matter of sexism, it’s just common courtesy. If it were two women standing by the curb watching you struggling with a load of stuff, I would have expected them to come over & help you as well.

    And I’m not particularly comfortable when women discuss highly personal topics among themselves either. Very close friends, maybe. But coworkers or casual acquaintances, no thanks. I don’t need to know that about you. :p

  3. a says:

    I tend to associate with a lot of guys. Some are very respectful and polite. Some are not. Whether or not I get offended depends on who they are and what my relationship with them is. I have some extremely ribald friends, and a discussion of strippers with them would be a source of endless entertainment. I have a pseudo/former/sometimes boss (which creates problems in and of itself) who would feel free to make similar comments to me, and I would get extremely offended. Part of this is the kind of relationship I have with that particular person. Part of it is the kind of person from whom the comment comes. My friends respect me as a person with abilities and brains and a sense of humor. The supervisor sees me as a woman, and to him, women are inferior.

    I grew up in the city, with a very egalitarian attitude between the sexes. I can (and do, when riled) swear like a sailor. I grew up with guys and girls who spoke in the same manner. We think nothing of it. My husband and his friends and my coworkers grew up in small towns. Every time they swear in front of me, they apologize and I laugh. I guess the idea of courtesy appeals, and maturity has moderated the language we all used in our youth.

  4. a says:

    Also, anyone who stands around watching someone else struggle without offering to help is rude.

  5. I expect if I am working and you are capable person (male or female) you should assist as opposed to watching me.

    I thinks stripping is demeaning and degrading job that women do. They sell their bodies for money. I am not judging these women, they have made their choices for whatever reasons. I will judge the men who go see them. Personally if you’re willing to go watch strippers, you believe that it is perfectly OK for you to pay a woman for her body, like a piece of merchandise. There is something wrong with that. In my humble opinion.

  6. debby says:

    I believe that this is not a issue of sex, personally. I think that any person who watches another struggle and does nothing is a rude louse. Period. Man or woman. Do I get offended by men? Sure. But if it were a gaggle of women standing there watching, I’d have been thinking that they were darned ignorant too.

  7. debby says:

    Oh. PS. The thing that makes me annoyed to know end is the casual use of the ‘f word’. I hate that children have to hear it in the McDonalds. Or Chuck E Cheese. Or at the Fourth of July parade. Whatever. It’s just totally uncalled for. That’s my pet peeve.

  8. debby says:

    No end. *blush*

  9. Jamie says:

    It’s common courtesy. It is bad enough that your neighbors just ~watched~ a woman haul their trash to the truck. But especially after offering to do a favor for them? I mean, you could have let their couch sit there until the end of time (which, by the sound of it, it probably would have). Sheesh.

    I know that boys will be boys, but the men where I work have conversations that appall me. Especially considering there could be patients or their families just around the corner. COMMON COURTESY!! That stuff is better discussed at the bar.

  10. Aunt Becky says:

    I’m always horrified when anyone doesn’t offer to help another person. Absolutely.

  11. Stacey says:

    I am one who finds behavior like that pretty ugly. I’ll never forget a few years ago when we had dinner at a restaurant with my sister-in-law and her roommate. We had to wait for a table, and my friend took a seat only to have a man come up a few minutes later and complain that she had taken “his seat” while he’d been in the bathroom. What happened to a man politely offering his seat to a woman? I thought it was incredibly rude!

    Okay, one more example: When I was in college, a guy friend offered to drive my sister and me off-campus to do some laundry (seems polite so far, yes?). On the way out I was carrying a rather heavy laundry basket and was about to drop it when I propped my foot on the bumper of his car to catch the basket on my knee. He never once offered help, and even made a remark about my foot being on his car!

    Obviously you’ve struck a nerve with me here! I definitely looked for a courteous and polite man when seeking a husband. Thank goodness he reminds me that chivalry is not dead. đŸ™‚

  12. Kristin says:

    Sadly, common courtesy is lacking these days. I think like you do.

  13. I’m an equal opportunity offendee, both sexes have the potential to annoy and tee me off for their uncouth manners and boorishness.

  14. Trish says:

    By some things and not others. I’m also married to a gentlemen who drops me at the door and bring the car to me when he can. He takes the trash out and mows the lawn and kills the bugs, too.
    Not that I can’t do any of those things, indeed, I lived alone for 11 years before David.
    But he likes “taking care” of me. And I like being taken care of.
    I also enjoying serving a good meal and being helped down the stairs (because really.. I WILL fall down.)
    I don’t feel oppressed either.
    I guess because we both do these things because we like to, not because we feel like we have to.
    And because the other appreciates it.

    I like it.

    That being said, I’m also not frequently offended by male banter. Sexual topics don’t bother me in the least. I’m probably at least as likely to mention them in passing as well.

    I’m more likely to be offended by the way women often treat each other than by most anything most of the men I know would say.

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