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?