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July 19, 2010 5:40 PM   Subscribe

My Fault, I'm Female

My Fault, I'm Female is a new anonymous blog where women write about the ridiculous, often jaw-dropping things people say to them just because they made the mistake of being female. Surprising levels of hilarity ensue.

From the administrator:

"MFIF (My fault, I'm female) is a blog that shares stories of women who've been made to feel it's their fault that they are female at work, at home, or wherever. Basically it's FML, but with sexist bosses, stone age attitudes, pay gap stories, and plenty of ranting."

My favorite one so far:

Me: (woman with female-sounding voice): Hi, I need to get copies of the tickets I booked for myself and my husband so that I can get frequent flyer miles. Our names are Dr X and Mr Y.
Travel Agent (TA): And who are you?
Me: Well, I’m not Mr Y.
TA (incredulous): Who are you, then?
posted by lunasol (712 comments total) 181 users marked this as a favorite

 
To be fair, she should have said "Doctress" or "Doctratrix."

My favorite story of on the job sexist comments is from my sister. She was waiting tables at a restaurant a few years ago, and one of the dish washers said that she "had an ass like two wooden spoons." I'm still not sure if that's a compliment or an insult, but it is one of those things that's too preposterous to be offensive.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:48 PM on July 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


G: Look, girlie, professional success is not all there is. Go have some kids now while your eggies are there.

I really hope some of these are fake.
posted by Huck500 at 5:49 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


These couldn't possibly sound more contrived.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [17 favorites]


To be fair, she should have said "Doctress" or "Doctratrix."

Gender aside, I'me all for reviving the 'ix' suffix (haha) just because it sounds cool. Enginerix, Secratrix, Programmix, bartendrix, ...it just rolls off the tounge nicely...
posted by jonmc at 5:55 PM on July 19, 2010 [29 favorites]


Don't know what I'm surer of: That comments like this do happen or that that particular exchange is made up. A travel agent is not going to be interested in who is boinking whom and even if they are aren't going to ask the supposed adulteress about it in an "incredulous" voice.
posted by DU at 5:56 PM on July 19, 2010


Is it just me, or is this site crying out for input from Arthur Kade?
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:56 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair, Dr. X kind of sounds like a super villain name.
posted by qvantamon at 5:58 PM on July 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


Wow. Wow.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:59 PM on July 19, 2010


To be fair, Dr. X kind of sounds like a super villain name.

The modern face of female medical professionals in Britain?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:59 PM on July 19, 2010


A travel agent is not going to be interested in who is boinking whom and even if they are aren't going to ask the supposed adulteress about it in an "incredulous" voice.

Are you misreading the situation? She is Dr. LASTNAME, married to Mr. LASTNAME, and was booking their tickets. The representative could not understand that Dr Anybody could be a female.
posted by odinsdream at 6:01 PM on July 19, 2010 [33 favorites]


One of my favourite pilot blogs is Fear of Landing, which contains some well told stories of her experiences with sexism. One of the best is this one from a flight in Spain
The unhappy official looked at me for a long tired moment. He said “I need to speak to the pilot,” in rapid Spanish and then returned his attention to the paperwork in front of him.
“That’s me!” I tried the bright smile again.
He glanced up with a harassed look.“I mean the person who flew the plane.”
She writes very expressively. Also with good humour, I don't honestly know how she's able to laugh at being treated so poorly. The linked story ends well, though.
posted by Nelson at 6:03 PM on July 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


Actually, many of the comments relate similar stories, and they don't read like Life in These United States. I'd skip the blog and read the comments.
posted by Huck500 at 6:04 PM on July 19, 2010


Basically it's FML

So basically, a bunch of stories that seem way too pat and contrived to be real?
posted by dunkadunc at 6:08 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Eh, with the (English speaking) world the size it is, you're going to have countless contrived sounding situations happening pretty much non-stop. If there's an Internet site to recount certain situations then you're going to get a certain amount of stories that are embellished or just plain made up too.

There's no way that this level of sexism isn't still around though.
posted by ODiV at 6:11 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really hope some of these are fake.
posted by Huck500 at 7:49 PM on July 19 [+] [!]

These couldn't possibly sound more contrived.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:53 PM on July 19 [+] [!]

Don't know what I'm surer of: That comments like this do happen or that that particular exchange is made up. A travel agent is not going to be interested in who is boinking whom and even if they are aren't going to ask the supposed adulteress about it in an "incredulous" voice.
posted by DU at 7:56 PM on July 19

So basically, a bunch of stories that seem way too pat and contrived to be real?
posted by dunkadunc at 8:08 PM on July 19


Gee, thanks for the support guys. Nothing makes my day like having female stories of discrimination getting dismissed by men who can't possibly have had the life experiences to judge the lives of women coming forward and bearing witness to the cluelessness and dim-witted entitlement displayed by too many of your gender.
posted by marsha56 at 6:13 PM on July 19, 2010 [372 favorites]


Are you misreading the situation? She is Dr. LASTNAME, married to Mr. LASTNAME, and was booking their tickets. The representative could not understand that Dr Anybody could be a female.

Yes, exactly. So the travel agent though the female voice must be some Other Woman, which is why she was incredulous.

Anyway, the last thing feminism needs is more people doubting it happens so even though I'm skeptical of this particular story I'm going to shut up about it.
posted by DU at 6:14 PM on July 19, 2010


Obviously a legit theme, but some of these are SILLY.

For instance: “I was in a stereo store looking at an iPod dock for my husband’s birthday. I asked the male sales assistant to talk me through the differences between two different models as audio equipment isn’t really my thing. He did so, but right at the end, just as I was about to say I would buy one, he showed me the way the dock folded up to be portable. “It’s easier to pack in baggage, and you’ll be pleased to note, it also makes it easier for you to dust.” I was going to tell him that since I’m the one who goes out to work while my husband works part time from home, it’s normally him that does much of the housework, but instead I just left without buying anything. He lost a good sale, but hey, #MFIF.

Here's a woman who was out alone, buying something to put in her house. How is it not her business how easy it is to keep clean? Should the sales assistant have barked the maintenance information out into the aether instead, that the husband might catch a little on the wind?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:14 PM on July 19, 2010 [17 favorites]


At least one of the women I work with told a story about a phone screen she did where the candidate didn't believe she was an engineer because she was a woman. Needless to say that candidate did not get brought in for an interview...
posted by wildcrdj at 6:16 PM on July 19, 2010


Gee, thanks for the support guys.

Yikes! Notice that I recommended reading the comments, because they seem to be much more authentic stories about the actual sexism that exists in the world...

But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies, ok...
posted by Huck500 at 6:17 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Dr. Mrs. The Monarch
posted by KokuRyu at 6:18 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


A man and his son are driving in a car one day, when they get into a fatal accident. The man is killed instantly. The boy is knocked unconscious, but he is still alive. He is rushed to hospital, and will need immediate surgery. The doctor enters the emergency room, looks at the boy, and says, "I can't operate on this boy, he is my son need to get copies of the tickets I booked for myself and my husband so that I can get frequent flyer miles."
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 6:21 PM on July 19, 2010 [52 favorites]


I believe the preferred term is eggy-wegs. But yes, these seem no less contrived that the Mrs. Savage post the other day about yelling at kids who gave away free lemonade (or whatever her name is supposed to be).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:23 PM on July 19, 2010


I rarely jump in the sexism threads, but I think at least some of the disbelief that marsha56 pointed out may be that the blog is pretty European, and/or U.K.-centric, and the language used and situations described may not sound correct to American readers, male or female.

Also, I'd just like to point out for my own future benefit that turgid dahlia is the male MeFite I always think is female, and desjardins is the female MeFite I always think is male. Whether that persistent confusion colo(u)rs my interactions with either of them is an exercise I leave to you, the reader.
posted by yhbc at 6:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


I really hope some of these are fake.

The anecdotes do sound like they've been rewritten to match the editorial voice, but aside from that they seem not only real but positively mundane. I've heard all these and much, much worse. That so many people believe we live in a wonderfully post-sexist society—where these types of comments are a thing of the past—fills me with both anguish and hilarity.

But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies, ok...

I find this entirely plausible. I could tell you many anecdotes about sexist or otherwise inappropriate comments that doctors/gynos have said to either myself or other female friends, and using the word "eggies" would be the least of it.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [42 favorites]


But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies, ok...

You've never worked with a professional with an obnoxious or twee turn of phrase? Man, I'm jealous. Also, I note that story's from Greece. Maybe that's a literal translation of a word in common usage, although what it would be I couldn't say ("ookidia?")
posted by Countess Elena at 6:25 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are complete and utter assholes in the universe, some, but not all are male. Next
posted by Some1 at 6:25 PM on July 19, 2010


I find the gynecologist story completely plausible too. Goes right along with that question on AskMe where the doctor, informed of the patient's low libido, exclaims, "Well, good thing you're not married!"
posted by ODiV at 6:26 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ah, here it is, it case anyone's interested.
posted by ODiV at 6:31 PM on July 19, 2010


Gender aside, I'me all for reviving the 'ix' suffix (haha) just because it sounds cool. Enginerix, Secratrix, Programmix, bartendrix, ...it just rolls off the tounge nicely...

This was the subject of an ongoing joke between a friend of mine and me a couple years ago. "-ix" is the female ending for "-or" ending nouns (dominator/dominatrix), so naturally we tried to extend that as much as possible into the real world. A fancy elevator became "elevatrix", a lady private investigator became "investigatrix", novelty calculators with garishly jeweled buttons became "calculatrix", and so on.

Elevatrix was the only one that really stuck, and it comes to mind every time I'm in an elevator someplace really swanky.
posted by phunniemee at 6:31 PM on July 19, 2010 [38 favorites]


I have many stories, from work, from dealing with people in professional situations, and from ... just walking down the street.

A couple of weekends ago was the worst - since it's work related I can't say much, but it has to do with me being treated like an idiot, a child and/or a liar.

Hey, it would probably go pretty well on this blog, but my head exploded and I can't type very well.


But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies...


Oh, they absolutely would, because obviously, our tiny lady-brains can't process proper anatomical terms, much less make decisions about our lives and careers.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:32 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


So basically, a bunch of stories that seem way too pat and contrived to be real?


I'm sure it's much easier to believe that women are inventing these stories than that occasionally, the people they encounter say stupidly sexist things.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:33 PM on July 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


To be fair, Dr. X kind of sounds like a super villain name.

Or the travel agent was making the mistake of confusing this Dr. X with the other Dr. X
posted by The Gooch at 6:34 PM on July 19, 2010


Thanks, lunasol.

I do have a small question--why would any woman go to the trouble to make up these stories, though? I mean, they are mostly humiliating to the women involved. And I would second the remark that if you are not a woman, maybe, just maybe, you don't really have any idea how certain people treat them. I'd also note that not all of the assholes in these stories are men, so this isn't just an OMG men suck! exercise.

(but then I've never understood the whole "women get off on hating men" idea, because most women either have male friends/lovers or just have better things to do with their time. Anyway).

So here's mine: when at the age of 16, in the nicest most polite way possible, I asked my 40-yr-old male boss to stop calling me "sweetie/honey/darling" and please just use my name, like he did with the male employees, he turned red and started yelling about feminists and telling me they ruined everything and I couldn't even take a compliment. For about 20 minutes I stood there and watched this dude 20 yrs my senior lose his shit in the stupidest way possible because I had asked him to stop calling me pet names. (not to mention it was skeevy as well as insulting).

Just asking to be treated with the most marginal respect, still, to some people, marks a woman as "uppity." None of these stories sounds unlikely to me.
posted by emjaybee at 6:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [119 favorites]


Well, on second thought, I guess I can imagine Graham Chapman saying eggies, maybe in a Greek gynecologist sketch, so I stand corrected.

But no, I've never spoken to a professional, especially a doctor, who resorted to baby talk. Guess I'm lucky.

"Mr. 500, I need to examine your wee-wee, please pull down your pants..."
posted by Huck500 at 6:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, okay, Some1's cleared it all up for us. Close the thread.

I'm vanilla-pudding-white. If I were to read a site (which surely exists) about POCs venting anonymously on their racist encounters, I would feel sad, ashamed, pensive, and possibly a little skeptical of some of the stories. But what I wouldn't do is sum up My Opinions on the site and post regarding its merits on the whole, why it isn't really important or really representative and also some of the stories are probably not true or didn't happen that way.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:38 PM on July 19, 2010 [69 favorites]


But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies, ok...

I think that story comes from someone living in Greece, so it's entirely possible, in that doctors from "other" cultures don't always adopt the same detached persona as do health care professionals in North America.

These stories seem entirely plausible - for minute there I had a hard time figuring out the Dr. X/Mr. Y story, showing just how far I have to go myself.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:39 PM on July 19, 2010


How is a four day old blog with a handful of anonymous entries in any way relevant to a discussion of sexism?
posted by whiskeyspider at 6:40 PM on July 19, 2010


I propse -atron as a male suffix.

Doctatron, Waitatron, Actatron and so on.
posted by empath at 6:40 PM on July 19, 2010 [15 favorites]


OK here's contrived:

I worked during university for a recruiting company doing general office work. One day we were recruiting for a mid-management position at some white-collar company. We got maybe 50 resumes. I put them all in a pilewith a likely candidates on top to take to the guy who managed this account. He handed them back and told me "Throw out all the women. They just get pregnant and leave."

Years later I am working as the Director of Online Services for a new media company in London. I attend a technology exhibition with my parther, who is a photographer. This is a work excursion for me and he is on a lunch break; we are both in suits. I am interested in the first emerging CMSs on the market, of which a product called Storyville is at that time the most well-known and is also £20,000 per seat.

We approach the stand. I introduce myself, hand over my card, and introduce my partner by name only. I ask extremely relevent questions. I mention that I source CMS solutions for several city governments and QUANGOs. I sound like I know what the fuck I'm talking about and have budget to spend, because I do.

The answer to every single question I ask is delivered to my partner, the photographer. Every. Single. One. He eventually walked away because it was making him uncomfortable, leaving booth babe to smile and tell me "and of course, it has auto-correct spelling for data entry."

Really? Does it come in pink?

That was the day I went open source.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:41 PM on July 19, 2010 [109 favorites]


You'd be surprised at how much sexism can be played off as 'advice.'

At a Mock Trial competition, while playing the defendant, I had a judge inform me that:

1. It was good that our team didn't get any "big ideas" about having female attornies
2. It was also a good call to have a female defendant, because women aren't capable of murder.

Then Aileen Wuornos and I shoved the Equal Protection Clause up his ass.
posted by karminai at 6:43 PM on July 19, 2010 [34 favorites]


How is anything that I decide is irrelevant relevant to a discussion of sexism?
posted by blucevalo at 6:44 PM on July 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies, ok...

I notice that your name is Huck500. I don't want to make assumptions, so I'll ask: Are you a woman? If you're not, then you probably don't have the same experience of being talked down to that many women do, and so yes, it would sound unbelievable.

My experience of being treated like I'm a child by older men makes me personally think that yes, it could happen. It's more ridiculous than a lot of incidents but it's not unbelievable to me at all. That it's a gynecologist doesn't make much difference; women are often talked down to by their doctors. That includes using overly cute or simplified terminology.

I've had to switch doctors more than once because of the doctor's infuriating sexism. These are people that deal with women every day of their lives, so you would think that by now they would have realized that women are adult people, with the same reasoning power on average as men, but no.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:46 PM on July 19, 2010 [13 favorites]


But no, I've never spoken to a professional, especially a doctor, who resorted to baby talk. Guess I'm lucky.

"Mr. 500, I need to examine your wee-wee, please pull down your pants..."


The wee-wee in question is a mighty weapon against baby talk.

It has probably prevented many people from treating your grown-ass self like a four-year-old.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:46 PM on July 19, 2010 [28 favorites]


Yeah, goes both ways. Try being a father.
posted by Increase at 6:51 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I once had a doctor ask me about the last time I "made poopy."
I was 19.

Also, here's an absolutely true story about my former boss (a lawyer):

Clients, a middle aged husband and wife, both medical doctors, recently moved to America from Egypt. Her name (names have been changed to protect the innocent) is Dr. Lady. His name is Dr. Man. They refer to themselves on the phone as Dr. Lady and Dr. Man. Boss decides that having two people named Dr. is too difficult, and request that employees call them Dr. and Mrs. Man. Employees protest, so boss relents and requests that we call her Mrs. Dr. Man.

(I knew there was a reason I quit even in this poopy economy!)
posted by phunniemee at 6:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


But no, I've never spoken to a professional, especially a doctor, who resorted to baby talk. Guess I'm lucky.

Erm, that's kind of the point of the blog, isn't it? Men don't have to deal with some of the stupid shit that is meted out to women on the basis of their womanhood, by men and women alike.

My boss had been talking to one of my gardening clients one day, who told her of this conversation with her (the client's) next-door neighbor:

neighbor: I saw some people in your yard yesterday.

my client: Yes, those were my gardeners.

neighbor: No, they were women!
posted by oneirodynia at 6:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


Well, on second thought, I guess I can imagine Graham Chapman saying eggies, maybe in a Greek gynecologist sketch, so I stand corrected.

Seriously, dude: it's nice that you can imagine a comedian saying these things in a silly sketch, but real live women right here in the thread are telling you that this sort of thing actually matches their lived experience.

A friend of mine was recently treated in such an absurdly patronising way by a male locum GP that she made a complaint to the clinic. I have a story of being insulted during a pap smear that, although I'm totally over it now, makes other women cry when I tell it to them.

Your scepticism is out of place here. As a man, it is not surprising that you have little first-hand experience with the daily sexism that women experience, be it at the doctor's or elsewhere.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [59 favorites]


Smile. Being commanded to smile by a complete stranger.
posted by marimeko at 6:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [144 favorites]


I have returned. I am holding a wooden spoon and still trying to work out if the first comment was an insult or if it was an attempt at a compliment. More later.
posted by adipocere at 6:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [25 favorites]


But no, I've never spoken to a professional, especially a doctor, who resorted to baby talk. Guess I'm lucky.

"Mr. 500, I need to examine your wee-wee, please pull down your pants..."

You may not be aware of the pervasive infantalizing of women that goes on in our society, but it certainly extends to professional relationships. You've probably also never had your doctor tell you that you were a "good boy" for lowering your cholesterol or your accountant tell you you're a "good lad" for handing over indexed reciepts this year instead of a shoebox.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Your scepticism is out of place here. As a man, it is not surprising that you have little first-hand experience with the daily sexism that women experience, be it at the doctor's or elsewhere.

So it seems that skepticism, questioning, qualified support, and apparently the crime of posting while male are unwelcome and met with hostility. Good to know there's an honest dialogue happening.
posted by kafziel at 6:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I would find it amusing that this thread could serve as an example on the MFIF blog, but it's actually really fucking sad.
posted by zerbinetta at 6:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [63 favorites]


Being female had a couple of fringe benefits at my old job:

-No one tried to talk to me about sports or politics.
-Sometimes higher-ups would say really confidential stuff in front of me, like I was a dog or a couch or something, so I got to know secrets.

I bet I'd like being consistently treated like a grownup better, though.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:00 PM on July 19, 2010 [43 favorites]


But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies, ok...

No, really. And worse. If you're unaware of this sort of thing, you may want to go ahead and take the FPP in good faith as an educational tour.
posted by desuetude at 7:01 PM on July 19, 2010 [17 favorites]


My problem is the comparison with FML.
If you want your stories to be taken seriously, you don't even mention FML because a lot of what's on FML is made up for the lulz.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:03 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


kafziel, one of your examples uses the phrase "Stop whining." That is not exactly what I would call questioning. Questioning might be, "Is this a line of work in which the appearance of the employee is key?" I cannot quite detect the question mark in the words "Stop whining."
posted by Countess Elena at 7:03 PM on July 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


It (sexism) is so ingrained in American society that when (during the intermission between my second and third marriages) my son asked me about my love life, and I told him I was dating a United Airlines pilot, he gave me the strangest double-take I've ever seen. It took him a minute, and he was raised in a pretty liberal atmosphere.
posted by pjern at 7:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [17 favorites]


Gee, thanks for the support guys. Nothing makes my day like having female stories of discrimination getting dismissed by men who can't possibly have had the life experiences to judge the lives of women coming forward and bearing witness to the cluelessness and dim-witted entitlement displayed by too many of your gender.

I think they were casting doubt on the authenticity of the events themselves, not on sexism in general. When comparing it to FML, dunkadunc said: So basically, a bunch of stories that seem way too pat and contrived to be real?

I don't think he was questioning that people have a lot of awful, Fuck My Life moments, but just that the site itself seemed inauthentic.

Adding to the doubt, for me at least, is
A) Conversations recreated after the fact usually ring as false to me, because, personally, I can very rarely recall an entire conversation verbatim. Whenever I see a transcribed conversation about, I don't know, bad customer service experiences, for example, the narrator is always ridiculously composed, reasonable, and eloquent. Even if the story itself is true, it comes off as pretty synthetic, or at least skewed.
B) People on the Internet are not to be trusted when they have stories about how stupid other people are behaving. Actually, they're not to be trusted in any situation. I mean, Jessamyn isn't even a real librarian. She just claims to be one because she watches The Breakfast Club a lot. And her real name isn't even Jessamyn. Jazmine.

But I get the frustration, if you thought people were belittling gender discrimination victims, or implying that it doesn't happen, or that sexual harassment is just "women being too emotional" or whatever. That would be shitty. This is more of a negative backlash to pre-fabricated story-blogs than anything.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


*It's Jazmine
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:05 PM on July 19, 2010


hot soup girl wrote: "That so many people believe we live in a wonderfully post-sexist society—where these types of comments are a thing of the past—fills me with both anguish and hilarity."

Don't feel singled out. We do the same thing with race.
posted by wierdo at 7:06 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Smile. Being commanded to smile by a complete stranger.

Oh god yes. All the fucking time. SO infuriating.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:06 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Gender aside, I'me all for reviving the 'ix' suffix (haha) just because it sounds cool. Enginerix, Secratrix, Programmix, bartendrix, ...it just rolls off the tounge nicely...

A few years ago I was doing some research at a prosecutor's office which involved going through their case files. There were a few references in various emails to the "prosecutrix". It so confused me I ended up asking a lawyer friend if it was an actual legal term. It isn't, but it should be.
posted by damonism at 7:06 PM on July 19, 2010


Also, I once had a male gyno talk TO MY CERVIX in baby talk. Yes, while my feet were in the stirrups and the speculum was in me.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:08 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


damonism, that does happen to be an archaic term for the accuser in a rape case. I wouldn't use it for a modern DA.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:09 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


These remind me of the time I called to cancel my xbox live subscription, and after I gave all my information, the operator asked if I was canceling my "boyfriend, husband or son's" account. He went even further to remind me that "someone" had been playing "hard games" like halo 3, and it wasn't just me renting movies.

Normally I am an assertive customer, but I was completely dumbfounded by these comments. You think to yourself, "No one in the real world behaves like this.". Oh, but they do.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:09 PM on July 19, 2010 [53 favorites]


During college I was literally told by a professor that women who go into astronomy become "housewife astronomers" because they can't cut it in the field. In fact, I heard this twice, from two completely different, unrelated sources, both were supposed mentors.

In other words, these don't sound contrived to me at all.

If they sound contrived to you, all that means is that you underestimate the amount of sexist asshats in the world, and should reassess how this privilege has affected your life.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:10 PM on July 19, 2010 [59 favorites]


It's painful to see men on Metafilter read something like this and react with "aw, but everyone has a bad day," as if this has nothing to do with unexamined privilege and has only to do with life being suffering.
posted by hought20 at 7:13 PM on July 19, 2010 [44 favorites]


This is why I support concealed carry laws for firearms, but only by women.
posted by fleacircus at 7:13 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Don't feel singled out. We do the same thing with race.

Definitely. I wonder if oneirodynia's neighbors would drop dead from shock if those gardeners had been white.
posted by karminai at 7:14 PM on July 19, 2010


When my younger sister was looking at colleges, she heard a male professor in the engineering department at the University of Georgia say that he hated having to waste space on female students. He taught undergrads. This was in the early 90s. She did not go there.
posted by rtha at 7:14 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


At an office where my sister worked after graduating from college, she was working late one night. One of the (male) project managers burst into her office and explained he had been looking desperately for over half an hour for someone to type a one paragraph long memo for him.

She asked why he hadn't just typed it himself. He explained that only women can type, because they have smaller fingers.
posted by contessa at 7:15 PM on July 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


Also, I once had a male gyno talk TO MY CERVIX in baby talk. Yes, while my feet were in the stirrups and the speculum was in me.

Were you pregnant at the time? I mean, that would still be really fucking weird, but at least there was an explination. If not, I think your gynocologist may have been a serial killer.

Also: I am neither a woman nor a doctor, so I have never seen a speculum in real life, and I had to do a google image search just to remember what it looked like. However, every time I hear the word "speculum," a sense of icy terror flashes through my mind. I do not know where that reaction came from, or if it is accurate.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:15 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


OH and also, during a programming class at university, the professor decided we would use one class period to work on our very simple program that was due later that week.

Mine was already finished. I decided to read ahead in the book instead.

When he noticed me reading the textbook instead of programming, he said loudly enough for the entire class to hear that if I was having difficulty programming, perhaps I should switch to Social Work instead.
posted by contessa at 7:17 PM on July 19, 2010 [27 favorites]


I do not know where that reaction came from, or if it is accurate.

At the risk of sounding gross....ah fuck it.

It feels like having a car jack stuck in you.
posted by Ouisch at 7:18 PM on July 19, 2010 [64 favorites]


Were you pregnant at the time? I mean, that would still be really fucking weird, but at least there was an explination. If not, I think your gynocologist may have been a serial killer.

Nope. Wasn't pregnant, have never been pregnant. Just a creepy motherfucker.

Speculums aren't so bad once they've turned the heating pad in the drawer on. But I've been the first patient of the day more than once. Nothing quite like icy cold steel in the vag to wake a girl up. Ugh.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:19 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


While you may not be able to remember word for word conversations you have had in the past, some of us do remember every appalling word that was said to us, especially when those words come out of the mouths of trusted professionals.

My last GP, who was a very good doctor and seemed to be a very nice man, wasn't like many of the male doctors I had had before. He listened when I told him about pain, he understood or at least pretended to be sympathetic about insane girlie pain and was very supportive of making sure I got the right kind of treatment. Sadly though, he rapidly became my ex-GP when he discovered that I had had my tubes tied at 21 and responded, "But sweetie, you're so pretty! And smart! What did your boyfriend say? Is he okay with it?"

After I explained that it wasn't a decision that I made with my boyfriend at the time and each new boyfriend has been well aware of my non-fertile nature and if they weren't okay with it then I didn't really want to be with them, he said, "Well....I guess you could always marry an older man who already has kids."

These things you remember. Trust me.
posted by teleri025 at 7:19 PM on July 19, 2010 [48 favorites]


I'm a guy and I've seen a lot of these things happen.

1. Go to store w/female friend- she's shopping for something, talks to sales person, asks questions, all answers are directed at me.
2. At work, my female coworker explains something to a client, who proceeds to repeat the question over and over, I end up taking over, saying the exact same thing, now the client miraculously comprehends.
3. Art scene- several women complain about a situation, are ignored for months on end. A guy (who is not super popular/influential) says the same thing- suddenly everyone must take action!

(I wonder how many guys will now start considering these things as possibilities, now that a man has said it? HEADDESK)
posted by yeloson at 7:19 PM on July 19, 2010 [90 favorites]


It's painful to see men on Metafilter read something like this and react with "aw, but everyone has a bad day," as if this has nothing to do with unexamined privilege and has only to do with life being suffering.

Can we hate it because it's poorly written and a crap blog?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:20 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Men bad









(for reals we are idiots)
posted by Mister_A at 7:20 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


At the risk of sounding gross....ah fuck it.

It feels like having a car jack stuck in you.


That got a lot funnier once I saw your profile picture.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:22 PM on July 19, 2010 [17 favorites]


Speculums aren't so bad once they've turned the heating pad in the drawer on.

Wait...heating pad? In the drawer?

My god what will they think of next. Time for a little chat with my doctor.
posted by Ouisch at 7:22 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


That got a lot funnier once I saw your profile picture.

A picture is worth a thousand car jacks.
posted by Ouisch at 7:23 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think they were casting doubt on the authenticity of the events themselves, not on sexism in general.

And I think several of us are trying to make clear that we buy these stories, verbatim, exactly as reported. There is not a story there I don't buy, because I've experienced some version of it myself or because its so freaking common that I assume every woman in my culture has.

There's not a story there I do not believe. I don't need people to write well to want to hear their stories.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [34 favorites]


My mortgage company is crap, and one year they failed to pay my property taxes out of my escrow account. I called to figure out the problem, and got a customer service agent who was not interested in helping. When I became irritated and asked to speak to the manager on duty, the response I received was "You're getting hysterical and this isn't doing any good. Let me clear this up with your husband."

Yeah, I'm single, and the only person on my account.
posted by amelioration at 7:25 PM on July 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


Don't feel singled out. We do the same thing with race.

Definitely. I wonder if oneirodynia's neighbors would drop dead from shock if those gardeners had been white.


When I said "my boss" and "my client", I meant to imply that I was the gardener in question. And yes, my gardening colleague (at the time) and I are both white women.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:25 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kinda on the flip side here: when I got married, my wife decided not to take my last name, which was fine by me. We'll say she went by Ms. Hampstead, I am Mr. Xoebe.

We would forever get calls from telemarketers and whatnot asking for Mr. Hampstead. I would take great pleasure informing them that Mr. Hampstead was not here, but could I take a message? To which they would invariably reply "*click*".
posted by Xoebe at 7:28 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: still trying to work out if the first comment was an insult or if it was an attempt at a compliment. More later.
posted by meinvt at 7:30 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


My favorite is when I'm interviewing candidates for a job, on a panel with male colleagues, and I'm asking technical questions, but the candidate addresses his answers to the men. Silly old sldownard, thinking folks should answer me to, well, me. As the site says -- MFIF.

FWIW, I read the posts at the site, and I didn't see anything that sounded absurd to the "no wai" degree indicated above. As for verbatim recountings, some things stay with you, even if you'd prefer they didn't.
posted by sldownard at 7:36 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


My grandparents basically didn't see my parents' marriage as valid because my mom didn't take my dad's name. Gah.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:38 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kinda on the flip side here: when I got married, my wife decided not to take my last name, which was fine by me. We'll say she went by Ms. Hampstead, I am Mr. Xoebe.

We would forever get calls from telemarketers and whatnot asking for Mr. Hampstead. I would take great pleasure informing them that Mr. Hampstead was not here, but could I take a message? To which they would invariably reply "*click*".


In my household growing up, my parents had the same naming situation going on (ie, each kept their own name) and we would always delight in telling telemarketers who asked for the wrong Title/Last Name that there was no such person at that number.

... But I just got the joke with what you did. That's pretty awesome. :D
posted by lunasol at 7:39 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've had enough stupid things like this said to me that I have no trouble believing these stories. I would imagine that they are exactly as exaggerated or made up as anything else on the internet. Why would it be otherwise?

For every business that allows its employees to treat their female customers like stupid children, there's another that does not. It makes it easier to decide where to spend my money. And while I rarely tell someone why they didn't get my business, I have no trouble telling someone why they did.

It's also a great intelligence test: the dumber you treat me, the dumber I know you are. Doctors, too.

I'm still not sure what I could have said to my neighbor the other day. I was putting away the lawnmower as he was walking by and he exclaimed "You're not Mexican!"
posted by zinfandel at 7:41 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Here's a particularly bourgeoisie example:

I love wine. I've studied wine. I have a good palate and a broad understanding of most bottles available at restaurants and I know how to pair food with wine.

When my husband and I go out, they hand the wine list to him, he immediately hands it to me. I look over the list. Two reactions, almost universally:

If male, the waiter will ask my husband if he's made a choice, my husband will look at me, I will order the wine, and when wine is served, waiter will hand my husband the cork and sample pour. Who immediately hands it to me. It's like I'm freaking invisible.

Female wait staff seem to pick up on the cue that if I'm the one reading the list, I'm probably the one ordering, and finalizing selection.

Anytime the waiter ignores me like that, I'm the one who pulls out a card at the end of dinner. I have a Julia Roberts moment. "Remember when you refused to wait on me? Big Mistake. HUGE."
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:42 PM on July 19, 2010 [100 favorites]


Egads, I can't take it when I'm at a counter with a female friend who is there to do business and the clerk keeps batting the conversation back to me like I'm the grownup in the situation or whatever. More than once, I've been frustrated to the point of telling the jerkoff to "talk to her, I'm just standing here." More often, I just hang back from the counter altogether.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:46 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm an assistant on an educational documentary about child development, and we have a section on gender. It PAINS me to see these kids being told it's the right answer that girls are ballerinas and boys are fireman.

And then their mom complains about their Princess complex. She's the psychologist we're working with, and says kids just have simplistic view of gender.

We have footage of a 4-year-old girl looking really confused when we used the word "fireman" in front of her and then informing me that there are fight fighters and anyone can do it. Guess who's not making the cut?
posted by ohisee at 7:46 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


Sorry, I can't resist. I do love my MF anonymity, but I just can't resist. I'm a bill collector -- they call me a 'credit advisor' -- but I'm really just a bill collector. That's right, one of those douche bags that calls you and won't tell you his last name, but will tell you that you're quite a few days delinquent on the "holiday loan" that you have with Douche Baggery Bank, Inc. So I guess for the purposes of this post my name is Wash J, call me back day or night at extension 1111 or e-mail me at washj@douchebaggerybank.com. But you know what ... I'm also a doctor. (In my best Alec Baldwin as Blake voice): That's right you fuckin' retards, I'm a doctor. Not the kind that can help anyone, mind you. I'm a PhD doctor. You're correct, I'm a douche bag, failed-academic, PhD, wash-up bill collector, credit advisor, "doctor", and I'm a little bit bitter about my situation right now, but I did come here to say something and I'd like to do that now.

In my normal course of douche bag business, I had the chance to call someone about something-or-other. (Of course, I could get fired for saying any more specific than 'something-or-other'.) And of course, I'm polite. I'm polite with everyone I talk to. I realize nobody likes talking to a douche bag bill collector, so I've developed a strategy to handle people on the phone. I'm polite and considerate and I listen to their problems and issues. I try to be sympathetic to their situations -- especially to be sympathetic to the fact that some poor soul has to talk to me on the phone. But in this particular instance, I wasn't being polite and understanding with a person but rather with voicemail. I was leaving my usual polite, considerate yet every-so-slightly douchey message on someone's voicemail. And I was hoping this person would call me back, just so I could tell my boss that I'd explained the situation. Strangely enough, this person did happen to call me back while I was on the phone with someone else, and I got my own voicemail from this person. It was an exciting time for me! As I begin listening to the message, I'm struck by the fact that this person provides an introduction: 'this is Dr. Blah blah blah calling'. (It was in fact a woman's voice, so this comment is in fact relevant for this particular thread of discussion, promise.) And something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. (But not because the voice was female, I'm not a sexist unless I am unconsciously so and thus have no control over it. I didn't do my PhD in sociology, so I'm really not sure how those things actually work...)

What bothered me about the fancy introduction was the fact that this person was using this title as some sort of currency. As if I'll think to myself, "Oh yes, how could I be so inconsiderate, you're a doctor, of course a bit of special treatment for you. Perhaps I'll dial down my own douchiness because of your credentials." But what I was really thinking was, "your being a doctor doesn't (a) help me identify you, (b) add any additional relevant information to the conversation we must have, or (c) help me identify particular needs or issues you're facing. No, you're really just primating me into doing what you want me to do..." But, as always, I returned the call and did my polite, self-effacing, credit advisor stuff and pretended like the Dr.-introduction never even took place. Did I feel the need to mention to her that I, too, was a Dr., albeit not the kind that can do anyone any good? No, for doing so wouldn't have helped our particular situation along in the least.

So I realize how fun it must be for the Drs out there to have a little chuckle at how course and unwashed the rest of us are. If you can trick an unwashed savage into also betraying their ignorance and (assumed) sexism, you may have something blog-worthy! But I'm thinking that if you're trying to get a copy of tickets from a travel agent, then providing your names in a sort of strange third-person presentation which also includes title such as 'Dr.' and 'Mr.' isn't the most efficient thing to do. It might even cause the sort of confusion that an appropriately timed zinger won't clear up.
posted by Wash Jones at 7:50 PM on July 19, 2010 [19 favorites]


And I think several of us are trying to make clear that we buy these stories, verbatim, exactly as reported. There is not a story there I don't buy, because I've experienced some version of it myself or because its so freaking common that I assume every woman in my culture has.

Yeah, good point. I don't doubt that identical or very similar stories are common, and I don't doubt that things a hundred times worse than this are upsettingly common. I just don't trust anyone that posts on a "What an idiot said to me today" blog.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:52 PM on July 19, 2010


Can I suggest that any man who would like to take this opportunity to explain how hard it is to be a man, and how the law is somehow against them in divorces, or whatever, just to start a thread on that, rather than turn this thread into a referendum on your issues?

There's hints of that peeking in here and there, and it would be nice if one of these threads might actually focus on women.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [28 favorites]


All of these stories sound real - some minor editorial trimming for succinctness and language, sure, but I've heard too many similar stories to doubt them at all.

On the other hand, the service industry complaint blog Not Always Right sets off my bullshit detector fairly frequently.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:57 PM on July 19, 2010


Anytime the waiter ignores me like that, I'm the one who pulls out a card at the end of dinner. I have a Julia Roberts moment. "Remember when you refused to wait on me? Big Mistake. HUGE."

God, I love those stories. My dad had a story about a friend of his. The guy was burned, horribly, over his entire body. He ended up settling with the party responsible, to the tune of a few million. Obviously not a fair trade, of course, but it is what it is.
After he had healed up, he wanted to buy a car for himself and his father. Cadillacs, I think? Some expensive car, where he was going to drop a lot of money. He went into the first dealership, in jeans and a baseball cap and burned all to hell. He waited there for a while, and not one salesman would come near him. So he walked out.
The second place he went to treated him like a human being. He bought the cars, and then went back to the first place, told them about the commission on two luxury cars they'd lost out on, and said, to quote SecretAgentSockPuppet: "Remember when you refused to wait on me? Big Mistake. HUGE."

The story still makes me smile after all these years.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:00 PM on July 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


In 1995, I considered myself lucky to be making $17K a year as an academic advisor. One of our faculty emailed me from France and asked me to purchase (with my own money) a Valentine's gift for his wife because he'd forgotten to do it: "You should spend about $200." He didn't want to ask any of his colleagues, he said, because "having a new girl in the department is going to make everyone's gift shopping easier since you'll be able to do it." At the time, I had a master's degree and was working on my PhD, but this department had no female faculty because they were considered difficult to work with.

Also, I have had an MD refer to my ovaries as "where the eggies live" and to my breasts as "boobies".
posted by catlet at 8:01 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


Pretty sure that would be deleted as a stunt post, AZ. Talking about certain gender stereotyping in this thread (like assumptions made about fathers, if that's one of the examples you're talking about) is on topic enough as long as it's not some sort of sexism one-upmanship.
posted by ODiV at 8:01 PM on July 19, 2010


I just don't trust anyone that posts on a "What an idiot said to me today" blog.

This is a thread for a FPP that is about, solely, a "What an idiot said to me today" blog. We have them, not infrequently. I am hard pressed to remember another FPP about a "What an idiot said to me today" blog where the noteworthy reaction was "Actually, I don't think idiots say things like that."

If I am wrong, I would appreciate some links for my own education so that I can see this thread in its fuller context. If I am not wrong, I am left wondering what's special about this thread on this topic that it should be so statistically unique.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:02 PM on July 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


It tends to derail discussions about how sexism affects women into discussions about how sexism affects men. It may be on topic, but it's a pretty weak thing to do, and it happens constantly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


I've been on job selection panels several times with my company. The big boss has a habit of referring to female candidates as 'good gals' or 'great gals' and making totally inappropriate jokes with them.

To his credit, he doesn't seem to let this effect who he actually hires and he otherwise seems to show equal respect to all of the employees through his actions, but his casual language is extremely off-putting.

Also, in regards to our clients, I hear the phrase "she's going to make a great wife someday" with regularity from many of my co-workers but have never once heard "he's going to make a great husband."

Presumably because none of them will ever make great husbands?
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:05 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


In talking to my GP about my problems getting and staying pregnant he refused to do any tests on me, refused me the drug a specialized fertility clinic had already recommended, and recommended that I, a lesbian, "think really hard about having kids. The world is hard enough on kids with two normal parents." Right, because after being in a decade-long relationship, having tried to get pregnant for four years (with two miscarriages in the interim), I clearly haven't given this decision much thought. It was a whim, really.

He then told me about a bunch of LDS families he knew who prayed their way to fertility and recommend that I start praying too.

I don't doubt any of these experiences with sexism.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:16 PM on July 19, 2010 [27 favorites]


Oh my God, what marimeko said, times 100000000.

If I'm carrying groceries home, I don't feel super chipper. I hate being stopped in moments like that and being told, "Smile" often with "you're so pretty" or "it's not so bad" tacked on afterwords. If I'm doing a chore, on my own time, I don't owe strangers a smile. Fuck off.

And while we're on the topic: Attention general public! If you have a female cashier/customer service rep/whoever that was especially helpful or gracious towards you, please tell her that rather than saying "and such a pretty lady." or some awful variation before you leave. I'd rather be told I am helpful than attractive on the job, thanks.
posted by piratebowling at 8:16 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


As a man, I'm pretty horrified by this stuff. I can't imagine how frustrating that would be. And I apologize if I've ever been patronizing in this way.
posted by maxwelton at 8:18 PM on July 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


My mortgage company is crap,

Dude, my government is crap. My husband and I both file taxes as self-employed people. As a married couple, we get a tax credit and can apply it to either income. Generally you want to apply it to the higher income, which happens to be mine.

1/ They apply it to the male partner by default
2/ I have to call to have it applied to me
3/ The following year, they default it to him again
4/ All of the notices we get from the IRS are ADDRESSED TO HIM, even when they are notices that they are taking tax payments from MY ACCOUNT on a payment plan I ARRANGED with them to pay MY TAXES.

This is not an error on my account. This is the way the system actually works. According to them, it isn't broken; it's working exactly as intended.

And if that isn't an example of institutionalised, pervasive, system wide infantilisation of women, I do not know what is.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:19 PM on July 19, 2010 [100 favorites]


A close friend of mine works for the US military doing design-type work that uses a broad sort of skill set. She's also been taking automotive body classes for about two years now. When a chance to do some soldering at work came up, she as really excited to put what she learned to use. But her boss told her he'd have "one of the guys do it."

A few weeks later, he came to her and asked her to sew some seat cushions for him. Because, you know, a woman should know how to work a sewing machine.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:20 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I'm doing a chore, on my own time, I don't owe strangers a smile. Fuck off.

Men of the world, keep in mind that there is at least one woman walking the streets of NYC who occasionally fantasizes about lunging at you with a spyderco and giving you Glasgow's finest when you say this shit. Yes, I may smile dreamily at you afterwards. You would not smile back if you knew why.

I freely acknowledge my anger management issues, yes.
posted by elizardbits at 8:21 PM on July 19, 2010 [50 favorites]


"your being a doctor doesn't (a) help me identify you, (b) add any additional relevant information to the conversation we must have, or (c) help me identify particular needs or issues you're facing.

I think three years of med school and three years of residency give her the right to refer to herself as Dr. if she so chooses. She sees that as her title, and I don't think it's meant to coerce or antagonize you.

Hell, I went through three minutes to be ordained online as a minister and still self-identify on forms as Reverend.
posted by karminai at 8:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [23 favorites]


(Just realized by saying Hell I'm minimizing my calling. My bad.)
posted by karminai at 8:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am hard pressed to remember another FPP about a "What an idiot said to me today" blog where the noteworthy reaction was "Actually, I don't think idiots say things like that."

QFT. What the fuck, guys? Not surprising, but kind of a bummer.
posted by tristeza at 8:25 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Can I suggest that any man who would like to take this opportunity to explain how hard it is to be a man, and how the law is somehow against them in divorces, or whatever, just to start a thread on that, rather than turn this thread into a referendum on your issues?"

Uh, I'm not really seeing that. I can understand the complain that men are monopolizing the conversation, but given that neither of our comments helped that, I don't think it's something that can be cajoled out of the thread like that.

But who knows, as I'm also someone who thought that more than a few of these anecdotes sounded too pat. Then I remembered that that's kinda what anecdotes do, and that's because they're anecdotes and not evidence. Most people have seen a situation like the ones described on the blog, similar enough to give the rhetorical truth, but I think it's fair to note that they seem a lot less real than the anecdotes given in this thread.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


At the time, I had a master's degree and was working on my PhD, but this department had no female faculty because they were considered difficult to work with.

This reminds me of something that happened when I was an undergrad at the University of Victoria (in BC, Canada) back in the early 1990s called "chilly climate". There was a big fight in the Poli Sci department between the old guard "post modernist" male lecturers, and younger (but experienced and accomplished) female lecturers; feminist lecturers were essentially booted out of the Poli Sci department. Some found work in the Women Studies department, some did not.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:33 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just don't trust anyone that posts on a "What an idiot said to me today" blog.

I am hard pressed to remember another FPP about a "What an idiot said to me today" blog where the noteworthy reaction was "Actually, I don't think idiots say things like that."

QFT. What the fuck, guys? Not surprising, but kind of a bummer.


I was only speaking for myself on that account, and I don't remember commenting in any similar threads. I think that is a good point, though. I still think people were ragging on these kind of blogs instead of being sexist, but I get the annoyance and frustration. I didn't mean to instigate any bad blood, because I feel like everybody here is more or less on the same side. I'm gonna withdraw my argument because, in retrospect, mostly based on conjecture and personal opinions. Conjecture and personal opinions are totally awesome, but are not so good at producing solid evidence.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:40 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


But no, I've never spoken to a professional, especially a doctor, who resorted to baby talk. Guess I'm lucky.

No, it's not because you're lucky -- you haven't encountered because you're male, and people don't pull that shit with you as a result.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 PM on July 19, 2010 [33 favorites]


Darlingbri, for the win. Tax stuff is freaking infuriating. As is all the rest of it - infantilisation indeed.
posted by agregoli at 8:42 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


When my husband and I go out, they hand the wine list to him, he immediately hands it to me...

In fairness, when I go into a bra shop, they ask if I know my girlfriend's size, and I have to tell them again and again that No, it's just a little something for me for the weekend. From now on I'm just gonna say "Nah, it's for my daughter" and then heft the cups and check the size with my hands and go "Yep, that's her all right!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:42 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


No, it's not because you're lucky -- you haven't encountered because you're male, and people don't pull that shit with you as a result.

Other men take the opportunity to call me stupid all the time. They just don't use baby talk.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:43 PM on July 19, 2010


I hate being stopped in moments like that and being told, "Smile" often with "you're so pretty" or "it's not so bad" tacked on afterwords. If I'm doing a chore, on my own time, I don't owe strangers a smile. Fuck off.

I sing "Pirate Jenny" under my breath most of the way home when carrying something.
posted by desuetude at 8:47 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


contessa wrote: "When he noticed me reading the textbook instead of programming, he said loudly enough for the entire class to hear that if I was having difficulty programming, perhaps I should switch to Social Work instead."

I would have loudly suggested that if the professor felt the need to be sexist, perhaps he should take a gender studies course.

Ok, I wouldn't really, but it sounds nice!

teleri025 wrote: "After I explained that it wasn't a decision that I made with my boyfriend at the time and each new boyfriend has been well aware of my non-fertile nature and if they weren't okay with it then I didn't really want to be with them, he said, "Well....I guess you could always marry an older man who already has kids.""

That's more parent-ist than sexist. I get shit when I mention that I'm not interested in having kids. People who have made the choice to have children seem very likely to assume that everyone else does, too.
posted by wierdo at 8:48 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: "Can I suggest that any man who would like to take this opportunity to explain how hard it is to be a man, and how the law is somehow against them in divorces, or whatever, just to start a thread on that, rather than turn this thread into a referendum on your issues?"
klangklangston: Uh, I'm not really seeing that. I can understand the complain that men are monopolizing the conversation, but given that neither of our comments helped that, I don't think it's something that can be cajoled out of the thread like that.
Yeah, no kidding. A bit defensive there, AZ.

I think these stories are true but played up like all anecdotes- pat and edited but with a kernel of truth- but I find it astonishing that they could possibly happen as often as implied. Sure like racist encounters you'd remember them, but I'd be shocked if they were much more than an anomaly. For example, with contessa's post... what person in the 21st century acts like only women type (that doesn't live in a shack without a high-speed internet connection). They sound improbable and rare, probably done by a small minority of older and/or overtly sexist men that represent the bulk of the encounters- the long tail. We all deal with assholes or intentionally/unintentionally offensive people, but I personally try not to dwell too much on it because it's them and not me that's broken.

And if they do happen as often as people are suggesting- then jesus christ, do you people tear them a new one when it happens, so they learn not to do it? My mom certainly did that, and wouldn't take that sexism crap laying down- she wore the pants in our household and you can bet if a waiter/salesperson was dismissive she'd let him know that. And if you're not doing that, why the fuck not? Passivity solves nothing, unless your goal is to suffer silently just so you can let loose on Metafilter about how put upon you are. Tell the gynecologist that you're leaving because you don't like being talked down to, and maybe he'll mend his ways over time. Telling us on the interwebs doesn't really solve anything.
posted by hincandenza at 8:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


When my husband and I go out, they hand the wine list to him

Speaking as a former server: you're actually instructed to do this. You're told to hand the wine list to the 'most senior' person at the table, meaning 1) the oldest, or most apparently in charge, and 2) the malest. With hetero couples, that means the wine list goes to the man. Doesn't make it any less irritating, but that's where it comes from.
posted by ms.codex at 8:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]



This comment reminded me of something I recently realised about how much of a difference raw frequencies make:

You've probably also never had your doctor tell you that you were a "good boy" for lowering your cholesterol or your accountant tell you you're a "good lad" for handing over indexed reciepts this year instead of a shoebox.

Oddly, I have had things like that happen to me. Very rare, when compared to the rate with which it happens to female friends, but still non-zero. Up until recently, it's almost always been an older guy, and usually either bigger than me or socially superior to me in some respect. It's usually "lad" though, or some reference to "you kids" (which, given that I'm in my 30s, is a bit inappropriate). Regardless, it's annoying, but not common, and not generally that bad. Just enough for me to realise that this sort of thing is real, and that it would really suck to have to put up with it all the time the way that people who are of the "wrong" gender, race, sexual orientation do.

Just recently though, I've become a father, and because I've really tried to be involved with the childrearing as much as possible the rate of this sort of obnoxiousness toward me has skyrocketed. I've started getting a lot of patronising gender-based remarks from almost anyone who had kids before me regarding my parenting. This only happens to me, almost never to my (female) partner. It's annoyingly frequent, and the comments come from all directions. Middle-aged to older people are the most frequent offenders, though there's a different profile based on gender. Older women tend to be patronising, older men tend to make jokes. Doctors, nurses, etc have a bias to ignore me completely and address all comments to my partner. Regardless of who it is, there are some people who seem to be explicitly aware of what they're doing and enjoying the power trip, while others just plain don't think about what they're saying and end up behaving badly as a result. Even though this is still a pretty mild case of being given short shrift for being in the wrong group, I now have a *lot* of fairly bad examples that I can refer to if needed, and the worst of those are pretty bad.

From a personal perspective, it's pretty persuasive. For most of my life and in most contexts I'm not a member of any "marked" class. No-one ever pays attention to my race, gender, sexual orientation, social class, etc, because I'm in the "right" category every time and my group membership is more or less invisible to people. But it's definitely the case that (with very young kids at least) "father" is the marked class relative to "mother", and so suddenly I have to put up with this crap too (though only when people see me around the baby).

In any case, it does feel like it's one thing to be aware that this kind of thing happens to other people, but quite another one to experience it yourself for the first time. The reality is so much more annoying than the abstract knowledge that it happens. And one of the big differences is just the sheer difference in frequency. When I'm "just a guy", the rate is near zero. When I'm "the male parent", the rate is rather high.

So, I guess I find very little of MFMF all that surprising. Although the stories are pretty extreme, that's about what you'd expect given the nature of the site: people aren't picking the typical case to send to MFMF, they're picking the worst ones. If you've got a lot of examples to choose from, the worst ones are going to be pretty bloody horrible. Up until recently, I don't think I quite realised just how often this sort of thing actually happens.
posted by mixing at 8:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [50 favorites]


That's more parent-ist than sexist.

Yes, it's "parent-ist", also called "infantilizing". But again, it's much more likely that a male authority figure will speak that way to a woman than a man. Do men sometime speak to other men that way. Yes sometimes, but it happens much more often to women. That's what makes it "parent-ist" and ALSO sexist, that many men feel entitled to speak this way to women and much less frequently to men.
posted by marsha56 at 8:58 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Other men take the opportunity to call me stupid all the time. They just don't use baby talk.

Here's the thing, though -- the men that say these things to women don't think there's anything wrong with what they're saying. They're not trying to call us "stupid". They actually believe they're being polite, and that they're "making things more comfortable for us" by "talking to our level."

There's a difference between someone intentionally calling you stupid because they think you're stupid and want you to know that, and someone unintentionally TREATING you like you're stupid because they think you're stupid but don't want you to know they think that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [44 favorites]


Well, I was being flip which, in retrospect, may have been a little tone deaf on my part in the context of this thread. I absolutely believe what women are reporting here in this thread, and accept that this sort of sexism (directed against women) is much more insidious and harmful than the typical male-male power displays.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"That so many people believe we live in a wonderfully post-sexist society—where these types of comments are a thing of the past—fills me with both anguish and hilarity."

Can't it ever make you even slightly happy?

Hell, I even have one of these stories myself super odd coincidence, it's from last year after I moved to the USA and I'm still one of those people who thinks that for me at least, life is working in a pretty post-sexist way. I'm sure it sucks to be old or to have grown up somewhere backward that still does that, but things have actually changed in some places. Hooray!
posted by jacalata at 9:04 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


hincandenza, the very way you describe your mother illustrates the point being made here. When you say "she wore the pants in the family," it implies that being male is the only way to have power in this culture and that she was empowered to speak up for herself because she had metaphorically assumed trousers in her home situation.

Thanks for the advice, though.
posted by catlet at 9:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [36 favorites]


I've been going to the same dentist for 15 years. My entire (local) extended family goes to this dentist. He knows us all by name and has been enthusiastic about my education and very professional career. When I got married, suddenly my husband got all the reminder calls, all the mail came addressed to him and even though I specifically addressed keeping my own name, I am now in the computer under his name. He's seen the dentist twice.

These sorts of things are so common place that I hardly bothered getting upset. Although, I did clarify that until I had my own record back I wouldn't be returning.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:14 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Here's a woman who was out alone, buying something to put in her house. How is it not her business how easy it is to keep clean? Should the sales assistant have barked the maintenance information out into the aether instead, that the husband might catch a little on the wind?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:14 PM


Are you a man? When was the last time you bought a piece of tech and the salesperson mentioned how easy it was to clean?

The level of defensiveness by males here is really tiring.
posted by camcgee at 9:26 PM on July 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


hincandenza, you are being part of the problem. You don't seem to want to listen or believe what women are telling you they experience, and so you are chauvinistically devaluing women's experience. Listen to what women are telling you about being a woman because they know better than you. You are exemplifying the point of the blog and illustrating why this post is important to be on metafilter.
posted by fuq at 9:27 PM on July 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


There's a LOT of sexism in the world -- and lots of bigotry, racism, and any number of unpleasant things that I try to avoid. I just moved to Columbus, OH from Brooklyn, NY; it has been a wake-up call. I have no doubt these stories are true.

Undoubtedly many of these situations are truly offensive and irksome examples of sexism, while many are knee-jerk over-sensitized reactions to innocent comments. I can't really describe the curve apart from that it's gotta have at least some spread that way.

The thing that bothers ME about that whole "Dr. and Mr." situation is the casual use of "Dr." for the general purpose of booking a flight. I admit I prefer people who are okay with leaving their title in the exam room, and becoming "Mr." "Ms." or "Mrs." when making reservations.
posted by phenylphenol at 9:29 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think these stories are true but played up like all anecdotes- pat and edited but with a kernel of truth- but I find it astonishing that they could possibly happen as often as implied. Sure like racist encounters you'd remember them, but I'd be shocked if they were much more than an anomaly.

So all the anecdotes right here in this thread are anomalous, then?

It might seem anomalous to those who don't hear it except when dipping into threads like this. But an overwhelming number of women can tell multiple stories like this, about things that actually happened to them. I'm happy that women like jacalata have escaped this - that is a sign of Something Good - but the fact that you, hincandenza, find it "astonishing" that that they could happen as often as they do says way more about you than it does about those of us who experience them.

As for calling out people who talk to women in this way, well, some of us do that sometimes. Sometimes the guy saying it is just a random dude on the street and he might call you a cunt or a bitch if you refuse to smile when he tells you to or you call him out for catcalling a woman. Sometimes you are a 17-year-old high school student visiting colleges and the guy saying it is a tenured professor. When it's your boss who does it - let's see, complain and maybe lose your job, or keep your mouth shut and vent to the internet? It would be great if all sexist assholes could be shut down just by calling them out. Things don't work that way.
posted by rtha at 9:31 PM on July 19, 2010 [41 favorites]


The thing that bothers ME about that whole "Dr. and Mr." situation is the casual use of "Dr." for the general purpose of booking a flight.

You know, if I successfully undertook all the vast challenge and expense required to earn the title of "Doctor," I'd make my kids address me as such, let alone travel agents.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [29 favorites]


I am by nature a skeptic but I know enough women who have been through this that I can buy about 90% of what is here.

I have a sister who is a professional pilot. She did her bachelor's degree in astrophysics and when she told people she wanted to be a cosmologist, most assumed she meant cosmetologist; later, to avoid these misunderstandings, she went with astronomer, which was frequently corrected by well-meaning strangers to astrologer. Now that she is an airline pilot with a decade-and-a-half's experience flying Airbuses all over the planet, she is still frequently assumed to be a flight attendant. I asked her once why, even when I have been a passenger and I know she is captain, I never hear her making announcements from the flight deck. "Makes the passengers nervous," she said. "Better for everybody if I have the first officer do it."

Shortly after wendy BD and I started cohabitating, we were discussing a ratty old couch we had in the house, and whether we should refurbish it or release it into the wild. She called a furniture reupholsterer for a quote, was given a figure and then told that she should check with her husband to make sure the price was okay.

And a year ago I was visiting my mom's place. I answered the phone while she was out and took a call from some telemarketer who asked to speak to her. The telemarketer called back later and said to her, "I was speaking with your husband earlier." My mom, divorced these thirty-plus years, replied, "Oh, yes? How is he?"

As a decently educated white male, I am probably hit with less institutionalized discrimination than many people around me, but I can see -- and have seen -- this sort of nonsense with many women.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:38 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is a thread for a FPP that is about, solely, a "What an idiot said to me today" blog. We have them, not infrequently. I am hard pressed to remember another FPP about a "What an idiot said to me today" blog where the noteworthy reaction was "Actually, I don't think idiots say things like that."

If I am wrong, I would appreciate some links for my own education so that I can see this thread in its fuller context. If I am not wrong, I am left wondering what's special about this thread on this topic that it should be so statistically unique.


posted by DarlingBri

Well, you're overstating how commonly we have "What an idiot said to me" blogs posted here, but if you'll allow me the leeway of examining other posts about blogs in general:

From the Funeral Home Blog guy post:

I initially had the "oh, poor guy" reaction too, but his writing is so affected and awkward that I can't help but think the whole thing is a put-on. He's just trying way too hard to sound morose.

and

I'm pretty sure this is fiction. It reads like fiction. It's like an unintentional pastiche of HST, Chuck Palahniuk, and the writers from Dexter. It's okay writing, but I'm pretty sure these situations are fabricated.

and

Based on the lack of dates and the consistency of the writing and presentation, I would guess... Creative Writing major.

Or how about the guy who's trying to get over his divorce by doing weird stuff with his wife's wedding dress?

Fake.

Fakity-fake fake.


and

Totally agree, it's not like wedding dresses are machine washable. They cost hundreds of dollars to clean and iron. This reeks not only of "fuck that bitch", (especially the reader contributed stories), but of being deliberately viral and staged.

and

Agreeing with the people calling fake.

So ... yeah. People are often skeptical of blogs, period.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:38 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


I am absolutely positive that every single woman in this thread could tell you dozens of stories along these lines. Do most of us dwell on it and let it make us bitter? Nope. But that doesn't mean that sexism isn't real and persistent.

Want another one? When my work went to hire someone to take care of server things, I applied for the job. I am really qualified and would have done an excellent job. Naturally, they hired a man. He forgot to install an anti-virus and accidentally disabled the firewall. Also, he claims not to be able to filter the mail coming through the mail server. Combined, he's cost us 6 months of down time in the last 2 years. Saying that I could have done a better job is hardly crowing about my abilities.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:41 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


marsha56 wrote: "Do men sometime speak to other men that way."

And women speak that way to men, which is why I said that particular example is not really sexist. You think most doctors will treat a man in his 20s who wants to get (or has) a vasectomy seriously? This is one of the few situations where men get it just like women.

Given how annoyed I get at people treat me like I just don't know any better when I say I don't want kids, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to deal with being the unwilling recipient of sexism on a regular basis.

Everyone else: sorry for the derail into "how men get shit on, too"
posted by wierdo at 9:44 PM on July 19, 2010


And if they do happen as often as people are suggesting

It happens as often as we are telling you it does. We're not suggesting anything.

then jesus christ, do you people tear them a new one when it happens, so they learn not to do it?

No. For many, many reasons, including the ways we are socialised and educated, we are singularly ill-equipped to use the tools of patriarchy (agression and confrontation) to fight it.

Ain't that a pisser?

My mom certainly did that, and wouldn't take that sexism crap laying down

I can almost guarantee you that your mom almost certainly did take this shit all the time. The things you remember are the incidents so outstanding she wouldn't take them. You remember the confrontations because they were anamolies. But I bet plenty of doctors called her "honey" especially while pregnant, she was dismissed by one or more serving staff, and if she worked she probably had flavourful workplace comments to deal with too.

You might ask her, if she's still alive. If you ask her if she faced sexism, she may well say no, because we generally read "sexism" to mean something overt. But if you ask her about specific examples of pervasive, societal sexism like doctors and professional relationships, I bet you'll hear stories.

By the way, you may want to examine your language, particularly your use of the terms "take it laying down" and "wore the pants in the family." You are, in fact, perpetuating sexism by using them. Do you see how an individual woman could not possibly confront every instance she encounters? It's literally everywhere, all the time.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:45 PM on July 19, 2010 [92 favorites]


While you may not be able to remember word for word conversations you have had in the past, some of us do remember every appalling word that was said to us, especially when those words come out of the mouths of trusted professionals.

I was going to say the same. I can recount word for word the last specialist appointment I had. The highlights included not asking any medically relevant questions before pronouncing I had "*mumble mumble*, but you don't need to know that." gee doc who else should know? Then, he put on his concerned face as he was patting my hand and, telling me to stop being so stressed about it ...

That's more parent-ist than sexist.

The way I read it was is it's the presumption the boyfriend has a say in whether she will have kids (or not) and, the implication eventually she'll regret her decision to not be a parent. I've been on the receiving end of this kind of attitude many times too. I asked various doctors if I could have my tubes tied because I never wanted kids and, was always told, "you'll find a guy and, change your mind." I did find someone who didn't want kids either. Difference was, when he asked for a vasectomy his GP didn't hesitate to refer him to a surgeon to have the procedure done. Bleedin' double standards.
posted by squeak at 9:48 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


At this point in the thread I would like to point out there have been more comments complaining about the comments than offending comments themselves.

And yes, I find this blog totally believable and I find myself unconsciously doing similar things myself. I sell beer, a large selection of craft beer. I frequently am asked to make suggestions for customers and all too often I find myself suggesting fruity or lighter beers to women and kicking myself afterwords. Yes, a lot of women like that type of beer (and so do a lot of men including myself) but it must be really irritating to have some asshole suggest raspberry whatever when you are looking for a good stout.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:50 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Passivity solves nothing, unless your goal is to suffer silently just so you can let loose on Metafilter about how put upon you are. .... Telling us on the interwebs doesn't really solve anything.

Part of the problem is that we're often told, as women, that we're oversensitive and imagining things when offensive things like those described in these stories happen. For instance, I'm short and quiet, so it's not hard for me to assume people are simply not noticing me when they choose to talk to a male companion instead of me. So my instinctive reaction is not to rip the offending person a new one, but to second guess my initial reaction and say nothing. I'm still learning how to differentiate between the situation where it's right to take the offending person to task and the situation where I'm being prickly and oversensitive. These stories help me, personally, because these are concrete examples of situations where I can speak up, and where I can't. It's still up to me to speak up, but they definitely help me have the courage to do so.
posted by millions of peaches at 9:54 PM on July 19, 2010 [30 favorites]


It never fails to amaze me that, if I go to look at new cars with my wife and I walk in with her (or go in while she waits with the kids in the car) they always have the kind of car we want to look at, but all three times that my wife has gone up while I've waited in the car, she comes back pissed off because they tell her "I can't show you any cars unless you sign a paper saying you're going to buy from us today." It's like they're all taught to assume women are clueless idiots who will believe anything you say, no matter how dumb.

And this is why we have never bought a Toyota. Seriously, three Toyota dealers in the larger Los Angeles area, and all three said that to her -- but the third time I walked in a few minutes later and of course they had a car they could show me immediately. Fuckers.
posted by davejay at 9:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was at my vet's office yesterday as a walk-in patient (for my cat, not me). Anyway, my regular vet wasn't in the office that day so they said they would give me the first vet available. As I was shown into the exam room by the female receptionist she said, "Doctor P----- will be with you shortly." And right before she shut the door she stage-whispered to me, "She's a woman."

I honestly don't know what the fuck that had to do with anything. I wasn't offended really, but I was confused.
posted by Kloryne at 9:57 PM on July 19, 2010


MeTa
posted by mlis at 9:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


@DarlingBri, good point about how there are innumerable reasons why people might not jump to make a big deal out of even egregious examples of discrimination. There's such a strong social code of conduct, and such a systemic amount of the stuff --- I've seen it.

Good catch on "wore the pants in the family." But "take it lying down"? The only way for that to be sexist is if it's referring to sex in the missionary position, and I must admit, it seems more a fighting term than anything else. Then again, I suppose you see "aggression and confrontation" as being the tools of masculine hierarchy, so any phrase ("down for the count") would be representative of patriarchal bellicosity. Them's fighting words.

I'm sure there's some middle ground to be had.
posted by phenylphenol at 9:58 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


My most hated frequently encountered bit of sexism is when I pay at the supermarket and I'm with my husband, the cashier will often hand the change back to him instead of me, even if I'm standing right there and he has bags in his hands. Because it must really be his money right?
posted by supercrayon at 9:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Without having read all of the comments here I am going to comment anyway. I am tired of the whole post-whatever meme.

The world will never be post-racist, post-sexist, post-religionist, post_whateverist. Post means after as far as my limited intelligence can parse. This would seem to mean, no longer having to worry about it? Like it's gone?

The world isn't even post-buggy whips. Yeah, there are a shitload of cars but the Amish still use them. And before you chide me for a sloppy analogy, think about when we started to hear about the post-racist society.

President Obama's election rang the gong for the alleged post-racist society. And the backlash was the Tea Party.

I'm all for the concept of the post-whatever. But please stop using the term if you have even two braincells to rub together.

Sexism is alive and well. And we aren't post-anything.
posted by Splunge at 10:00 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


One more thing, sparked by what millions of peaches said just above. The statement that Telling us on the interwebs doesn't really solve anything is true if the speaker sees instances of sexism as something that must be solved or something for which there is a clearcut answer.

However, one of the most powerful tools we have is the ability to tell our stories. "Telling us" is a way to build community, to help define boundaries of "let it slide" and "absolutely unacceptable" and the grey space in between, to get past the shame or uneasiness of being a target for whatever another person believes about women - or for being someone who has done this to another person in some way. In that sense, telling people on the interwebs solves a great deal.
posted by catlet at 10:06 PM on July 19, 2010 [36 favorites]


I'm bringing sexy back.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:07 PM on July 19, 2010


Oh, sexism.

As you were.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


I've been shielded from this for most of my adult life, 99% because I'm male, but also because I've been involved in industries either dominated by women (NY television) or else with enough strong female presence to negate at least any overt sexism (law school, DC criminal law.) I'm also a youngest child whose closest sibling is a sister with an extremely forceful personality, and both of my brothers have spent a good time working from home while their wives worked outside of the home, and thus handled dinner and housework and child-rearing themselves.

The past year, working in my criminal defense program, all three of my supervisors were women and about half the judges I argued in front of were women as well (which is not, actually, representative of the DC Superior Court as a whole, just of my experience.) he women I've known through law school have had no trouble getting hired, and most are going into Big Law or else the public interest career of more or less their own choosing.

So I don't tend to notice stuff like this very often.

But then, a blog like this makes me remember things like how these same women are legitimately afraid to walk home alone at night. Like how, when I need to go somewhere social at night I can look at the clock and basically say, "whelp! time to put on pants!" and then head out the door, whereas society requires much much more of women going out, even if just to meet up with friends for some gelato. I think about my favorite client from the past year, and how he used to harass my female friends whenever they passed him on the street, and how he would openly fantasize about the judge that we would argue in front of.

I remember some of the most badass people I know, demuring themselves uncomfortably, in out-of-character ways, because they were in social situations which they believed required it of them. And I remember that maybe the women I know from law school are getting these great jobs even in a bad market because while men are allowed to be slobs, women in this world have to grow up organized in order to be "acceptable," and also have to fight like hell for any opportunity and that at my level they are simply doing what comes naturally to anyone who had to work as hard to get to a position which came to me, as a male, much more easily. And I think about how much harder it will be for those women who got the Big Law jobs to make partner, because those firms are old boys' clubs at the upper levels and will find ways to dismiss the women from reaching the top, be it maternity leave or something else.

I have no doubt that these stories have been cleaned up and dramatized to make a point, but I'm also pretty sure that they are real. Male privilege is real as well, and allows those of us so privileged to not notice when this sort of thing occurs, and then to assume that it's an isolated incident when it does and claim that bringing it up is "whining."

Maybe it'd be better to take the opportunity to recognize what is going on.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:08 PM on July 19, 2010 [22 favorites]


At this point in the thread I would like to point out there have been more comments complaining about the comments than offending comments themselves.

Here, maybe. But if offending comments and attitudes were isolated to this single Metafilter post, well, we wouldn't have a problem. A little redundancy in calling out the ugliness of sexism when it rears its head is sort of the lesser of two evils.

You're right about the beer, though. Shit gets frustrating.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:09 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


more comments complaining about the comments than offending comments themselves.

Perhaps because the mods have been doing their job, and some flagged (as offensive/sexist) comments were deleted.
posted by Ouisch at 10:11 PM on July 19, 2010


No, I'm pretty sure that the responses sill outweigh them, that is just how derails go.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:13 PM on July 19, 2010


Oh okay then.
posted by Ouisch at 10:16 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tonight I went out for dinner with my SO and paid with a credit card, which I handed directly to the server.... who ran it through the machine and handed it to my SO along with the receipt for him to sign. what!

This happens when I pay cash for things, too; we will be standing together in line and I will pull out my wallet and remove a bill and hand it to the clerk, who will attempt to hand the change to my SO, like I am a kid whose dad gave her a twenty and let her "pay" for lunch to feel grown up. all the time!

Unhappily, it was a lot worse when I used a cane to walk; there was the same shit as happens by virtue of my being a woman, but on top of that strangers would address the people I was with and never me. Once at a (different) restaurant a man sitting in the foyer waiting for a table gestured at me and asked my friend, "Does she need to sit down?" Ten minutes later when we were being brought to our table, up half a flight of stairs from the ground floor, the hostess looked at my friend and said, "Can she take the stairs?"

Anyway I love this blog fiercely because it reminds me that it is okay to get angry about tiny infuriating things that happen because they aren't just a series of innocent mistakes and it's not just me being unfair to the world.

I want to pour all of you a drink and listen to more stories.
posted by bewilderbeast at 10:18 PM on July 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


This warn't no derail. This here is one of them posts that's a re-rail.
posted by fleacircus at 10:18 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


And if they do happen as often as people are suggesting- then jesus christ, do you people tear them a new one when it happens, so they learn not to do it? My mom certainly did that, and wouldn't take that sexism crap laying down- she wore the pants in our household and you can bet if a waiter/salesperson was dismissive she'd let him know that. And if you're not doing that, why the fuck not? Passivity solves nothing, unless your goal is to suffer silently just so you can let loose on Metafilter about how put upon you are. Tell the gynecologist that you're leaving because you don't like being talked down to, and maybe he'll mend his ways over time.

Yeah, it probably is womens' fault!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:22 PM on July 19, 2010 [36 favorites]


Elevatrix was the only one that really stuck, and it comes to mind every time I'm in an elevator someplace really swanky.

I am partial to the "ast" ending, as in "computerast" for a programmer. Sounds so salacious.

Here's a woman who was out alone, buying something to put in her house. How is it not her business how easy it is to keep clean

Yes, well, you can see how a woman might become a little sensitized over time, that is, if you give any credence to these incidents...

Oh, and when I was growing up, there was a couple on our block named Judge & Dr. Burns. Heh, heh.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:22 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think this is where I'm supposed to mention that I used to have a low-level job at a law firm, and filled in for the (female) receptionist when she was at lunch. The number of people who assumed a teenager was a lawyer and began asking questions just because a male voice answered the phone was rather astonishing.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:25 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Can we hate it because it's poorly written and a crap blog?

Sure, except that there's not a lot of evidence for either proposition. It's not poorly written: it compares well to other "send in your story" blogs, and people who've had similar experiences are vouching for the accuracy of these. And what's crap about it? That it details incidents you have no direct experience of? That it uses a default theme instead of a custom design? How dare they!

It looks like your dislike of it is based on irritation at the subject matter, not anything objectively crap about it.

It's not rocket science, people: if you're not interested in the subject of the FPP, don't come in here and threadshit. And remember that people who've RTFA and have experience in the subject will be able to tell if your objections are bullshit or not.
posted by harriet vane at 10:26 PM on July 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I frequently am asked to make suggestions for customers and all too often I find myself suggesting fruity or lighter beers to women and kicking myself afterwords. Yes, a lot of women like that type of beer (and so do a lot of men including myself) but it must be really irritating to have some asshole suggest raspberry whatever when you are looking for a good stout.

I did this as a bartender too, although I asked the customers what else they liked first. Still, when I got non-answers to that question, I used gender as the primary basis for a recommendation because I made more money doing it, and if I were bartending again, I'd probably pick up right where I left off. Honestly, although I'm sure it's annoying to some, I don't it's a big deal. I see it as roughly on a par with my own experience in Seoul. Koreans asked me, constantly, if despite being a foreigner I was able to eat spicy food. Those sorts of comments drove many of my friends crazy, but I never got irritated by it. I tend to assume the best in people, and I know that in the absence of information, people generalize. It's what people do.

Nevertheless, many of the stories in the link and this thread are of another sort. These people aren't generalizing in the absence of information. They're ignoring information, and generalizing despite its presence. That's where it crosses the line, in my opinion.
posted by smorange at 10:28 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]



I did this as a bartender too, although I asked the customers what else they liked first.


Yeah, I go with that for the most part. "What style of beer do you like?" It gets tricky when they don't seem to have any idea. I default to suggesting the stout first now and the fruity beers later. More often than not (with both genders) for people who don't know anything about beer it comes down to, "Hey, pretty label!" or "Hey, *generic import lager*! I had that when I was in *country in Europe*."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:33 PM on July 19, 2010


hincandenza:

Oh good lord, do you need it fucking notarized?
Nice mansplaining.
Nevermind, we're being oversensitive. Maybe we're just on our periods.
Oh wait, it's our fault for not...getting hysterical.
Women are so passive. It's their fault.
posted by desuetude at 10:36 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


desuetude: hincandenza hx of trolling. UserNotes script is your friend.
posted by mlis at 10:49 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two days ago I was going through security at DIA and the TSA Agent inspecting my boarding pass against my ID looks at my ID, looks at me, and demanded a smile before stamping my boarding pass with the stupid inspection stamp. Dude, I'm flying alone with a toddler and I'm six months pregnant and I've been standing in this stupid long line for security theater after walking eight miles to get *to* the line because stupid DIA has the entrances to the security lines at the ENDS of the main terminal instead of in the middle and oh yeah did I mention six months pregnant so of course I have to pee again and WTF you want me to smile? Oh wait you're the TSA Agent holding my boarding pass in your hands. Fine. Here's your goddamn smile. I will never forget this but making a scene will just make it that much longer before I can get to the bathroom and go pee. For fuck's sake.

So, yeah.
posted by ambrosia at 10:50 PM on July 19, 2010 [46 favorites]


Anytime the waiter ignores me like that, I'm the one who pulls out a card at the end of dinner. I have a Julia Roberts moment. "Remember when you refused to wait on me? Big Mistake. HUGE."

I (male) had a friend (female) take me out to dinner once, and the waitress gave the check to me. She watched my friend (female) take the check from me, put her card on it and took the card (which had a very female name on it). When the waitress brought the check back, she gave the receipt and my friend's card to me.
posted by yeolcoatl at 10:51 PM on July 19, 2010


I am a seriously non-smiley person. It isn't that I'm not happy, I just tend not to smile unless I'm laughing or posing for a picture, weird wiring in my brain or something. People told me to smile when I was a kid, I wanted to punch them. It was even condescending to a first grader. Now, no one does it, probably because they imagine I would punch them. I could not deal with that shit.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:55 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think this is where I'm supposed to mention that I used to have a low-level job at a law firm, and filled in for the (female) receptionist when she was at lunch. The number of people who assumed a teenager was a lawyer and began asking questions just because a male voice answered the phone was rather astonishing.

Oh, man, you just reminded me: back in the early 90s, I was temping and got assigned to a high-level female boss who was, to hear the other executive assistants talk, known to be difficult and ill-tempered. For whatever reason, the temp agency had assigned me for this single-day gig, even though I'd never done that kind of work before (but I could type), and so there I was.

And the calls came in, almost all from other women (I have no idea at what level) and they all sounded off-kilter and surprised, and treated me as if I were in charge in some way. I chalked it up, at first, to professional courtesy or whatever -- after all, they didn't know I was new to being an assistant -- but then I made some scheduling mistakes and made calls to correct them, and the women I talked to all acted as if they'd made the mistakes, apologizing profusely and whatnot.

It really stood out at the time as one of the oddest things that had ever happened to me, and at the end of the day the temp agency called to say my boss wanted to keep me on, which she'd never done before -- apparently she went through assistant temps on a daily basis -- but I declined, because the whole thing felt so weird. To this day I don't know if it's my voice, my demeanor, or just being a guy when people were calling expecting an assistant.
posted by davejay at 11:02 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


But "take it lying down"? The only way for that to be sexist is if it's referring to sex in the missionary position, and I must admit, it seems more a fighting term than anything else.

As far as I recall, it is referring to female sex in the missionary position but all of my reference books are in the attic so I'd not be able to give you a source for that. I absolutely could be wrong here. I assume languagehat could provide the etymology of the phrase and clarify.

Then again, I suppose you see "aggression and confrontation" as being the tools of masculine hierarchy, so any phrase ("down for the count") would be representative of patriarchal bellicosity.

You know, I don't appreciate that in the least. I'm a feminist not a fucking idiot. I understand perfectly well that "down for the count" is a boxing idiom and not a term of patriarchal bellicosity, although I will be stealing that turn of phrase. I do not think all terms implying supine or inferior relative positioning are sexist. If you wish to take a perfectly valid observation I made and use it to denigrate me as some manner of grammarian feminazi, I think that's a low blow.

If you'd like to ask me why I see agression and confrontation as tools of the patriarchy instead of assuming my views have no basis, then just do that.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:02 PM on July 19, 2010 [35 favorites]


It's worth a read...
posted by Splunge at 11:04 PM on July 19, 2010


Now, no one does it, probably because they imagine I would punch them. I could not deal with that shit.

Man, I wish! I got a shirt that says "But I am smiling" and has a picture of Stephen Harper wearing an impassive expression, and nobody has ever told me to smile when I was wearing it. That's pretty much the only sure method, though.

A weirdly formative experience for me was when I was 13 and wandering around a music store thumbing through records in a bin. The middle-aged male manager caught my eye and made an exaggerated unhappy face and said, "Smile! You'd be prettier if you smiled!"

I was already smiling, though—I had been having a thoroughly excellent afternoon until then. It had honestly never occurred to me before that second that I might be smiling wrong and should change the way I smiled to make myself prettier, or that I was unappealing when I wasn't smiling (or was smiling wrong) and it was my job to be appealing and I was doing it badly. I still think about that when people tell me to smile. (But I at least stopped trying to fix my smile to make it more obvious.)

Also: I am also not really a person who memorizes conversations word for word and can recite them verbatim later on, but weird creepy upsetting things that people say really do stick.
posted by bewilderbeast at 11:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


"I hear the phrase "she's going to make a great wife someday" with regularity from many of my co-workers but have never once heard "he's going to make a great husband.""

I tell one of my male coworkers that he's going to make someone a great husband someday.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


industries ... dominated by women (NY television)

Hahahahaha!

Srsly? I'm a woman who's worked in television in NY for the past 5 years. I'm not aware of any production, any department, or any position aside from "Costume PA" that is dominated in any way by women.

Can I submit this to the MFIF blog?
posted by Sara C. at 11:08 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


As far as I recall, it is referring to female sex in the missionary position but all of my reference books are in the attic so I'd not be able to give you a source for that. I absolutely could be wrong here. I assume languagehat could provide the etymology of the phrase and clarify.

Is this idiom worth arguing about? I agree with you about "wear the pants," which strikes me as a good example, but this seems to me a bad one. There's obviously confusion about the etymology. Besides, etymology is not the same thing as usage or meaning, and I'm skeptical that there's any sexism in "take this lying down" anymore, if indeed there ever was.
posted by smorange at 11:09 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I go with that for the most part. "What style of beer do you like?" It gets tricky when they don't seem to have any idea.

Then again, in my experience people who don't like beer enough to have any awareness of what style they might like are also likely to like light, wheat-based, or fruity beers. Regardless of gender.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


My mother bought a sofabed, waited for delivery, was terrifically pleased with it. I came over one day to find her frustrated and upset-- it wouldn't open. I tried it myself. It wasn't a matter of strength: you could pull on it hard enough to lift the entire thing off the floor and it wouldn't open. I got on the phone with customer support, navigated through a couple of voice menus and finally tracked down someone at the furniture department where she had made the purchase. I explained what was wrong, was put on hold for a while, then told that I should get a neighbour to help with it because you had to pull it quite hard, really, you did. I went over the problem again: it was obviously something mechanical. I was told, again, to get somebody "stronger" to help. Finally, annoyed at myself for doing it, but going ahead anyway, I said: "My brother has checked it over, and he thinks that something is jammed." There was a pause, and the sales rep said "Okay, we'll send out a technician to take a look at it."

This was two weeks ago.
posted by jokeefe at 11:15 PM on July 19, 2010 [24 favorites]


I recall someone telling me "take it lying down" refereed to a dog lying down to show submission when rebuked, but who knows with that kind of thing.


Then again, in my experience people who don't like beer enough to have any awareness of what style they might like are also likely to like light, wheat-based, or fruity beers. Regardless of gender.


I know, they taste good and are refreshing! Trying to convince guys to try fruit based beers be a real pain in the ass though. Never mind that fruit has been used in beer longer than hops.

"Fruit beer!? But that Man Law commercial said it was wrong. Just give me a six of Corona and a lime instead!"
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:20 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh man now I want some beer. Goddamn you all.
posted by Ouisch at 11:23 PM on July 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


When I came back from maternity leave, a male coworker came into my cube to chitchat about parenthood. Within two minutes, he took the conversation from "Kids, aren't they great?" to "You should be at home with your baby instead here at work." When I walked away from my cube in an effort to end the conversation, he followed me down the hallway while loudly imitating the cries of an infant.

So yeah, I don't find the anecdotes at MFIF implausible At. All.
posted by jamaro at 11:23 PM on July 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


I've heard a lot of stories on MeFi about how women are told by random schmoes while they're out in public that they should "smile!" I've never been told this, and I don't now if it's because I smile a lot or I almost never go out walking without my earbuds and iPod.

However, I do remember one incident. When I was 19 or so, I was going to class, thinking about something funny I'd seen on TV, and some guy walks right up to me and says, "I think it's great that you're smiling! You have such a nice smile!" It really weirded me out. I felt really self-conscious, and I spent the next few months cultivating a deliberately neutral expression.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:34 PM on July 19, 2010


I was actually thinking just yesterday about the term "attaboy," as a slang for a minor award or commendation for good work, and how patronizing the term "attagirl" would be. he reality is that there are two different cultural norms at play. Ball-busting male culture has it that infantilizing insults are meant to provoke response. A male boss says something like "thanks. Good boy." to a male employee and the employee could probably smile and tell the boss to fuck off with no problem. Hell, it might even help the employee to be seen as a team player if done right. And most men are brought up in ball-busting culture, and even if they don't like it (a lot of men don't like the Alpha-Dog fight that constantly shows up in workplace environments) they can deal with it, to some extent.; "Oh, they want a response, well fine, asshole, here's a resonse and now I can go on with my job." End of story.

When the same sort of thing happens to a woman on the job, it's just going to be different, for a lot of reasons.

First, the same "joviality" of the phrase, "good boy," would almost certainly take on a sexual element when changed to "good girl." That's enough to throw the dynamic into worse places. Secondly, the woman probably hasn't grown up in ball-busting culture, but that's kind of neither here nor there because she might not be certain whether the comment is meant to provoke response or to dehumanize and infantilize her because of her gender. And it could easily be either one. In that case it's "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Look at how many cases in the blog end with the woman's complaint being dismissed because she "can't take a joke," and hopefully the title of the blog will become clearer. MAN did something; WOMAN complained. It's WOMAN's fault for not responding the way MAN hoped she would.

WHen a woman is presented with this sort of thing in the workplace, it could mean that she is supposed to dehumanize herself, or else fight back "like a man." How is she supposed to know which is which, from person to person, and why the hell would we pin the blame on her for getting it wrong, or for complaining about harrassment putting her in that place to begin with?

Why must men so diligently fight to be able to blame the victim?
posted by Navelgazer at 11:35 PM on July 19, 2010 [15 favorites]


A word about having "Dr." down on your boarding pass or whatever --

Some airline on-line reservation systems are among the few places these days that regularly *ask* for your "prefix" (Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., Hon., Msgr., Prof., Prince, whatever.) My-SO-the-Astronomer does not regularly introduce herself as "Dr." or anything, but on the rare occasions when she is actually asked for her prefix, she does put the appropriate one down. Why not?

This at one time led to a situation very similar to the one described in the post -- "Oh, here's the problem with your boarding pass! Someone put down 'Dr.' by mistake!"

(And, yes, she is regularly corrected by people who think she must be an "Astrologer." Also, I doubt that many men in her field have ever gotten groped by a colleague at a professional conference.)

These things are not rare. This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME.
posted by kyrademon at 11:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


So I'm male and my partner is female. A couple weeks back we biked out to dinner, and on the way there some guys yelled at us from a car. I chalked it up to some random people who weren't nuts about cyclists.

Over food half an hour later I was complaining about the less-than-awesome ride and what was up with the dudes in the car and that hadn't happened to me for a few years and blah blah blah. My partner said, "They were catcalling me. That happens all the time". I was shocked. It just never occurred to me.

For all the guys who are skeptical about the extent of modern, endemic sexism: you're not seeing it because it's not directed at you.
posted by amery at 11:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [33 favorites]


Just wanted to share this piece, Purity in Language by Douglas Hofstadter highlighting sexism inherent even in our language.

(Warning: if you have no satire-filter, don't bother.)

It's an interesting look at how much more okay we are with sexist language than racist language-- hopefully we can continue to move forward on both fronts.
posted by karminai at 11:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


Way late but here it is anyway: I don't drink alcohol. Most times when we go for a drink we order a beer "for my wife" and a tonic or water for myself. More than 50% of the time
I get served the beer. What makes this more confusing is that many times it is the waitress that does this and not the waiter.
posted by adamvasco at 12:01 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re the Dr. title thing -

My father is a pediatrician. Dr. is substituted anywhere that Mr. would usually be used.

Acquaintances address him as Dr. Lastname. He is not Mr. Lastname, even outside the office.

He doesn't go around correcting random strangers who'd have no reason to know he is a doctor, but, yeah, he has always used Dr. As he should; he earned it. I have never heard this questioned, by anybody, ever.

I have a feeling that none of the above would be the case if it were my mother who were the pediatrician, and that she would always get the "shouldn't you leave that in the office and be Mrs. Lastname socially?" noise if she attempted to be addressed by her proper title.
posted by Sara C. at 12:02 AM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Navelgazer, that is a really interesting example story. Of course, what she "should" do is tell her boss to fuck off. In other words, she should mirror patterns of male behaviour to gain social and strategic acceptance.

The problem is that she is not socialised to do that. It is not native to her communication style, which is markedly different to that of her male peers. Of course she can always just "try harder" to be more like a man, which let's face it, makes it so much easier for everyone around her as long as she still looks like a woman.

Fun!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:02 AM on July 20, 2010


I'm going to add something semi-off-topic here, which is just that I've lived my entire adult life in environments where both the term and idea of "slut" ("slag," in the parlance of the site in question) were non-existent and nonsense. Literally the only times I've heard the term used in the last decade or so IRL were when it was jokingly used to refer to men.

Occasionally I'll see friends of mine from Oklahoma who view things very differently, and conversation will be immediately awkward. And here I have no problem with being judgmental: I am enlightened in this instance and they are not.

Equality makes the world better for everyone, not just those recently recognized as equal.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:02 AM on July 20, 2010


Then again, I suppose you see "aggression and confrontation" as being the tools of masculine hierarchy, so any phrase ("down for the count") would be representative of patriarchal bellicosity.
DarlingBri: You know, I don't appreciate that in the least. I'm a feminist not a fucking idiot. I understand perfectly well that "down for the count" is a boxing idiom and not a term of patriarchal bellicosity, although I will be stealing that turn of phrase. I do not think all terms implying supine or inferior relative positioning are sexist. If you wish to take a perfectly valid observation I made and use it to denigrate me as some manner of grammarian feminazi, I think that's a low blow.

If you'd like to ask me why I see agression and confrontation as tools of the patriarchy instead of assuming my views have no basis, then just do that.
Ah, I see you aren't fond of having colloquialisms or incidental phrasings focused in on and torn apart as a character flaw.

I actually imagine that would kind of suck- I really empathize with you.
posted by hincandenza at 12:05 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


DarlingBri: Exactly, except that the woman in question cannot also be sure of whether the comment was made in order to elicit a "male" response or as more direct dehumanizing sexual harassment, so "what she should do" becomes even murkier, in the professional environment where she presumably wants to not lose her job.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:08 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: eggies - the English and the Germans (these are the only two that I can speak of with direct experience) infantilize words all the time: an episode of a television show is an "eppie;" a cell phone is a "handy;" etc.

Here's one for the "I'm speaking, but the person I'm speaking to only talks to the man in front of him" anecdotes. This one is particularly hilarious/frustrating -- my family was on vacation in Italy, and we got lost about an hour south of Positano, looking for this tiny little village (that's a whole other story). At any rate, we were driving through a tiny town, looking for someone from whom we might get directions, when we saw two men sitting on a front porch. I was the translator on the trip, as I speak Italian, but neither my parents nor my brother do.

I was sitting behind my dad, who was driving. I leaned out of my window to ask if they knew how to get to the village we were looking for. One of the men answered--to my dad--in Italian. He didn't even look at me. I explained that my father didn't speak Italian, only I did. Again, he talked to my father, in Italian. Then the other guy interrupts the first guy, and now they're both talking to my father (they were arguing over the best roads to take to get to the place). So while they're arguing in Italian, I'm translating in English to my father, who is then answering in English, which I am translating back into Italian. Neither one of them ever looked at me.

And now, come to think of it, neither did my father. He cut me out of the equation as well.

For all of the women upthread discussing the ongoing scourge of random men telling you to smile, here are some of the responses I have used when men tell me to 'smile' that I shared in a previous post. I wouldn't read on too much after that, though, as we get a bunch of men telling us how ridiculous it is to be upset simply because someone thinks you'd be pretty if you smiled, or how uptight we must be if we're angered by such a genial exchange, and how foolish we are to get our pretty little heads in a tizzy over something so meaningless.
posted by tzikeh at 12:09 AM on July 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


jamaro: When I came back from maternity leave, a male coworker came into my cube to chitchat about parenthood. Within two minutes, he took the conversation from "Kids, aren't they great?" to "You should be at home with your baby instead here at work." When I walked away from my cube in an effort to end the conversation, he followed me down the hallway while loudly imitating the cries of an infant.

So yeah, I don't find the anecdotes at MFIF implausible At. All.
Does the whole work place regularly do things like this? If so, you have quite the lawsuit. If it's just the one guy, I should imagine security will be escorting him out of the building very soon.

Because you did bring this up with your/his boss and/or your company's HR representative, right?
posted by hincandenza at 12:11 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


We would forever get calls from telemarketers and whatnot asking for Mr. Hampstead.

Yeah, we both kept our names too.

Every so often I have gotten a caller asking for Mr. DancingFruitBat and I always get a kick out of it. "Yes, this is he." It's a bit odd but I actually like it.

I for one can't wait till old fashioned sexism, the kind that's wrapped around niceties and rears its ugly head when you hear things like Mr. & Ms. John Smith (ew...that's gross, I would never marry someone with the same name as me! And John...that's an odd name for woman!).
posted by Deathalicious at 12:11 AM on July 20, 2010


@amery - Just as bad are the guys who constantly feel the need to mansplain the act of riding a bicycle to me.

It'll usually happen at a red light. Some random (male) pedestrian or fellow cyclist will tell me to be careful, or take it upon himself to inform me that there are a lot of potholes in the next block, or X street is a better way to get to the park, etc. Or I'll get a reminder to downshift on that hill up the block. Worse, a comment about whether I'm wearing a helmet (I usually am, don't worry).

If I break a minor rule, if anybody chastises me, it's going to be a man.

Dudes, it's OK. I can ride a bike and have a vagina at the same time! Isn't that amazing?
posted by Sara C. at 12:12 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Having stood by and listened as my wife asked intelligent questions about her road bike purchase, only to have every one answered with information about the pretty colors available (she walked out) I'm not surprised much any more, just sad.
posted by cccorlew at 12:14 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because you did bring this up with your/his boss and/or your company's HR representative, right?

I did not bring it up with HR or my boss. I wrote my coworker an email saying that his behavior was wildly inappropriate. He apologized profusely and we had a good discussion about it. I believe he understood how he had crossed the line, however if he had not, then I would have escalated the issue.

Does the whole work place regularly do things like this?
It was a software games company in the early 90s; I was one of the few women in R&D. So, yes.
posted by jamaro at 12:20 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


hicandenza: You really don't get it, do you?

"It's just a joke, lighten up!"
"He didn't mean anything by it, why are you being such a hardass?"
"You won't get anywhere in this business with an attitude like that. You're going to need a thicker skin."
"Surely you're exaggerating, honey."

And then, if the other employee does get shown the door, you get to be the pariah that gets men fired whenever they make a joke.

And that's providing you're in a business big enough to have a discrimination policy. Or a HR department. If the guy harrassing you is the son of the owner you're shit out of luck.
posted by Jilder at 12:21 AM on July 20, 2010 [24 favorites]


I will confess to being guilty of this myself. Some years ago, I worked in a comic book and games shop and if I had a woman come in with a man, I'd address the man first and didn't realize it might be sexist until I was called on it. To be fair, if an adult came in with a child, I would address the child. My intent was to interact with the person who was likely to be my customer but I realized that it could be misinterpreted.
posted by Megafly at 12:21 AM on July 20, 2010


Navelgazer: except that the woman in question cannot also be sure of whether the comment was made in order to elicit a "male" response or as more direct dehumanizing sexual harassment

The utter beauty of the "fuck you" response and why it is such a useful tool if you can wield it is that it is appropriate for both occassions. If you were trying to engender misplaced comraderie by offering me an in for a team-type riposte, we're good. If you were being a troglodyte, well, fuck you.

The problem, as you point out, arises if you then have me fired for insubordination. Which is fine, because I have all this evidence of "hostile work environment" material I've been carefully gathering to use in my law suit. And that's great, but the problem with the US legal system is that everything takes so long. It could be years before I have my day in court or pwn your ass with a settlement.

Luckily, I can just filll that time by having a baby!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:24 AM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Does the whole work place regularly do things like this? If so, you have quite the lawsuit. If it's just the one guy, I should imagine security will be escorting him out of the building very soon.

This is really amazing. I mean, really, I'm just shaking my head.

I'm hesitant to speak up as a man defending women who are perfectly capable of defending themselves, but in light of DarlingBri's request I'll go ahead. It's not getting through to you when the women say it, maybe you need to hear it from a man?

Women face systematic discrimination and harassment like this all the time. They also face repercussions when they speak up; they'll be accused of being humorless, called a bitch, excluded from the workplace culture, and eventually passed over when they should be promoted. HR is the nuclear option. When HR is forced to rebuke employees for behavior that is part of the culture and for which they do not expect to be rebuked, it poisons the air and creates resentment against the woman who complained. There are costs to speaking out. People will only do it if the costs of not doing it are higher -- if the harassment is too much to bear, and preserving the fantasy of a healthy working environment is no longer worth it.

Moreover: there are a million examples where women face minor discrimination or harassment which is simply not enough to warrant the nuclear option -- in fact, the slight can be so minor that some people don't even notice it. But to those on the receiving end, they feel it, like a little slap in the face. It's a tiny slap, nothing serious, except this is part of life, slap slap slap, little slaps in the face, all the time. Can you imagine how wearying it might be? You might even want to make a website where you can vent about all those little slaps.

And here you are. You question that the slaps are even real, you question why women don't stand up for themselves (as if you would defend them if they did?), and all you're doing is a little slap in the face of every woman here who is just ever so tired of this bullshit. Every comment you've made, another slap. I'm frankly amazed you haven't gotten the virtual shit kicked out of you by now, but that's a testament to both the maturity of the people you're insulting, and the fact that they learned a long time ago that if you call out the slapper, all they do is just keep fucking slapping you.

hincandenza : knock it the fuck off. Educate yourself and listen to what the people in this thread are telling you, and stop embarrassing yourself.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:34 AM on July 20, 2010 [166 favorites]


And if you don't mind the Meta-ness, imagine we're the workplace and the mods are our HR. And right now YOU are the transgressor, contributing ever so slightly to a hostile work environment with your tiny slaps in the face. This isn't theoretical, you're actually doing it. The women ARE sticking up for themselves, just like you think they should, and you're still not getting it. They could call the mods but what fucking good would it do? Do you think you would be properly chastised and change your behavior? No, you'd find support and raise holy hell, and we'd have another big fight on our hands, and while I have faith in Metafilter and the people here, there are a lot of other places where that would result in the "bitch" who spoke up getting run out of town.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:41 AM on July 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Also, and this isn't really germaine, but I'm not a troll. I may not be the most polished and eloquent member of metafilter, but like them or not my opinions are my own genuine opinions (such that some people want to be sure they always know what kind of horrible creature is saying these things). A troll is intentionally shit stirring, whereas my verbose posts may be misguided, unwanted and probably not worth the effort but they are sincere.

I'm smart enough to know that language reflects inherent bias, and it's not wholly unworthy to look into how language influences and alters our way of thinking- but to do so line by line smacks less of "useful insight" than "nitpicking for the sake of scoring cheap points". The effort is not to change my mind, but just to shut me down as ignorant, unwelcome, and unredeemably broken.

I'm sympathetic that sexism is still present, but I'll remain baffled that it is omnipresent, the way I'd be baffled that racism is omnipresent: that it was once ubiquitous, that it's been a long and ongoing struggle to remove these traits from our society, that we aren't there yet but have made great strides, and that I'm certainly prone to occasional slips myself. That incidents occur, but should hopefully be enough of a rarity that they are not the defining trait of one's life and instead a black mark on the other party.

I get that it seems unfair to say "It can't be happening that often or else it wouldn't be happening", or some variation. It's also unfair to say that I must hate women because I'm genuinely baffled (and yes, skeptical) that this sort of thing is commonplace. I get I'm being told it is- but it's not because I hate or dismiss or infantilize women that I have disbelief. It's the disbelief of "Am I really not seeing this? Where and when is this all happening?"

But I'm consistently left asking every time:

a) What can I do about this? I do try to be non-sexist, and despite your UserNotes here at least from people who know me in real life a lot of women (and men) seem to think I'm very much non-sexist and balanced. I have called out friends or strangers for things said that are not cool, but these cases are not common.

Corollary: as one of the ugliest people I've ever known, I certainly get treated shoddily being seated in the back of restaurants, or getting poor service stores, or have random people shout insults at me from passing cars. But that's not the majority of people, and I don't expect the majority of people to be held responsible because there are some insensitive jackasses out there.

b) Maybe it's my bellicose upbringing or testosterone levels, but I do think confronting someone being offensive is a good thing. The people in this thread certainly aren't shy about accusing me bluntly of being little more than a hairy-armed slime mold of cultural backsliding, but apparently face-to-face almost no one says anything. What's so bad about being confrontational when the situation calls for it? I certainly have never been the one to put the thought in your head that you shouldn't.

c) Where on earth do you people shop etc that clerks hand someone else the CC slip or change? After all, plenty of posters in this thread have seen fit to UserNote me as a monster, but... you do do that in real life too right? You tell your friends- male and female- about what person X did at the store, so they all know that the staff at restaurant X is sexist, or that the gynecologist is demeaning, etc? Because if the only place you're holding people accountable for their actions or viewpoints that you find offensive is a Metafilter thread, it seems wasted on me.
posted by hincandenza at 12:43 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


jamaro: Because you did bring this up with your/his boss and/or your company's HR representative, right?

I did not bring it up with HR or my boss. I wrote my coworker an email saying that his behavior was wildly inappropriate. He apologized profusely and we had a good discussion about it. I believe he understood how he had crossed the line, however if he had not, then I would have escalated the issue.

Does the whole work place regularly do things like this?
It was a software games company in the early 90s; I was one of the few women in R&D. So, yes.
Actually, that sounds cool. My hat's off to you (unless that's patriarchal) since that seems like you confronted the situation and resolved it, and your co-workers apologized and hopefully changed his behavior around you and in general. Not cool that this was apparently still commonplace at the work place.

I recall workshopping at something called The Theater of the Oppressed in the mid-to-late 90's, and one of the takeaways was the idea of how those in a traditionally minority or submissive position can dialogue and evolve ways to change the attitude and behavior of the majority or dominant position despite not having "power". Rather than using brute force or attempt to become the dominant player, it's about finding ways to hopefully tap the humanity within and get those people to change themselves in seeking balanced equality. It's not unlike the non-violent resistance of the civil rights movement, and I guess the point I'm trying (clearly not well) to make is that something like what jamaro did is more effective than the linked website. If the MFIF site had more focus on "And here's how I solved that situation" it might seem more productive.


Also, what the hell is mansplaining?
posted by hincandenza at 12:52 AM on July 20, 2010


to wear the pants in the family
to take it lying down


While we're on the subject of idioms that are sexist in origin-- ever notice how most of our colloquial derogatory idioms are homophobic? "That sucks," "it blows," "he licked [his opponent, a disease, whatever]" are all contemptuous references to oral sex. The man who licks, sucks, or blows another is such an object of scorn that his actions are shorthand for failure and ickiness.
posted by ms.codex at 12:56 AM on July 20, 2010


It'll please you to know, PercussivePaul, that I don't find your approach any more successful in spite of your gender. And you don't know me remotely well enough to say that I couldn't imagine being worn down by a lifetime of little slaps. You actually have no clue how well I understand that.
posted by hincandenza at 12:56 AM on July 20, 2010


"Am I really not seeing this? Where and when is this all happening?"

I think you're having trouble seeing it because you're smack-dab in the middle of it.
posted by karminai at 12:57 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, what the hell is mansplaining?

Everything you typed above this question.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:02 AM on July 20, 2010 [21 favorites]


What can I do about this?

Sometimes the best thing is just to allow people to have space to express themselves. As I understand it (I'm a white male, so this is not my own experience), it can be tiring to "educate" someone about their privilege. Start here maybe?
posted by Deathalicious at 1:06 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Several times when working in a mostly-male writer's room, an idea I've proposed has been greeted with silence... and then, five minutes later, re-introduced by one of the guys as if he'd just come up with it. Guess what happens then? Yeah, it's suddenly a really good idea. And yes, you call the guys on this stuff, but it doesn't make it stop happening.

I've also been passed on for jobs, as have many of my female friends, with "we already have enough women on this show." I have never heard of a male writer not being hired because of a supposed surplus of men on staff.
posted by OolooKitty at 1:08 AM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I hear this kind of shit from men every day.

Every day.

Most of it is not notable, 'just' a constant stream of, 'nice ass,' 'smile,' 'who's you're daddy?' 'fine bitch, you don't like men, find yourself a woman to fuck.'

When someone engages in more novel sexism it stands out. And replays, over and over. Part of this has to do with PTSD.

I work really hard to get out of situations that seem to be headed in the direction of derogation or infantilization, because I feel like shit after them.

But in the checkout line, at the grocery store, when the guy behind me says, 'heh, ice cream, vegetables, pasta, peanut butter. That's a weird combination, I bet you're preggers!'

I know, that's bad right there. But he kept going! 'Just don't gain too much weight, or he'll leave you.'

This was not from an octagenarian. This guy was 40, max.

I had the guts to politely say, 'oh, not pregnant, just getting groceries.'

And he got snippy with me, but by this point it was time for me to pay.

These kinds of exchanges happen twice a week, minimum. I hear it from homeless men on the street (pssst, psssst. Hey slim. Let me get a taste of that, girl! Girl, don't you hear me? I know you hear me!)

From my ex landlord (of course, if you run off and marry some guy, you won't get your security deposit back.)

From my ex boss, from a shoe salesman at Nordstrom, from the mechanic, from my dance instructor, from the husbands of my students, from bartender who was sure I didn't know the difference between Barbancourt and bacardi silver which I watched him pour, from a hairdresser, from a police officer.

I name all of these incidents in a shorthand of my interlocutors (I love the idea of interlocutasts!) and my cheeks burn with shame, even though I know that the only thing I did was possess evidence of a pair of x chromosomes.

(don't even get me started on this crap from guys who are trying to pick me up in bars. I'm sure someone will drop by to say that what guys say when they're loaded doesn't count, or shouldn't be held against them. Or that I should go to bars expecting lewd comments. Or that if I dressed differently I'd get not get this brand of male attention in bars. I say, actuly, if we expect people not to drive drunk, we can expect other levels of self control as well.)

And hey, it's 4 in the morning. I have no business being awake still at this hour.
posted by bilabial at 1:11 AM on July 20, 2010 [16 favorites]


what the hell is mansplaining?
Mansplaining isn't just the act of explaining while male, of course; many men manage to explain things every day without in the least insulting their listeners.

Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate "facts" about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.

Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!
Or
also known as the Men Who Know Things phenomenon, whereby some men mistakenly believe that they automatically know more about any given topic than does a woman and will, consequently, proceed to explain to her- correctly or not- things that she already knows.

The mansplainer's problem isn't so much that he's trying to teach a woman something, but rather that he takes it as a given that she doesn't already know whatever it is he is going to tell her.
What's so bad about being confrontational when the situation calls for it?

Have you not even skimmed the multiple recent threads in which women have discussed how they won't confront men who are being sexist, offensive misogynists because they *fear for their lives*?

It's as if you have some sort of selective reading... oh.
posted by tzikeh at 1:16 AM on July 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


I am sorry for presuming, and for losing my temper a bit. After your more recent comments I'm less frustrated at you and I would have toned down my original comment if I could.

Mansplaining: speaking from authority derived solely from being a man.

People who are not on the receiving end of oppression have no authority to judge whether it's real or not, or what the appropriate response should be. Notice how a thread about the marginalization of women has ended up with you, a man, telling women how they should respond to this oppression.

You have the right to make an observation about your own experiences with sexism, but you do not have the authority to be skeptical of someone else's claims unless you have reason to believe that they are lying. If you'll forgive me for making this personal, it would be like me being skeptical of your own claims about being harassed. If I presumed to tell you how you should react to this harassment, I would be out of line.

What's going on here is what goes on every time there is a sexism thread. Men claim authority and a position of dominance in the discussion. It's what happens whenever women speak out; they're told how they should react. You may think that you're not sexist, but what you're doing is ever so slightly slapping women in the face. You should critically examine your role in this discussion.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:19 AM on July 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


It's also unfair to say that I must hate women because I'm genuinely baffled (and yes, skeptical) that this sort of thing is commonplace.

Yet women here are telling you that we deal with this stuff every single frigging day. And your skepticism implies that we're lying, or overreacting, or just plain wrong. And we're just talking here about the kind of ridiculous comments women put up with on a daily basis. We're not even talking about, say, the multiple times I've had guys expose themselves to me (including one guy who drove for several miles alongside a car my friends and I were in so that he could masturbate in front of us), for instance. But this happens to women all the freaking time. The reason you don't notice it is because you don't have to. We do.
posted by OolooKitty at 1:32 AM on July 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


Are you a man? When was the last time you bought a piece of tech and the salesperson mentioned how easy it was to clean?

The level of defensiveness by males here is really tiring.


Oh please. I'm a woman - as anyone can see from my profile. The salesperson told the writer about the product's advantages. That's his job. On top of that, he only mentioned how easy the iPod dock would be to clean at the end of a full explanation of the differences between the two models, to somebody who had already admitted to not being very well informed about the technology involved anyway. That information also matters, and he ought to be giving it to men too. Perhaps he was being sexist; perhaps his tone even made that clear. The story itself didn't. Again, I'm a woman, I know perfectly well that horribly sexist things happen all the time. This story irritated me because it brought to my mind people who disdain "feminine" things, like skirts and the colour pink, as if that were feminism and not in fact aiding and abetting. Thinking about cleanliness is not beneath anybody.


Also, if it helps, here's the OED on taking it lying down:

d. to take (a beating, defeat, etc.) lying down: to receive it with abject submission.

1888 Sat. Rev. 4 Aug. 133/1 Those who..profess themselves willing to take, ‘lying down’, any and every inconvenience that the victorious Irish may inflict. 1914 G. B. SHAW Androcles (1916) I. 17 You know, I should feel ashamed if I let myself be struck like that, and took it lying down. 1931 E. F. BENSON Mapp & Lucia viii. 229 She had to swallow her medicine... I had no idea.. that she would take it lying down like that. 1974 M. GILBERT Flash Point viii. 64, I heard what the beak said to you. I had an idea you weren't going to take it lying down.

posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:50 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


At 30ish, when I was getting my tubes tied, my doctor (male) asked me what my husband thought. I said, I'm divorced, and it's none of his business. He turned to the student-doctor (also male) and said "Isn't she fiesty?"

On the day of the operation, I was recieving an IV and wondering if they would start with anathesia there, or later, I asked, "is this a saline drip?" The male nurse or student doctor (I'm not sure which), patted my hand and said "it's a nice cup of tea for your arm."

Yesterday, I book a flight for Professor X. The airlines in my country don't accept Professor as a title, and despite Professor X's first name being Catherine, the default title came back on the itinerary as Mr. If they won't let you put a person's correct title down, why do they have it in the software?

I was introduced recently as a new staff member, to a student (male, 60ish), who said something along the lines of, "Oh, I haven't seen you before, they keep the young pretty ones away from me." I'm 40ish and fat. I told him it was inappropriate, as I was here to work and not be pretty. He came to me later and apologised, said he was sorry if I was offended. He still didn't seem to understand what the problem was.

At another university, a member from another department interrupted a meeting of all admin that (as is common) was all female. He said "I hate to interrupt your sewing circle."

A male supervisor said he liked to keep his female staff happy by noticing when they had haircuts and admiring them. He promised to notice when I did too.

This all happened in the last ten years, but mostly in the last two weeks.

My husband and I often look for a movie we will both enjoy - the latest interesting movie he found had absolutely no female actors. None. I can't think of any movies that only have women in them. I thought about telling him about the Bechdel test:

The strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (sometimes DTWOF), popularized what is now known as the Bechdel test, also known as the Bechdel/Wallace test, the Bechdel rule, or Bechdel's law. Bechdel credits her friend Liz Wallace for the test, which appears in a 1985 strip entitled "The Rule", in which a character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements:

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man
posted by b33j at 1:51 AM on July 20, 2010 [22 favorites]


This is so weird, I live in Europe and in my country I have never been asked to smile. I mean, NEVER. Neither have I seen it done to other women. I've never even heard about this shit before I started reading Metafilter. But I think it's because people generally don't smile, here, nor do they expect women to.

I also cannot remember a single instance where I tried to buy something and got ignored in favour of my husband - I'm the tech savvy one in the family, and I also tend to order in restaurants.

In other ways, people are a lot more sexist, though. I mean, for instance, comments about women and parking are quite the norm - right infront of me.

And you should see people's faces when I tell them my husband does the cooking and shopping at home. Like they're thinking "my goodness, the poor sod, she totally has the pants on." Some people actually smirk. I always feel like I should explain that we have an arrangement whereby I do the cleaning and he does the cooking. But on the other hand, maybe I shouldn't be explaining.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:54 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


> That incidents occur, but should hopefully be enough of a rarity that they are not the defining trait of one's life and instead a black mark on the other party.

The kind of incidents you may be thinking of here, the kind that really would warrant a quick turn on the heel and march to HR because that colleague just refused to work with you because you're female and shouldn't even be allowed to vote or something like that, are thankfully fairly rare for many of us. What's not rare is the endless series of remarks and assumptions that fall into the huge grey area between "misogynist who hates women" and "enlightened soul who thinks of women as exactly the same as other human beings."

It's a mistake to think that sexism is only sexism if it's malicious in nature. It's a prejudice that's ingrained in our society to the point where perfectly nice, polite, well-intentioned people, people who certainly wouldn't consider themselves sexist and would indeed speak out against anything they did perceive as sexism, will come out with sexist comments.

Sexism is the religious fundamentalists who think I shouldn't be allowed to wear what I want or leave the house without male supervision, for sure. But it's also the man I passed walking to work a little while ago who told me to "smile, love, it can't be that bad!" It's the doctor who, when I asked about the inheritance patterns for a genetic condition I have, told me that I shouldn't worry too much because "if you meet Mr Right, he'll love you just as you are so it won't bother him if you have children that have the same thing." It's the chef who was my boss back in my waitressing days who told me to always serve the men at the table first, and it's the male customers who echoed that, not because they believed they were more important than the women but because That's Just How It Works. It's the dozens of men in an online game I play who make jokes about any player who admits to being female getting back in the kitchen and making them a pie.

None of this makes them irredeemably awful people. But what do you do? You can confront every little one of these every time it happens - and it happens all the time - and get met with a genuinely baffled reception, because in their minds they're just joking/being polite/being helpful, and wtf now you're accusing them of sexism. Or you can let it go, and know that by giving it a free pass you're implicitly signing off on this behaviour as acceptable, and the next time you're in one of these discussions people will let you know that, with the consequent suggestion that hey maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal if you stood up for yourself.

Setting up a blog to exchange stories and bitch about the situation seems like a perfectly fair response to an unwinnable situation.
posted by Catseye at 1:56 AM on July 20, 2010 [33 favorites]


And wow, I remember being at a business function professionally, when an older gentleman (call him Ted) invited me over to the table of himself and his business associates. One of the geezers at the table said, "I should know that whenever I'm looking for the prettiest girl in the room I need only to look for Ted." And it was obviously meant to be this smarmy old man compliment but dude! I still don't know what I should have said to that.

Also, a number of businessmen I call respond to my name (imagine my name is "Oreo" or something similar) with a teasing "and are you just as sweet?"

My favourite sexist thing came from a woman, though. I called a company and asked for a call back from the CEO.
"For whom?"
"What do you mean?"
"Who wants to speak to him?"
"Well, ME!"

She figured because I was a woman I must be the secretary....
posted by Omnomnom at 2:09 AM on July 20, 2010


It's the chef who was my boss back in my waitressing days who told me to always serve the men at the table first, and it's the male customers who echoed that, not because they believed they were more important than the women but because That's Just How It Works.

Isn't it correct etiquette to serve the women first? I don't care either way, but I'm surprised!
posted by Omnomnom at 2:13 AM on July 20, 2010


These all sound completely fake and if you fall for it youre dumb, period. Pics or it didnt happen.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 2:14 AM on July 20, 2010


What's going on here is what goes on every time there is a sexism thread.

Well, you got that right.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:33 AM on July 20, 2010


Confirmation bias?
posted by devnull at 2:33 AM on July 20, 2010


All of these stories sound real - some minor editorial trimming for succinctness and language, sure, but I've heard too many similar stories to doubt them at all.

On the other hand, the service industry complaint blog Not Always Right sets off my bullshit detector fairly frequently.

posted by Sticherbeast at 11:57 AM on July 20 [+] [!]

The stories are a lot more legit-sounding when you have had similar things happen to you.

I have to cop to my own gender faux pas. I used to teach people how to use their computer at a well-known computer retailer. Let's call them "Apple." (Yeah, I was one of those douche bags, big whoop, you wanna fight about it?) One woman, middle aged, came in to learn the basics. I noticed that she had Civilizations IV on her dock, and I stupidly asked her if her kid used the computer. (To be fair, I had not, up until that point, met a woman that had played any Civ game. Halo, Doom, D&D, Everquest, yes, all of those. I don't know why it didn't make sense at the time.)

She very politely told me that, no, it was hers and she enjoyed it. I told her it was my favorite game, and we spent the last half of her session learning the game (I taught her how to use religion to secure her borders). I hope I made it up to her.

My female co-workers had problems with some of their students. They'd come in for Final Cut sessions and get Vi. They'd ask us guys if any of the other teachers knew Final Cut, and we'd tell them that we actually had a certified Final Cut teacher on staff. They'd get excited, ask who it was, and we'd tell them that they were already working with her. To their credit, most of them were fine after Vi wowed them, but it's silly that it took that.

Tl;dr: I've done it, I've seen it happen.
posted by gc at 2:59 AM on July 20, 2010


As Omnomnom mentioned earlier, at least "come on, honey - smile!" doesn't happen too much in Europe. I'd get it All. The. Time. (Every single time I walked outside for more than 5 minutes.) when I lived in the US. But thirteen years in Europe (11 in France, 2 in Finland) and no one's ever asked me to smile. But that's pretty much the only positive difference.

Just last week I was eating dinner with three friends, all men. I'm single, have been for several years now, have a young-looking face and so always get called "Mademoiselle". Except at dinner, the (male) waiter called me "Madame". My three friends got odd looks, let the waiter leave and asked me, "are you often called Madame?" I smiled and said, "Never. He probably thinks I'm with one of you." General hilarity ensued. (In case no one's thought of it yet, all three men are gay.) That was easy enough for us to laugh at; no real harm done, we could comprehend how the waiter guy wouldn't conceive of a single straight woman with three gay men... though it still stings.

Then a table of four was seated behind us. We could overhear them easily and, like us, they spoke half in French and half in English. One of the men was a run-of-the-mill ignoramus. I use the adjective "run-of-the-mill" purposefully; I deal with people like that on a near-daily basis (often daily, unfortunately). At one point he said something about how homosexuals are like animals. Ouch. "Jerk," we all agreed. "You should hear men at the gym," my friends said, "it's like a festival of homophobic insults." "Oh gawd. Why do you keep going back?" I asked. They shrugged and said, "we've never found a gym that's not like that." Cripes. This same jerkbutt, after eating his meal, suddenly went on a tirade against his girlfriend/partner: "That was awful! I'd never have eaten it if it weren't for you! You influenced me! Just keep your stupid recommendations to yourself next time!"

"Dude." said I. "Oh. My. God. Homophobic and misogynist." said the friend next to me. "I can't believe the other guy isn't saying anything to defend her! Fraula... why aren't any of them saying anything?!" asked the friend across from me. I snorted and said, "if he defends the woman, he puts himself in jerkbutt's line of fire. If the woman defends herself, she's a bitch, hysterical, whatever." Still silence from the table behind us, then jerkbutt once again said to his partner, "don't say a word! Don't! Say a word!! Don't ever change my mind again!"

Painful silence. "Fraula... please tell us you don't deal with that often," my kind friends asked. "Let me tell you a story," I said loud enough for the table behind us to hear, my head turned as if I were talking to the friend next to me, but actually addressed to jerkbutt and his company. In a ponderous, weighty voice, I intoned, "Men are intelligent." My friends laughed. "Some of them are so goddamned intelligent, fucking brilliant, really, that they choose people they don't respect for company. That way, when these fucking geniuses make a choice that doesn't give their inflated ego the utmost pleasure, they can claim they were influenced." Voice dripping with sarcasm, I bellowed, "Because obviously, a fucking brilliant man is unable to bear the responsibility of his own decisions, and has to take it out on someone who he then forbids from speaking. Incredibly courageous of him."

The women stifled laughter. Jerkbutt did not say one more word for the next ten minutes we were at the restaurant (we'd finished, paid and left for ice cream elsewhere). Had I been alone, I never would have dared say all that — physical danger. But I was with three men. Buff, gym-going men, at that. Sigh. We have so far to go.
posted by fraula at 3:08 AM on July 20, 2010 [29 favorites]


These all sound completely fake and if you fall for it youre dumb, period. Pics or it didnt happen.

You've more or less accused all the women (and quite a few men) in this thread of being liars. How about you provide *any* sort of evidence of fakery before you accuse the regulars here of being stupid?

Pro tip: "I've never had anything like this happen to me" is not considered quality evidence.
posted by harriet vane at 3:09 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


My fault, I'm male.
posted by gjc at 3:10 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


since that seems like you confronted the situation and resolved it, and your co-workers apologized and hopefully changed his behavior around you and in general.

Unfortunately, the end result of my calling him out was it irreparably damaged our working relationship. After our discussion, he was unable to look me in the eyes for the remaining years I worked at that company. He made every effort to avoid being in the same room with me or would seat himself at the far end of the room if we were participants in the same meeting. If we happened to enter the same hallway, he would quickly and obviously detour into the closest cube or office.

My goal in calling him out was to make it clear that I would not put up with a very specific kind of behavior, the kind that had him pretending to be the baby I was "ignoring at home" (his words). He extrapolated my simple boundary into one that extended to every possible interaction and a 20' diameter in physical space. Of course I can't prove it, but I strongly suspect that if I were a guy who had told him to cut some shit out, he wouldn't have reacted in the same way.

As percussivepaul wrote above, contacting HR is indeed the nuclear option but sometimes even standing up for yourself one on one causes casualties.

My coworker was one example, I can offer many more from a lifetime of simply being female: the two guys in the contractors' truck in the next lane who got mad when I rolled up my window at a stoplight to shut out their catcalls, got so mad that one of them leapt out of the truck and started pounding on my car hard enough to dent it while shrieking whore and slut; the uncle who told me not to waste money on college because I was pretty enough and who got so angry when I pushed back that we've barely spoken 10 words in 30 years and the countless times I've been called a bitch for saying what I really think.

What's so bad about being confrontational when the situation calls for it?
See above: for me and for many other women, when we push back on a situation we find unjust, we get blowback just for daring to be confrontational. When I push back, I'm trying to solve one immediate problem. More often then not, my solution comes with more problems. Doing nothing causes problems too. How can this be solved? For the problem not to be created in the first place, yes?

If the MFIF site had more focus on "And here's how I solved that situation" it might seem more productive.
Perhaps, but many situations of this nature cannot be solved by another's solution. I certainly wouldn't want my solution to my coworker's antics to be considered the gold standard, to this day I wonder if I handled it as well as it could be handled as clearly it did not get the result I wanted (which, in case there's any question, was to be treated like a coworker). There is value in just hearing what others are experiencing, especially when one cannot experience the situation themselves and that's the value in a site such as MFIF.
posted by jamaro at 3:25 AM on July 20, 2010 [24 favorites]


Thanks for the tip, Harriet. I'll admit the "pics or it didnt happen" is a /b/-ish snark and ill retract that. But i stand by the spirit of my post. I know when im being lied to and i Know when im being sold bad good. and this has rotten written all over it.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 3:27 AM on July 20, 2010


It's also unfair to say that I must hate women because I'm genuinely baffled (and yes, skeptical) that this sort of thing is commonplace. I get I'm being told it is- but it's not because I hate or dismiss or infantilize women that I have disbelief. It's the disbelief of "Am I really not seeing this? Where and when is this all happening?"

But you're skeptical in every single damn thread that even tangentially relates to the subject of sexism. You start out with dismissive and argumentative comments, and only if a man tries to explain it to you do you back down into itemised lists that are less unreasonable.

How many women have to tell you about sexist experiences before you realise that this shit happens all the time? You're an individual male so it doesn't happen to you, and you conclude on that basis that it mustn't happen to anyone. Do you question gravity or transpiration or fucking magnets because you can't see it? There's a big wide world out there of stuff that you'll never experience directly. And yet this is the item you get hung up on.

From here, it looks like actual evidence isn't enough to convince you. It goes beyond healthy skepticism and into a borderline accusation of lying.

This constant refrain of "but this can't be happening, you must have done something to provoke it, you mustn't have dealt with it the right way, you must be imagining offense where none is intended" is only a wordier version of "pics or it didn't happen". Women already have to deal with the sexism - repeatedly exclaiming that they must be wrong just adds insult to injury. That's why everyone thinks you're a sexist troll.
posted by harriet vane at 3:29 AM on July 20, 2010 [30 favorites]


and this has rotten written all over it.

And you can tell because of some of the pixels and having seen quite a few women lie about sexist experiences in your time?
posted by harriet vane at 3:33 AM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Say you want to go on a weekend getaway with your wife. You go on the internet and make a booking in your name. Pay with your credit card. You arrive at the hotel and are asked to hand over your passports for registration. As you leave you are handed the bill in your wife's name. Yes, that would never happen. As for me, I made the receptionist redo all the registration process and hand me the bill in my name and not my husband's.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 3:33 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jauxie_Raddass and others of the same opinion ... can I ask what it is about what seems to me and others to be a set perfectly ordinary stories that seems so unbelievable?

I've read through them all, and they're not even unusual or particularly bizarre examples of this kind of thing. It's the kind of stuff that happens all the time.

So, why does it strike you as fake?
posted by kyrademon at 3:36 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't need to read the thread to know it goes like this:

"FAKE!"
"NOT FAKE!"
"FAKE! WOMEN HAVE TOO MANY RIGHTS NOW (NOT SEXIST)!"
"LOL I LIKE THIS COMMENT: BANK TELLER: LOL ONLY PROSTITUTES DEPOSIT MONEY"
"NOT FAKE!"
"I JUST CAME HERE TO SAY FAKE"
"DEFINITELY FAKE"
"IT'S DEFINITELY FAKE I HAVE A REALLY LONG STORY ABOUT HOW REAL IT IS. ONE TIME WHEN I WAS WORKING AT BURGER KING THIS GUY TALKED ABOUT MY 'MELONS' WHILE I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE"
"EVEN IF IT IS FAKE ITS GOOD BECAUSE ITS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME AS REAL"
"OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU JUST SAID THAT, ARE YOU SERIOUS?"

Anyway, here's my perspective:

I'm a guy, and I grew up in a family where my Mum did most of the cooking and cleaning and my Dad wasn't around a lot and when we went to my Grandparents' for Christmas or family reunions we all sat in the lounge and watched sport while the women made dinner and folded sheets and things. Mum obviously wasn't a big fan of that shit, and so taught my brothers and I to cook and clean and basically be good new age men &c. Unfortunately, we're still arseholes, and while most of my friends are women, my jokes sometimes tend toward what I present as faux chauvinism. That's at home. At work, however, I'm a real prick. I just want the job done and don't have time for people to have feelings or conversations about makeup or whatever. I don't care if you're successful, if you're a woman, I want to either have sex with you or make snide comments about your weight or less than perfect facial features. Also, you need to put more paper in the printer/photocopier cause it's broken. No, I don't know where the paper is kept and no I don't want you to tell me how to do it because then I'll have to do it next time and it's easier to just stand there and loudly proclaim that the printer is broken and is there a woman around to fix it, and while you're down there, love, ahaha air-high-five anyone?

Maybe it makes me feel more masculine or something. Maybe I have a tiny penis or some issues with my Father. But whatever, Girls at work either love me or hate me (or hate me but want to make me their project). And this sounds a lot like it's all about me, which it kind of is, because, you know, this is a thread about women, and I'm way more important, but it's all just building up to this:

My attitude, which I am making considerable effort to change, is not uncommon, and especially not uncommon in my workplace and age group (mid 20s), and the many successful young women I know have a ridiculously tough time compared to the successful young men I know. Society has fucked you, girls, because I coast at work and spend a lot of time chatting to people and helping people work their computers while the women do lots of crappy work that we've offloaded onto them and they're too nice to refuse to do, and, occasionally, there's a woman that refuses to take that shit and has a lot of professional respect and, to be honest, we all complain about how she's a tough bitch and she's probably a lesbian.

tl;dr: I'm a chauvinist. Even if these are fake, they're real, and I can't believe some of the shit women put up with at work, in shops, schools, etc. including from me. What's more, this site has cross-market appeal in that it is a sort of 'hmm tsk tsk, I know exactly what they're talking about' appeal to women while at the same time appealing to certain men as hilarious.

Also, I should note that a lot of stories like this sound contrived, even when they're not. Most people aren't professional writers, and most people edit their memories a little bit - often, ironically, to make their stories sound more believable because the truth was even more outrageous. Just saying.

There's a lot of 'This is completely wrong and I need to change my behaviour in the following ways, and perhaps I don't respect women in the right way - though of course, I'm going to deny that last one and say I really do respect women and I'm respecting them by being equally obnoxious and offensive to them as to my guy friends' - that I need to flesh out in my mind, and I don't have any coherent arguments to offer yet.

I really enjoyed this website. It made me laugh for a few pages and then it made me think. Will it change my behaviour and attitude? We'll see.
posted by doublehappy at 3:41 AM on July 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Pretty sure the noob's trolling, kyrademon.

(the opportunity to type sentences like that are why the internet is the greatest thing ever)

I'd just let it lie and let him work his way to a banning all on his own. As for the other guys, they're loyal members of the Mefi Sexism Denial Brigade. Also best not to engage with. A lot of these comments may as well have been copy-pasted from prior threads.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:44 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Im not one too put up huge walls of texts on sites like these. On my profile page is a link to my face book and on my face book info tab is my Gvoice number. I invite anyone to call that number and I will explain my thought processes blog entry by blog entry and listen to your counter argument so long as you dont immediately start screaming and raging the second you hear me say hello.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 3:45 AM on July 20, 2010


These all sound completely fake and if you fall for it youre dumb, period. Pics or it didnt happen.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 2:14 AM on July 20

Thanks for the tip, Harriet. I'll admit the "pics or it didnt happen" is a /b/-ish snark and ill retract that. But i stand by the spirit of my post. I know when im being lied to and i Know when im being sold bad good. and this has rotten written all over it.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 3:27 AM on July 20


Wow, you joined Metafilter today just so that you could make these valuable contributions to the conversation? Calling us liars and idiots for discussing the sexism that we experience every fucking day was that important to you?
posted by platinum at 3:46 AM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Gender aside, I'me all for reviving the 'ix' suffix (haha) just because it sounds cool. Enginerix, Secratrix, Programmix, bartendrix, ...it just rolls off the tounge nicely...
posted by jonmc at 5:55 PM on July 19


I knew if I lurked long enough.....
posted by Cheminatrix at 3:48 AM on July 20, 2010 [36 favorites]


Wow, you joined Metafilter today just so that you could make these valuable contributions to the conversation? Calling us liars and idiots for discussing the sexism that we experience every fucking day was that important to you?
posted by platinum at 3:46 AM on July 20 [+] [!]

That, and posting things I find interesting.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 3:50 AM on July 20, 2010


Calling us liars and idiots for discussing the sexism that we experience every fucking day was that important to you?

Pssh. You're just a woman, how would you know what "sexism" is or isn't? That's a man's job, honey.
posted by cmonkey at 3:54 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, you joined Metafilter today just so that you could make these valuable contributions to the conversation? Calling us liars and idiots for discussing the sexism that we experience every fucking day was that important to you?
posted by platinum at 3:46 AM on July 20 [+] [!]

That, and posting things I find interesting.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 3:50 AM on July 20 [+] [!]




Can we please, Please, PLEASE consider this an open admission of intention to troll and a clear signal that no more of this thread needs to be about this kid? Please?
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:57 AM on July 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


Anyway, here's my perspective:

doublehappy, that just sounded so fake. I mean, all of it. Were you being serious?
Not because I don't believe that type of man exists or posts here, but because I can't believe anyone would actually present themselves like that. You sound like a wannabe macho supervillain or something.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:59 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yup, EatTheWeak, I'm moving on.

So, one topic that has come up in this thread is the MASSIVE number of hoops a woman has to jump through to get a tubal ligation -- the younger she is, the more crap she has to put up with.

At least someone has posited that a man trying to get a relatively early vasectomy would also get a lot of crap. I tend to believe that women have more trouble trying to get this done, but I will admit I'm more familiar with the fight to get a tubal ligation than a fight to get a vasectomy.

So, I was wondering if anyone had firsthand -- or even secondhand -- knowledge of trying to get a vasectomy at a relatively young age. Did you also get doctors refusing to do it (on the putative grounds that you would change your mind later and sue), doctors trying to talk you out of it, doctors condescendingly talking to you about the biological clock (or a male equivalent), and so on?
posted by kyrademon at 4:04 AM on July 20, 2010


Can we please, Please, PLEASE consider this an open admission of intention to troll and a clear signal that no more of this thread needs to be about this kid? Please?
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:57 AM on July 20 [1 favorite +] [!]
Im not trolling and I had no intention of making this about me. Just like you I possess critical thinking skills and just like you I make judgments on information based on previous life experiences. The only problem you have is mine is of a different opinion than the majority of this tread.
posted by Jauxie_Raddass at 4:11 AM on July 20, 2010


Not two minutes ago, while speaking to a man who knows a lot about the startup-I-just-left and who knows that I have worked my butt off for a year without pay at the-startup-I-just-left as the only unsalaried employee, the highest ranking employee, and the only female employee, about finding a job - any job - that pays stat he replied: Find yourself a new rich husband.

Sure. It was a joke. But my icicle-dripping "I am not married" response alerted him to the fact that I wasn't in the least bit amused. Not today. Not when I worry about keeping the roof over my babies head. Could we please quit it with teh funny just once, and give me a lead on a paying job? Thanks.
posted by dabitch at 4:38 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Im not one too put up huge walls of texts on sites like these. On my profile page is a link to my face book and on my face book info tab is my Gvoice number. I invite anyone to call that number and I will explain my thought processes blog entry by blog entry

So, you joined MetaFilter to tell us that you won't use MetaFilter.

And that we're liars.

Welcome!
posted by tzikeh at 4:55 AM on July 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


So I'm in a female-dominated field, physical anthropology. Except of the tenured physical anthropology professors at my old department, 5 of the 6 of them were men. And when I was applying for graduate programs, one of the professors to whom I spoke (a woman) told me to think seriously about whether or not I was going to have children, and whether or not being a Ph.D was really what was important to me, because she didn't want to put that investment of time and effort into a student only to have her leave. Were any of the men also applying to that department asked to consider their reproductive plans as an alternative to obtaining a graduate degree? Did any of them have their seriousness of intent questioned based on their reproductive plumbing?
posted by ChuraChura at 5:07 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


i'm half-way through the thread (0.5tl;dr?) but i had one anecdote to throw in (i'm a man).

i was attempting to re-connect with an old high-school friend (a woman) at a cafe in west london...a bit dingy, but whatever. it's a bit cramped and we're seated in the middle of room, chit-chatting, catching up, when a waitress comes up, looks at me, and says "are you ready to order?". so i look at my friend and say "ready to order?" i don't think we were, this repeats a second time, we order, fine.

waitress comes back after ten minutes, looks at me, and says "i apologise sir but it'd be really helpful if you moved to a side table since we're having difficulty seating a large group, is that alright?" i'm a bit flustered but i reflexively respond "that's fine, ok" but i realise i've forgotten to ask my friend, so i give her a look like "meh, what can you do?" and physically shrug at her. but at this point she's turning bright red, regardless we move tables and settle down.

and all the time i'm thinking "wow, she's taking this table moving a bit seriously". the obvious never crossed my mind, and she blurted it out after a few minutes:

"that waitress isn't even addressing me to my face"

and then it all clicked. after reading this article i'm asking myself a series of questions - i wonder how many times people have chosen to address me first when i'm out with a woman? i wonder if i exacerbate the situation, even subconsciously?

this story doesn't even come close to the intensity of other preceding ones...but now i'm wondering. hmm.
posted by asymptotic at 5:19 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just like you I possess critical thinking skills and just like you I make judgments on information based on previous life experiences.

Unlike some of us, you consider your opinion strong enough and valuable enough to post it without any further backup, as though saying "I know when I am being lied to" is evidence of anything at all. This is literally an entire thread of women confirming that these sorts of stories occur all the time. But, no, your bullshit meter is so strong, and so excellent, that we just need to trust your opinion.

We don't. If you think something smells fishy, prove it's fishy. Back up your assessment. That's how things are done at MetaFilter, and that's why it's better than the rest of the Web, where any asshole's opinion is valid just because they have access to the Internet, no matter how little research they have done, or how much it's rooted in unexamined ideas and prejudices, or how much they want to fuck with strangers because they don't have much else going for them. We have a higher standard here. So now you get to experience that standard: You think the blog is fabricated. Tell us why.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:23 AM on July 20, 2010 [32 favorites]


I'm white, male, 6'4, carry myself well, sport a decent beard, a heavy brow, and have a native "don't fuck with me" expression on my face. No one looks twice. Respect and deference everywhere I go.

A month ago the local pride festival was on, and because it was a beautiful sunny, warm, breezy day, I elected to walk down to Victoria Park. And because it was a beautiful sunny, warm, breezy day, I elected to wear a skirt*.

Same me, white, male, 6'4, bearded, don't-fuck-with-me expression, striding purposefully, in a skirt .... stared at, pointed at, cat-called.

By the end of my walk I had an inkling of what it's like. And it was horrible. And I knew that could take off the skirt at the end of the day, and it was still horrible. To know that it would continue day after day after day after day.....

My partner is an IT team manager (the only female in a technical group of 20). I told her about this thread during our shower last night and she pretty much vowed to stay out of it because, really, she deals with this shit on a daily basis, sometimes even from people she works with daily who, while intellectually they know how good she is at what she does, still occasionally have knee-jerk reactions of "if it has tits, it can't think clearly".

So, yes, this blog is real. Ever so horribly real, and just the tip of the iceberg. Slap, slap, slap indeed.

* Note that wearing a skirt is way different than wearing a kilt. Kilts are seen as empowering and daring. Skirts? "That boy ain't right."
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:39 AM on July 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


Quite amazing that women still have to deal with the whole "your life experience doesn't match mine, therefore you are lying" meme.

For my part, my wife is a doctor and only been in residency a few weeks; yet already she's noticed several patients make a point of thanking her, and then thanking the (male) doctors separately. Not quite the same as having a gyno baby-talk your cervix, (also all staff there dress the same so you can't really tell them apart) but there you have it.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 5:48 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only problem you have is mine is of a different opinion than the majority of this tread.

So your "opinion" is that the stories in the blog are made-up. Are the stories being told right here made up? Are we all lying?

And, dude, no one's going to call you at your gvoice number. Tough shit you don't put up "huge walls of text." That's how we communicate here - via text box. If you are in fact sincere and you really want to explain your thoughts here, you're going to have to do it this way. That's how this place works. Don't like it? Lots of other places on the interwebs where you don't have to explain anything.

(Also? If you really don't want to be thought of as a troll, you should check your profile here. It might as well have troll stamped all over it.)
posted by rtha at 5:52 AM on July 20, 2010


you should check your profile here. It might as well have troll stamped all over it.

Hm. Troll was not the first word that came to my mind. I see you apparently have this "self-control" thing I've heard so much about, rtha.
posted by elizardbits at 6:02 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Throwing my hat into the ring as a guy who is absolutely aware and convinced that sexism persists in today's society. Claiming it doesn't is tantamount, to me, to trolling.
posted by kalessin at 6:09 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


That it's a gynecologist doesn't make much difference; women are often talked down to by their doctors.

This is why that whenever I am given a choice (which I often am, and it puzzles me) to be referred to male doctor or a female doctor - I pick female. I think this choice is set up because some people *don't* want to be seen by lady doctors, but it's always, ALWAYS the choice I make.

The one male doctor I've seen in recent memory had a hard time talking to me honestly about future pregnancy. I had concerns about whether or not the medication I was given would be safe to take in that event and he stuttered over "Well, when you start tr... when you decide you want to..." I eventually had to jump in with "When I start trying to conceive?" "Yes. That." He couldn't bring himself to look me in the eye and say the words "conception" or "pregnancy." In all other ways, he was very professional, but it definitely strengthened my resolve to stick with female doctors who will look me in the eye and talk about pregnancy and other totally normal things that can happen in a woman's body.

What bothered me about the fancy introduction was the fact that this person was using this title as some sort of currency. As if I'll think to myself, "Oh yes, how could I be so inconsiderate, you're a doctor, of course a bit of special treatment for you. Perhaps I'll dial down my own douchiness because of your credentials."

It does work, though. It wasn't until a few years ago that my mother realized that if she told the hotel that "Dr. Moon" wanted another night added on to her stay that she would have no trouble doing so, whereas "Mrs. Moon" would get told that they were full and needed the room at the originally promised check-out time.

(I do not necessarily condone this strategy, even though it did add another night on to my beach vacation.)

A close friend of mine works for the US military doing design-type work that uses a broad sort of skill set. She's also been taking automotive body classes for about two years now. When a chance to do some soldering at work came up, she as really excited to put what she learned to use. But her boss told her he'd have "one of the guys do it."

My first job was at a local airport (in Vermont, teeny weeny - mostly Cessnas and the like with the occasional turbo prop) and I was the only one on staff during the weekends. This was never a problem until some male pilot would demand that "a guy" fuel his jet. At which point, I would have to call the manager (who did happen to be my dad, so that was helpful) in and fume under my breath that the manager was *more* likely than I was to scratch the paint.

The military guys were actually the most helpful - they gave me a tour of the medivac helicopter (which was, admittedly, pretty cool) and helped me spray de-icer into the tank while I fueled because I couldn't do both at the same time as my hands are too small to pump the jetfuel one handed.

I learned a LOT about feminism on that job and why more women aren't employed in aviation and such: the tools are all BUILT to be used by men. I was 3" too short for a lot of things (my dad helped out and built me a special stool/step ladder) and my hands were too small to do many tasks one-handed. And man, did I ever get a lot of dumb comments from pilots about the "pretty girl" fueling their plane. That is, the ones who actually *let me* fuel their plane.

HR is the nuclear option. When HR is forced to rebuke employees for behavior that is part of the culture and for which they do not expect to be rebuked, it poisons the air and creates resentment against the woman who complained. There are costs to speaking out. People will only do it if the costs of not doing it are higher -- if the harassment is too much to bear, and preserving the fantasy of a healthy working environment is no longer worth it.

Yes, and HR doesn't always work. I was blatantly sexually harassed by a *female* coworker at my former job and I took the issue to my manager. I was the one who was eventually asked to leave because I had "created a hostile work environment." They may have simply not believed that a female worker had tried - in the middle of a shift, in front of customers - to grab my ass with a pair of tongs, but in any case, it's often the person who complains who gets punished. I've heard enough stories to know that my experience is not an exceptional case.

I know, that's bad right there. But he kept going! 'Just don't gain too much weight, or he'll leave you.'

Ugh. I once had a waiter tell my SO that he shouldn't allow me to order cheese sticks *and* chicken wings because I'd lose my figure. He didn't even say it to ME - he said it to my male partner. Only time in my life I didn't leave a tip. (I would have left, but I really wanted those damned cheese sticks. And no, I did NOT have PMS.)

(To be fair, I had not, up until that point, met a woman that had played any Civ game. Halo, Doom, D&D, Everquest, yes, all of those. I don't know why it didn't make sense at the time.)

I'm a lady and Civ is one of my favorite games!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:10 AM on July 20, 2010


one of the professors to whom I spoke (a woman) told me to think seriously about whether or not I was going to have children, and whether or not being a Ph.D was really what was important to me, because she didn't want to put that investment of time and effort into a student only to have her leave. Were any of the men also applying to that department asked to consider their reproductive plans as an alternative to obtaining a graduate degree? Did any of them have their seriousness of intent questioned based on their reproductive plumbing?

I don't know. I personally know several women I'm jealous of who got the same degree I did and after getting married to well off men and putting in a few years at whatever job, decided to have a family and concentrate on that (I'm jealous of the not having to do crappy work part). Work wasn't really satisfying to them and they made a fuzzy economic argument that their salary just went to daycare (never mind that they would end up losing skills and experience for all the time they spent out of the workforce attending to babies). Honestly, if I didn't dislike the idea of having and raising children, and I had a rich husband and a nanny (because pretending to want to be home with the kids would be hard for me to fake -- I'd rather just work), I'm pretty sure I'd prefer to just do whatever I felt like everyday. I have loads of ideas.

Depending on the field, maybe she figured no educated woman would bother letting a poor male graduate student get her pregnant. Maybe the men she interviewed are too ugly and awkward to talk to women. I'm sure she probably advised some male who was married to a woman that perhaps he needed to consider the financial needs of his family should he and his wife become pregnant, unless she's got some well paying job that would support them both. It's not en vogue for educated people to have kids while struggling anymore and the culture has gone so incredibly baby-centric.
posted by anniecat at 6:15 AM on July 20, 2010


I personally know several women I'm jealous of who got the same degree I did and after getting married to well off men and putting in a few years at whatever job, decided to have a family and concentrate on that (I'm jealous of the not having to do crappy work part). Work wasn't really satisfying to them and they made a fuzzy economic argument that their salary just went to daycare (never mind that they would end up losing skills and experience for all the time they spent out of the workforce attending to babies).

Um.

She's not no longer doing "crappy work." She's raising her family. Women (and men) who stay home with their kids are doing hard work - just not office work. Seeing childcare dismissed as "easy" really galls me - as I'm one of those nannies that your theoretically wealthy people employ so they can do whatever they want. It's not easy and the fact that it's actually really difficult and often times annoying and/or boring is the reason why quite a lot of women (and men) prefer to keep their jobs rather than staying home with their kids.

You don't want kids - that's fine - but you should take a good hard look at what's actually involved before you dismiss your colleagues who choose to stay home as doing "whatever they want."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:21 AM on July 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Gender aside, I'me all for reviving the 'ix' suffix (haha) just because it sounds cool. Enginerix, Secratrix, Programmix, bartendrix, ...it just rolls off the tounge nicely...

I can't believe you have the gaul to suggest this.
posted by Kabanos at 6:21 AM on July 20, 2010 [22 favorites]


I see you apparently have this "self-control" thing I've heard so much about, rtha.

It's not self-control so much as lack of caffeine and it's still really early over here.
posted by rtha at 6:29 AM on July 20, 2010


She's not no longer doing "crappy work." She's raising her family. Women (and men) who stay home with their kids are doing hard work - just not office work.

Um. Where exactly in what I said did I say that childcare or raising a family was easy? Obviously it's not because I sure as hell don't want any part of it. So. Um. Yeah. um.
posted by anniecat at 6:31 AM on July 20, 2010


Crappy work doesn't mean hard work, btw. It means crappy work, as in unsatisfying and unrewarding emotionally. Obviously having a family, as hard the business of it is, is rewarding for these women I'm talking about, or else I'm guessing any rational person wouldn't do it. How am I dismissing childcare? If it's so easy, why would there even be a need for nannies?
posted by anniecat at 6:34 AM on July 20, 2010


I don't go through life looking for examples of sexism because, honestly, I don't want to find them as they depress and exhaust me. Recent examples of some that were more remarkable and/or difficult to ignore:

I'm the managing partner of a small law firm, let's call it JONES & APPLEMEAT. A telephone call from the opposing counsel (male) on a new case is transferred to my office. I answer, stating my full name, and am asked for "Mr. Applemeat" (which is puzzling, because my first name isn't remotely androgynous). "Aren't you his secretary?"

I'm tall. Was asked the usual questions by a male stranger in the elevator, i.e. how tall am I, did I ever play basketball, model, etc. Then, with a thoughtful concern that bordered on alarm, the stranger asked "But how do you find men to date??" .....Because naturally I'm A) interested in discussing my love life with strangers in the elevator; B) interested in dating; C) interested in dating men; D) insist that a man I date be taller than me. I was too busy mentally unpacking these assumptions to mention that I'm already married. To a guy who's 5'8".

I ride and restore vintage road bicycles. A few weeks ago I went to a new & used bike store looking for bikes of a particular vintage era, ("mens") frame style, and size--of which I informed the male clerk who asked if he could help me. Male clerk listened to my specifics and then proceeded to show me to our "Ladies' bikes" (which had none of the attributes I said I was looking for, in addition to being fairly obviously too small for me) pointing out their cheerful colors "we have this nice light blue one, and this other one that's pink." When I got away from this guy and found the bikes remotely close to the type that I had asked him for, the he returned to help me some more. I asked him a specific question about one bike's rear derailer. He answered by pointing out that the bike had a really soft, really comfortable seat. Caveot: Most of the (almost always male) bike mechanics and local bike store clerks I deal with have been helpful, friendly and totally cool.


posted by applemeat at 6:35 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


you should take a good hard look at what's actually involved before you dismiss your colleagues who choose to stay home as doing "whatever they want."

You really didn't even read what I wrote, did you?
posted by anniecat at 6:36 AM on July 20, 2010


Reading some of the comments reminded me of incidents I would really just rather forget. The "Smile!" command by men in authority in particular is particularly humiliating because it is an attempt to reduce you to a more desirable, more submissive entity when sexual desirability is the last thing on your mind.

Searching through the files in my brain marked "Petty humiliations Due to Vagina Ownership" I am struck by how overt, how cartoonish some episodes seem in retrospection; if they hadn't happened to me personally I would have trouble believing in their veracity. For example, the physics professor who would frequently say, "Girls, put your hands down. You can't possibly know the answer." and "If you need help with your lab work, ask one of the guys to help you." To this day I still wonder about him. Why would he do that? Was it his weird sense of humor? Did he really believe what he was saying? I have to think the former because experience must have disabused him of the notion that "girls can't do physics." I and one other woman were the only ones in the class to get an A, and I'm sure that was not unusual.

Sometimes it is almost a relief to return to my medieval studies when sexism was so prevalent that college dons could and did debate the topic of whether or not women had souls.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:49 AM on July 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


Sometimes it is almost a relief to return to my medieval studies when sexism was so prevalent that college dons could and did debate the topic of whether or not women had souls.

Women know your limits.
posted by anniecat at 6:51 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


One thing that happens constantly to me, which I'm sure doesn't happen much to men, is strangers recommending that "your husband" do something for you. Never mind that I've never been married and have been single and self-sufficient nearly all my life, am definitely handier than my SO, and don't wear a wedding ring. A couple recent instances: I call AAA to jump-start my battery. They do so, and as the AAA driver gets ready to leave, he says "You should really tell your husband it's time for a new battery." My car! No one else in evidence! And last month I snagged a bike on Freecycle. After I picked it up, the person giving it away wrote me to say "I'd like to keep the pump holder that's bolted onto the frame, but I can't get it off. Maybe your husband could get it off and you could return it to me?" I can't imagine why on earth she would (a) assume that I have a husband and (b) assume that I couldn't get it off myself.

I think it's been happening more often because I'm of an age where if I'm not married, then certainly something really weird is wrong with me, in the eyes of many.

But the implication of my helplesness and lack of skill, simply because I'm female, has always been truly galling. As is the assumption that the division of labor within a relationship always falls on traditional gender lines.
posted by Miko at 6:58 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm confused by the number of people saying that a Doctor shouldn't use her or his formal title when booking a flight. Assuming it's a medical doctor, can you really not think of ANY situation where it would be a good thing for the flight crew to be able to get that information from the passenger manifest?
posted by Gortuk at 7:06 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really dislike the idea that as the subject of someone else sexist activity I'm also supposed to correct this behavior in others. I'm not responsible for that. And at my job it would be inappropriate for me to do so.

I work as an RN at a cancer hospital. When a patient has a female attending oncologist (which is often), that is the doctor that is in charge of their inpatient care, I spend a big part of my day while that doctor is on the unit intercepting the sexism she experiences. A typical example is that doctor will be sitting down surrounded by other doctors and midlevel providers, all male and female, and a family member will go up to her, interrupt and ask for a glass of water, blanket. I step in and say I'll get that for them so that the doctor can get on with figuring out their family member's oncology care.

The idea that I should then school that family member of someone who has cancer - 'hey you should really reconsider what you just did there - asking the woman in the center of that group to get you something insignificant,' would simply be mean. Not to mention agitate a bunch of family emotions that would make my job and everyone else harder.

I just want to get that sexism out of the way so we can all get on with our job at hand - helping the patient. I'm sure some of the people questioning the validity of the stories in the blog and this thread might think: why not just get the glass of water or blanket... well that slows everything down. The care is moving very fast. You want your oncologist thinking about your cancer - not little details that make you feel better in a single moment. You want your RN organizing all of it so that its safe. Of course this never happens to the male Attendings or even the male RNs.

And don't even get me started on how the entire field of nursing is dismissed with ranty sexism all the time. Whenever the hospital is considering instituting something that involves nursing and they ask the nurses for input and that input is not completely positive but rather full of comments on how it should be better - the administrator or pharmacist or person in charge will literally say: 'oh bunch of nurses - complaining.'

It's tiresome. And if you're one of the deniers you're simply being daft.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:06 AM on July 20, 2010 [31 favorites]


Which would be funnier if you get the reference or my link worked properly ... (Hey, I'm just a girl, too...)

http://www.hulu.com/watch/110482/parks-and-recreation-im-just-a-girl
posted by NorthernLite at 7:08 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"But if you think a gynecologist would actually refer to a woman's eggs as eggies, ok..."

My mother's GP once told her that women were a drain on the NHS. He also started every appointment by asking me questions about my father. When I was home and had to see a doctor as an emergency, I made sure it was a different one. This isn't to say that women health professionals can be dispiriting to deal with - I saw one when I was nineteen who didn't believe my telling her that Depo-Provera made me put on two stone in six months, made me tell her everything I ate in a day and told me I should stop eating houmous 'because it contains mayonnaise' - but it happens, and I imagine it's ten times worse for female health workers, surgeons and doctors.

My dad once told me that 'when you leave university, you can start as a secretary, and if you work really hard, you can make your way up to being a PA!' Never mind that I have almost no admin skills and was doing a very academic course - in his world, and in his work place, women made the tea and men did the real work.
posted by mippy at 7:10 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


[Jauxie_Raddass, you're taking the day off. If you actually want to be a member of this community in any meaningful sense, cut the shit and start conversing in good faith when you come back. Otherwise, there are plenty of other sites where you can pull dumbass late-night shit-stirring bullshit and be welcomed with open arms.]
posted by cortex at 7:11 AM on July 20, 2010 [37 favorites]


Funny thing, right after reading this thread I stumbled upon a CV from an old interview for a software testing position that I took part in. There were three people from the company at the interview: a female HR manager, a female team lead and myself (male tester). The interviewee was a woman in her late twenties. She was working on her PhD, had work experience and generally made a good impression (aside from the usual bit of CV hyperbole). And then we got to "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

I'm paraphrasing here, but she replied with something along the lines of "Well, I am interested in the technical side of the job, so I want to learn as much as possible about <blah blah specifics of our system> in that time, and acquire new skills." And then quickly added "Oh, but no programming. I just don't think that's something a woman should be doing." WHAT?

I've thought about those words a couple times since then, and I just can't imagine what would lead a person like her to say things like this. It's unlikely to have been an attempt to play to male stereotypes, since I was the only guy at the interview and it was clear I wasn't the one making the final decision. And aside from that she seemed generally sane. Just baffles me.


And now after reading this thread, all kinds of stories that I didn't pay much attention to come back to mind.
posted by dmit at 7:12 AM on July 20, 2010


"He went even further to remind me that "someone" had been playing "hard games" like halo 3, and it wasn't just me renting movies."

This reminds me of being in sixth form and clicking a link on Yahoo search that turned out to be not quite what I was looking for - the search being 'women media'. I shut it down quickly.

Next day, I got called into the priest's office. 'I thought you were looking at unsuitable material, but then I realised you were a girl, so clearly someone was using your account and I wanted to make sure no boys had got hold of your password'. Well, I wasn't going to explain it to him.
posted by mippy at 7:13 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've told this story before on the blue, but here it is again: once upon a time, I was working as the sole Apple specialist on staff at CompUSA (this is back in 1995, long before there were Apple Stores, and I was paid very, very handsomely for my knowledge...at least twice what everyone else was making).

Holiday madness was well underway. A man came in and started looking at all the Macs. I walked up and asked if I could help him.

"That's ok, dear, I'll wait for one of the guys."

He waits well over half an hour, because we're swamped. I kept looking over at him and trying not to smirk. FINALLY, he gets a qualified penis-owner to speak with him, who promptly says: "Oh, I'm sorry... [bitter-girl] is the only person on staff who knows about the Macs, you'll have to speak with her," and then calls me over.

I smiled (mind you it was only so I wouldn't burst out laughing) and walked over and upsold the hell out of that idiot.

Not the first time it happened, probably not the last for my female geek-computer-sellers-in-arms...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:19 AM on July 20, 2010 [29 favorites]


I'm currently sitting at a coffee shop. While reading this thread a man came up to the woman at the counter for a refill and started telling her some story about a female bricklayer he knew. And how women shouldn't do that kind of work, because when she had a baby she broke its arms and legs because she was so used to doing hard manual labor so she couldn't grasp anything softly.

Seriously.
posted by miss tea at 7:33 AM on July 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


To add to the long list of examples :

I've recently been house-hunting with a female friend. We're going to be house mates, sharing costs 50/50, and have both been equally involved. We've been going to all viewings together, and have used a number of different estate agents. However, every single estate agent who has both our contact details will always call me, rather than her, regardless of any earlier converstations. That's about four different agents.

For example, she would call to arrange a viewing, we would then both visit the house, at which point the agent would take my details too. They would then only called me about it afterwards. And it's not like we have the same telephone numbers, or address. It should also be noted that all of the selling agents we've met are male.
posted by iso_bars at 7:40 AM on July 20, 2010


Late to the thread, but ...

When I went to buy my first car after college, the Saturn dealership dudes refused to tell me about the car, even when I asked intelligent questions (having done my research), and refused to let me take a test drive! "You'll have to come back with your father," the manager told me. (I WAS TWENTY-TWO! THEY'D LOOKED AT MY LICENSE!)

So I went to Ford, where the salesman informed me that the ladies love the drivers' side makeup mirror, but at least talked to me about the damn car and let me take it for a test drive. I bought the Ford. (I'm on year 10 with that car, and I do, in fact, like the drivers' side makeup mirror. But it still annoys me that was one of his first selling points.)

My insurance agent, who is a very nice man, really, is congenitally incapable of addressing his comments to me, even though I manage all the household insurance and finances and have for as long as we've insured with him (five years). I ask the questions, he answers my husband. He addresses all questions to my husband. My husband says, "You have to talk to Eyebrows, she does all of this stuff." He keeps talking to my husband. (My grandfather, who was an insurance agent, said, "That guy is stupid -- even in the 50s they taught us to sell to the wives, since especially when it comes to safety the wives are often the driving force in making the decision.")

Once I called him on some matter, I forget what, and happened to mention I was a lawyer (it was germane to the discussion, I forget how). The agent CALLED MY HUSBAND after and said, "Why didn't you tell me your wife was a lawyer?" and something about how he would have actually been TALKING to me all these years had he known my pretty little lady brain could actually understand LAW. (It was a lie, he still talks to my husband and not me.) I can't count how many times that has happened -- someone's been talking down to me for being female, finds out I'm a lawyer, and says to me, "I didn't know you were a lawyer!" as if it's still a novelty, having ovaries and a law degree, or, more often, says to my husband, "Why didn't you tell me your wife was a lawyer?" I get that some of that is a legit, "Oh, she's a lawyer, she'll have more sophistication about topic X." But my husband is ALSO a lawyer, who graduated from exactly the same law school, who when talking to exactly the same people who don't know HE is a lawyer, is never treated to "the stupid version" the way I am. I only get the smart version after proving I've overcome my matching chromosomes by getting a law degree. His mismatched chromosomes are proof enough, apparently.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:45 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really hope some of these are fake.

Having spoken extensively with many of my female friends and girlfriends, these are all par for the course. I still find it incredible that this sort of nonsense still goes on but it does. There are people who see the opposite sex and probably their own sex within solid roles and it's very restrictive. Women are supposed to be this, men that. Ridiculous.
posted by juiceCake at 7:47 AM on July 20, 2010


As a child, I recieved a small injury to my urethra, and when taken to the doctor to explain my screams upon urination (Phalene, aged 3), the doctor repeatedly refused to give my mother any more information that that I had a "scratch on my pee pee". Despite the examination allowing him to pinpoint the source of my infant distress and my mother's ability to use "vulva" and "urethra" correctly, he was unable to tell her where I was damaged in more graphic terms than baby talk.

Last week I asked a clerk in future shop if the french expansions for the Sims were compatable with my english install: "What was with us girls and Sims?" he asked. Every time I buy the fucking product, a male clerk says that. I'm probably going to order anything else online.

At another gaming store I purchased a copy of half life. The shock on the (male) clerk's face and his comments about a female gamer were intended to be flattering, but saddening.
posted by Phalene at 7:48 AM on July 20, 2010


I think this is where I'm supposed to mention that I used to have a low-level job at a law firm, and filled in for the (female) receptionist when she was at lunch. The number of people who assumed a teenager was a lawyer and began asking questions just because a male voice answered the phone was rather astonishing.

I temped at my dad's company one summer and when something broke down a poster went up instructing people to contact 'the girls on reception'. When I told my mum how annoying it was for me to be described like I'm five, she said 'Well, that's a bit feminist!' In the same office, we never took female interns because the boss didn't think they made good architects.

I also had an interview once where I was asked precisely two questions: 'Why did you take A-level media?' and 'Do you like Rod Stewart?'. Though I think this illustrates the hideousness of temping more.
posted by mippy at 7:49 AM on July 20, 2010


I did say "more later." I have been dreaming about wooden spoons.

Early on, I discarded rotating the wooden spoons such that they are concave to the viewer. Nobody has an ass like that, unless they were the subject of a coordinated attack by twin brown recluses. So that's tenatively out.

If you hold the spoons such that their long axes are parallel and in-line, with the two handles out, you end up with an ass that is broad through the beam and more of a "if I can't sell it, I'm gonna sit down on it" ass. If you hold the spoons so that the handles are parallel and both pointing down, you get more of a haunch look. Cat-butt. This would be a more aerobic ass. You could put the spoons together, handles apart, in a broad V shape, and then tilt the upper portion of the arrangement towards the viewer. That's the compromise ass formation. We do not know his desires in ass shape, though.

What if the shape wasn't important, though? If he were referring to the hardness of the wooden spoon, with the spoon shape being only reminiscent of the ass-ness, then that probably wouldn't be terribly complimentary* unless he preferred women with incredibly low body fat and muscle tone.

What if he is just referring to the size of the spoons, with the shape again incidental? Does he like very small bottoms? We do not know. Perhaps he is concerned about the ability of wooden spoons to hold contaminants and bacteria, like wooden cutting boards. Is that the point he is trying to make? Is it the handleability of wooden spoons? It isn't as if the first thing you do upon seeing a wooden spoon isn't to pick it up and try to find a place for it, because, hey, what is that doing out? Is it that wooden spoons belong in the kitchen? Is that what he is getting at?

He's combined some highly ambiguous configurations and unknown criteria against totally unspecified preferences. Unless his intent was to utterly confound the listener, this is possibly the worst attempt I have ever heard in human communication about body parts, but I cannot regret it. I had never really considered what other people's ass preferences would be like, described in kitchen implements. Thank you, anonymous dude with poor boundaries. You've opened certain doors for me.

* for all values of complimentary that include "dude why are you talking to this complete stranger about her backside"
posted by adipocere at 7:53 AM on July 20, 2010 [31 favorites]


One of my Mom's favorite stories about being a female in the law when it was just starting to become more common involves high-papering an openly sexist Contracts professor's class. This would have been in the very early 70s. Her stories about confronting truly outrageous instances of sexism don't mean that there wasn't a constant undercurrent of less overt sexism that it wasn't feasible to object to. At the same time, her own experiences show how much of a minefield this kind of thing is: she is now someone who would encourage other women to reconsider certainty about not having kids at a young age, as she once felt that way and now says having kids is the most important and satisfying thing she's ever done. In fact, I've argued with her about this, saying that she can't know how fulfilling a career without kids would have been. And I get yelled at! At any rate, I presume that she could find a way to get this across to a younger woman without seeming sexist or condescending than I would sound if I related the tale (taking her position) in response to a female peers declaration that she was uninterested in kids--but judging from some of the reactions of the women above it's possible that she would merely be viewed as having been Stepfordized (which is pretty hilarious, if you know my Mom.)

I'm tempted to go through some of the earlier comments and point out a few instances in which men are subjected to similar or complementary normative expectations (both from other men and from women) that are no less objectionable or uncomfortable, or situations in which a comment was attributed to a person's attitude about gender when it might be better attributed to a more universal over-familiarity towards other people --but that isn't really the point, is it? At least, not in this thread.

Also, it would be cool to know more about the where and when in reading these kinds of stories, though. I'd be surprised if there weren't differences by generation, region, social milieu, etc. Both encouraging and discouraging differences.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:58 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Re: eggies - the English and the Germans (these are the only two that I can speak of with direct experience) infantilize words all the time: an episode of a television show is an "eppie;" a cell phone is a "handy;" etc."

Time and a place, though. I'm English and I've never had any doctor refer to my 'eggies'. I did once have a German doctor talk about the 'fuckheads' that scared his wife with a dog, though.

'Eppie' means epileptic fit, by the way!
posted by mippy at 8:01 AM on July 20, 2010


Navelgazer wrote: "Male privilege is real as well, and allows those of us so privileged to not notice when this sort of thing occurs"

The whole (male/white/whatever) privilege thing didn't click with me until I watched a video the other day of a Tim Wise speech, wherein he explained that the root of the privilege was merely not having to think about this shit. That made me get it. Somehow, in all these MeFi threads on sexism, there had been too much argument for me to get that message. I don't know whether it was never explicitly stated or I was just too dumb to get it, but there it is.

kyrademon wrote: "So, I was wondering if anyone had firsthand -- or even secondhand -- knowledge of trying to get a vasectomy at a relatively young age. Did you also get doctors refusing to do it (on the putative grounds that you would change your mind later and sue), doctors trying to talk you out of it, doctors condescendingly talking to you about the biological clock (or a male equivalent), and so on?"

Yep. There wasn't an outright refusal, but there was strong resistance to the idea. The doctor's argument boiled down to "you don't want to do this, you'll certainly want kids someday, and your future wife will be pissed she can't have them" (yay for this guy hitting the jackpot, both parent-ist and sexist!) I ended up not getting one because my SO decided that despite not wanting kids, she also didn't want to limit our options later.
posted by wierdo at 8:05 AM on July 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


Holy christ....

So I recently had a discussion at work on why there aren't more women in our department (SysOps/Development) and I was having a hard time conveying that I felt it was probably due to the attitudes of a lot of the people here... Now, I have a handy thread to point them at that will give plenty of examples.
posted by MysticMCJ at 8:09 AM on July 20, 2010


I can't favourite this thread hard enough.
posted by Phire at 8:10 AM on July 20, 2010


[sigh/]
I am a man. Additionally, I am a black man who looks white (kinda like Obama, just lighter. Much lighter.) My wife is an African-featured, dark-skinned, black woman with locks. Everywhere we go, my wife is seen as a secondary to me. The check is always given to me, customer service always addresses me. Faculty at the university always want to know about my research. My wife is a history Phd. She is tenure-track. I'm a lecturer with an MA-I got the job because of her. She makes over 4x as much as I do. But, when we go to functions, people talk to me. Its really fucking sad. Its burning her out. Its embarrassing for me.


Reading the link and the comments here is infuriating. All of the asshats who have nothing else better to do than prop up their male privilege make me ashamed of my gender. Jesus H. Christ on a fucking pogo stick! Why is it so difficult for the privileged to use some slight bit of introspection and recognize that their privilege comes with a price that others have to pay? Is it really so hard to imagine that women deal with sexism every day? Is that so far out of the realm of possibility that so many of you guys can't even conceive of it? I see it, and its not like I'm some sort of buddha-like sage. If you can't see it, then it seems to me that for some reason or another, you don't want to see it. You need to ask yourself, why are you ignoring it? What do you have to gain from allowing it to exist? Why does questioning male privilege make you so defensive?
posted by anansi at 8:26 AM on July 20, 2010 [58 favorites]


How am I dismissing childcare? If it's so easy, why would there even be a need for nannies?

Your comment read to me as follows - this is my interpretation - "I'm jealous of the women who can quit their crappy jobs just to stay home with their families. If I had the ability to marry someone rich and hire a nanny, I could do anything I want." Please correct me if I'm wrong, but that's how it parsed from here.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:26 AM on July 20, 2010


PICS (AND STORY), AND IT DOES FREAKING HAPPEN.

Grr.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:28 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why does questioning male privilege make you so defensive?

One possible reason is that for a lot of people it's tied to their sexuality. Which they find themselves unable to readily differentiate from their sociality (as it were.) For others it may be tied to a deeply held ideology (e.g. a religious ideology.)

Although that's probably more broadly applicable to men out in the world than the men apt to participate in this discussion.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:32 AM on July 20, 2010


They'd come in for Final Cut sessions and get Vi.

Please tell me I'm not the only person who had a moment of intense confusion here.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:35 AM on July 20, 2010 [35 favorites]


kyrademon, regarding tubal ligation and vasectomies:

When my wife was pregnant, she and I spoke about vasectomy and tubal ligation. I went to our GP to first speak with him about a vasectomy, then our urologist.

Our GP was familiar with my wife's pregnancy. She had serious complications, and her OB had advised her not to become pregnant again. I was in my mid-30's. He spent 20 minutes trying to talk me out of getting a vasectomy. He gave me a hard time about giving me a referral to a urologist. Told me that I would be making a mistake, especially if my wife miscarried. Was adamant even after I had told him that I wouldn't be doing anything until after the kids were born. He even said something like, "But what happens if you divorce? Leave your options open, man!" His condescending attitude pissed me off so much that we switched GP's immediately after our kids were born.

The urologist spent time talking with me about the procedure. He was respectful. But he repeatedly asked me if I was sure this was what I wanted, emphasizing that the procedure is for all intents and purposes permanent. I felt this was appropriate.

In the end, my wife chose to have a tubal ligation. She was already having a c-section, so it wasn't going to be a second surgery. Her OB was respectful as well. But again, he asked her repeatedly (at multiple appointments) to confirm she really, truly wanted it. He also told her that if she had been in her 20's he would have advised her against it, even though they were also advising her never to become pregnant again.

I was in the operating / delivery room with her when my kids were born. On the video, while I'm holding my babies and filming their first cries, you can clearly hear the OB ask my wife if she was "sure you want me to do this?" He explained afterwards that they have to ask, and are reluctant because the procedure is permanent.
posted by zarq at 8:39 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


He explained afterwards that they have to ask, and are reluctant because the procedure is permanent.

Yeah, it's totally annoying that they try to talk you out of it and/or pester you incessantly to make sure you're really sure...

OTOH, I know of several couples who have gone back to get vasectomies or tubal ligations (and in one infamous family, both) reversed - so they do have precedent for making sure you really mean it, but yes - I understand how your doctor hectoring you about a procedure (that s/he has already decided is in your best interest) would be annoying to the extreme.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:43 AM on July 20, 2010


I'm not convinced that talking about trying to get vasectomies at a young age is on-topic, but given that folks have asked, I got strong resistance and lectures but aside from a little old vs. young lecturing (of the whippersnapper variety), no I really didn't get talked down to.

I was 19. I have a bunch of congenital health issues (asthma, allergies, severe near-sightedness, and some other things that are perhaps too personal to discuss here) that I certainly didn't enjoy having and I didn't want to pass them on to a kid. So I went to try to get a vasectomy. I was literally turned away by 2 urologists. They wouldn't risk my suing them later. I finally got a fair-minded one at Kaiser Permanente who would only give me a vasectomy on the condition that I made some deposits at a sperm bank so I could go back to them in case I changed my mind about having children later.

I went to the sperm bank which is where I found out I was already infertile and found out that I have Klinefelter's syndrome. So the choice was already made for me by my quirky biology.

Oddly enough, that's when I got irritated - about not being able to make the choice - about not having one to begin with.
posted by kalessin at 8:47 AM on July 20, 2010


Anniecat: Honestly, if I didn't dislike the idea of having and raising children, and I had a rich husband and a nanny (because pretending to want to be home with the kids would be hard for me to fake -- I'd rather just work), I'm pretty sure I'd prefer to just do whatever I felt like everyday. I have loads of ideas.

and

It's not en vogue for educated people to have kids while struggling anymore and the culture has gone so incredibly baby-centric.

People who are not "rich husbands" do in fact have nannies.

My wife and I are fairly well-educated. I employ a nanny. We are raising our own children and our nanny helps us with that. I'm sure as hell not anywhere close to wealthy. My wife and I both have to work to make ends meet. So yes, we're struggling financially, and we employ a nanny. Go figure.
posted by zarq at 8:57 AM on July 20, 2010


Your comment read to me as follows - this is my interpretation - "I'm jealous of the women who can quit their crappy jobs just to stay home with their families. If I had the ability to marry someone rich and hire a nanny, I could do anything I want." Please correct me if I'm wrong, but that's how it parsed from here.

That was also my interpretation of what anniecat said. If I'm misreading her, that would be a nice surprise.
posted by zarq at 9:00 AM on July 20, 2010


An example of sexism that really gets to me is the difference in how newspaper and magazine articles treat men and women. Almost without fail, when the article is doing a profile of a female CEO, lawyer, real estate agent, etc, her marital status and any children she has are referred to in the first few sentences. For men, it will usually mention past employment and where they grew up/went to school.
posted by ODiV at 9:04 AM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I remember one time I was at a restaurant in Seoul with a couple of expats. I ordered the food in perfectly fine Korean, and the young boy who took my order interrupted and yelled at me: "NO ENGLISH!" I was confused, so I tried again. "I AM KOREAN," he said in English, also in all-caps. I looked at my friends who were as dumbfounded as I was. I replied, in Korean, by saying "I'm speaking Korean right now!" Again, he yelled, "ENGLISH NO!" I wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or not. It felt like I was on one of those hidden camera shows. Not knowing what else to do, I yelled for another server to come to the table (yelling for servers is commonly done in Korea), and the boy still didn't or couldn't hear me speaking Korean. He explained to the new server that we were foreigners and he didn't speak English. I interrupted him and told the new server that I spoke Korean, and for whatever reason he couldn't hear me. She called him an idiot, smacked him with a menu a few times, and told him to get in the kitchen. My friends and I spent the rest of her time in the restaurant talking about the incident. They were aghast; I was still dumbstruck.

So, yeah, I believe the stories on this page are true. People can be incredibly dumb sometimes. The thing to notice, if you're a man, is that these things happen often enough that many women are bothered by it. It would be one thing if it was one or two women out of a hundred, but look at all the women in this thread who are saying how much it bothers them. Sexism is still a problem. It's not nearly as much of a problem as it is in many other places, or as it used to be, but that's not a good reason to ignore it or to be unsympathetic to it.
posted by smorange at 9:07 AM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


her time = our time
posted by smorange at 9:08 AM on July 20, 2010


Your comment read to me as follows - this is my interpretation - "I'm jealous of the women who can quit their crappy jobs just to stay home with their families. If I had the ability to marry someone rich and hire a nanny, I could do anything I want."

Yes, if I could have married rich and been coaxed into having kids, I would take the opportunity and hire a nanny, and you can bet your boots I'd take that opportunity to do whatever I felt like doing all day, no matter what anybody thought. Screw Mommy and Me, it would be Mommy and Martinis. The nanny would probably be justified in calling child services on me for being drunk all day by the pool. The women I know who quit their jobs to raise a family have traded the stress of a boring, unfulfilling paid job for the unenviable stress and unguaranteed reward of raising kids (which I hope is somewhat fulfilling to them, seems so or else why do it, unless someone's making you), and frankly, they work way too hard at being good parents. I read somewhere that back in the day, it was perfectly fine to give the baby a shot of brandy to quiet them down. Who knows what it did to their development, but maybe babies today are going to grow up to be just a little too smart and well developed for their own good (again, I kid about getting the baby drunk, though no pun intended).

I never said I was a role model.
posted by anniecat at 9:09 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


My husband makes the money in our household, but I manage it. When we go out to eat, the server almost invariably hands the check to him. He gives it to me (in front of them), I give them my debit card. After they run it through, they still hand it back to him, despite the obviously female name on the card.

I have trouble parsing whether I'm treated differently because I'm female, I'm short, or I appear disabled. I'm also rather androgynous and I'm probably sometimes read as lesbian when I'm not with my husband.
posted by desjardins at 9:25 AM on July 20, 2010


I have been asked if I was planning to get my degree and then get married and have babies by my advisor who thought he was mitigating the sexism by saying that his wife upon marriage quit doing science.

I did tell him afterward that this was not an appropriate question to ask. And ironically his wife returned to doing science a couple of years later - and published some pretty nice high profile papers too.

I do find that I have to prove my credentials more than men when dealing with fixing machines in lab, but I often find that the older, seemingly crustier guys in the repairs division often get the picture faster than the younger guys; or possibly they get a kick out of talking to a woman who vaguely knows what she is doing, knows some of the vocabulary and makes fun of the design flaws of the product. Having to prove my abilities can be annoying and wastes time but it is a good way to get a feel for the quality of information I'm about to get. If someone can't take data provided to them and draw an obvious conclusion, I'm not terribly excited about the quality of information they're giving me.

I have a PhD and don't refer to myself as Dr. Sciencegeek. I occasionally use it in situations where showing where I stand in a hierarchy seems to be useful, but I always feel a bit self conscious when doing it. It did take me five and a half years of 10-12 hour days six days a week to earn it, but I try to leave the ostentatious use of titles to the medical people who get a much higher paycheck.

I dislike it when people tell me to smile. I tend to give them as much of a withering look as possible. I've also stuck my tongue out at them.

I've been called a "good woman" at work more than once, but always by people who are not from the US and for whom English is not a first language. I've been told that a Mandarin swearword I learned from a coworker was not a word that women use.

Gynecologists: I find that people who demand to see a female OB/GYN are being sexist. Also, you get an appointment much faster if you say that you don't care. The only time a GYN said something inappropriate to me it was a woman - she was giving me a breast exam and since I'm ticklish, I was laughing and she commented that I must be fun in bed. Of course then she profusely apologized and I laughed at her and said that I was fun in bed for other reasons.

I was raised near two women's colleges and due to an overdose my tolerance of certain kinds of feminism and feminist speech is very low. I am against institutions that discriminate based on sex; this includes women's colleges as well as institutions that discriminate against women. (I'm aware that there are many people who attended all female colleges and HS and loved them. I'm happy you did, but that doesn't change my opinion on the subject.)

Stuff I do wrong: I tend to give up my seat on the subway to older women before I give it up to older men; I assume that men tend to have more pride about such things.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:27 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


More-late-to-the-story-time!

A large portion of my job is attempting to get general contractors to fill out their paperwork correctly so I can hand them their money. The GC’s tend to be men in their 50’s. I’m 24 (which I try to hide as much as possible at work) and female (which I can’t). I guarantee that someone will use an overtly sexist language in an attempt to bully me at least once a week. If I can even get them to email me directly, instead of contacting the only male they’ve interacted with. ‘Missy’ or ‘Little miss’ are probably the most common.

Just last Friday I got a nasty email that started with ‘Ms. Eleanor’ (yes, he was fully aware of my last name), and went downhill from there. . . all because I took over 24 hours to answer his first email-on a question I couldn’t even answer. It’s infuriating because I can’t respond to it-they’re still customers, and any attempt to call them out will be knocked as oversensitive and antagonistic.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:28 AM on July 20, 2010


I had an experience a few weeks ago where my s.o. and I went out to eat dessert, and the waitress put the check on the table (not handing it to either of us). I put my card in the card-thingy, the waitress came back and took the check, and when she brought it back she handed it to me and thanked me by name.

This was so extraordinarily different from how I expect to be treated and of how I've been treated in similar situations in the past that it has stuck with me. Which is kind of sad. I mean, really, shouldn't I expect wait staff to hand me my card back after I've handed it to them? But it hardly ever happens that way; usually they hand it to my male s.o.

Anyway, that waitress got an enormous tip.
posted by audacity at 9:30 AM on July 20, 2010 [19 favorites]


I applied for a postdoc position. It was written to only teach 1 class and be paid $38k.

I spoke to the head prof on the phone and was told that they'd reduce my teaching from 2 to 1 class if I did office admin work for him for the entire year. He also said that it was $32k.

The guys offered the same postdoc? Got it as written.

I turned it down.
posted by k8t at 9:34 AM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I will immediately admit that this will sound like a patting-myself-on-the-back post, and in a way it is, because who doesn't love to congratulate themselves, but I think my point is valid nonetheless:

I (male) was sitting at a bar with a good friend (female) and another friend of hers whom I'd recently met (male). In a way that is not uncommon in my friends group, she turned to the two of us and asked, "Why are you both misogynists?" I immediately answered, "Because I was raised in a culture that took misogyny for granted and had such behaviour and attitudes ingrained in me from childhood." The other guy then, as if he didn't even hear what I said, said, "I'm not even gonna touch that one."

I'm racist, sexist, classist (despite being an anarchist), and most other -ists that white men are in modern society -- heck, I'm even anti-Semitic if the Zionists are to be believed. I would never in my life try to deny any of that. It is an absolute fact. I just really wish more men (re sexism, or just people in general re race, class, ability, age, education) would take that first step and outright admit their prejudices. We can't change the world without changing ourselves, and we can't change ourselves if we don't admit -- vocally and (semi)publically -- that we have these prejudices.
posted by cthuljew at 9:35 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, if I could have married rich and been coaxed into having kids, I would take the opportunity and hire a nanny, and you can bet your boots I'd take that opportunity to do whatever I felt like doing all day, no matter what anybody thought.

Well, then the fact that I find your comments to be incredibly condescending shouldn't bother you a bit.

Gynecologists: I find that people who demand to see a female OB/GYN are being sexist.

I'm afraid of being seen this way, but I do base the decision on the fact that I've had a hard time finding male doctors who will talk to me frankly. I also like to see myself as countering the sexist people who won't go to a female doctor. I also never demand a female doctor - I just answer "female" when asked "Would you like to see a male or a female doctor?" If the question isn't asked, I don't make any specifications.

Rather timely - I'm in the market for a new GYN and I'll probably be taking whoever is available, so we'll see how that goes. I'm definitely keeping an open mind about the gender of the doctor, even though I've thus far chosen to receive care primarily from women.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:35 AM on July 20, 2010


'Eppie' means epileptic fit, by the way!

I hate the British.

Is radiation treatment "radie," too?
posted by karminai at 10:08 AM on July 20, 2010


I'm afraid of being seen this way, but I do base the decision on the fact that I've had a hard time finding male doctors who will talk to me frankly.

Or who talk over your head, like the time I'd come out of my second surgery to repair a broken elbow, asked my surgeon for additional information on pain meds (more specifically, why one didn't seem to work on me and the other did), and got to watch him turn to my (then boyfriend, who was 6' 4" and generally rather authoritative) and say...

1. "Well, it's not like we had to open her up again." (True, but they'd put a straight cast on an arm that healed crooked and hadn't been straight for months while I was out cold...needless to say I was sobbing when I woke up, from sheer pain).

2. "If you have another doctor who's willing to give you [drug x], then I suggest you go to him, because I don't want to be your enabler."

That's the point at which Boyfriend's jaw dropped completely, something I'd never EVER EVER seen him do, and I wasn't sure if he was going to start laughing or punch the guy, because it was just SO ABSURD.

Not once did he address ME, or answer my questions, or give me the information I needed. He's not the first male doctor I've fired for that, either. Currently, I've got a brilliant young male DO for my primary care who actually listens, treats me like a grownup (probably because I'm older than him! ha! first time that's ever been the case) and is a damn genius. He caught my best friend's cancer when any other doctor would have just said "you're fine, it's just a lump, don't worry about it."

Being infantilized by your health care provider is not only insulting, it's also DANGEROUS.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:10 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


IMHO: Any reason to go open source rocks, but this one by DarlingBri is the best I've ever read.
posted by omegar at 10:13 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


'Eppie' means epileptic fit

Total derail, but I guess "fit" is still ok to use in the UK, but in the US, it's really on the list of "insulting, please don't say these things" akin to the word "lame." Seizure is the preferred term. I hate hearing "fit" because I have seizures, not tantrums.

posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:16 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a weird one-- my standard drink is iced tea, Mr. F's is Diet Coke.

9 times out of ten, the wait staff will hear this, come back, and put the Coke in front of me (YEEEAUGH DIET SODA BLEEEAGH) and the iced tea in front of him.

It's subtle, but it's there: chicks drink diet soda.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:20 AM on July 20, 2010


"Also, it would be cool to know more about the where and when in reading these kinds of stories, though. I'd be surprised if there weren't differences by generation, region, social milieu, etc."

Well, if it's heartening -- Despite my post above, I run into this sort of thing surprisingly rarely. As a professional woman in the midwest, it's pretty taken for granted that women my age & class went to college and worked and marry into fairly equal marriages, whatever that marriage's shape. Most of what I get is from older men, raised in a different era (such as my insurance agent). It's typical at restaurants for the wine steward to ask who is tasting, for wait staff to offer the bill neutrally and to return it to the person who paid, even when that's me, for game store staff to actually care about what kind of game I'm interested in (RPGs) instead of assuming based on gender.

And to AnnieCat, it's not a fuzzy economic argument: Quality childcare costs a buttload. We decided, as a family, that it made more sense for one of us to stay home than to pay for childcare, and then that it made more sense for me to stay home, for various job-and-biology reasons. I realize that while I am out of the workforce, I am losing years of advancement. To that I end, I teach some classes as an adjunct on the weekends and online, I maintain my professional credentials and do a little side work (either for friends, or consulting for ex-colleagues) for pay and to keep my hand in, I ran for elected office and serve my community in that capacity, and I'm deeply involved in various forms of community voluntarism that enable me to get experience in a variety of areas from managing budgets to writing grants to dealing with general contractors. Volunteer commitments are simply more tolerant of you bringing your children with you. Many other at-home parents have similar community involvement, and I know a LOT of "at-home" parents working at least part time or as consultants from their homes. I hope to return to the workforce in a few years with a more varied skillset and definitely a MUCH larger network than I left with. Perhaps with more skills overall, though of course it is difficult to say.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:21 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's subtle, but it's there: chicks drink diet soda.

9 out of 10 times when I ask for a soda, I'm asked "Diet?"

Never once have I had a male companion asked the same thing.

On review, maybe they're casting ass-persions.
posted by karminai at 10:24 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your scepticism is out of place here. As a man, it is not surprising that you have little first-hand experience with the daily sexism that women experience, be it at the doctor's or elsewhere.

Aside from growing up the only male in a single parent household, where I definitely saw plenty of examples of people doing this to my mom (even some people treating me as "the 'man of the house' at 13 or 14 years old!), I had a real gem about a year or 2 ago at my last job.

I was fairly new on the job, so to score some brownie points I volunteered to fill in at reception when the receptionist went on her smoke breaks. On top of all the senior staff chuckling at the sight of me at the reception desk instead of the usual lady (huhuh are you the new receptionist, Mr Grim? huhuh), I'd occasionally get phone calls where the person at the other end would say "oh! Wow, I'm not used to hearing a male voice on the other end of the phone when I call here. Sounds good!" OK, a little weird. After a couple of months of the same sort of comments and laughs from onlookers, I spoke to my boss about it. I told her how I was getting the impression people were looking at this as kind of a novelty or a stunt or something, it was rather an uncomfortable situation and I'd like to not do it anymore because it wasn't my job anyways.

So she demands to know who is saying those things. I wasn't really interested in giving names, but she pressed. I gave the name the call display frequently showed when I got the "sounds good to hear a guy on the phone!" comments. Apparently, it was THE WESTERN REGION VP. Oops, shoulda just shut up, Kirk.

So long story short, instead of "a problem", the attitude he displayed and comments he made, became--on the spot--"proof that the company is progressive and challenging traditional gender roles." So what, I'm a trailblazer now? For answering phones? Is it even unusual anymore to have a guy answer phones? I'm thinking, "no, actually it shows that senior management considers this 'woman's work' even though it's 2008, and I'm probably some kind of weirdo anomalous fancy lad to him to the point he comments on it everytime I answer his calls."

Thankfully I'm not there anymore, but man!
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:29 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thing about how it's sexist to be preferential about genders is technically correct, but only technically, in that the general idea of an ism is that someone is displaying a preference for or against whatever the subject is.

The spirit of feminism, of the social ideal of gender equality, though, would potentially not just call out a person for, for example, preferring feminine doctors over masculine ones but ALSO factor in all the incredible injustices and oppressions that have accompanied gender inequality, the founding and the rise of the patriarchy, and absolutely demonstrable social, economic, political and behavioral inequalities between the genders in western (and others) society.

This is missing from the frequent mansplained perspective that women (and men!) who prefer feminine doctors are being sexist and it's hurting the man's (who is 'splaining) feelings. I think it's valid that the man's feelings may be being hurt or at risk of being hurt, but I don't think that outweighs the incredible weight of sexism inherent in the idea that hurting a man's feelings might outweigh the centuries long traditions of oppressing women socially, politically, economically and behaviorally in western (and other) civilization.
posted by kalessin at 10:30 AM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also late, but have to agree that this stuff happens all the time. MF,IF seems sadly, terribly true and reminds me of many conversations I have had with friends.
In my experience, I have had awful experiences with 2 female OB-GYNs. I never could get either of them to believe I did not want children and one tried to put me on folic acid, "just in case" (?!?!?!). My current OB-GYN is a (gay if it matters) man and I have not had the same problem.
posted by pointystick at 10:31 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, doctors. When I broke my finger at 18 or 19, I went to the ER with my father and 4 or 5 year old sister. My father got my information in, then immediately fell asleep, while I got x-rayed and my sister trailed after me. Once my x-rays were ready, the doctor came out to tell me the results.

"Your finger is smushed." She turns to my sister. "Your mommy is in lots of pain --" to be immediately interrupted "She's my sister!" The doctor comments on how I have a very low pain tolerance (true, but sort of irrelevant, and I swear I didn't get a painkiller that night) and then turns back to me. "You have broken the knuckle of your finger into several pieces, and they've been moved out of place and a few have been crushed totally, so [medical details using grown up words]."

I had a number of girlfriends around the same time who also got treated like idiots/sluts/etc if they happened to be with a child -- no one ever started out assuming my guy friends were teenage dads.

I only ever buy computer or tech stuff online now, because then I can much more effectively research products and not have staff lie to me about what they do and what I need because I am too stupid to understand wireless routers.
posted by jeather at 10:32 AM on July 20, 2010


Regarding the male vs. Female doctor question, mr.ambrosia is a physician and when he found out my then-OB was a man, he wasn't thrilled. In his experience, the male classmates from med school who chose OB/GYN were misogynists-- expressed as "The Vagina: work in it by day, play in it by night." Ewww.
posted by ambrosia at 10:37 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The connections between people are pretty fucking tenuous. Every loving relationship you can ever have is composed of shared expectations, talk, and gestures. If someone forgets what they were expecting, or starts talking a different way, the relationship must always and necessarily change because of that. Because that's all it is.

When establishing a relationship with someone, even an entirely trivial relationship like you have with your drinking buddies*, you'd be well advised to pay a lot of attention to how they talk, and what they seem to expect from you. The expectations may not amount to much on a practical level, but they are a key element of the relationship, and will therefore affect how it develops. If you're coworkers, that may have practical consequences when you work together. People who can't have a civil and communicative conversation when under stress should not work together.

So when women pick apart your speech for signs of sexism, they're doing it in order to decide how the relationship between you is going to work. If they find a lot of latent sexism, they'll want to keep their distance. They can kind of assume that your sexism is going to affect your decision making process somehow, whether that means ordering for them at a restaurant or sidelining them at work. They'd rather not deal with that.

They might be able to change your behavior by threatening you with the human resources banhammer or something, but that wouldn't really solve the problem. You would think of them the same way, and you're still working with them.

It's unlikely that your coworkers can actually change your mind, because in the best cases, mind-changing occurs after a long and involved discussion about the mind in question. How many people really care enough about you to behave as a psychologist toward you for weeks on end? So they aren't going to bother, they're just going to deal with you in the way that seems to work best. You and whatever latent sexism lives inside you.

So yeah, women don't really have to deal with sexist comments all the livelong day. But they do have to deal with sexist people.

Sometimes, they get angry about that, and vent about it.

I can't blame them.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:45 AM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


women don't reallynecessarily have to deal with sexist comments all the livelong day
posted by LogicalDash at 10:48 AM on July 20, 2010


When my wife and I go out shopping for major purchases or for some fine dining, I often amuse myself by making a guess beforehand as to whether racism (I'm black, she's white) or sexism will win the day.

Sadly, I'd have to say sexism wins about 60% of the time: sometimes even when I go out of my way to be non-engaging with the salesperson or whomever, they still try to talk to me and give her only the slightest acknowledgment.

So, yeah -- I've seen a lot of the things in that blog and in this thread happen less than 5 feet away from me, even in circumstances where I was sure my skin color would lead to me being the one who gets ignored.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:58 AM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yesterday. YESTERDAY. Yesterday, I went to the hardware store AGAIN to get HOPEFULLY THE LAST PART to fix a plumbing problem so frustrating I was considering painting myself blue and biting an axe. It was my fourth visit to the hardware store that day; the project was considerably more in-depth than I had initially supposed. Anyway, it had become kind of a running joke with the employees that I was there, AGAIN. I don't know a lot about plumbing, and in fact I kind of hate it, but, well, the kitchen sink needs to drain into the drain and not onto the ground, so what are you going to do.

As I was paying for (what turned out to be) the final part I needed, the cashier looks at me and grins and says "Still trying to get this drain fixed?" I laughed and said yes, the project is creeping on me, and his grin VANISHED and he said "Your husband needs to step up and make himself useful." He was deadly serious, possibly even verging on menacing.

I laughed and said "He is making himself useful. He's keeping the 3-year-old out of my hair while I fix the damn drain, and he's going to do all the dishes as soon as I get the sink working again."

The guy fixed me with a frown and a glare and said "So that's the way it is, huh," and held onto my bag of assorted plumbing parts for about three seconds (not long on paper, but quite long in reality) before letting go so I could walk out of the store.

So, yeah. Yesterday. In the suburb of a large city. In the US, in 2010. It happens, and in truth, the only reason why this one stood out to me is that the guy got kind of scary about it. Other employees had said things like "Are you doing the work yourself?" or made reference to the fact that it must be awkward for me (I'm six months pregnant), and I just laughed it off or said "My husband has many sterling qualities, but being handy is not one of them. All the tools in the house are mine." It's an environment in which I'm used to being second-guessed because of my gender, and it doesn't bug me as long as assumptions get back on track in pretty quick order. But this was different.
posted by KathrynT at 10:59 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have had bad experiences with female OB/GYNs and sexist attitudes. I prefer female gynecologists not because I expect them to be more professional and less sexist (I used to hope this was the case but I've been frequently disappointed), but because my annual date with a speculum is extremely painful (way more than any of these doctors ever believe—seriously, OUCH) and triggering on a good day. I don't think I could handle having a man operate that thing. I probably wouldn't be able to look my (male) s.o. in the eye for a week.
posted by audacity at 11:00 AM on July 20, 2010


Nthing "all the time."

I'm a woman, and a gear-head. I've worked at motorcycle parts counters for almost ten years (I own the counter I work at now.) As you can imagine, I've heard some doozies. My favorite happened a few years ago at the parts counter of a BMW shop I worked for.

At 5:30 on a Saturday afternoon, the phone rang. A harried-sounding man explained that he was working motorcycle support for a large bicycle race and was having brake trouble. He asked if we had front brake pads for his 1989 K100. I said yes. He asked me to double-check; I did and told him yes again. He said he'd come in right as we closed at 6:00.

I'm sympathetic to do-gooders and special-event people, so I kept the doors open a few minutes late, waiting for him to arrive. I had his pads waiting at the register. He was on the phone the whole time, talking to someone who was apparently troubleshooting his brake problem. The guy in the store asked, "Do you sell brake bleeders?" I explained that the store doesn't stock them but my personal brake bleeder was there because I'd been working on my racebike; I would sell it to him for what it cost me to replace it. He said, "Great!"

I went and got it, and explained in detail how to use it to suck fresh fluid through from the reservoir on the handlebar through the lines to the calipers. He talked to the troubleshooter-guy on his phone and asked, "My guy says we need to push the brake fluid through the system. How do you do that?"

I shrugged and said, "I think the car guys do that, but this is how you do it on a motorcycle." Without missing a beat, he said loudly, "I guess I'd better talk to a GUY."

My partner (and peer) at the parts counter actually ducked - he was sure this guy was going to have a Mityvac jammed up his ass.
posted by workerant at 11:00 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's subtle, but it's there: chicks drink diet soda.

I'll occasionally order a glass of white wine when my wife orders a glass of red. Invariably, the drink server will switch up the order. When it's the converse, the order is invariably served correctly.

The women I know who quit their jobs to raise a family have traded the stress of a boring, unfulfilling paid job for the unenviable stress and unguaranteed reward of raising kids (which I hope is somewhat fulfilling to them, seems so or else why do it, unless someone's making you), and frankly, they work way too hard at being good parents

It's fulfilling. I would gladly trade my boring, unfulfilling paid job for the unenviable stress and unguaranteed reward of raising my child every day. If I didn't make so much money or get such good health care at work, I'd probably do it.

I'm certainly not going to defend any of the offensive behavior, but it cuts both ways (in a much smaller fashion). The fact that the server doesn't think I would order white wine or a vegetarian meal; or that door-to-door hucksters always say "hey, shouldn't your wife be doing that" when they come to the door when I'm making dinner; or that I'm a "pussy" if I order a light beer or don't eat meat.

Gender expectations affect both sexes. They just generally affect women much more negatively.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:08 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I find this entirely plausible. I could tell you many anecdotes about sexist or otherwise inappropriate comments that doctors/gynos have said to either myself or other female friends, and using the word "eggies" would be the least of it.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:24 PM "

In England, we have had several cases recently of doctors sexually harassing female patients ( i gooled but couldn't find the links i was looking for, but i fonud this, which is about patients sexually harassing female doctors.

Fight The Male Supremacy. Challange It, Wherever you see it, whether you are male or female, and try to help end this oppressive tyanny.
posted by marienbad at 11:10 AM on July 20, 2010


"I went and got it, and explained in detail how to use it to suck fresh fluid through from the reservoir on the handlebar through the lines to the calipers."
posted by workerant

If i ever buy a motorbike and have problems, expect mefimail!
posted by marienbad at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um... shit. To be clear, I do believe that some women actually do experience this level of harassment daily. I was trying to dig at the deeper issue and accidentally buried the shallow one.

I wonder what the most effective way of calling people on their shit is. A simple "cut it out" would probably suffice for a lot of people.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:20 AM on July 20, 2010


With an extra side of orientalism and creepiness: when describing a fairly strenuous fitness regimen of mine, which includes stair sprints, Crossfit and Olympic-style weight-lifting, I am told by a very well-meaning man that I should be careful, as 'Asian girls should be delicate - no guy wants to marry an Asian girl with muscles.'

I mean, totally: all I think about when I deadlift my body weight is the thought of walking down the aisle one day to witter away my life as a delicate and fragile lotus flower, wrapped in silks and subsisting on a steady diet of lilies and opium.
posted by zennish at 11:20 AM on July 20, 2010 [26 favorites]


I'll occasionally order a glass of white wine when my wife orders a glass of red. Invariably, the drink server will switch up the order. When it's the converse, the order is invariably served correctly.

One of my favorite local beers is the McMenamins Ruby, a light raspberry ale that's just about perfect on a hot day. If my wife and I go out and grab a table and I order that and she orders pretty much anything else (e.g. the Terminator Stout), we get the wrong beers pretty consistently.

Tends to go the same way with my caesar salad and her burger when we order like that.
posted by cortex at 11:26 AM on July 20, 2010


So I was just listening to yesterday's episode of my favorite podcast, Keith and the Girl, and discovered that there's a big chunk of it pretty germane to the matter at hand in this thread. From about 11:30 to 26:38 in this episode, Chemda talks about public harassment and pervasive sexism in NYC and how much worse it has become for her now that she's going out in public more with her girlfriend. Reminded me a lot of the constant ridiculousness women gotta cope with, as illustrated by the stories in this thread and in the linked blog.

(PLEASE NOTE: KATG is a comedy podcast, so any and all subjects are handled bluntly and satirically. Also, it should be generally considered NSFW. Worth a listen for sure.)
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:27 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ha! zennish, I get that crap from my mother in law, for heaven's sake! (Who is over 60, and who recently took it upon herself to lecture me about my weightlifting routines, adding in that this physical therapist customer of hers said I should practice standing up and sitting down in a chair.)

Why do I need to practice sitting in a chair? In order to correct my "balance problems, " apparently. (My wonky left elbow makes me feel very awkward on an elliptical, so I choose to use the treadmill instead). Yes, I should definitely practice standing up from a seated position, that's totally a valid exercise choice and not a complete waste of time for a relatively-healthy 35-year-old who can press about 2+ mother-in-laws-worth on the leg press machine.

By the way, I also "don't want to lift a lot of weight with my arms." Funny, that, since my goal here is Linda-Hamilton-in-Terminator-arms...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:28 AM on July 20, 2010


My bandmate was told -- bu her mother no less -- that she should reconsider being in our dirty hillbilly music band because it might come back to haunt her when she wants to get married down the road, and might embarrass her kids. My girlfriend, who is also in the band, gets the same thing from her mother, except for her it is a concern that she might attract unwanted male attention. This fear that there might, down the road, be male behavior that will adversely affect them -- that they can't speak openly and in a humorous way about sex, because it could literally be dangerous or undermine their future.

I am the only man in the band. I have never gotten this. Because there is no way future female disapproval could hurt me, I guess.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:30 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


> But "take it lying down"? The only way for that to be sexist is if it's referring to sex in the missionary position, and I must admit, it seems more a fighting term than anything else.

As far as I recall, it is referring to female sex in the missionary position but all of my reference books are in the attic so I'd not be able to give you a source for that. I absolutely could be wrong here. I assume languagehat could provide the etymology of the phrase and clarify.


It does not seem to have sexist origins; the OED says "to take (a beating, defeat, etc.) lying down: to receive it with abject submission," and the first citation is "1888 Sat. Rev. 4 Aug. 133/1 Those who.. profess themselves willing to take, ‘lying down’, any and every inconvenience that the victorious Irish may inflict." My guess is that the image involved is that of someone attacked in the street who rather than fighting back "like a man" just lies down and lets himself be pummeled and kicked. But: the Cassell Dictionary of Slang has a second sense of the phrase, "[1950s+] of a woman, to submit, willingly or otherwise, to sexual intercourse," and I'm pretty sure this sense has thoroughly infected modern use of the phrase.

While I'm here, I'd like to apologize to the women in this thread for the clueless and/or offensive comments of some of my fellow males. To eliminate sexism is not the work of a day, or of a lifetime. Hopefully by the time my grandchildren get their MeFi accounts, things will have improved.
posted by languagehat at 11:33 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the most effective way of calling people on their shit is. A simple "cut it out" would probably suffice for a lot of people.

LogicalDash

Not when you're talking to a male gyno about your uterus, it bloody wouldn't!

Regarding the male vs. Female doctor question, mr.ambrosia is a physician and when he found out my then-OB was a man, he wasn't thrilled. In his experience, the male classmates from med school who chose OB/GYN were misogynists-- expressed as "The Vagina: work in it by day, play in it by night." Ewww.

Ambrosia,
I so wish that didn't make sense.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:34 AM on July 20, 2010


any and every inconvenience that the victorious Irish may inflict

This sentence fragment just made my day.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


My mother would occasionally use Dr. or Professor when making travel arrangements or leaving messages, because she got a much snappier response than when operating as Mrs. Mostly, she seemed to find the necessity of that annoying. (The doctorate was in Anthropology.) It wasn't self-aggrandizement; she just didn't like getting blown off as someone's secretary.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:41 AM on July 20, 2010


She asked why he hadn't just typed it himself. He explained that only women can type, because they have smaller fingers.

Unless your sister graduated from college in the 1940's, this did not happen.

Amusing workplace stories are quite often embellished, to the point to where after multiple retellings the facts are lost. It is all embellishment, because that is what makes the story a story.

Now if he ran around for a half hour looking for a woman to make a copy for him because he couldn't figure out how to work the copier, that might be believable. But not really, because that too is a cultural fallacy, the "clueless executive".

Also, in healthcare, one of the most common complaints about doctor behavior is using confusing and overly technical explanations and instructions. "I have no idea what he was talking about" is exceedingly common. I've never even heard stories of some of the examples being doled out here.

I'm not saying they didn't happen. But in the hundreds of doctors I have worked with, it sounds fantastically out of whack. Statistically, a doctor would be much more likely to smack you on the ass on his way out of the office than to refer to body parts with baby-pet-names or to talk baby talk to the patient. It assumes a level of comfort and intimacy with the patient which, frankly, isn't there.

I hate to break it to everyone, but doctors view most of your issues (meaning everyone, males and females) as analagous to broken parts on a car. You are not unique or special at all. They've seen tens of thousands of breasts and penises in their careers, there is nothing particularly interesting about yours. They've probably seen a dozen or more today.

Doctors certainly have their faults, but most of it lies in being completely impersonal to the patient. Very rarely does it involve being too personal or familiar. And those are almost always harassment suits, not babying.

This baby talk epidemic being reported in this thread is absolutely confounding. Maybe its a geographical thing?
posted by discountfortunecookie at 11:44 AM on July 20, 2010


Sadly LogicalDash, that mostly doesn't work. "Cut it out" results in a lot of responses, none of which - in my experience - are cutting it out. Things it does result in: Being called nasty names, the level of sexism being ramped up, teasing about not getting the "joke," snide whispers, being summarily cut out of all future discussions. Those are just the ones I've been subjected to, because I do tell men to cut out the sexist crap. I'm definitely not the only woman who tells men to cut it out. It's never been effective in my experience, but I do keep trying.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:46 AM on July 20, 2010


Or maybe doctors just treat patients differently than they do coworkers.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:47 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I was a junior in high school, I took a community college night class called "FORTRAN for Engineers." I was the only female (and probably the only person under 30). One of the lessons dealt with formatting output, and the instructor (older man) said, "Some of you, like [candyland], may want to put pink bows around your printout, ha ha ha." He continued to pick on me throughout the semester, but finally apologized when I finished with the highest grade in the class.

A few years ago, I went with my husband to help him pick out a new car. We were at a Hyundai dealership and the salesman assumed that my husband was helping me buy a car, and tried to steer us to the then-new Tucson because "it's a good little SUV for women who are scared of driving big cars." The next year, when my car crapped out, I did want a Tucson - but I drove a little further out and bought it at a different dealership.

It's not only men that perpetrate this. I was at Wal-Mart with my boy-girl toddler twins a while back, and I saw a woman yelling at her little girl for picking out a "Cars"-themed sippy cup. "Cars is for boys! You can't have that! Get something else!" Now, my son loves trucks, but my daughter loves cars - and "Cars." She talks all the time about "Queen" and "Sa-Sa". You'd better believe she's got "Cars" sippy cups. And my son (gasp!) plays with dolls. Why limit your kids?
posted by candyland at 11:48 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless your sister graduated from college in the 1940's, this did not happen.

I have no idea when contessa's sister graduated from college, but I do know that you have no idea WTF you are talking about.
posted by ambrosia at 11:49 AM on July 20, 2010 [39 favorites]


I also enjoy calling large swaths of people liars because I am ignorant of their lives.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:52 AM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Now if he ran around for a half hour looking for a woman to make a copy for him because he couldn't figure out how to work the copier, that might be believable. But not really, because that too is a cultural fallacy, the "clueless executive".

This exact situation is actually pretty common in offices. Even those executives who know how to operate some copiers 1) might not know how to operate the newer ones which have been installed some years since they were making copies on the job and/or 2) just plain don't feel like making their own copies.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:53 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just figured out a good analogy.

A lot of the people on Metafilter are fairly adept with computers. When someone is forced to call a computer-related help phone line, s/he is often presented with a CSA who asks him/her to do things that s/he has already done, like reboot the computer or run the simplest diagnostic test. This is often annoying because the CSA won't believe that the person calling has already done this. And you're sitting there with an extremely specific question that if answered would let you go about your business. Now imagine that every time you ask about almost anything you get the same sort of treatment: the assumption that you are an idiot.

Also, I'm remembering being told in HS gym class when we were doing flag football that maybe I'd be better off on the sidelines doing cheerleading. So I got my dad to teach me how to block.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:55 AM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


discountfortunecookie, I don't know how to break this to you. So, I'm going to be as gentle as I can:

You're wrong. Very very wrong.

There are people here telling you it happened to them. Doctors not taking my health problem seriously very nearly killed me. I would have died from a heart problem if I had not gone to a female cardiologist after over 7 years of being told that it was just "anxiety" and maybe I should just take some (literal) chill pills. Sadly, even the female cardiologist brushed me off until a male came with me to an appointment to advocate for me.

Doctors act like women are children all the time. In ways that you don't see because you are a man. Sure, we're just broken parts, but we're also not capable of understanding the way in which we're broken so it needs to be explained in very small words with as condescending a tone of voice as possible. You're not seeing it because it happens behind close doors in exam rooms where women are alone and no one is there to see how poorly we're treated. Alternately, it's happening right there on the floor in front of your eyes, but you're too busy to notice. You saying that it doesn't happen doesn't make it so. It just makes you wrong.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:56 AM on July 20, 2010 [26 favorites]


Similar story to some others but with more of a nationality issue mixed in:

Was on vacation in Mexico with my ex-girlfriend (who's Korean).. well, of course all of the waiters at the restaurants catcall the couples as they walk by, trying to get them to come into their restaurant.. naturally they'll focus on the girl if it's a girl-guy couple, and they kept saying "Konnichiwa!" to her. Now this was REALLY bugging her.. not because they were cat-calling, but because they thought she was Japanese..

A lovely "vacation argument" ensued that evening where my side of the coin was, "They're just trying to be nice and get you to eat at their restaurant and they don't know any better.. YOU should be the one to kindly tell them how you say hello to a Korean girl and then they'll be smarter for it." Mind you she probably knows as much Korean as the Mexicans did ;)

Anyway I still totally understood her side, that she was annoyed at being assumed Japanese all the time and how ignorant they were for making that assumption. The only reason we argued was because I suggested she tell them otherwise. I guess it didn't occur to me in the context of our argument that the gender issue was at the heart of this argument. I wondered how she'd have reacted if the waiters DID greet her in perfect Korean, but were still being ugly cat-callers. If she'd have been flattered or disgusted. A vacation's a vacation anyway.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:57 AM on July 20, 2010


But not really, because that too is a cultural fallacy, the "clueless executive"

Not in my experience. My own father (while not sexist) was a senior executive in the public service and among his responsibilities was to apparently oversee "network security" or somesuch for the department. He is beyond useless with technology. He recently cancelled his internet and called the cops over Nigerian scam emails in his Yahoo! mail, no word of a lie.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:57 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a world where a technically competent man would walk past a copy machine, drop a page on a secretary's desk and demand that a copy be made, leaving page there, walk back to his office and expect the copy to be delivered .... yeah, a story about some executive wandering around for half an hour looking for a chick to type something for him is totally believable; hardly blips the bullshit meter at all.

Frankly, at this point I'm more shocked that someone would drop into this thread after 300 messages and say what you just said.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unless your sister graduated from college in the 1940's, this did not happen.

I guess you missed my story about my sister, which happened in the 1990s.

But go ahead. Call us liars.
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


discountfortunecookie:

Unless your sister graduated from college in the 1940's, this did not happen.

Way to go with the dismissiveness!

But not really, because that too is a cultural fallacy, the "clueless executive".

Cultural fallacy, my ass. There are plenty of clueless execs out there, but to be germane to this conversation, you want to concentrate on is HOW they express themselves. There is a world of difference between "I can't [won't] operate this," and "hey, I don't know what I'm doing with X, I heard you're good with X, would you please help me?" When I was a stockbroker, I heard a lot of latter from the older guys in the office...all of whom were more respectful of me as a person than the younger brokers who thought they were hot shit and weren't. The older guys weren't very techy and would seek me out to ask about computers/tech, especially if they were researching dot-com stocks for their clients, and in exchange, their office doors were open to me if I ever needed to ask them something about the business.

Statistically, a doctor would be much more likely to smack you on the ass on his way out of the office than to refer to body parts with baby-pet-names or to talk baby talk to the patient.

Uh huh. My "pretty little cervix" (anyone else ever have that one lobbed at them?) disagrees.

Very rarely does it involve being too personal or familiar. And those are almost always harassment suits, not babying.

Really? Try telling that to my friend who had this doctor -- the one who CARVED HIS INITIALS ON A PATIENT BECAUSE HE WAS PROUD OF THE C-SECTION HE'D GIVEN HER -- he delivered her baby the same month the carving incident happened -- she'll tell you what a whackjob he was, and how he treated her like SHE was the baby, not the person about to come out of her.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:02 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have had bad experiences with female OB/GYNs and sexist attitudes. I prefer female gynecologists not because I expect them to be more professional and less sexist (I used to hope this was the case but I've been frequently disappointed), but because my annual date with a speculum is extremely painful (way more than any of these doctors ever believe—seriously, OUCH) and triggering on a good day. I don't think I could handle having a man operate that thing. I probably wouldn't be able to look my (male) s.o. in the eye for a week.
posted by audacity at 2:00 PM on July 20 [+] [!]


To put a good word in for male doctors, I've had the opposite experience. My mother originally had me set up with a female gp; proper Indian women don't let a man touch her there. One day, I had a bit of an emergency (okay, my prescription for B/C was almost out, my fault!) -- my female gp wasn't around and I said I would be happy with the first doctor available.

The (male) doctor I wound up with was more considerate, more interactive and more knowledgeable. He didn't assume there had to be a 'grit your teeth and bear it' feeling to the pap smear - an entirely new experience for me. Reviewed my current medications with me. Asked me what my long-term plans were, then asked me to consider alternative b/c methods based on those goals! Did not ask me what my husband thought of it.

I switched over to being his patient that day, and stayed with him for 10 years. I had to find a new doc when we moved two states over. I have a perfectly good gp now (also male) but I miss Dr. D.

Oh, and the female gp I fired? She was Dr. D's wife!
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 12:04 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to a woman's college. I ride a motorcycle. I work with computers. Fix my own bike, fix stuff in my house, have replaced floors, etc. But, I have never met an ob/gyn, male or female, who took me seriously. I practically hemorrhage every month, vomit stomach acid for 6 hours and have been told either it is all in my head or having a baby will sort it.

I don't want a child. Never have. I've flat out asked for a hysterectomy and always been refused because, "...you might change your mind, and want children."

Just started perimenopause. I've gotten to suffer through more periods than an entire medieval village would have, just in case I suddenly turned straight and decided I wanted kids.

Got to protect the fucking eggies.
posted by QIbHom at 12:06 PM on July 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


As regards the example of Dr. X and Mr. Y:

A lot of those phone bank types have to get you to state your full name for CYA purposes. I have more than once been frustrated with them seemingly not understanding how I have clearly identified myself by some means other than saying "My name is Mr. Q"

So, yes discrimination happens. But, sometimes, plain old bureaucracy indiscriminately treats everyone like an idiot. Its not like they said you can't be a doctor, they just asked her to clearly, directly and verbally identify herself.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:08 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's also unfair to say that I must hate women because I'm genuinely baffled (and yes, skeptical) that this sort of thing is commonplace.

Yet women here are telling you that we deal with this stuff every single frigging day.


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

They're probably just too stupid to realize that everyone's against them, though.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:10 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

They're probably just too stupid to realize that everyone's against them, though.


The women recounting these stories you're disregarding would be the last people on earth to call any woman "stupid" for having a different set of life experiences.* The word I'd be much more likely to use is "lucky."

*Okay, so I can't speak for everyone, but I would definitely never say such a thing
posted by audacity at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Men of the world, keep in mind that there is at least one woman walking the streets of NYC who occasionally fantasizes about lunging at you with a spyderco and giving you Glasgow's finest when you say this shit. Yes, I may smile dreamily at you afterwards. You would not smile back if you knew why.

I favorited this. But as a New Yorker, I'm also hoping I don't get stabbed.

With an um... tarantula?
posted by zarq at 12:14 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

I'd like to meet these women and find out all of their secrets. They must know something I don't, to avoid being treated like this.

Or do they just *not* talk about it ever happening to them? There's a difference, you know.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:14 PM on July 20, 2010


And I'm curious to know, how does knowing some women who have been lucky enough not to experience this kind of sexism give you the right or the inclination to suggest that everyone here who has is lying?
posted by audacity at 12:16 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

They're probably just too stupid to realize that everyone's against them, though.


What exactly is your proposed solution to this seeming contradiction? Would you like to suggest that all of these women here in this thread are liars, or paranoid, or have giant chips on their shoulders? I don't even understand what your point could possibly be except that you are sort of obstinately clueless, and I somehow doubt that's what you're trying to say.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2010


I went to the university clinic for an annual and to ask after an IUD, as a 28 year-old graduate student. The gyno advised me not to drink too much at parties. Since I didn't riding a crest of beer foam and frat pledges into the exam room, I had to assume this was boilerplate medical advice for females receiving birth control from the university. Disgusting.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:20 PM on July 20, 2010


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

So you are fortunate, and so are they. Yay! That makes it impossible to believe it when others report their own experiences? So if you don't know anyone who has had that experience, it has not ever happened to anyone? mmmmmmkay.
posted by ambrosia at 12:21 PM on July 20, 2010


Unless your sister graduated from college in the 1940's, this did not happen.

discountfortunecookie: I do realize it's tough to grok that men can treat grown working professional women with so low regard. As it happens my sister graduated from college in the early 1990's, and I'd place this anecdote as having taken place either in 1995 or 1996. Which is to say -- well over fifty years past the era when it would have been a marginally acceptable thing to say to someone.

And -- for the record -- this happened in Washington DC, not some sleepy little hamlet where a man could be excused for not knowing better.
posted by contessa at 12:22 PM on July 20, 2010


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

They're probably just too stupid to realize that everyone's against them, though.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:10 PM on July 20 [+] [!]


Or maybe they're smart enough to know when not to waste their breath.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:30 PM on July 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Did they tell you they had personally never experienced this sort of sexism, or did they say this sort of sexism never happens.

Because, if they didn't say the latter, you're using their personal experiences in order to call other women liars.

I am curious if they would be okay with that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:31 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Statistically, a doctor would be much more likely to smack you on the ass on his way out of the office than to refer to body parts with baby-pet-names or to talk baby talk to the patient. It assumes a level of comfort and intimacy with the patient which, frankly, isn't there."
A commenter above isn't repeating a story that she heard from a friend of a friend. She had a physician refer to her breasts as "boobies". I seriously doubt know she isn't embellishing embellishing.
I am not a physician, but PapaStick is and the tales I have heard from him about colleagues backs up from what the women are saying here (you know, in case you need a man with an MD to validate that for you). He is, btw, an OB-GYN and when I have complained to him about some crap I have heard from doctors he is never surprised. Disappointed in them, but not surprised.
posted by pointystick at 12:34 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


languagehat: While I'm here, I'd like to apologize to the women in this thread for the clueless and/or offensive comments of some of my fellow males

Argh. I like what you write 99.999% of the time, but this is a misstep. You're not responsible for what other men say, just as I am not responsible for what other women, blue-eyed, or short people say. To apologize for the actions of your "fellow males" reeks of the white knight syndrome mentioned elsewhere. Address them directly.
posted by desjardins at 12:34 PM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


I apologize for languagehat.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:36 PM on July 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Regarding the form of disbelief which stems from an underexposure to these kind of anecdotes from one's IRL circle of women friends, family and acquaintances, this is what is meant by "consciousness raising."

I can attest that I tend not to think I experience a great amount of irritating sexism, but that if I really focus on tallying it up, I do. It just happens that my personality or my circumstances or maybe my early development and responses to gendering means that the "intended as complimentary" overtures of catcalls or overly "gentlemanly" gestures in day to day life don't really AGGRAVATE me.

That's not something cool or uncool about myself, as far as I'm concerned. Everyone picks their battles as best they can. I figure I am in fact lucky that serious sexism has never cropped up and barred me from achieving the respect I have sought, which would probably serve to make me angrier and more aware of the many small trespasses and disrespects of daily women's life in a sexist culture.

This is WHY conversations like these are valuable. Compiling the community experience helps women by creating a rich context around our individual experiences, and assure us that these things DO happen, in varying degrees of intensity and with varying responses of acceptance on our parts.

So when people say things like "none of the women I know think this is how it is," I usually don't assume they really don't have these things happen. Rather, I assume that like me, they just don't have an aware or a politicized response to them. I think that's a choice they are free to make, but should make consciously and with the kind of community education represented by jams like this.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

I am surrounded by people who tell me they don't have lung cancer. Really, I actually have never known anyone who suffered from it.

Logically, then, it doesn't really exist in any meaningful numbers and the people who tell me that, no, I lost my family member to it are either lying to me or delusional paranoids.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I had to assume this was boilerplate medical advice for females receiving birth control from the university. Disgusting.

I know what you're getting at, but in this case I dunno. You've got 30 seconds to talk to a college age person (any gender) about their sexual health. You need something simple to say to everyone. Generic health advice for college students. What are you going to say? I'd tell *any* college age kid not to drink too much at parties. There's over-consumption of alcohol involved in 90% of everything bad that happens to college kids.

Assuming you go to frat parties at age 28 is pretty weird, though. I'll give you that.
posted by pjaust at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2010


Unless your sister graduated from college in the 1940's, this did not happen.

Now if he ran around for a half hour looking for a woman to make a copy for him because he couldn't figure out how to work the copier, that might be believable. But not really, because that too is a cultural fallacy, the "clueless executive".


The chairman of Mr. Danaos' department, a prominent and well-published academic right here and now in The Year of Our Lord two thousand and ten, not only cannot type a one-paragraph memo, but does not know how to use his own email. His assistant prints it all out and answers it for him.

Do you want another? I have a friend who got an administrative job in an all-male small business when she was just out of school. She had led an extremely sheltered life up until that point, and about a dozen older men, all of whom had some authority over her, thought it highly amusing to send her from one guy to the next to ask who was on the muff-diving duty roster that month.
posted by timeo danaos at 12:40 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to the university clinic for an annual and to ask after an IUD, as a 28 year-old graduate student. The gyno advised me not to drink too much at parties. Since I didn't riding a crest of beer foam and frat pledges into the exam room, I had to assume this was boilerplate medical advice for females receiving birth control from the university. Disgusting.

Try getting a pregnancy test at Student Health!

I had already taken 2 at-homes, so I just needed the Student Health pee-stick proof in order to get a referral to a "real" doctor. But the "counseling" session and materials that I got had nothing about people wanting the pregnancy. Other grad students have confirmed similar.

Although I GUESS that it is probably a Public Health decision to take certain perspectives...
posted by k8t at 12:43 PM on July 20, 2010


I think coolguymichael's point is "Why do the women I know not tell me about this stuff?" Not that it requires a man to know so they can fix it, but because it would help the men in your lives- as opposed to random strangers on the interwebs- to appreciate these situations if you share them. Some of the stories here are astonishing (and also not exclusively men- sexism isn't limited to one gender as the offender), so much so that I can't imagine anyone in my walk of life doing that- presuming "Well that had to be some old coot from a past generation, right?".

I think of it akin to racism: I don't doubt that racism is still around- hello, Tea Party- but that it's not socially acceptable, that it's as often as not unintentional and part of the legacy that we can work to remove, and that as a person with dark skin myself I've had the rare insult hurled at me on the street but for the most part I don't walk through my neighborhood or go through life experiencing racism. I don't think most white people dislike me or infantilize or demonize me.

I live in an area of Seattle known as Capitol Hill, relatively youthful, gay friendly, very liberal area. While I don't pretend sexism doesn't occur ever, it would seem in my life to be an anomaly. I do know it cuts both ways: I've witnessed guys who act like Sleazy P. Martini's and gods gift to women, and watched as female bartenders dismiss the guy as a "douchebag" (I guess they use that term regardless of its patriarchal oppressiveness) when he leaves. I've also experienced firsthand plenty of women who perpetuate the notion of rigid gender roles, and joke about how "dumb" men are and how "easy" it is to manipulate them, or joke about cutting a guy's balls off, etc. A lot of people are actually quite stupid and venal, and I've learned in life to be better about not internalizing that because they aren't going to stop being assholes.

But in total, those people seem a small minority of the people I encounter, and I think those people are idiots, and I don't willingly associate with any of them. I do have a couple of male friends who I think are a bit on the cusp, but I haven't seen them do anything overt. That's why for some of us, it's not that we disbelieve these stories, it's that we assume there's got to be a selection bias- that people don't come here and say "Actually, that's few and far between for the most part" (well, one person did)- and that surely it's not constant and widespread, that these stories don't happen to every woman, all the time. Maybe we're wrong.

Because if they do happen to pretty much every woman, everywhere, by everyone... then I'd want the women in my life to tell guys about it, as I'd share my own traumatic experiences with the people in my life. Contrary to what you'd think, I am not dismissive about things people in my life tell me. So maybe one thing you can do is share with the guy friends you have about these things, and in doing so they'll be more aware of it as an issue.
posted by hincandenza at 12:46 PM on July 20, 2010


Hey, dudes:

Is it more likely that:
A) this world is full of crazy women looking for every chance to point out sexism, even where there is none, or
B) society hasn't been able to completely reform itself in the last 40 years and overcome 10,000 years of male dominance?

Come on.
posted by pjaust at 12:47 PM on July 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


Women probably don't tell you about these things because 1) We have other things to talk about, 2) It is exhausting to explain every little incident and 3) it is not our responsibility to spend all of our lives educating and informing men.

Seriously, I will talk about this stuff with make friends who are interested or who do something boneheaded (if I think they can be educated), but I have a life to live. I simply don't have the time and energy to go around fixing half the population. Plus I don't like what focusing that much on sexism does to my head.
posted by QIbHom at 12:50 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


So maybe one thing you can do is share with the guy friends you have about these things, and in doing so they'll be more aware of it as an issue.

Yeah, we are. We're sharing. With you. Our friends.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:51 PM on July 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


Oh, I thought of another common moment of presumption - at least three or so times over the past year, this sort of incident has happened: My SO (male) and I find ourselves standing at a counter, and I say "I'll pay for this" or something like that, because we trade off paying for things and balance it out at the end of the month, or sometimes just buy him an ice cream to be nice. And the man behind the counter makes a big joke out of it "Wo ho! How often do you hear that, huh?!" or "Man, did I just hear what I think I heard?" or "Hey man, don't let that opportunity pass you by!" or some other joke. I hate this because the implication in the joke is that most of the time, the man pays for everything, and the woman's role is to spend his money. Nothing could be farther from the truth in our relationship, and the very idea is anathema to me, a person big on financial independence. I've never seen this go the other way. What happens the other way is that if he is the one offering and a woman is behind the counter, she'll play up the other side of the same stereotype - "Oh, he's paying? You better go back and get some more!" or similar. Gross.
posted by Miko at 12:53 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Acquaintances address him as Dr. Lastname. He is not Mr. Lastname, even outside the office.

This is a cultural thing. On the west coast (at least in LA and in the Bay Area, ime), it's gauche to use titles, or even last names except in certain professional contexts.

She called a furniture reupholsterer for a quote, was given a figure and then told that she should check with her husband to make sure the price was okay.

Around here, guys get that at LEAST as often as women. "Better check with your wife!"

A few years ago my ex was shopping for a car. When he went alone the dealers showed him expensive, sporty models. When he was with me, we were shown the equivalents of Honda Civics.

(And if you want to be COMPLETELY ignored as a woman, bring a guy with you when you shop for a gun.)
posted by small_ruminant at 12:53 PM on July 20, 2010


desjardins: languagehat: While I'm here, I'd like to apologize to the women in this thread for the clueless and/or offensive comments of some of my fellow males

Argh. I like what you write 99.999% of the time, but this is a misstep. You're not responsible for what other men say, just as I am not responsible for what other women, blue-eyed, or short people say. To apologize for the actions of your "fellow males" reeks of the white knight syndrome mentioned elsewhere. Address them directly.
Ditto. The resentment is that it feels like the implication of these site and these threads- and in some cases explicit comments- that "YOU ARE THE PROBLEM PENIS OWNER, NOW FIX IT". I can no more "fix" these overt sexist anecdotes than I can will away the Tea Party by clapping my hands really hard. I had racist grandparents too, but the solution is I outlived them, I guess.

Ambrosia Voyeur's comment about "consciousness raising" is what I'm getting at. I don't see this in my life enough to believe it's epidemic. Partly that's because, duh, I'm a guy and not getting the same kind of sexist treatment. But partly it's because while my (Hampshire College attending) sister made sure to try to educate me about sexism when I was in junior high and high school, I don't get the message much in my daily life- pretty much just Metafilter threads where I can't help but think it's again a form of selection bias. I don't see it in the work place or even at bars in my neighborhood- or when I do, it's the consensus of everyone else that "Holy cow, that guy is a douchebag".
ROU_Xenophobe: I am surrounded by people who tell me they don't have lung cancer. Really, I actually have never known anyone who suffered from it.

Logically, then, it doesn't really exist in any meaningful numbers and the people who tell me that, no, I lost my family member to it are either lying to me or delusional paranoids.
Actually, that's an excellent example. "Most" people do not have lung cancer, although if you went to a lung cancer survivors forum you might think otherwise. And I don't know that I can personally do much about those who do have lung cancer. I don't smoke, I don't hang around smokers, so...
posted by hincandenza at 12:53 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK. Hincandenza, go up and read my hardware store checkout experience above. That happened in Woodinville, outside of Seattle. If you want to meet me in real life so that I become "a woman in your life," memail the time and place.
posted by KathrynT at 12:54 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon: So maybe one thing you can do is share with the guy friends you have about these things, and in doing so they'll be more aware of it as an issue.

Yeah, we are. We're sharing. With you. Our friends.
Um, you're not my friends. You're people on the internet. There is one metafilter member who is a real-life friend of mine, but otherwise no you're not my friends.
posted by hincandenza at 12:55 PM on July 20, 2010


I've also experienced firsthand plenty of women who perpetuate the notion of rigid gender roles, and joke about how "dumb" men are and how "easy" it is to manipulate them, or joke about cutting a guy's balls off, etc.

God what the fuck is with this idea that patriarchy is something men do and if you see women do it that means we should all just shrug and go home? Systemic societal problems involve everyone, and that's why they are problems. Women can buy into sexist bullshit just as well as men can: This does not mean that patriarchy is not real.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:56 PM on July 20, 2010 [15 favorites]


pjaust: "in this case I dunno. You've got 30 seconds to talk to a college age person (any gender) about their sexual health."

Annual gynelogical exams take longer than 30 seconds, FYI. Unfortunately.

The remark was made in the context of advice on birth control, from an OB/GYN, not a GP. I can't think of why the doctor would volunteer advice on alcohol consumption a propos of nothing. No advice on my diet, sleep hygiene or exercise was offered. Any other troubling loopholes in my testimony I can close up for you?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:57 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think of it akin to racism: I don't doubt that racism is still around- hello, Tea Party- but that it's not socially acceptable, that it's as often as not unintentional and part of the legacy that we can work to remove, and that as a person with dark skin myself I've had the rare insult hurled at me on the street but for the most part I don't walk through my neighborhood or go through life experiencing racism. I don't think most white people dislike me or infantilize or demonize me.

I'm white, my family's white, and most of my/their friends are white. I hear a lot of garbage that they wouldn't dream of saying to a POC's face, because they know it's socially unacceptable. You wouldn't ever hear it because you're not in the room. Yet it still exists. Yes I do call them on it.
posted by desjardins at 12:57 PM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'd want the women in my life to tell guys about it

Oh, we do. But you don't do it all the time. For one thing, it's not always well received, believe it or not. The same reaction that's happening in the thread happens in real life: "Oh come on, not every little thing that happens to you is evidence of sexism. Oh, come on, he didn't mean it like that. Oh, come on, he's just from another generation. Oh, come on, he's a meathead. Oh, come on, you're being oversensitive. Oh, come on, you probably misunderstood. Oh, come on, don't make a scene right now, I just want to eat a quiet meal." And so on.

For another, we get used to it and it gets tiring objecting overtly to every single solitary slight or imbalance. Also, we tend to assume other people see it too, when in fact sometimes a male friend or partner will be standing right next to me and will not perceive the issue in the situation, or will watch TV with me and not perceive the gendered language at play in, say, the coverage of politics, or what have you. Sometimes you have to pose a hypothetical and reverse the genders in order for them to see what's going on. And finally, sexists are everywhere and all the time, so unless it's something really egregious and/or something I can do something about by addressing it, I don't want to wallow in reliving these experiences, either; I want to get on with my life.

So if you want the women in your life to talk about it, don't put the burden on them. They already know from experience that people might not be that interested in hearing about it. So why not ask them? Just take a good moment over a nice drink or meal with your mom or sisters or friends or partners, and say "I was reading this thread about everyday incidents of sexism and I just couldn't believe things like that happened so often. Do you ever have experiences where you feel like there's sexism at play?" And then sit back and listen.
posted by Miko at 1:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [38 favorites]


You don't have to "fix it." That is indeed impossible, and any expectation that you do so is your own projection.

Just stop DISMISSING, DENYING, and ARGUING with women about OUR OWN EXPERIENCES.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:04 PM on July 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'm a straight male, and I'm a little baffled at the assertion that this sort of stuff never happens, or that the women on the linked site are stretching the truth, or just being reactionary, or what have you.

From what I've seen just in my own life, this kind of stuff happens all the damned time.

Years ago, a friend of mine ran her own web firm. Her office was in a shared loft space with several other small companies. Visitors would walk into her office thinking she was the receptionist, and boy, could they use a coffee before the big meeting at one of the other companies in the loft space, and maybe someone should do her job and fix them a cup???

And that's not getting into other stories from women I've known over the years - from the corporate communications officer who keeps being expected to take meeting minutes by freaking dude interns; to the ex-girlfriend who, months before we got together, was sexually assaulted at a party (took a nap after too much booze, woke up to some fuckhead with his hands in her underwear); to my own mother, whose chem prof told her she should be home with her family after bringing pint-size me to class the one time she and my Dad (who was also in school) couldn't get a sitter. Sickening.
posted by tantrumthecat at 1:04 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Um, you're not my friends. You're people on the internet. There is one metafilter member who is a real-life friend of mine, but otherwise no you're not my friends.

So... while we feel comfortable talking to you and telling you our experiences - the same type of experiences your female friends have - you're not going to believe them unless we first befriend you in "real life?" That's kind of dismissive. We talk, we share here the same way we share with our own friends, but you won't listen because we're "people on the internet?" I guess all of us who have shared our stories have merely added pixels on a screen. Shame.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:05 PM on July 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


I know I'm a little late to the game here, but for those questioning the OB saying "eggies" or whatever, I point you to My OB Said What?!.
posted by zorrine at 1:07 PM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


They're probably just too stupid to realize that everyone's against them, though.

Yeah, that's it. All of us right here telling these stories about things that happened to us? We're smart enough to have figured out that everyone is against us. Because that's how these things happen - because we are poor persecuted wimmin who have the misfortune to be smarter than your "stupid" female friends.

Do you have a reading comprehension problem? Or a "I haven't read this thread, but..." problem? Or are you just content to hang out on a website where women are liars?

Those are pretty much your choices, as far as I can see.
posted by rtha at 1:11 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


hincandenza, if you're agreeing with what I wrote, then wtf are you arguing against? Frequency? What's the point of that? You came in here saying something about frequency. What's the hysterical overreporting number you want us to stay below? It seems like "all the time" is just too unbelievable to you.

How about this, some specific estimates of sexist blips on my radart: Every time I go to the local liquor store and 80% of the time I go to a bar without a man. 50% of city walks in excess of 5 blocks, 15-25% of retail interactions, from Sephora to Home Depot.

That's not "all the time?" It's fucking too often, is the point. Now, do I run around ripping people's heads off because it's too much de rigeur? No, I don't happen to. I kinda appreciate the women who do though, and boy, I do give men in my life whom I respect what for when they male answer syndrome me, or take over tasks out of "courtesy," or other such things. I also think we should be allowed to tell anecdotes in here and lament the frequency without being second-guessed by the likes of you or others as to the authenticity of my motives or accuracy of my statements. We're not dick-measuring, here. We don't need the third degree.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:12 PM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


The sad thing is, it's not just assholes -- otherwise good and kind men often believe and say these things too.

I am the only woman in my department (and my larger organization is pretty much a sausagefest). My boss is a good, kind, dear man, but he's openly stated his opinions that mothers shouldn't work, sending your child to daycare or a nanny is tantamount to neglect or abuse, if a wife works she's hurting her family, women shouldn't have professional careers because they have to take too much time off for children, too much education is wasted on women because they just quit and have babies, women aren't smart enough for math, science, and engineering, etc. His wife quit her career to stay home and raise their children, and what I've seen in my interactions with her is that she's become the caricature of a woman who sacrifices her identify, independence, intellect, and other interests to the Cult of Total Motherhood.

So far my boss's unrepentant chauvinism has just been chitchat around the coffee maker (where we *all*, myself included, discuss things and express opinions that wouldn't normally be workplace appropriate -- it's our an unofficial "safe space" for saying what you *really* think) and he has been my biggest champion in the organization so I don't feel like his sexism is hurting me... yet. My husband and I have been discussing having children in a couple of years, and my current job would be an ideal place to mix motherhood and working (2 blocks from home, very flexible scheduling, option to work part-time or full-time, boss cares more about results than face time, 1 block from excellent daycare, etc.). But I dread what my boss's reaction might be and how he might treat me if/when I get pregnant. I'm sure it will be very different than how he treated male team members when they had children, or how he himself expected to be treated when he had his latest baby.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:12 PM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Another late-to-the-party lady here. I'll admit that I'm a shy person, so when my SO and I go out, it's often easier to let him do more of the talking, if only because I mumble. I can excuse some of the "talk to the guy" waiters/cashiers/salesmen, because the SO is the one approaching them.

What really drives me crazy though is that when I pay for anything with a debit card or credit card, there's at least an 80% chance that the cashier will hand the card back to my SO. Umm, hello? It's my card. I'm the one who just handed it to you, so please give it back to me.

Strangely enough, one of the most un-sexist places I can think of is my local GameStop. Maybe because I'm there so frequently, but most of the cashiers there don't even blink when I want to know if they can recommend games like [whatever I just bought]. No "oh, you play video games?". No "Try Sims 3". Just an honest discussion about wtf the writers were thinking when they created Warrior Within, or whether RDR is worth the price.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:13 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Women probably don't tell you about these things because 1) We have other things to talk about, 2) It is exhausting to explain every little incident and 3) it is not our responsibility to spend all of our lives educating and informing men.

This. THIS! If we told you about every incident: [From the "smile!" command from strangers. From the hundreds of comments I have gotten in my life as an IT professional. From the handful of mortgage brokers who ALL asked me, as an unmarried woman, how much money my father was giving me to help with the down payment for my house. From the two coworkers who commented that my office setup (me in the front half of our office, my male officemate near the window) makes me look like a secretary but did not say the same to the male coworkers who have the same desk configuration three offices down. From the network administrators at other companies that I have called to assist in their fucked up mail exchanger issues who assume that I am the secretary calling even AFTER identifying myself as the network engineer. From the Home Depot employees that direct all responses to my well-researched plumbing/electrical/tiling questions to my brother standing next to me. On and on and on and on....]
If we told you about EVERY single incident, you would get tired of the bitching. Of the complaining. And then we'd get all riled and pissed just telling you about it, because nothing begets bitching like bitching and it's just SO much easier not to offer brainspace towards the constant. bullshit. that. women. get. because that bullshit doesn't deserve the brain cells it gets already.

OH and you'd try and solve it, you'd offer suggestions, the same suggestions that have been offered in in the Hey Whatcha Reading thread and not understand when we say no, we've TRIED ignoring and TRIED being bitchy and TRIED and it's either exhausting or physically scary or we just didn't feel like taking a metaphorical or literal punch for Womankind that day because we just wanted to go to the goddamn Whole Foods without some guy talking about how eating well must be how I keep my body in such cute trim shape and you still wouldn't get it because you're not LISTENING. Just... listen. We're telling you. We are sharing.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:17 PM on July 20, 2010 [47 favorites]


What Miko said. Plus, for me at least, there's some element of frustration with the level of willful, even obstinate, ignorance (here and in the world at large) about what feminism/gender studies/whatever you want to call it means and why it's important. I mean, I manage to recognize and continue to question my own privileges with regard to race and socioeconomic class without blaming impoverished people and people of color for my own ignorance, or proclaiming that racism and classism don't exist and hurt people just because they aren't issues I myself have to deal with every day. Is this really that different?
posted by oinopaponton at 1:18 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Because if they do happen to pretty much every woman, everywhere, by everyone... then I'd want the women in my life to tell guys about it, as I'd share my own traumatic experiences with the people in my life.

It's not TRAUMATIC. It's just fucking annoying.
posted by desuetude at 1:19 PM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I live in an area of Seattle known as Capitol Hill, relatively youthful, gay friendly, very liberal area. While I don't pretend sexism doesn't occur ever, it would seem in my life to be an anomaly.

I live there too. Your experience is, in my experience, anomalous, and that's just on the Hill. In Pioneer Square or Belltown it's one catcall after another on a Friday night.

Because if they do happen to pretty much every woman, everywhere, by everyone... then I'd want the women in my life to tell guys about it, as I'd share my own traumatic experiences with the people in my life. Contrary to what you'd think, I am not dismissive about things people in my life tell me.

I can't speak to why you don't hear these stories from the women in your life. I have no idea who they are or what you're actually like. But based on how you represent yourself here, it wouldn't surprise me to discover that telling you these stories requires a vast expenditure of energy that people may not wish to use in that way. If your first reaction to someone telling you a thing is to say, "That can't be true and it's not true until you prove to me that it is," then yeah, the only surprising thing to me is that people tell you anything at all.

But, of course, people are telling you things all the time. They're doing it here, for instance. Which isn't relevant to you, because it's not "life" or a real friend telling you, it's just "people on the internet". So why are you here?
posted by Errant at 1:22 PM on July 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Whoa, zorrine, that website is really horrifying.
posted by audacity at 1:24 PM on July 20, 2010


don't even get me started on this crap from guys who are trying to pick me up in bars.

RE: This ^ and the guy who witnessed his girlfriend getting catcalled, having never realized how prevalent this kind of thing is:

I was in a bar a couple of weeks ago with two of my guy friends playing pool. I went to the bar to order a drink, and (of course, invariably) the guy sitting on the stool next to me tries to start a conversation. Thing is, he's really drunk, so he looks at me a little cross-eyed and only manages to say, "Youuu're sooo beautiful." I guess I had a look of disgust on my face when I got back to the pool table because my friends asked, "What's wrong?" Thing is, when I explained what had happened, they asked, "What's wrong with that? That's a perfectly nice thing to say." I took for granted that, if my friends had been female, they would have known precisely what was wrong with that. A woman approaching a bar by herself is like entering a lion's den, where harrassment is an unfortunate but inevitable part of the process. Granted, "You're so beautiful," isn't even close to the most offensive thing I've heard while trying to order a drink, but I think my friends' reactions were an interesting illustration that, if you don't deal with this stuff all the fucking time, some of it is genuinely baffling.

I am appalled by all of the people saying that their male friends/boyfriends/husbands get handed their change and credit cards, though. I make more money than my boyfriend (and thus pay for things more often than he does) and I can honestly say I don't think this has ever happened to me. I am not questioning that it does happen, it is just surprising that I've never encountered it since we live in a pretty conservative area.

Lots of other anecdotes here that happen to me pretty frequently though. The one that gets me the most (to the point that I fantasize about resorting to physical violence) is when men, instead of tapping my shoulder or saying "excuse me," will touch my lower back to indicate that I'm in their way. This gets me blindingly mad. The invasion of personal space, the infantilism, the assumption of authority. It may be a personal thing (I really don't like people I don't know touching me) but it's worse than when people SAY something sexist.
posted by a.steele at 1:31 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not TRAUMATIC. It's just fucking annoying.

And wearying, I'd imagine. I find the weight of expectation of male behavior to be frustrating enough, and it's traditionally rather less nuanced. That is usually my first reaction when I read these stories, or when I run into this sort of thing out in the world (especially when I'm expected to take part in it and therefore find I must take pains or make waves not to.) It's not hard to understand that when one is sick and tired of something that is extremely slow to change, it's not long before one is likely to become sick and tired of talking about it. Which doesn't mean it isn't still happening.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:37 PM on July 20, 2010


when men, instead of tapping my shoulder or saying "excuse me," will touch my lower back to indicate that I'm in their way.

I've reacted without thinking and slapped away a man's hand in public when he's done this. I'm lucky it hasn't escalated.
posted by desjardins at 1:37 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Lots of other anecdotes here that happen to me pretty frequently though. The one that gets me the most (to the point that I fantasize about resorting to physical violence) is when men, instead of tapping my shoulder or saying "excuse me," will touch my lower back to indicate that I'm in their way.

This! We all have our own personal physical boundaries and they should be fucking respected. It shouldn't be considered "bitching" or somehow abnormal to want your physical boundaries treated as such. This has happens to me as well, and I cannot stand it.

What really gets me is that some male strangers and authority figures seem to think they can get away with touching my bare skin. I mean, yeah, touch my bare elbow if you need my attention, okay, but don't even THINK about touching my bare thigh or the nape of my neck if we're not in a romantic relationship. I have had a number of bosses come up behind me and put their hand on the back of my neck when talking to me, or strangers touch the bare skin on my leg when sitting next to me and trying to start an unwanted conversation. It is really, truly awful to have someone touching me who has not been explicitly given permission to do so, and often I am so shocked I can't respond with the punch in the face I'd like to (then once I'm past being shocked I remember I need a job/don't want to be arrested).
posted by audacity at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


> To apologize for the actions of your "fellow males" reeks of the white knight syndrome mentioned elsewhere.

Oh for god's sake. Fine, carry on then. Sorry I let you down.
posted by languagehat at 1:47 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"when men, instead of tapping my shoulder or saying "excuse me," will touch my lower back to indicate that I'm in their way."

I don't know if that's necessarily a sexism thing. I'm a woman, and when I'm trying to cut through a crowd, I'll often touch people's lower backs (both men and women) to get their attention and encourage them to step aside for a moment. I touch the lower back because arms, shoulders, and upper backs get bumped so often in crowds that people tend to tune out contact with those body parts, and it's too noisy for anyone to hear an "excuse me." I suppose how appropriate it is depends on what kind of crowd you're in -- my experience is mostly with nightclubs, music festivals, etc. where people are packed so tight that there's not always room to comfortably raise your arm high enough to reach someone's shoulder.

I guess it also depends on what you mean by "lower back." I mean below the shoulder blades but at least a few inches above the ass. If guys are putting their hands just above your butt crack and letting them linger then yeah, that's creepy and presumptuous.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:49 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think a.steele presenting "tapping my shoulder" and saying "excuse me" as alternatives to the offending action means that in the situations she is talking about those would have been viable options, Jacqueline.
posted by audacity at 1:53 PM on July 20, 2010


I really enjoyed this website. It made me laugh for a few pages and then it made me think. Will it change my behaviour and attitude? We'll see.

Fuck - it's like I want to favorite your comment, but favorite really isn't the right word...
posted by odinsdream at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The touching thing can have gendered overtones, but sometimes it's just about intimidation/manipulation, etc. Some men in power will try to exhibit this kind of physical control over the bodies of their subordinates in order to assert or reenforce dominance and hierarchies. It's inflected differently, but no less intrusive or unwelcome (typically the shoulder-clap that turns into an upper-arm deathgrip. Moving you out of the way when passing in halls by reaching out to lever the torso one way or another--ala blocking--also happens quite a bit.) My anecdotal observation suggests that most of the men who do this are either former school athletes, fraternity members or both and probably were taught this sort of thing at an impressionable time.

That men without this sort of background still casually manifest this sort of impulse physical control women when they would not men is interesting.

(Sorry if this turned into a derail--it seemed relevant when I started.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


make that impulse to control
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:55 PM on July 20, 2010


My SO (male) and I find ourselves standing at a counter, and I say "I'll pay for this" or something like that, because we trade off paying for things and balance it out at the end of the month, or sometimes just buy him an ice cream to be nice.
I remember being out with a (male) friend and saying "Oh, I'll get this one" when we stopped at an ice cream stand. The girl at the counter commented about it and I just explained that sometimes he'll pick up the tab and sometimes I will and comes out more or less even.

She looked wistful, "I wish my boyfriend would let me pay for things sometimes..."
posted by Karmakaze at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aw, languagehat, you can be my white knight any day! Seriously though you don't need to apologize for what other men have done. No one expects you to take responsibility for their actions, just your own—and if your own actions include calling out sexism when you see it, so much the better.
posted by audacity at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2010


And from your participation in this and other threads I don't doubt that your actions do include such sterling examples of awesome
posted by audacity at 1:59 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think a.steele presenting "tapping my shoulder" and saying "excuse me" as alternatives to the offending action means that in the situations she is talking about those would have been viable options, Jacqueline.

Exactly. And to clarify, "lower back" to me is the part of the back where it dips, right above the pants-line. And when anyone asks why it bothers me, or doesn't understand the "gendered overtones," I explain that there's no way a man would touch another man (assuming they're strangers) the same way or in the same place, unless he's looking to hook up or get punched in the face.
posted by a.steele at 2:11 PM on July 20, 2010


In response to the idea that women should 'do something about it instead of griping on the internet' - I, for one, am hugely thankful that this discussion is here. Once more, a very real, very present part of the society I live in has been revealed to me. It seems of the men here realise that we are fundamentally unable to witness the vast majority of this behaviour, as we are never present for it. So I can understand how it may seem over the top or exaggerated to some, and am grateful that we can have this thread to make it abundantly clear that these aren't isolated incidents.
posted by twirlypen at 2:13 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to meet these women and find out all of their secrets. They must know something I don't, to avoid being treated like this.

Hi dinty!

As a female who doesn't get treated like this, I tend to try and avoid reminding other women that it's because I'm so much smarter than them because then they get all offended and talk about 'blaming the victim' or something.

My tips
-be born recently. I'm 25
-be born to a family that is relatively wealthy and educated, has several generations of women already through university
-be born in a civilised modern country
-???
-PROFIT

I work in a company (Microsoft) where the default gender is male, so people expect to see a male - I help that along by having been called Jac since I was a kid. This one time, this guy on the phone was actually surprised when I (female voice) said I was Jac. I didn't even have time to react before he was aplogising. He was humiliated and sent me an apology again after the phone call ended. It was funny. This one other time, a TSA guy trying to make small talk because he didn't understand my visa saw that it said Microsoft, and said 'oh, your husband works at Microsoft?' and I said 'no, I do' and he was humiliated and spent the rest of the interaction looking at his desk. Those are my two stories about people treating me differently because I'm female. So I guess I can't say it's 'never' happened. Also people get freaked out sometimes when I tell them how I'm planning to walk a couple miles home through downtown at 3am, but I don't really know any guys who walk around as much as I do so haven't had a chance to compare reactions.
posted by jacalata at 2:14 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I explain that there's no way a man would touch another man (assuming they're strangers) the same way or in the same place, unless he's looking to hook up or get punched in the face.

Yes, but there's more to it than just the gendered bit. In that situation it becomes the insult added to the injury (in my view.) What I was saying is that for men who do this, some invade everyone's space, and some men only do it to women. And that's interesting. (I don't think its appropriate in either case. But the former may, oddly enough, be less offensive than the latter in being equitably manipulative.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:15 PM on July 20, 2010


Me: grown woman with occasional forays into pro desktop support roles.
The scene: The new computer parts store in town.

I wander in. "Hi! I was wondering what your options were for 1GB desktop RAM."

The counter guy comes back with, "Hmmm. Okay, honey, so RAM is this stuff that goes in the big computer box under your desk."

What I wanted to reply but did not: "Oh really? I thought I was supposed to just shove it in my vagina."
posted by jess at 2:16 PM on July 20, 2010 [33 favorites]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

They're probably just too stupid to realize that everyone's against them, though.


Well, coolguymichael (really?), I, too, don't get told about this type of thing happening by the women who surround me. You see, they don't have to, because I see it happen to them, because they surround me. I grew up with 4 sisters and am married and have 2 daughters, so I get a lot of opportunity to just, observe, know what I mean? And I am amazed at the grace and skill they posses, because they rarely, if every, ream out the offenders in a loud, public chastisement. I am not that poised.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:21 PM on July 20, 2010


Uppity Pigeon #2: "Whenever I see a transcribed conversation about, I don't know, bad customer service experiences, for example, the narrator is always ridiculously composed, reasonable, and eloquent. Even if the story itself is true, it comes off as pretty synthetic, or at least skewed."

Waiterrant is rife with examples of this.
posted by Bonzai at 2:27 PM on July 20, 2010


Oh, man, this thread. So, at various points of my life, I've been perceived as: a hot chick, a butch lesbian, a gay guy, and now, a straight dude. (Yup, I've changed my sex.)

Not counting my internalized issues of gender dysphoria, I dealt with the most shit when I was perceived as female. I've been groped, cat-called at, talked down to, angrily called a dyke at the first sign of assertiveness (especially when turning down random men asking for a date), all while female. As male... nothing. It's like an overlay of static and irritation in my life has suddenly been removed.

I could write all day about how people's perceptions of me have changed depending on what sex I was presenting as. This shit exists. It's amazing how behaviors that got me labeled as an "arrogant bitch" now rate me as "self-confident and proactive". I actually feel a bit guilty at being able to enjoy male privilege.

Of course, I do still get some shit. People can be tremendous assholes. I try to call out misogyny where I can; now instead of hearing "can't you take a joke, lady," I get, "what are you, gay?".
posted by Wossname at 2:30 PM on July 20, 2010 [51 favorites]


jacalata, I can't tell if you're trying to be condescending or trying not to be codescending. Could you clear this up for me? Sometimes conversing via text can be difficult for me.

FWIW, I'm 23, college educated, live in the U.S., and I've had more instances of this type of sexism happen to me than I can name (and even some scarier, violent types). I'm not sure if you're actually saying you're smarter than me, or just joking that you're smarter than me and really lucky. I hope its the latter, and I'm very happy for you and hope that future generations of women can have lives more like yours than mine.
posted by audacity at 2:35 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm sorry, but all the "Smile!" command-stories are making me itch. What we need is Detachable Vaginas (nsfw Wanda Sykes routine), amirite ladies? Hope I made someone smile because they wanted to with that.
posted by dabitch at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2010


I meant *condescending, correctly spelled, in both instances there
posted by audacity at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2010


Oh, I agree, snuffleupagus. I realize the quotation marks made it sound snarky, but really I was just using your wording. I meant that there are people who don't understand that there are gendered overtones, but yeah, I agree there are people who are physically manipulative towards everyone. They suck, too.
posted by a.steele at 2:36 PM on July 20, 2010


I got about 2/3 of the way through this thread before skipping to the end because there's something I realized about myself a while ago and I've been wanting to mention it. It has to do with catcalling.

I have never, ever seen a man catcall a woman. Ever. Not once, and I've lived in three major cities and a couple of small towns. Never seen it happen. It might be important to note here that I'm a cisgendered penis-having dude of the gentlemanly gender.

Now: I'm not disputing the existence of catcalling, nor am I casting doubt on anyone's interpretation of a given interaction as catcalling. I'm not even really willing to say that catcalling has never happened within my hearing range and line of sight; I'm totally ready to believe that it's actually happened in front of me and I just totally missed it, for whatever reason (I can be kind of a dipshit sometimes).

I know people who've been catcalled, and there've been plenty of stories about it around here, so since I'm not about to discount the experiences of several close friends and hundreds of strangers, I'm going to go ahead and believe that any story I read about catcalling is true and not exaggerated, at least not to any significant degree. But the fact remains: I've never seen it happen firsthand. I've walked down countless city streets in a pretty broad variety of neighborhoods and have never seen it. If not for the stories of other people, I wouldn't even know it was a thing. I wouldn't get the "capital knockers, madam" joke in that one Sideshow Bob episode of The Simpsons.

And the thing is, I don't consider myself an especially enlightened guy. Much as I might try to do otherwise, I still assume that most women I meet will be more into mixed drinks than beer; I still get impatient with my girlfriend for taking so long to get ready when it's time to go out somewhere; I still use the word "bitch" to describe pretty much all the same people everybody else uses the word "bitch" to describe. Am I happy about these things? No. Am I willing to forgive myself for them? Yeah, but it's hard. Are they at the very tippy top of my extremely long list of personal flaws I'd like to change? Not even. (Well, maybe the girlfriend thing.)

Men don't deserve a gold star for acknowledging the existence of catcalling (or any of the more subtle ways sexism shows up in our daily interactions) any more than they deserve a gold star for not doing it, so don't think I'm trying to paint myself as some sort of saint here. If someone ever congratulated me for coming to the conclusions I've come to, I'd be embarrassed. Acknowledging that there are sexist assholes in the world is about as impressive as acknowledging that there are rude people in the world. Nobody should get a pat on the back for performing the least of their social obligations.

But the thing is -- and this is where I'm going to lose a bunch of you if I already haven't -- whenever I come into a thread like this, my hackles go up. I feel as though any attempt to discuss the relative merits of someone's claim is going to be impossible -- partially because, yeah, there are a bunch of people who just dismiss sexism out of hand because it lies outside their own realm of experience, and that impedes the conversation. But I also feel like people come into conversations like this ready for a fight. Like those people who dismiss sexism out of hand end up pressing exactly the right buttons on the people who have a lot of anger and frustration that stems from their experiences with sexism. And the whole thing becomes The Sexist Dickheads versus The Righteous Feminists, and if you're not on one side, well, you must be on the other. I'm the kind of person who tends to believe that the problems that stem from sexism can be addressed by all people, regardless of gender or sex, and that while listening is a vital skill, having a conversation is more so.

The important first step in discussions like this is for men to listen to women on matters like this; the second step is for those men to do their best to put their own perceptions aside and trust in what those women are saying. But even though the women are the ones putting up with the stupid sexist shit (checks being handed to men in restaurants, salespeople directing their spiels only toward men, et cetera) I don't think these problems are going to be solved unless we all -- men and women included -- try to understand each other's individual perspectives. And yes, that means that some people will have valid opinions on why this FMIF might be flawed.

Honestly? I was reluctant to write this. I worry that what I've said here is going to be the subject of condescension, that anything of value I may have written will be ignored because I'm only 90 percent on board with this FMIF of 100, or because of the flaws in my person I mentioned above. Or that someone will pick up an easy 60 favorites by claiming that I'm actually just a Nice Guy in disguise. Because, really, that's my read on modern feminism, at least as it exists on the Internet: If you're not in lockstep with everything Jessica Valenti and Amanda Marcotte and the bloggers at Shakesville, you're part of the problem. Now shut up and go watch some Sarah Haskins until you learn a thing or two. It pisses me off, because I really do want to help make the world a better place. But when people want me to question my own feminist beliefs because I like The Daily Show, or because I didn't at some point decide that Tina Fey is actually really bad for women instead of really good, it doesn't make me want to be part of the conversation.

Sorry for the long rant.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:41 PM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


The one that gets me the most (to the point that I fantasize about resorting to physical violence) is when men, instead of tapping my shoulder or saying "excuse me," will touch my lower back to indicate that I'm in their way.

Hm. I'm with Jacqueline. I generally do this to both men and women, and it's done in a spot just below the shoulders (i.e. not just above the ass). People do it to me *all the time* (though I suppose more women than men).

It's a different use case than merely tapping someone on the shoulder and saying "excuse me do you have the time?" It's more like a crowded bar/show and you're passing somebody and you're gonna bump 'em and you're saying "hey, here i come. seriously, i'm coming by. watch out." in a gentle, friendly way.

I can see how some women might see it as a problem, and I can also see how men (or women) could frotterize with it, but I can't really see it as offensive if it's a very light touch with no groping or grabbing or rubbing. It *seems* like the most inoffensive place to touch someone if the place is too noisy to say "excuse me."

/derail.

doublehappy, that just sounded so fake. I mean, all of it. Were you being serious?
Not because I don't believe that type of man exists or posts here, but because I can't believe anyone would actually present themselves like that. You sound like a wannabe macho supervillain or something.


doublehappy's self-description sounded very real and sincere to me. I knew a *lot* of guys like that when I was 20-25. It applies to both sexism and racism, e.g. think of Dave Chappelle Show fans. Are they laughing at the implicit humor or are they just laughing at silly black people?

I can certainly imagine a (large) subset of young men who would find this website funny and would honestly try to rationalize why such behavior is not offensive or sexist.

Um, you're not my friends. You're people on the internet. There is one metafilter member who is a real-life friend of mine, but otherwise no you're not my friends.

Motherfuckin' AWWWWWWWWW!
posted by mrgrimm at 2:44 PM on July 20, 2010


I had an odd exchange recently. Mr Corpse needed some dental surgery, and the little Corpses and I were in the waiting room. His dentist -- a woman -- came and met us all when they wheeled the doped-up Mr Corpse out to go home.

"You have such beautiful children!" she told him, "and a beautiful wife!"

"And a beautiful dentist!" I enthusiastically added. She seemed surprised. I guess we weren't there to exchange complements after all.

I'm hesitant to say it was sexism, because it was a woman tossing out the unsolicited and inappropriate comment about my appearance. But I do suspect she wouldn't have told me how handsome Mr Corpse is if I had been the patient.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:47 PM on July 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


hifiparasol, my daughter is 4-years old and she witnessed her first proper catcalling in her life the day before yesterday. The target of the calls was me, her mom, pushing her pram. My heart broke for her, when I had to explain why we were turning away from the car with the hip-hoppy dudes that slowed down and leaned out the window, yelling at me, as they passed us, and into a street which we were not intending to go on.
"Why are we going here? What is the man in the car saying mom?"
..."well, did you hear their voices?"
"Yes."
"Did they sound nice to you?"
"No."
"Well then, what you do when you hear something like that, is get the hell away from their car. I'm sorry that you had to learn this now."

I have never been cat-called when in company of her before. I guess it didn't happen during baby-stage.
posted by dabitch at 2:49 PM on July 20, 2010 [16 favorites]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

On the contrary, my guess is this kind of thing happens to the women you know so often that they've stopped noticing it. I think a lot of what we've been seeing in this thread and in the original link are instances that seem to stand out from the norm, and so it feels easy to pick them apart or deny their authenticity. But for every instance documented here, each and every woman has experienced hundreds of other less memorable instances of subtle sexism and misogyny, usually without blinking an eye.

It's like constantly running a low-grade fever - after a while you forget that it's unhealthy and just start to believe this is how life is supposed to be for everyone. You don't talk about it because it feels normal, there's simply nothing unusual to talk about.

Then a thread like this comes along and reminds you that it's not normal, it's not healthy, and it only happens to the female half of the population. So we finally start to talk about it and all we ask is that you listen and believe that what we say is true. Is that really so hard?

Oh and data point for hifiparasol - I got catcalled two weeks ago walking across a restaurant parking lot. Does that help?
posted by platinum at 2:50 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


A bit late now, but I meant to ask what would be the best way for me to call other males out when they try to pull this shit.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:00 PM on July 20, 2010


I will make a point to start asking women I know about this, and about the sexism they experience. I've never tried to make the point it doesn't happen or anyone's lying- just that I don't see it, and I'm confused as to why.

But I also think- since I'm in jacalata's backyard and was also a long-time Microsoftie- that what hifiparasol and jacalata are mentioning is that some of us really have been kind of insulated from this. I was I guess sexually harassed a few times while at Microsoft by a female co-workers (she was just one of those inappropriate people who'd say really personal things or ask all-too-personal questions, etc) but that was noteworthy enough to stick in my memory 7 years later. I don't recall off the top of my head any cases where female co-workers were asked to take notes or do 'secretary' things because of their gender, or

It's like cat-calling. I know it exists- one need only see frat boys going "Whoooo" during a Girls Gone Wild ad to be sure- but it seems like something from another time or place because if someone rides by in a car and says "hoooooo" on the street (and when I was younger and thinner on Capitol Hill that would happen occasionally) the reaction of people on a sidewalk seems to be amusement, as in "Can you believe that dipshit?" Or the sleazier guys in a bar scene, hopping from barstool to barstool hoping to get lucky... don't most of us, male and female, look at them with a certain amount of pity or disdain?
posted by hincandenza at 3:01 PM on July 20, 2010


On the contrary, my guess is this kind of thing happens to the women you know so often that they've stopped noticing it.

Or else they've modified their behavior to reduce it. For example, my wife is tall and (I think) looks outstanding in a skirt and high heels. She will generally never wear a skirt and heels to work, or anywhere where she would open to public comment. And she's never really been harassed that badly (though apparently bad enough).

So now I don't get to see my wife dress up in skirts and high heels. So fuck all y'all.

I'm going to go ahead and believe that any story I read about catcalling is true and not exaggerated, at least not to any significant degree. But the fact remains: I've never seen it happen firsthand.

To be fair, that's sort of the point. Women mostly experience catcalling when they are alone or without any men. I have never seen it happen firsthand either (aside from car beeps - c'mon you've never seen a dude beep at a woman?!)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:02 PM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


I've been catcalled more times than I can say. Sometimes it's just plain hilarious (Boston, 2003 or so: "DAAAAAAMN, your ass is FINE!" followed with "I just had to TELL you that." -- umm, no, not really, hobo sir, but thank you anyway, I guess). Sometimes it's scary. But you never really forget it, either way.

And, to add to the anecdata: I'm tall, solidly built, and have been told I have a -- quote -- "New York walk" when I am walking quickly from point A to point B, i.e. I don't exactly look like I'm about to take any shit from anyone. It happens to all kinds of women.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:05 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh and data point for hifiparasol - I got catcalled two weeks ago walking across a restaurant parking lot. Does that help?

I don't understand the question. I think I pretty clearly explained that just because I've never seen catcalling happen doesn't mean I don't believe it does. Do you think I need to be convinced that catcalling exists?
posted by hifiparasol at 3:05 PM on July 20, 2010


I have never, ever seen a man catcall a woman. Ever. Not once, and I've lived in three major cities and a couple of small towns. Never seen it happen. It might be important to note here that I'm a cisgendered penis-having dude of the gentlemanly gender.

I know your point was explicitly not that what you don't see doesn't happen, but one of the key points with this anecdotal stuff is that the world is a complicated system that distributes things unevenly at random. I haven't seen a lot of catcalling in person, but I don't spend a lot of time in situations where I've been likely to and I live in a relatively hippie-ass city besides, so that doesn't really add up to much. I've heard a few stories from my older sisters and was probably the inattentive witness to some actual examples growing up that just didn't penetrate for me as well.

The two catcalls that I will never forget, though:

1. Being catcalled one summer by a truck full of guys who saw my skinny long-haired self running up the sidewalk from behind and thought I was a woman. Catcalls cut off promptly once the caught up, they floored it and took off.

2. Walking down the street last fall with a fellow mefite, when I was traveling around a bunch, and having some guy drive by and throw out a "hey, baby!" at her. And the whole thing was driveby so there wasn't really anything to react to in any meaningful matter, and I found the whole thing odd situationally in any case since (a) it seemed more like mere obnoxiousness, not nastiness and (b) it was her home town, not mine and (c) I didn't know how she personally felt on the subject enough to feel sure-footed about commenting on it.

It was a tiny moment, I think it just made for a brief hiccup in whatever conversation we were having, but it was also one of those "for all I'd like to think I have a handle on this stuff, here I am just sort of not responding to clearcut bullshit harassment in action" moments that will stick with me for a long time.
posted by cortex at 3:08 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


This may bear repeating. I'm really not sure how I can be more clear.

I'm not disputing the existence of catcalling, nor am I casting doubt on anyone's interpretation of a given interaction as catcalling. I'm not even really willing to say that catcalling has never happened within my hearing range and line of sight; I'm totally ready to believe that it's actually happened in front of me and I just totally missed it, for whatever reason (I can be kind of a dipshit sometimes).

I know people who've been catcalled, and there've been plenty of stories about it around here, so since I'm not about to discount the experiences of several close friends and hundreds of strangers, I'm going to go ahead and believe that any story I read about catcalling is true and not exaggerated, at least not to any significant degree.

posted by hifiparasol at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2010


I have never, ever seen a man catcall a woman. Ever.

What's really funny about this to me is that I was just outside smoking a cigarette on the corner near my workplace, and as four women crossed the street in front of me, a car flew by with some dude half out of the window, yelling at them. That was about ten minutes ago.

In retrospect, I guess it's not that funny.

(On preview: I know that you know it happens, it was just the juxtaposition of seeing that and then coming back to the computer to find your comment.)

But, hifiparasol, I really don't think anyone's asking you to toe the party line or be shunned forever. I know it can seem like that when so many people appear to agree so wholeheartedly, but I really don't think that's the case. There's a difference between informed criticism / discussion and dismissal, that's all. If your hackles are going up because someone's made a point that you disagree with, that's one thing. If they're going up because you want to "argue the relative merits of someone's claim", well, a lot of the time, that "claim" is someone telling you a story about themselves. It's the height of arrogance and presumption to think that one person can arbitrate the experience of another and decide what is relevant or truthful in the absence of any evidence of bad faith.

I think you know that and try to listen, so that's good. I don't think anyone's asking you to buy into a philosophy that you don't agree with, if you don't buy into it; they're just asking you to hear what they're saying first and foremost. That seems to me to be the ground level of any decent conversation.
posted by Errant at 3:12 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cortex's story reminds me that when I was 12 or 13 I was sometimes mistaken for a girl by waiters and counter retail staff. (I had long hair and a round face.) So not only did I briefly get a taste of what it must be like to be a girl out with her parents, but a not particularly attractive, somewhat husky and spot-faced girl. It never lasted more than a moment, though, as I'd immediately say something nasty in as deep a voice as I could muster.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:16 PM on July 20, 2010


If they're going up because you want to "argue the relative merits of someone's claim", well, a lot of the time, that "claim" is someone telling you a story about themselves.

Yes -- thanks for pointing that out. I understand that, and wouldn't presume to pass judgement on someone's own story. Here I was pretty much referring to people pointing out that the polish on FMIF made it less valuable. I think that, given the way the blog is set up, this was a reasonable discussion to be had.

when I was 12 or 13 I was sometimes mistaken for a girl by waiters and counter retail staff

When I was bussing tables at the Sizzler at Franklin Mills in Northeast Philly, pissy old men would sometimes look me in the eye and refer to me as "miss," seemingly to make some idiotic mid-century point about long hair on men. That's some skilled sexism right there.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:21 PM on July 20, 2010


Or the sleazier guys in a bar scene, hopping from barstool to barstool hoping to get lucky... don't most of us, male and female, look at them with a certain amount of pity or disdain?

Sure, and fear, when they relentlessly ask for your phone number, when you turn them down and they call you a bitch, or when they follow you out of the bar and on to the street. Even if nothing untoward happens from that point, the fact that it could stops most women I know from engaging with them in the first place.
posted by desjardins at 3:24 PM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


audacity: I was being overly sarcastic because dinty sounded like she didn't believe that kind of woman existed, and she sounded 'this close' to calling coolguymichael a liar/oblivious to his female friends problems.

I'm not sure exactly what kind of 'serious' response she was looking for with the question 'what do they do to get treated differently?' My only proven method is 'be me', because I haven't had the chance to run experiments to figure out which aspects of my life/background/self/circumstances are affecting it. On the other hand that method also makes you kind of an asshole sometimes, so there are tradeoffs.
posted by jacalata at 3:34 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm not disputing the existence of catcalling, nor am I casting doubt on anyone's interpretation of a given interaction as catcalling. I'm not even really willing to say that catcalling has never happened within my hearing range and line of sight

Honestly, then, what was your point in spending 3 paragraphs on "I have never seen catcalling first hand"

What exactly are you trying to say? If you're trying to explain that men have a biased perception of these events because they're not the objects, I agree, but you're going about it in an awfully obtuse way.

don't most of us, male and female, look at them with a certain amount of pity or disdain?

I think fear is more accurate. I've seen creepy male-female interactions on the bus/public transit that have descended into violence very quickly.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:35 PM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Until I started reading threads and blogs like these, I thought that the reason I had a hard time getting men take me seriously was because I wasn't strong enough or confident enough or smart enough. My dad has also told me my whole life that I need to be more aggressive, and so that didn't help my ability to frame these things clearly.

When I started reading stuff like this and realized that it happens to other women too, it was a huge, strange relief. Reading so many other women's stories made it clear to me that my own encounters were not just in my head and that men didn't treat me like that because I was doing something wrong.

Before that realization, I used to think things like: If I had only explained my thought process more clearly, George in my refresher certification course would have actually listened to me and my ideas. He wouldn't have hid a crucial piece of equipment behind his back for five minutes at the beginning of a scenario, trying to make me grab for it, or tried to tickle me and bop me on the nose when I asked him to cut it out so that we could actually start our work.

Now I just think: You fucker.

Also, before I started reading up on this stuff, it hadn't even occurred to me that it was possible to live in a large city and not continually dodge cat-calls, leers, random commands from strangers, interruptions of my personal space, and the like. I'd really thought that that was just the price one had to pay for being in a big city, and it was startling to realize that that was not true for most men.
posted by colfax at 3:44 PM on July 20, 2010 [37 favorites]


Why is it that in every science-y argument type threads there are invariably 1 million "plural of anecdote is not data" posts; but in threads like this there are invariably 1 million "I've never seen it so it must not happen" posts

---


42% of college women get catcalled at least once per month

75% of women in traditionally male occupations (n=160) report being sexually harassed by peers

How women are treated in the engineering profession (interrupted more, less eye contact, etc) (an old link but I guess it's possible that gender relations have revolutionized since the 1980s)

And:
* Two in five women (41%), compared to one in four men (27%), have changed physicians at some time because they were dissatisfied.
* The leading reason women change their doctors is communication problems (32%).
* 25% of women (compared to 12% of men) report they are "talked down to," or treated like a child by a physician.
* 17% of women (compared to 7% of men) have been told that a medical condition they felt they had was "all in their head." (NB: 23% of women are never told by their doctor that they should get mammograms or pap smears or other preventive services)
* One in 10 women thinks there are times when her physician would have treated her differently as a person or as a patient if she had been a man.
* One in 10 women has had a problem or need that she did not discuss with her physician because she was too uncomfortable or felt that her physician was too uncomfortable to discuss it.

...

* Five percent or 4.7 million women have had a physician who made offensive sexual remarks or inappropriate advances.


etc. etc. further studies reinforcing the point are legion
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 3:47 PM on July 20, 2010 [19 favorites]


Here I was pretty much referring to people pointing out that the polish on FMIF made it less valuable. I think that, given the way the blog is set up, this was a reasonable discussion to be had.

Sure, I don't think that's an unreasonable comment on the topic of "here's this blog about this thing". On the other hand, I appreciate that sometimes the content of "this thing" is resonant or powerful enough to make commenting on the poor presentation of "this blog" seem a bit like missing the point, or at least focusing on what seems like a fairly minor detail. Especially in the context of an ongoing discourse in which women's issues are frequently picked apart and little bits of trees are used to discredit the entire forest, I think that one can try to be sensitive to that regular occurrence and take it into account when delivering that criticism or starting that discussion, if for no other reason than to make sure the critique hits the mark or that that discussion is the one intended.
posted by Errant at 3:47 PM on July 20, 2010


Sorry to tell you this, jacalata, but, the life experiences you described and mine sound pretty damn similar (the one difference is that I'm 24), and I get this crap all the time.

Maybe you're just lucky.

The whole point wasn't that you don't exist, the point was that *I'm* not doing anything to provoke being harassed, besides being female-which I can't really help being.
posted by dinty_moore at 3:47 PM on July 20, 2010


I have never, ever seen a man catcall a woman. Ever. Not once, and I've lived in three major cities and a couple of small towns. Never seen it happen. It might be important to note here that I'm a cisgendered penis-having dude of the gentlemanly gender.

Me too. But my brother tells me that his boss and his coworkers do this all the time. My brother is in the trades, and it's not at all uncommon to see this kind of behaviour there. He doesn't engage in it, and he tells his boss what he think of it, thank goodness.
posted by smorange at 3:52 PM on July 20, 2010


Here's a pro-tip for the dudes who are all, "but I never see any catcalling": dudes are less likely catcall a chick when she appears to be with another dude.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:53 PM on July 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


Women mostly experience catcalling when they are alone or without any men. I have never seen it happen firsthand either

This. True story: In high school, there was a big pedestrian mall with some cafés in it that I often used to walk through on the way home. One day, I was walking home with a male classmate, we were buddies but very clearly not romantically interested. We get to the pedestrian mall part, and all of a sudden my buddy puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me closer in a very possessive way. I was like, "ummm, dude? what's up?" He said "doesn't it bother you that all those men over there are staring at you?" I said "If you weren't here, they wouldn't just be staring. One of them at least would have said something." He said "Are you serious? Doesn't that get really tiresome?"

Well, yeah.
posted by ambrosia at 3:53 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Right, dinty - of course I'm lucky. That wasn't the point I took from your comment. You and Space Kitty might want to avoid the comments suggesting that a guy who says his female friends don't get harassed, is simply mistaken. Then it wouldn't sound like you're dismissing the possibility that he has female friends who actually don't get harassed.
posted by jacalata at 3:54 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone above mentioned that perhaps some areas are more sheltered than others, and my experience leads me to think it's a possibility. I have lived in 4 different big cities, and only in my current one (Portland, OR) have I hardly ever experienced these things. Elsewhere I've been catcalled, grabbed at, followed, been told to smile (ooohh how I hate that one), and completely ignored when accompanied by a man.

But Portland has been markedly different. When I go buy a videogame, the clerk never assumes it's for my husband or boyfriend. Same for electronics. When I ask the guys at my favorite beer pubs for a recommendation, I get a good variety of suggestions. My doctors, including and especially my gynecologists, have been uber-professional and never talked down to me. I was catcalled maybe a couple of times, years ago. In fact, my mom was here for a visit last week and remarked on how no one ever looks at you here. And it's true...I kind of laugh to myself when I catch a guy checking me out, or checking out another woman, because it's just so rare (my guess is that many men here have perfected the art of checking someone out with their peripheral vision). I'm not saying that no sexist stuff ever happens in Portland, because that would clearly be untrue, but I have to admit that after living in NYC, South Florida, and San Juan, I noticed a huge dropoff in annoying sexist activity after I moved here.

Well, sometimes the servers will bring the receipt to my husband even though I'm the one who paid. That annoys me, but servers of either gender have been guilty of that.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 4:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Errant -- that makes a ton of sense. Certainly it's important to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and just because FMIF isn't perfect, or because its format has some small contingent of detractors, doesn't mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, if that's not too many cliches for one sentence. Anyway, there's always gonna be someone's gotta complain.

Someone waaaay upthread pointed out, with some linked research, that a notable number of people tend to look at "anecdote" blogs like FMIF with a hefty dose of skepticism regardless of the subject matter. So I do think that someone simply being wary of FMIF because it's that type of blog is reasonable enough (though it's not a sentiment I share). The problem, as you point out, is that it's a tiny bit of reasonable skepticism against a huge backdrop of sexist denialism, so, yeah, now might not be the best time.
posted by hifiparasol at 4:04 PM on July 20, 2010


Honestly, then, what was your point in spending 3 paragraphs on "I have never seen catcalling first hand"

My point was that it's possible for men who have never seen catcalling firsthand to still recognize its impact. I've never knowingly seen it, but I know it happens because people I trust tell me it happens. And that was leading into a greater point about how it's possible to be responsible about recognizing and trying to fight sexism but still feel as though you're failing the greater feminist movement, because the greater feminist movement can be sort of regimented sometimes. It was hazy, I'll grant you.

Though I think "obtuse" is a little harsh; I didn't come here looking for a fight, just sort of wanted to express myself. If this isn't the right place for that, someone should tell me and I'll go.
posted by hifiparasol at 4:16 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't doubt these stories and they make me so sad.

We were talking about something like this at lunch today. When we used to work offshore, one of the female engineers I used to work with said that she'd open her cabin door and see a crewman walking down the corridor from the shower room stark naked. She said she used to see it all the time. In 6 years on the rigs, I never saw a naked man in the corridor.

I apologize for all the idiots out there, male and female.
posted by arcticseal at 4:33 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


(my guess is that many men here have perfected the art of checking someone out with their peripheral vision)

There was an exchange about this in the movie "Role Models":


Wheeler: Kid, you got a lot to learn.

Ronnie Shields: I know what I'm doin'.

Wheeler: Oh really? So you don't realize you've just committed one of the most common rookie boob-watching errors?

Ronnie Shields: What you mean?

Wheeler: Never stare at the boobies, kid. Once you get caught, the game's over.

Ronnie Shields: But how?

Wheeler: It's called training. You know, being aware without drawing attention. You don't think I've noticed those 34 C's in the camouflage tank top setting up a tent directly to the left of us? Or how about those twin cannons hiking up a mountain ridge 50 yards due west? Or the ridge itself? Round mounds of grass shaped like...

Ronnie Shields: Boobies!
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:36 PM on July 20, 2010



Before that realization, I used to think things like: If I had only explained my thought process more clearly

Oh boy do I recognize that reaction. When you are intelligent, kind, thoughtful it is always a shock to interact with people who are stupid or unkind or thoughtless. How many times have I examined my soul trying to figure out why I was treated in such a shitty way, when the answer is simply being female.

I actually had a boss back in the 90's who liked to make women cry. If he succeeded, he would grin and then pretend he was just kidding. It was a power trip for him. He had a streak of cruelty in him that was close to sadism, but he was a very unhappy man in his private life and eventually we became a good team.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:39 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


A bit late now, but I meant to ask what would be the best way for me to call other males out when they try to pull this shit.

I've done that. To not much success. There is no "best way" to do it.

If it's someone I'm with, (that's happened three times) I put my hand on their shoulder and ask them to please stop being a dick. "It's not funny, you're not impressing her and you're being a fucking asshole here. That makes me look bad by association, and I don't appreciate it. Can it." Once I didn't even get to say that. Once it sparked a huge argument, but he stopped. The other time I was threatened and told to fuck off... which also sparked a huge argument.

If they're insecure enough in their manhood to be catcalling women in the first place, you run the risk of having them take it as a challenge to prove they're more of a man than you are. You risk of getting slugged for your trouble. I also had that happen once. Stepped into a domestic dispute in a subway station after watching someone punch his wife or girlfriend in the face. I didn't think. Just stepped in. Got a black eye and a mild concussion. I hit him back. No idea if I did any lasting damage, though.

I do think stepping in when someone is being catcalled is worth the risk.

Having done it once, I don't suggest getting involved in a domestic dispute. But I couldn't just can't let it happen and not do something.
posted by zarq at 4:50 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


By the way... since we're on the topic... catcalling was discussed at length in the Schroedinger's Rapist thread.
posted by zarq at 4:57 PM on July 20, 2010


I just realized I've been calling the blog "FMIF," because I've been thinking its title was "Forgive Me, I'm Female." My bad.
posted by hifiparasol at 4:59 PM on July 20, 2010


Also, I once had a male gyno talk TO MY CERVIX

Do you happen have an answering cervix? Doctors are used to those...
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 5:13 PM on July 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


It always seems weird to me when women I know describe things like this happening to them, and I (a woman) am reminded of just how seldom this sort of thing happens to me. I've been in the presence of women as they receive this sort of treatment and am amazed at how some guys will talk to other women and not me. And I work in a male dominated field.

Then again, I have been told that I have a "don't fuck with me" face, and also that strangers out on the street probably just think I'm a kid because I'm petite, and I speak in a sort of low monotone and am really quiet in general if I don't know you. So I think I tend to confuse the kinds of men who would say crap like that. Which I guess is a good thing, but at the same time it almost makes me feel less womanly, which is kind of f'ed. It is a strange world that we live in.
posted by wondermouse at 5:33 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


DrGirlfriend Portland isn't perfect, though. I got the creepy guy who follows you for blocks and won't take no for an answer there, too. (Seriously, dude, if you won't even take "no" as an answer to "you're so pretty; let me buy you a gift", why would I ever go anywhere alone with you?) And, sadly, unlike Paris or Manhattan, there was no subway to escape into.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:37 PM on July 20, 2010


I have never, ever seen a man catcall a woman. Ever. Not once, and I've lived in three major cities and a couple of small towns. Never seen it happen.

I was catcalled two days ago while walking my sister's dog. My sister was catcalled on the same street a couple of months ago by a carful of guys who then drove back and hit her with raw eggs. Perhaps they were unhappy that she did not smile at them.
posted by OolooKitty at 5:45 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the whole thing becomes The Sexist Dickheads versus The Righteous Feminists

That hasn't happened here. What has happened is that women have shared their stories and their opinions on the likelihood of the stories in question with reference to their own lived experience. Many men have expressed support, while also being surprised. You are doing that but also struggling to believe that there really can be all this shit happening around you to women that you don't see.

If you really, really want concrete proof, do this: pay attention. Take your earbuds out, watch a corner or street where a group of guys are hanging out in a little clump, and see if they say anything to women going by. Chances are they will. Or ask your female acquaintances where they tend to get catcalled, and then go see for yourself.

Short of dressing (and being able to pass) as a woman and going out yourself, that's about the best you can do.
posted by emjaybee at 5:51 PM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd want the women in my life to tell guys about it.

Well, look at what's happening when we're doing this in this very thread. We get told "oh, that can't POSSIBLY be that bad, you MUST be overreacting, I'm SURE I'd hear MORE about it if it was REALLY happening..."

And shit, if that's what your reaction is going to be, does it surprise you why so many women have given the fuck up on talking about this?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:55 PM on July 20, 2010 [20 favorites]


Having done it once, I don't suggest getting involved in a domestic dispute. But I couldn't just can't let it happen and not do something.

Good on you, I say. I ran into a vaguely similar, though much milder situation recently, also on the subway. I kind of think I shouldn't go into the details or it'll seem like I'm trying to make this about me, so I'll just say that I was willing to trade off a small chance of getting into a fight against the already-in-progress physically bad thing happening to someone else.

One of the main reasons I couldn't just sit there was that because I remembered that Schrödinger’s Rapist thread, and the discussions of it. Those threads really educated me about just how awful it feels to be on the receiving end of what looks like very mild physical harassment. So if anybody is wondering if discussions like these do any good, I'd say they do.

So there is an example of one way men can help out, by intervening in these kinds of bad situations. My outlook on this is definitely biased by the fact that I'm physically larger than most people, so I'm (probably unwisely) less worried about things escalating into a physical confrontation with me. But now that I understand just how awful it is for women to be targets of this stuff, I'm much more willing to take that risk anyway.

The sort of sexist comments and behavior we're discussing in this thread are also things men can and should call out when we see them. That seems a whole lot less likely to escalate into a physical fight, too, so there's less reason to shy away from it. Yes, something bad might happen as a result. You might have an argument with a stranger, or a friend or a family member.

But read through the comments here and maybe you'll get the same impression I have, which is these attitudes are common and really awful for women to experience, so maybe that possible argument you might get into is still the better outcome compared to saying nothing?
posted by FishBike at 6:09 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


> And that was leading into a greater point about how it's possible to be responsible about recognizing and trying to fight sexism but still feel as though you're failing the greater feminist movement, because the greater feminist movement can be sort of regimented sometimes.

Well, maybe it would have been a good idea to save that rant for an occasion when that regimentation was manifesting itself, because it isn't in this thread, so you came off sounding kind of weird. I realize you were making a point, but if you told someone something and they responded "I believe you! No, really, I do! I mean, a lot of people wouldn't, and I admit I've never seen anything like that in my life, but hey, I believe you! Really!"... wouldn't you feel a little strange about that?
posted by languagehat at 6:13 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I think a rant can also be interpreted as a strong emotional reaction, one that makes someone want to express something happening in them on an emotional level, something that they may not have the words to express cleanly and concisely. I really appreciated the clear feeling of support coming through in his post, and applaud the fact that this topic, this thread, is bringing out some feelings in some guys that maybe they're not used to having, and they're having the courage to say something despite the palpable tension in the air in here.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:24 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fair enough.
posted by languagehat at 6:36 PM on July 20, 2010


DrGirlfriend Portland isn't perfect, though.

I didn't say it was. Just that the volume of incidents, for me, went down dramatically.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 6:36 PM on July 20, 2010


The sorts of men who catcall are not the sort who would change their behavior just because I pull them aside and inform them that they are assholes.

Probably better to initiate some kind of public shaming. But I'm not sure how to go about that.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:53 PM on July 20, 2010


Before Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs and I were married, we decided to purchase a house. As I am the more organized partner, I took full control of Project Buy-A-Home and did everything short of putting up the money. Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs put up the money.

As we were purchasing a home in a rural area, we had to hire a lawyer to manage the transfer of the deed. And oddness started to occur. Whenever Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs would call with a question or response to a question, he would be put directly through to the lawyer. I would call, someone would take a message, and one of the paralegals would call me back. As I was managing the purchase of the home, I was spending a lot of time on the phone.

Closing day came and was a nightmare. The lawyer would not speak directly to me. All questions were directed to Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs. Who was unable to answer most of them because I had been handling all aspects of the purchase of the house. All answers to my questions were All answers to my questions will also directed to Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs. It was so bad that my soon-to-be spouse actually had to instruct the lawyer to speak directly to me as he did not have the answers to his questions. And the lawyer still refused to talk directly to me. Until the paperwork had been signed, when he turned to me with a big smile and told me to come back in three months, after we were married, so he could change my name on the deed.

Later I learned that this same lawyer called Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs and urged him to have a pre-nuptial drawn up.

I have told this story many times over the years. Two to one the response have run to excusing the lawyer's behavior as Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs was the one making the down payment on the house, even though both our names were on the mortgage and deed to the property.

Until that incident, Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs kind of, sort of understood that there was sexism out there. It took witnessing such an outrageous incident of it unfold in front of him and listening to the responses from individuals who tried to diminish how egregious it truly was, to open his eyes.

So I get that some men are honestly skeptical about these things happening. And urge them, like emjaybee, to pay attention.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:55 PM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Later I learned that this same lawyer called Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs and urged him to have a pre-nuptial drawn up.

Jesus. Please tell me you sent a letter to the local bar association. That is not the sort of person who should be entrusted with one's financial and legal affairs until he gets a major-league attitude readjustment.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:03 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless your sister graduated from college in the 1940's, this did not happen.

Now if he ran around for a half hour looking for a woman to make a copy for him because he couldn't figure out how to work the copier, that might be believable. But not really, because that too is a cultural fallacy, the "clueless executive".


I've got another one: My uncle's real-estate appraisal firm was run by an older man. The entire office uses e-mail and computers, but not this guy. Oh, he has an e-mail address of course, and e-mails people regularly, it's just he goes about it this way:

When he wants to send an e-mail, he will dictate it into a tape recorder on his desk. He does this all day. At the end of the day, he gives this to his female secretary, who transcribes the messages into e-mails to send.

When he receives e-mail, his secretary prints out the messages and places them in a folder on his desk in the morning.
posted by odinsdream at 7:22 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]



Attention Metafilter:


Just stop DISMISSING, DENYING, and ARGUING with women about OUR OWN EXPERIENCES.
posted by ottereroticist



That's it.
posted by agregoli at 7:30 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


late to be adding more anecdotal evidence, but to those who've mentioned reporting all incidents of sexual harassment to HR, it is a rough road that often leads to nowhere. This is not my story to tell so I don't want to provide a lot of possibly identifying details, but one of my closest friends was sexually harassed by a male colleague. She had emails and text messages, so there was clear evidence, not simply a case of "he said, she said." They did suspend the guy for a few days, but expected her to work with him when he returned. When she complained, the moved her off the project and moved her to another cubicle, ostracizing her, rather than the perpetrator. She worked in IT and most of her colleagues were male. She continued to fight, was branded as a troublemaker, and ended up with over $10,000 in lawyer's fees and getting laid off. This happened in early 2009. She was in therapy for months due to all the stress. She had initially thought that she'd take it all the way to the EEOC, but she worked for a large company that had a lot more money to spend on lawyers than she did. She finally had to bail. Thankfully her lawyer was able to negotiate a pretty decent severance package for her, but ultimately it was a very expensive, and very stressful process that did not have the outcome that she'd hoped for (nor the one that her lawyer led her to believe would happen).

So I theoretically agree that this stuff isn't going to stop until women stand up for themselves, but as is it is often bandied about in AskMeFi work questions, HR is there to protect the employer, not the employee. They want to protect their employer from being sued, but also know that a lot of people aren't going to go through with it due to the stress and potentially huge cost. They wear you down little by little. Women know this and not everyone has the money to spend on a lawyer. My friend was lucky in that respect. For others the financial cost to fighting sexual harassment may prevent them from fighting it as ardently as they would have liked.
posted by kaybdc at 7:40 PM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


On the subject of catcalls: I spent most of the past 25 years significantly overweight. One of the unexpected side effects of obesity, for me, was my unexpected and near-complete invisibility as a female. Sure, I got a few catcalls or lewd suggestions, but they were often couched as "hey, fat lady, bet you'd appreciate a man paying you some attention right about now."

Then I lost about 125 pounds fairly rapidly (supervised fasting) and learned abruptly from guys on the street that I was, in fact, a gendered woman wearing a DD bra. I had no coping skills to deal with this since I had spent my life since about age 20 as a fat bookish woman who was married to one of the most nonsexist men I have ever known. I gained the weight back within a year and was surprised/relieved/upset at how safe I felt with my protective layers back on. It took a divorce and four years of therapy before I felt confident and equipped enough to lose the weight again. I'm better with male gaze now, although I'm still caught off guard when I notice it. Because I was sheltered from it for so long, it is unfamiliar territory for me to be the target of comments that show me that the speaker believes my body and sexuality are public business.
posted by catlet at 8:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [17 favorites]


I can't believe you have the gaul to suggest this.

Why would you need a French person?
posted by arcticseal at 9:00 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jesus. Please tell me you sent a letter to the local bar association. That is not the sort of person who should be entrusted with one's financial and legal affairs until he gets a major-league attitude readjustment.

eponysterical
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:08 PM on July 20, 2010


the speaker believes my body and sexuality are public business.

I'm sorry you had to go through that, catlet. It seems that no matter what a woman wears, does, or is, she is still deemed public property, and that property is up for discussion, dissection, and - I'm trying to think of a nicer term than 'free groping', but my inner thesaurus fails me.

Somewhat relevant: I remember being at a bar and having a random stranger come up behind me, grab my hips and pull me in towards his groin. Tip for those wanting not to harass women: this is not how we say 'hi!' in polite society - a handshake is preferable to sweaty crotch.
posted by zennish at 9:27 PM on July 20, 2010


hifiparasol seems to have deactivated his account. I think that's unfortunate, and I hope he comes back. His heart was in the right place, and it's always good to have more of those people in the conversation. Giving good-hearted people a sympathetic read is something all of us could be better at. I think the phenomenon he was talking about exists, not so much in this thread, but I do believe it exists, and I can understand why he wrote what he did.

I had a staunch feminist friend who reacted angrily to a guy who asked her on a date. They worked out at the same gym, and he left a card for her on her car, telling her that he liked her. It seemed kind of sweet to me, albeit the guy might have come off as shy and perhaps a bit awkward. But my friend was just outraged that he had found out her name and that he had asked around about who she was, if she was single, etc. She said that it had made her feel unsafe and violated--like he had invaded her personal space. A couple of her friends suggested that the guy might not have realized how she'd react. She got angry with those friends, too.

If it had been a constant thing, with someone stalking her, I would understand and agree with her. But it happened once. Asking around about someone you're attracted to, and then asking her on a date is how lots of people meet. It struck me as within the bounds of social acceptability, and I found it hard to understand my friend's point of view. Still, I didn't want to doubt her experience, so I kept my mouth shut.

After a while, I started noticing other things. Often, she seemed to interpret male behaviour in the worst possible light. Not coincidentally, she was single for a long time, and often complained about how hard it was to find decent guys. At the time, I thought her complaints were a bit off, but I didn't say anything.

Then, I started to disagree with her about some feminist issues. There was an article in the NYT condemning women who chose to stay at home to raise children. The writer accused these women of betraying the feminist movement. My friend agreed; I didn't. Slowly my friend's positions became more radical and less tolerant of those who held opposing views. Finally, we drifted apart because she believed I was insufficiently sympathetic to her political positions. And, truthfully, she was right. I don't have a lot of patience for people who lack empathy for anyone who disagrees with them. That's what my friend had become. I'm sorry things worked out the way they did, but in the end I was glad to get her away from my life. People like her are too negative; their negativity drains you.

So I think hifiparasol identified a genuine dynamic. I understand why it frustrates him. It saddens me because I lost a friend over it. I can also understand why people reacted negatively to his post. In the context of this thread his comments might seem inappropriate. But, as I said, his heart's in the right place.
posted by smorange at 10:23 PM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I absolutely have a client who does not send his own emails because he doesn't know how to type. I am aware that it is 2010 and this is something of an anachronism, particularly given that he's only 40. However, this does not mean that it is not also true.

He has a somewhat busy office with two assistants; I get emails from office@ and they are typically "Hi DarlingBri, it's Susan. Dave says..." Very occasionally I get email from dave@ and these are actually from him, dictated to Susan.

I'm 100% fine with this; it's absolutely no business of mine how he arranges his business correspondence. But if anyone thinks that because it's 2010 these things are not possible, they are mistaken.

I had an interesting experience at lunch yesterday meeting a new and different client for the first time. I was wearing a long sweater wrap coat that was, you know, wrapped because it was a wet yucky day. The guy could not stop staring at the V. Eventually I wondered if maybe he thought I wasn't wearing anything under it (?) or was in some way confounded by my attire, so I took off the coat after I warmed up and just sat in my knit jumper, which is also a v neck.

The situation did not improve. It's not like he couldn't make eye contact or anything, it's just that he couldn't maintain it in the face of the mesmerising call of the boobies. I don't think there's anything particularly magical about mine so I assume this is an ongoing issue for him, but boy was it noticeable.

He's a nice guy with, I assume, an unfortunate social tic but I've sort of filed him under "boob starer" which is too bad because otherwise we might have been friends. He's very interesting and his wife sounds great.

He's also one of those people who crushes your hand when shaking. I'm sure he does to to everyone, but you know, the thing is, because I am a woman and I have spent a lifetime developing safety radar, there's a very very faint ping. ping. ping. in the back of my head. I'm thinking the boy may have some issues, and while I'm happy to work with him, I will not be getting in a lift with him to the client's site.

Three hours alone in a car with him seems like an unwise choice to make. Is that unfair? Very possibly. But the only person who has to make those judgement calls is me, and that's what 38 years of walking around in the world tells me, so that's what I'm doing.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:25 PM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


For the record - pointing out that coolmichaelguy's tone may contribute to how comfortable people are disclosing this kind of information to him is not the same thing as saying I don't believe it when his friends tell him they don't get harassed. That's just offensive as saying that the women here aren't experiencing the sexism they're describing in this thread. The whole point is you don't get to tell someone else what their experience is.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:32 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


LogicalDash: I meant to ask what would be the best way for me to call other males out when they try to pull this shit.

Some debate and stories about intervening, from the previous Schrodinger's threads. For stranger harassment, anyway.

I regret that I got nothing re harassment or Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts kinds of stupidities from colleagues, superiors, etc. Especially superiors.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:31 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"'Eppie' means epileptic fit, by the way!

I hate the British.

Is radiation treatment "radie," too?"


'Eppie' is only a slang term, as in 'Don't throw an eppie about it'. Doctors will never refer to an epileptic fit in this way - it would be as inappropriate as, well, 'eggies'.
posted by mippy at 3:38 AM on July 21, 2010


I went to the university clinic for an annual and to ask after an IUD, as a 28 year-old graduate student. The gyno advised me not to drink too much at parties. Since I didn't riding a crest of beer foam and frat pledges into the exam room, I had to assume this was boilerplate medical advice for females receiving birth control from the university. Disgusting.

Reminds me of Peggy getting the Pill in Mad Men - 'If I hear you're abusing these, I'll take them away from you, do you understand?'
posted by mippy at 3:49 AM on July 21, 2010


I was on the"wow, there's NO WAY this happens" side until I read through the thread. I didn't realize (I'm female) how lucky I was NOT to experience sexism on a regular basis... it's incredibly shocking and eye-opening.
posted by biochemist at 4:05 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


'Eppie' is only a slang term, as in 'Don't throw an eppie about it'.

Good lord, if I ever heard anyone refer to a seizure like this, I would punch them in the face. "Epileptic fit" (a term I've already mentioned despising) is not synonymous with "tantrum."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:17 AM on July 21, 2010


it is unfamiliar territory for me to be the target of comments that show me that the speaker believes my body and sexuality are public business.

Wow, catlet, thanks for sharing your story. This is exactly the sort of feeling I have tried to convey to men who don't understand why catcalling is humiliating. The answer I usually get is, "People are judging other people by their looks all the time any way so why let it bother you?" But it does rankle when complete strangers feel comfortable enough to let you know how exactly how you rate in their estimation.

And, yes, I've had that flabbergasted feeling when some guy pulls up in a car next to your bike and asks, "Hey, baby, how about you and me go out?" How often does that work for them? Ever? Or is it just bullying in another form?

By the way, I have a neighbor who is a boob-starer. For years I felt a little uncomfortable about it but then after some study and discussion, my husband and I concluded that your chest, anyone's chest, is his habitual place to let his eyes drop during conversation. He does the same thing to everyone he talks to for more than a couple of sentences-- even the guys.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:54 AM on July 21, 2010


This is exactly the sort of feeling I have tried to convey to men who don't understand why catcalling is humiliating. The answer I usually get is, "People are judging other people by their looks all the time any way so why let it bother you?" But it does rankle when complete strangers feel comfortable enough to let you know how exactly how you rate in their estimation.

I think one reason why some guys don't really get this is because we imagine the reverse situation (a woman shouting at us that we look hot, or something like that), and we think we'd like that. Or at least, we think it wouldn't make us uncomfortable. Which might be true, but part of the issue is that it hardly ever happens to us, so we don't really experience it much from a first-hand point of view.

There's a whole different social dynamic at work regarding appearance, too. Men don't seem to be judged on our appearance as often, or in the same ways, that women seem to be, and as a result I think we just care about that sort of judgement a lot less when it does happen. This is totally not fair, but might be a contributing factor towards men having a hard time seeing the problem.

There's also a different power dynamic at work. The equivalent situation is really not a man being a target of catcalls from a group of women. It's being a target of catcalls from a group of scary-looking biker dudes. And then it's not so much the judgement part that bothers us, as the worrying about what happens next part. Explained this way, I think many men will understand at least this aspect of the problem.
posted by FishBike at 6:19 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Adding to the weird gynecologist stories:
My best friend's gyno (male) never asks her if she is sexually active, and doesn't even use baby-talk, but instead uses euphemisms like "is there a special man in your life?" and "are you in love?" This rubs me the wrong way on so many levels (what if she were a lesbian? what if she enjoys casual sex? why can't he just say "sex" to her?), but she shrugs it off like, "I only have to put up with him once a year and it's not worth having to find a new doctor." I thought that this was shocking.

Things I personally have experienced: catcalls; demands for smiles; "you're too pretty to smoke" (from a strange man - I'm not super proud of being a smoker but I doubt this would have been said to a guy); being asked to fix the printer, set up conference calls, etc. in an office in which I'm not the admin; being called honey or sweetie all the time on the phone back when I was an admin. One thing that I think is especially frustrating about all this is that it makes you suspicious even in situations that aren't as black and white. I had a job where, after having been essentially promised a promotion, was passed up in favor of guys twice (and then a third guy was also given that promotion just after I decided to quit). Maybe there was nothing to it - maybe someone in the office hierarchy disliked me for some other reason and the fact that all 3 of the hires for the spot I wanted were male was a fluke. The office culture, though, was such that I will always wonder.
posted by naoko at 6:26 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Secret Life of Gravy wrote: "By the way, I have a neighbor who is a boob-starer. For years I felt a little uncomfortable about it but then after some study and discussion, my husband and I concluded that your chest, anyone's chest, is his habitual place to let his eyes drop during conversation. He does the same thing to everyone he talks to for more than a couple of sentences-- even the guys."

I had that problem when I was younger. I assure you, it wasn't intentional, I just had a problem with looking people in the eye. I. could. not. do. it. I was more than slightly embarrassed when I realized what I was doing and how rude it was.
posted by wierdo at 6:33 AM on July 21, 2010


eponysterical

Yes, of COURSE, uncanny hengeman, my username is perfectly relevant to the fact this lawyer acted like a complete asshole, and my pointing out that he needed to be called out on his nonsense, preferably by the people charged with making sure he doesn't do these sorts of things. Fucking hell, have you even read this thread at all, or was that just the most brilliant contribution you were able to make under the circumstances? Should I get a new username to accommodate your inability to see past the content of the matter under discussion, perhaps? Did you miss the original story to which I was responding?

All answers to my questions will also directed to Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs. It was so bad that my soon-to-be spouse actually had to instruct the lawyer to speak directly to me as he did not have the answers to his questions. And the lawyer still refused to talk directly to me.. [snip]

Later I learned that this same lawyer called Mr. theBigRedKittyPurrs and urged him to have a pre-nuptial drawn up.

I've worked in a law office, and I've seen lawyers get censured by the local bar for much, much less.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:38 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never tried to make the point it doesn't happen or anyone's lying- just that I don't see it, and I'm confused as to why.

Oh I see - you didn't try to make the point that it doesn't happen, you just repeatedly dismissed and belittled anyone who said that it does. All 100+ of us. Then you acted as though we're not real people or to be trusted, because you haven't met us in person. But that's not the same as accusing people of lying, so I suppose you're technically correct, if rather pedantic.

And the reason you don't see it is because you're a man, and it doesn't happen directly to you. That reason has been put forward several times in this thread alone, but it apparently still confusing to you. Your female friends don't volunteer the information to you, and that's probably because they're afraid you'd dismiss or belittle them if they did.

But if you do ask your female friends about this, try not to explain away what they tell you as being unrealistic or misinterpreted, or mansplain to them how they *should* have reacted, or offer approval if they did react the way you think they should have. You're shockingly ignorant about this subject, and if there's any woman in your life who is willing to put in the hard yards to educate you when you're not willing to do the work yourself, try not to piss her off.
posted by harriet vane at 7:01 AM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


But Portland has been markedly different.

I would also say San Francisco is also much "better" than other areas I have lived--Michigan, Kentucky, Virginia. A significant majority of women combined with a large population of gay men certainly helps.

I think one reason why some guys don't really get this is because we imagine the reverse situation (a woman shouting at us that we look hot, or something like that), and we think we'd like that.

I've been thinking a bit about this myself. I've been the recipient of (it's hard to call it cat-calling, but there's no other word I can think of) cat-calling from teenage/young women (in my younger years). Four times that I can remember (the fact that I can remember should indicate how significant the events were).

A couple times were a thrill (cute young girls, hey!), but others less so. It really depends on the nature of the interaction, i.e. "hey, cutie!" vs. "hey fucker!"

Also, every time was in a midwestern or suburban area (i.e. young women with nothing to do), so I was in a car and could just drive away. If I were a young female, walking down a street alone, perhaps in shoes not designed for running, and received the same sorts of aggressive comments I received from 5-6 older teenage boys hanging out on a corner ... yeah (depending on how many other people were around) I would have been terrified.

But you basically said that in the rest of your comment ...
posted by mrgrimm at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2010


Oh! Forgot part of my friend's gyno story: she's in a mid-twenties and a virgin (not due to religious convictions or anything of that nature, so it's a source of some distress for her). When she told the doctor that no, there was not "a special man in her life," and never had been, he responded, "You're an unusual woman and that's what men are looking for."

I'm sure he meant it kindly, but the idea that men are specifically seeking out virgins kind of made us both go ew.
posted by naoko at 7:29 AM on July 21, 2010


Man, I love sexism threads. A great way to spend a morning.

I didn't find the blog particularly entertaining, simply because all of the stories seem to be written in the same editorial voice, but then a LOT of "What an idiot said to me blogs" fall into that category, which is why I tend to avoid them.

I've encountered all kinds of similar situations when out with my wife... The worst is when we're at the bank, discussing our mortgage. My wife works at a bank that focuses almost exclusively on mortgages, and knows them inside and out. I know enough about them to understand the difference between variable and fixed rate, and I can spell "amortization" correctly about 75% of the time. But the mortgage advisors, whether they are male or female, will invariably address any questions or responses to questions to me. I just turn to my wife to wait for her answer. :)

The only sexism I've ever encountered in my life, which is hardly anything at all, was on my 3 months of parental leave with my son. Any time we were out running errands (which was a daily occurrence, just to get out of the house if for no other reason), I would constantly encounter (almost entirely female) service providers saying "Awww, what an adorable baby! Are you on babysitting duty today?" - to which I would respond "Well, I'm technically on babysitting duty EVERY day, since I'm on leave to take care of him". I found it hilarious, my wife actually got extremely annoyed by it :)
posted by antifuse at 7:42 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to pick up on the "preferring a female GYN is sexist" thing. I don't think the preference is sexist. In my case, it's practical. Please remember that a GYN is a specialist, not a GP. At a GP's office you are going to get prodded and have your ears and throat looked into, have some conversation, and generally be out of there. Anything more invasive would be a specially scheduled test. At a GYN, unless you're pregnant, you're usually there for a test - your annual PAP smear. And I simply want to go to someone who understands what that feels like from personal experience. I believe it is likely to make them more cognizant of the kinds of actions that are uncomfortable, painful, or surprising. This extends too to the functioning of the reproductive system. With a female GYN I can count on them having some perspective on female genitalia and reproductive organs that is likely to help them give me better treatment. Are there lousy, sexist GYNs? I have no doubt. Are there great male GYNs gifted with unusual empathy? I have no doubt. But for me, the pragmatic decision to see someone who has a first-hand understanding of what the parts do, and feel like, just makes sense. I would not fault a man for preferring to see a male doctor about something to do with the male reproductive system, either, like erectile dysfunction - chances are, all other things being equal, that personal familiarity with the behavior of the body may result in better treatment.
posted by Miko at 7:49 AM on July 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yes, of COURSE, uncanny hengeman

Friendly advice before you engage him further (or again):

Go read his comment history. Seriously.

Uncanny routinely posts comments that seem to have no other purpose than getting a rise out of people. He only rarely follows them up with anything resembling a discussion.





Oh, shit. Did I say that out loud? Oops.
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If it's someone I'm with, (that's happened three times) I put my hand on their shoulder and ask them to please stop being a dick. "It's not funny, you're not impressing her and you're being a fucking asshole here. That makes me look bad by association, and I don't appreciate it. Can it." Once I didn't even get to say that. Once it sparked a huge argument, but he stopped. The other time I was threatened and told to fuck off... which also sparked a huge argument.

I'll trust that you were reading your date correctly! Boyfriends who tried this sort of thing wouldn't get far with me -- to me it would come off as paternalistic and I'd possibly announce that I would be moving out of the way in case the dick-measuring contest turns ugly.

But I'm a sarcastic person who's comfortable deflecting boorish come-ons. And I am more than a bit touchy about people getting too protective of me. (Certainly, though, I could give my partner the eyebrow of "jesus, this clod doesn't get it, I'm calling mayday." )

I'm not rebuking you at all, zarq, just pointing out, for the men looking for some way to be the good guy, that proactively stepping in is not always the right choice. Read the body language.

I have very much appreciated it when guys (this goes for women too) give me the look or word of sympathetic "damn, that dude is being a jerk, I see this thing going on here and you're handling it and no, you're not a crazy bitch." And I have certainly appreciated it when dudes get really aggressive and there were other people around (of any gender) who indicated (again, body language, eye contact) that they'd back me up.
posted by desuetude at 7:57 AM on July 21, 2010


I can't believe you have the gaul to suggest this.

Why would you need a French person?


Gaul*
posted by Kabanos at 8:07 AM on July 21, 2010


desuetude, I think zarq is talking about when his friend is the guy being a dick.
posted by jacalata at 8:12 AM on July 21, 2010


Your female friends don't volunteer the information to you, and that's probably because they're afraid you'd dismiss or belittle them if they did.

This sounds a lot like the kind of comment that I would interpret people as implying that it is not possible for the man in question to actually have female friends who are NOT harassed. Can someone explain to me why that is not an accurate reading of this comment?
posted by jacalata at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anytime the waiter ignores me like that, I'm the one who pulls out a card at the end of dinner. I have a Julia Roberts moment. "Remember when you refused to wait on me? Big Mistake. HUGE." -SecretAgentSockpuppet

My favorite example of this sort of oh-so-sweet tale comes from AskMe, natch.

My own MFIM moment in college was having to take a philosophy class (analytical of course of course) from this older dude who spent almost every lecture at some point droning on randomly about evo-psych-sort of stuff, naturalizing that men are smarter than women and ingrained not to love them monogamously forever and ever whereas "professors' wives" at academic cocktail parties were just clinging to their men needily like a liferaft, etc., hungry for love and validation and nothing else, no ambition or anything. He spoke of this like it was gospel truth we all already understood to set things up for stories. Ugh ugh ugh.
posted by ifjuly at 8:18 AM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I simply want to go to someone who understands what that feels like from personal experience. I believe it is likely to make them more cognizant of the kinds of actions that are uncomfortable, painful, or surprising. This extends too to the functioning of the reproductive system. With a female GYN I can count on them having some perspective on female genitalia and reproductive organs that is likely to help them give me better treatment. Are there lousy, sexist GYNs? I have no doubt. Are there great male GYNs gifted with unusual empathy? I have no doubt. But for me, the pragmatic decision to see someone who has a first-hand understanding of what the parts do, and feel like, just makes sense. I would not fault a man for preferring to see a male doctor about something to do with the male reproductive system, either, like erectile dysfunction - chances are, all other things being equal, that personal familiarity with the behavior of the body may result in better treatment.

Some argue to the contrary: That female ob/gyns are more likely to read their own experience into their patients' complaints and so dismiss complaints, while male ob/gyns listen more closely because they have no personal experience to compare to. And, indeed, the first ob/gyn I had was a woman who dismissed anything I said that didn't conform to her experience of the female reproductive system. She was awful. ("Oh, you just think it's strange. It's just cramps. Don't be so melodramatic; everyone gets them.") Of course I've also seen excellent female ob/gyns, but empathy and dismissiveness are not gendered characteristics. For several years I went to women exclusively because I'm a pretty private person about bodily stuff and I wasn't comfortable seeing men for that. Then I joined an ob/gyn practice with two men and two women. All of the doctors are fantastic and I like them all, but my favorite in the group turned out to be one of the men. Some of that is a matter of personality match, but he's also an excellent gynecologist whose speculum is never cold and who is entirely cognizant of the discomfort of many of the processes and does more to relieve that than any other ob/gyn I've been to. He listens better than most, and takes patient complaints seriously.

BTW, and I'm surprised nobody's called this out so far as sexist in and of itself -- someone said above that male ob/gyns were pervs who liked to look at vaginas (implied, for stimulation). While I knew one perv in college who was all, "I'm going into gynecology, hur hur hur" (I believe he's a opthomologist now), the male ob/gyns that I know have all gotten into the specialty because they like delivering babies and they find the female reproductive system a fascinating and challenging area of medicine where they can do a lot of good. Most of them became interested in it during med school rotations. It's a specialty where you get to build relationships with your patients and be involved in one of life's most wonderful things (bringing babies into the world) as well as help people who are sick and suffering. Not a lot of specialties allow those things anymore, and caring for well pregnant women is a unique experience of medicine where you get to help something go RIGHT (much of the time) instead of fixing things that are wrong.

I don't get what's weird or perverted about a man wanting to practice what must be an extraordinarily fascinating specialty, with a heaping side order of new babies.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:47 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I get what you're saying Eyebrows McGee, and no, I don't think it's "perverted" at all for men to go into OB/GYN - but I don't think it's "sexist" to have a preference either way. You're almost, almost going over to the other side into saying that women aren't as qualified in this specialty. A hard-line view either way isn't terribly productive, but for each woman to have her own individual preference as to who she receives care from isn't sexist.

To flip the coin, I wouldn't bat my eye at a man who - while seeing a female GP, or a female doctor in any other specialty - specifically requested a referral to male urologist. It does make sense that you would feel more comfortable (justified by logic or not) with a doctor whose plumbing matched your own in matters of reproductive health. It's nothing to do with the skill of the doctor (and why I don't believe it's sexist, because aside from a few remarks here and there no one is saying "Men are lousy OB/GYNs"), but everything to do with the peace of mind of the patient, which is crucial in doctor/patient relationships.

That's the distinction for me - if you have a preference based on feeling comfortable, that's your choice. If you truly believe that one gender of doctor can't do the job as well as the other, that's sexism.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:05 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


A few years ago, my husband and I treated a male friend of ours to a relatively pricey dinner for his birthday. At the end of the meal, our (young, also male) server set the check down on the table and wandered off. I pulled out my credit card, put it with the check, and set it back down in the same spot on the table. The server came back a few minutes later, picked it up, and told us he'd be right back with the receipt.

He got halfway across the dining room, stopped dead in his tracks, and came back to the table looking incredibly confused. He looked at my husband and friend (but not me) and asked: "Uh, which one of you is [my obviously feminine first name]?"

They both pointed at me -- which made him more confused and not less. That idea that I might be paying for all three of us was less likely to him than the possibility that one of them was named "Elizabeth" or "Lucy" or "Diana".
posted by perpetual lurker at 9:06 AM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Doctors act like women are children all the time.

Yes. This.

When I was 21, all of the sudden I started breaking out in all kinds of painful cystic acne, so I went to the dermatologist. This was my first visit to this doctor, the practice, and any dermatologist. So I went to talk about my new zit issues. He recommended accutane. Accutane is of course very strong and can cause complications and birth defects for pregnant women. And he said this to me verbatim: "Normally we require women to have a pregnancy test before going on accutane, but since you're from that part of the world and I'm sure your father would kill you if you were pregnant, I'm gonna go ahead and bypass it." Now I don't know how the hell he came to those conclusions. I mean sure, I have an "ethnicy" name, but I don't think one that people can geographically pinpoint unless they're from the same background. Most people have never heard of either my first or last name. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, drove there alone with no kind of guardian or anything, and paid for the appointment myself. In the winter I'm pretty translucent, but generally get mistaken for being everything Latina, Arab, Greek, Romanian, Spanish, Afghan, Iranian (am none of the above, and was born and raised in the US). But he obviously assumed I was some passive, oppressed girl from "that part of the world" that wasn't allowed to do anything without my father's permission. There was no sarcasm in his voice. He seemed pretty serious about the "your father would kill you" part. Like "honor crime" serious (however loosely you define "honor crime").

There was obviously bigotry in his comment, but also some seriously messed up ideas about women. Maybe some women, on not being able to have sovereignty over their own sexuality, being married vs. being single and chance of being pregnant (no wedding ring), needing permission from parents when you're an adult, or at least being a woman and still needing my father's approval. This wasn't even some random practice in the middle of nowhere, but one in an affluent, educated Northern Virginia suburb of Washington DC.

He also continued to tell me that I shouldn't have to worry about skin cancer because, once again, I was "from that part of the world." I must confess I did enjoy the look on his face when I told him my mother died of malignant melanoma when I was a child, if anything to fuck with his perceptions of people's names, what they look like, and where they're "from."
posted by raztaj at 9:08 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great thread, brought back ... memories. Street harassment was super super common for me as a young woman living in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. One of the absolutely fabulous things about getting older (I'm 44) that no one ever mentioned to me as a young woman is that the street harassment is almost nonexistent for me now. (Also, I no longer run, and I live in a gay neighborhood.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:17 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"but I don't think it's "sexist" to have a preference either way. You're almost, almost going over to the other side into saying that women aren't as qualified in this specialty."

I absolutely didn't mean to imply that -- and I hoped that pointing out that empathy and dismissiveness were not gendered characteristics made that point -- I use my first ob/gyn as an example of of a female ob who fit the "other stereotype" that pops up in discussing gender of obs -- that women dismiss other women -- but I was trying to say she wasn't dismissive because she was a woman, she was dismissive because she was a jerk, and that had nothing to do with her gender. My current ob isn't empathetic because he's a man; he's empathetic because he's empathetic, and that has nothing to do with gender either.

I have no problem with people preferring whatever they want in their personal doctor -- same gender, a particular religion, whatever. As I noted, I preferentially saw female ob/gyns for several years because I simply found it more comfortable. However, suggesting that male obs are pervs, or that the are less qualified than female obs simply because they're men? That's sexist too, and that's what I'm objecting to.

Nobody should have to see a male ob if they don't want to, and nobody should have to feel comfortable with it. How you feel about your doctor is an intensely personal thing. (My husband was once uncomfortable with a female dermatologist because of the full-body mole inspections ... he thought that was way, way more uncomfortable than, say, our female GP doing prostate exams.) But suggesting that male obs are pervs isn't in that spectrum. That's something totally different, and that isn't okay.

(Incidentally, many of my close friends go to the same ob/gyn practice I do (4 docs, 2 male, 2 female), and we all agree the best ob/gyn in the whole entire world works there -- but we all strenuously disagree about which one it is. All four have their die-hard partisans. Which is why I said my love of my current ob/gyn is partly a matter of personality match. There's not really an objective "best" in doctor-patient relationships.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:19 AM on July 21, 2010


My impression is that medical school can have the effect of forcing the gentleness out of a person, and I'm guessing particularly so in the case of women. Do they have to prove themselves to be especially knowledgeable and competent? Are hard "skills" valued more than a good manner? I would expect so (this is true in so many other areas of life). I don't know how well empathy is encouraged in medical school, though I have spoken to administrators who suggest that it's not encouraged much at all.

All that to say: I'm more comfortable with my brilliant specialist's hunches than I am with anyone else's hard facts, but she has the empathy and bedside manner of a concrete wall. My surgeon, however, is warm, sympathetic, thoughtful, and has a funny story to tell me every time I see him. He's a very good surgeon, and he's also been the one who gave me all the reassuring words to cling to ("You are going to die an old woman.") and kept me in one piece after giving me a devastating diagnosis. The same is true of my GP, also a man, who (probably) misdiagnosed me with "trouble coping", but had enough empathy for my situation to get me out of work for another month, and to see me once a week to make sure I was okay. Because coping is hard! (Recovery is harder, but the cure (time) is the same anyway, so meh.) The second surgeon I saw, a man, casually informed me that he thought I had cancer again and sent me on my way, minus any concern, sympathy, or understanding of what he just did to me.

Not rocket science: I don't think you can actually make any assumptions about sympathy or empathy based on gender. We should not presume that a female doctor will be more sympathetic; if anything's sexist, perhaps that is. Women don't have a natural monopoly on empathy.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:22 AM on July 21, 2010


I had a male doctor ask me -- repeatedly -- if I was "really sure" I wanted to him to write me a prescription for birth control (the entire purpose of my visit), because wouldn't it be better to just not have sex?

Needless to say, I did not take his advice.
posted by perpetual lurker at 9:28 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some argue to the contrary: That female ob/gyns are more likely to read their own experience into their patients' complaints and so dismiss complaints, while male ob/gyns listen more closely because they have no personal experience to compare to.

A fine argument, but it's still individuated in that overall success relies on the listening skills of the hypothetical male doctor. Is that more likely, given that "Women doctors often spend more time with patients, are gentler and more expressive, and are better listeners than their male counterparts, the American Medical Association (AMA) says in a recent analysis of 26 studies"? As I said, a lousy GYN is a lousy GYN, and a good one is a good one, regardless of gender - but all other things being equal, I prefer the woman because of the first-hand awareness. If medical training doesn't deal with the problem of projecting one's own experiences on patients, it should, and as a woman, it does seem to me that women overall honor the variability of women's experiences - the birth control and pregnancy threads on AskMe are good evidence of this: "I experienced it THIS way, but all women are different."

In short, my point is that there are legitimate, defensible reasons for preferring a woman GYN, or a man GYN, that aren't attributable to the social phenomena of sexism and patriarchy.
posted by Miko at 9:29 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Such perfect timing. Here's another story:

Last night, Mr. TBS and I went into a new table-top gaming store that opened up in our neighborhood. Mr. TBS was lamenting to the store owner that he had had a falling out with his previous gaming friends over playing 4th-Edition D&D, and that he wanted to go back to playing 2nd-Edition D&D and was hoping to find some like-minded gamers. The store owner immediately looked at me and said, "well, you can't get much game time anyway when there's a woman around." And of course he followed it up with, "hey, I'm only joking," but it was still a low blow. Perfect.

One more: I am an artist who regularly uses power tools and welding equipment to create my work. Every time, without fail, that I need to buy a new piece of equipment from Lowe's and I can't find it because the hardware store is organized horribly, I ask for help. Of course, the men walking the floor know where everything is, but always tell me "tell me where your boyfriend/husband is and I'll show him."

Awesome.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 9:32 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee, that was me relating the anecedote about male OB/GYNs. I was typing that on my phone (while sitting in the waiting room of my OB/GYN's office, actually) and was getting frustrated with the keyboard, so I was a little more abrupt about it than I might otherwise have been, so let me expand a bit. As I mentioned, mr. ambrosia (who is not at all sexist) surprised me by saying he didn't want me to go to a male OB/GYN because he remembered quite clearly from med school the males who were going into OB/GYN making quite derogatory comments about women and the quote about vaginas was one that had burned into his memory, he was so troubled by it more than a decade later. And at the time I happened to be seeing a male OB/GYN who does not at all fit that mold. He's a great doctor- the first time I had an appointment with him, the appointment began in his personal office, not an exam room, me in my street clothing, while he got to know me and went over my medical history and everything. Incredibly refreshing change from meeting your doctor wearing one of those little paper gowns in a freezing exam room. The big complaint about his practice is that he's always running late because he spends so much time talking to each of his patients. He has daughters, and he loved to talk about them. mr. ambrosia met him when I became pregnant and agreed that there was nothing to be concerned about, misogyny-wise or otherwise. So obviously not all male OBs are perverts.

We moved, though, and I had to get a new OB/GYN. And now I'm seeing a woman, and I love it. I'm having my babies in my forties, and so did she, and she was able to discuss the anxiety about pre-natal testing and worrying about miscarriage (and shared that she's had a few herself) in a way that I'm finding extremely reassuring. For me, right now, she's the right doctor.
posted by ambrosia at 10:12 AM on July 21, 2010


I had a staunch feminist friend who reacted angrily to a guy who asked her on a date. They worked out at the same gym, and he left a card for her on her car, telling her that he liked her. It seemed kind of sweet to me, albeit the guy might have come off as shy and perhaps a bit awkward. But my friend was just outraged that he had found out her name and that he had asked around about who she was, if she was single, etc. She said that it had made her feel unsafe and violated--like he had invaded her personal space. A couple of her friends suggested that the guy might not have realized how she'd react. She got angry with those friends, too.

If it had been a constant thing, with someone stalking her, I would understand and agree with her. But it happened once.


For what it's worth, smorange, I would have flipped the fuck out if this had happened to me, too. It's creepy as hell.

Just a data point.
posted by jokeefe at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wossname: I'd be interested in reading more about your experiences. I think you offer a unique empirical perspective.

I hesitate to even discuss this, because it seems unlikely any kind of point can be made, but I will try. I would encourage the reader to take this in the spirit it is intended.

What confuses about this topic is that there always arises a cacophony of voices saying "I am harassed constantly, every day, in every setting". Most men do not engage in this behavior. And many men (even in this thread) say they've not even witnessed it, except for events so rare and noteworthy they were particularly memorable.

So most men don't do it, and don't see it. This is not to say it doesn't happen. It means that we have a dissonance between something one population says happens incessently, that another population doesn't even see.

It is like 1/2 the population sees UFOs landing in the streets, and the other half of us just happened to be turned the other direction. It is maddening. Add to that, other women then add "Wow, it never happens to me either. How odd." which further confounds us.

I do not doubt any given female has been approached in an undesired way by a male. I do doubt that most women are catcalled and harrassed multiple times every day, because by god it should be visible if it happens that much. It doesn't seem possible that this much activity happens in the shadows.


I do realize it's tough to grok that men can treat grown working professional women with so low regard. As it happens my sister graduated from college in the early 1990's, and I'd place this anecdote as having taken place either in 1995 or 1996.

Thank you for the clarification, and my response came across too flippant. I only meant to say I found it supremely unlikely a project manager in the modern era was incapable of typing.


I occasionally, but more often than I would like, deal with doctor complaints.

But I have never heard of a doctor addressing a patient, male or female, in baby talk. "You just don't worry about that wittle bitty cancer tumor-umor.". Really? That does not match up with my professional experience. And from this thread you would think it was an epidemic.

And as fantastic as I find hearing a doctor talk to a woman's cervix, I stress that I am not saying it didn't happen. I'm saying it to be so far outside normal behavior that the doc may have just as likely had the speculum quack like a duck or made balloon animals out of his gloves. In other words, an oddball, an anomaly, not in any way representative of a profession, or a gender.

Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

Also also, to defend the South, which is often derided in the blue, these incidents with waiters and salespeople do not match with experience. I think some of that might be the (often fake) affectation of politeness and congeniality which permeates many southern business interactions. But you will get called honey/baby/sugar a lot, whether you're male or female.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know most people might consider this thread long over, but I wanted to share my story that I'd been thinking about. From age 12, I went to school in NW DC, and walking around alone experienced for the first time what it meant to be a girl in our society. In particular for me, it meant ubiquitous drive-by cat-calling, particularly from hispanic laborer trucks.

Result? Their sexism turned me into a classist/racist. To this day, I irrationally hate and fear hispanic men dressed in working clothes. I suppose I could go through a bunch of exposure therapy to get over it, but, well, I'm aware of it, and do those men that harassed me constantly as a teenager deserve any more of my mental time?

Sorry, working guys. I hope you don't poison any other women against you.
posted by emyd at 10:29 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

Absolutely not. I live in New England and it happens to me at least once a week. It's universal across the US, from what I understand of friends' experiences and what other people have shared on MeFi.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:32 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


the doc may have just as likely had the speculum quack like a duck

I had a doctor do this when I went in to investigate bleeding in early pregnancy.

I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

It is not.
posted by KathrynT at 10:36 AM on July 21, 2010


grapefuitmoon: I am honestly trying to understand this. You are saying that, at least once a week for your adult life, a random stranger will implore you to smile out of nowhere, with no context or no other interaction? Just walking down the street, and someone says "SMILE!"?

So it has happened to you several hundred times?

And does it only happen to women? And is it exclusively from men towards women?

There has to be some cultural context to this. It must be part of a religious movement or something. Or maybe it was in one of Oprah's books?
posted by discountfortunecookie at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2010


Fuck you, I'll smile when I feel like it.
posted by zarq at 10:42 AM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Discountfortunecookie: This doesn't happen to me currently, because I almost never walk anywhere. (I live in the suburbs and drive a lot.) When I was living places where I walked everywhere, including when I was in college, I was told to smile by strange men probably on the order of every other day. Women never told me to smile. There were no cultural contexts that I could see; it happened across racial, age, and class lines. It happened in Texas and it happened in Connecticut and it happened in Seattle.

At this point, I have to say, you seem to be going out of your way to rationalize to yourself ways in which the women who report these experiences are either mistaken or exaggerating, and it is getting frustrating to read.
posted by KathrynT at 10:44 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

Definitely not. I experience it less in New York than other places, honestly-- New Yorkers are really good at ignoring each other. The worst was when I was a teenager in suburban Massachusetts, when walking down a busy street inevitably (and I mean inevitably) meant that I'd get honked and hollered at.

I was catcalled a fair amount in Cambridge, MA, but, weirdly, generally in creative ways that didn't bother me as much as the honking (I got sang at a lot).

And discountfortunecookie-- the cultural context is that a lot of men think it's their right to demand that grown women smile for them, just like grandparents tell children to smile for them. Nothing more than that.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:45 AM on July 21, 2010


You are saying that, at least once a week for your adult life, a random stranger will implore you to smile out of nowhere, with no context or no other interaction? Just walking down the street, and someone says "SMILE!"?

I would say that when I was daily in downtown Montreal a lot (working or in school), this would happen to me at least once a day in the not-winter months. In other areas of Montreal, where the streets are less full of pedestrians, it happens less often, but still happens every week or two (when I forget and am walking without headphones or a book).

I am walking down the street, and they are walking the other way or are stopped and I pass them, and out of nowhere: Smile! Life's not that bad/you'd be so pretty/you'll feel better/etc

It might not be exclusively from men, though I cannot think of a woman doing it to me, so in my experience, it's almost exclusively from men.
posted by jeather at 10:46 AM on July 21, 2010


Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

This honestly made me laugh. It was a regular feature of my life in both Australia and the UK.

On doctors and baby talk: I once had a doctor refer to my anus as "your botty", in the context of explaining a medical procedure I might have to undergo. I was in my late 20s at the time.
posted by rubbish bin night at 10:49 AM on July 21, 2010


So it has happened to you several hundred times?

And does it only happen to women? And is it exclusively from men towards women?

There has to be some cultural context to this. It must be part of a religious movement or something. Or maybe it was in one of Oprah's books?


Yes, a totally random man, passing me on the street, will tell me to smile almost every single day. Sometimes I get it multiple times a day if I'm walking a lot. It's not an NYC thing. (It is, however, maybe a US thing, I've never gotten this in Europe.) It's not an Oprah thing. It's not a recent phenomenon. It's not a religious movement. It is always men. Yes. Yes. Yes. For the love of god, yes. Hundreds of times, yes.

The cultural context is that as a woman, I am a decorative thing in their day. And that since they're being "nice," I should not take it as a command, but as a compliment. (Of what? I dunno.)

(Note: This is a different thing than catcalling; the smile imperative is not generally a leer, it's less overtly sexual.)

I don't know how to explain this so that you'll understand it. I kind of want to flip my shit and hit the capslock key.
posted by desuetude at 10:50 AM on July 21, 2010 [32 favorites]


Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

Boston, DC, Baltimore, San Francisco.

Until I moved to SF, it was often daily. Here it still happens, but much more rarely - it's San Francisco, I'm older, and my hair is short, so people often think I'm a guy at first glance.
posted by rtha at 10:52 AM on July 21, 2010


What confuses about this topic is that there always arises a cacophony of voices saying "I am harassed constantly, every day, in every setting". Most men do not engage in this behavior. And many men (even in this thread) say they've not even witnessed it, except for events so rare and noteworthy they were particularly memorable.

Many men do not engage in this behavior. But many people (of both genders) do engage in this behavior, and to them it's so totally normalized that they don't recognize themselves as perpetrators of exactly this type of behavior. Do you think that the waiters and waitresses who automatically set down the check next to the man at the table consider themselves to be behaving in a sexist manner? No, they're doing what they usually do and moving on to the next task, not realizing that what they usually do is thoughtlessly and offensively perpetuating sexism. The doctor who talks down to his (or her) female patients thinks of themself as being warm, and avoiding jargon, and doesn't realize that they do it differently depending on the sex of their patient. The rare and noteworthy events that become particularly memorable to the men who observe them are just the highest peaks on the constant measure of shit women are dealing with. It's just that the signal-noise threshold is way, way lower than many men realize, because they only notice the outliers.
posted by amelioration at 10:53 AM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Re: the smile thing. I live in Philadelphia, I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I have been hearing the 'smile' command from strangers since a classmate first said it to me during a study hall in 9th grade. I was not angry, I was not crying, I was.... thinking. Maybe my forehead was scrunched a little bit like I actually was PROCESSING a THOUGHT or something. Either way, my not-ecstatic face is apparently too intense for strangers to handle, so they feel perfectly happy to tell me how and when I need to rearrange my facial features.

This happens not on a weekly basis, but at the very least bimonthly.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:55 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


But it does rankle when complete strangers feel comfortable enough to let you know how exactly how you rate in their estimation.

For me, street harassment isn't humiliating, it's plain old scary. If someone has such poor boundaries as to yell things out, and no other bystanders act like there's a problem with it, what other boundary is that person going to think is okay to cross? Following me home? Grabbing me? And I have to assume that the bystanders won't step in since they haven't at the earlier stages.

the doc may have just as likely had the speculum quack like a duck

fwiw, I'd likely be entertained by quacking speculums. I haven't run into the baby talk- that sounds unnerving.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:01 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And as fantastic as I find hearing a doctor talk to a woman's cervix, I stress that I am not saying it didn't happen. I'm saying it to be so far outside normal behavior that the doc may have just as likely had the speculum quack like a duck or made balloon animals out of his gloves. In other words, an oddball, an anomaly, not in any way representative of a profession, or a gender.

It's not fantastic. It's somewhat unusual for a doctor to go quite as far as a quacking speculum and cervix-chat. That is all. It's not reported to you because it's not that astounding, we're used to it.

The baby talk tends to be in reference to body parts.

Re: the South, men and women get called honey/baby/sugar by women. Men do not call other men honey/baby/sugar. They do call other women honey/baby/sugar.
posted by desuetude at 11:02 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do not doubt any given female has been approached in an undesired way by a male. I do doubt that most women are catcalled and harrassed multiple times every day, because by god it should be visible if it happens that much. It doesn't seem possible that this much activity happens in the shadows.

How much does frequency matter? A preponderance of women experience these behaviors on a regular basis. Whether that's daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly does not seem to matter so much to me. They are pervasive in that they're widely experienced and widely shared, and in that they define the experience of being a woman in Western culture as distinct from, and lesser than, the experience of being a man in Western culture. And, as others have said, it is visible, but you have to be able to see it. If you aren't seeing it, chances are you have the liberty of not looking for it or having it thrust upon you.

On "Smile!" - yes. Grew up in NJ, have lived all my adult life in the Northeast, Philadelphia to New England. "Smile!" Not every day for me, but at least several times a year. "Hey, let's see a smile!" It's a damn weird command to issue another adult, don't you think? It's terribly common. Until this thread I didn't even realize it was another gender-tagged behavior. Now that I think about it, I can never recall being with a man and hearing him asked to "Smile!"
posted by Miko at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2010


If random stranger men ask me to SMILE , I will. I promise you, its in no way decorative. Actually, driving more places than walking has pretty much reduced the cat-call business to nil. But its not healthy.
posted by sandraregina at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2010


Easy project for anyone doubting how common "SMILE!" is: I just Googled "men telling women to smile." One result is this: Smile, Boys! It Would Make the World So Much Prettier for Us Women.
posted by Miko at 11:13 AM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've been told to smile by men in Portland, Eugene, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta, over a span of at least 30 years. It used to be daily but it's lessened as I've gotten older. The ones that freak me out are the men who tell their sons to tell me to smile.
posted by catlet at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2010


At this point, I have to say, you seem to be going out of your way to rationalize to yourself ways in which the women who report these experiences are either mistaken or exaggerating, and it is getting frustrating to read.
posted by KathrynT at 10:44 AM on July 21


No, at this point I'm trying to see if there is a cultural or geographic component.

And just in the comments since mine, there are people saying it is all over, it is worse some places than others, it is bad everywhere, it also happens abroad, it only happens in the US. Portland and San Fran have been specifically mentioned as both bad and not bad for it. I'm at a loss. It's like a parallel universe. Or several. I'm going to Portland next month so I'm going to be on the lookout for this phenomenon.

I guess it really is awesome to be upper middle class white male. Because none of this rings true for my experience, at all. I feel like Roddy Piper in that 80's movie where you have to have the sunglasses to see the aliens.

I'm also thinking of trying to turn the baby-talking doctors into a research paper.

It has been my goal for a while now to move out of the South because of the conservative nature and the overt religiousness of the population.

Now it seems that these traits I dislike have contributed to a more polite and in a weird way tolerant environment than other supposedly more enlightened places.

And I'm not talking backwoods. I'm talking people from Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis. Maybe its because of the car culture of the South, noone walks anywhere?

Note I am only talking about in public with strangers. The workplace does not count. We expect our staff to be smiling and friendly to patients. Don't most workplaces expect friendly customer service?

The weirdest thing we get around here is the honey/baby/sugar stuff I mentioned, and a lot of people when you ask "How are you" they respond "I'm blessed" or "I'm living for Jesus".

Yeah, that's off-putting and annoying. But I'll be damned if I don't prefer that over incessant catcalls and harassment.

I've got a lot of thinking to do.

On preview: so catlet, your estimation would mean you've been told to smile by random strangers somewhere around 7,000 times. I don't know what to say, except yes that would indeed be awful.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 11:38 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess it really is awesome to be upper middle class white male. Because none of this rings true for my experience, at all.

Exactly.
posted by Miko at 11:41 AM on July 21, 2010 [21 favorites]


I've read this thread the whole way through. I've got stories (of course I've got stories) but I've been debating whether to add them to the general chorus of "oh yeah, that totally happens, and here's my experience of it". The 'smile' thing tipped me over the edge, though.

In short: yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This happens. "You'd be so much prettier if you'd just smile!" "Give us a smile!" "Oh where's my smile?" "It's not so bad. Smile!" On campus at Florida State, walking around my home town in south Florida, in a store in Raleigh, North Carolina. All over. I thought it was a southern thing, actually (and I was amused to read someone saying they thought it might be a northern thing instead). I've only heard it once in the midwest, for what little that's worth (although that time was kind of creepy - random stranger guy gives me a compliment in a restaurant, which I accept graciously and then go back to reading my book. He then interrupts me again to add "though you'd be even prettier with a smile" and then stands there expectantly. I return again to my book, smiling faintly and giving him a skeptical look, and he keeps standing there. "No, a real smile! Come on!" I say "hey, I'm reading here. Do you mind?" "I'm not going anywhere until you smile!". So I left.) Universally, when this happens I'll be deep in thought or contemplative, with a neutral face and then this comes out of the blue. Yeah, I'm not walking along making eye contact with every stranger and smiling. Sometimes I've got stuff on my mind. But I'm not weepy, I'm not actually frowning, I'm just doing my own thing. It always startles me, and kind of baffles me, and since one of my default reactions to crazy social stuff is a smile, it'll usually be on my face before I even realize that I've been commanded to perk up to brighten someone else's day and they're congratulating me for being a good girl (I kid you not) or saying something along the lines of "there, isn't that better?!" Yeah.

I've also experienced problems with doctors, but I tend to think of that more as a problem with the medical profession than a problem being female - these same doctors would be refusing to explain things to a guy, I'm sure. The more infuriating thing for me is when I call a helpline with a technical problem, and I'm treated like an idiot, called "sweetheart" or "honey" and generally ignored when I'm telling them exactly what the problem is and that it's on their end. Then Mr. Mirror will call and get put through to a manager and have it solved lickety split, using the same words I do, but with none of the frustration or calls mysteriously getting dropped after being on the line for far too long. Yeah. Raar, I tell you, raaar.
posted by lriG rorriM at 11:42 AM on July 21, 2010


It's like a parallel universe. Or several.

That's pretty much exactly it.
posted by rtha at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, I lived in the South as a child, and there's plenty of harrassment and catcalling in the South. You may live in a very sheltered community, but the idea that women across the South are enjoying freedom from these behaviors because of what is perceived as a culture of politeness is, I guarantee you, inaccurate.
posted by Miko at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I guess it really is awesome to be upper middle class white male. Because none of this rings true for my experience, at all.

This is why you don't experience this firsthand, yes, but there's something else here as well. You were not raised to do any of this. People have different cultures and peer groups and they are taught different values. I think your disbelief at some of this stuff comes not only because it's new to you and bizarre, but also because it would never occur to you to consciously treat someone like this. But, there are people who grow up in different environments; check the remark upthread about the man telling his son to tell women to "SMILE!"
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:45 AM on July 21, 2010


And just in the comments since mine, there are people saying it is all over, it is worse some places than others, it is bad everywhere, it also happens abroad, it only happens in the US. Portland and San Fran have been specifically mentioned as both bad and not bad for it.

Meant to add: It can really depend on your age, race, amount of boobage, etc. For instance, it hasn't been a daily occurrence for me in San Francisco (the "smile!" thing) because now I'm in my 40s; it was daily or nearly so in Boston and DC, when I was in my 20s. There are other factors, but age is a big one.
posted by rtha at 11:46 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


My mom used to tell me to smile when I was feeling... totally normal and not at all upset. Of course, after she said something about it, I was upset. That probably speaks more to mother/daughter relationships though.
I've really been enthralled by this thread. Thank you so much to everyone contributing, it's given me a lot to think about. One thought that's stuck with me is that there a few people saying things to the effect of: "it's not just guys, women do it too." or "it's not just women, guys have experienced sexism too."
I think the biggest take-away point of this thread is that sexism is so pervasive in our society that, like racism, it's perpetrated by most people, whether they're aware of it or not. I've been offended in situations similar to ones recounted above; but I've also been an unwitting perpetrator. I've objectified men. I've looked down on women who didn't "make an effort". I've assumed that the guy will pay for the meal. I've participated in this societal misfortune, and I regret that. Usually I feel pretty bad afterward, when it occurs to me what I've done. But instead of making me hate myself or feel like I'm a jerk, it makes me realize just how insidious and terrible this problem is. Colfax's comment was both inspiring and saddening. It's great that someone has found away to break out of the cycle of control. But how terrible for all those women and girls who feel powerless, especially when it hasn't occurred to them to feel otherwise.
posted by purpletangerine at 11:48 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do doubt that most women are catcalled and harrassed multiple times every day, because by god it should be visible if it happens that much. It doesn't seem possible that this much activity happens in the shadows.

Oh for mathowie's sake. Listen to women you know, listen to women here, spend time walking in an urban area and really try looking and listening there, too. It is visible. That you don't see it doesn't mean that it isn't pervasive for others.
posted by jokeefe at 11:49 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's like a parallel universe. Or several.

This doesn't surprise me. Just like one person can say about living in a city "oh man, it's so dead here, there's never anything to do" and someone else can love it and have a huge social group and never have a free moment for all the lovely activities they're involved in, different people have different experiences. Even in the same place. Even at the same time. Yeah, your experience is going to be different than mine. Mine is going to be different than some other person in my city, whether or not they're the same gender. *shrugs* Seriously.
posted by lriG rorriM at 11:49 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And just in the comments since mine, there are people saying it is all over, it is worse some places than others, it is bad everywhere, it also happens abroad, it only happens in the US. Portland and San Fran have been specifically mentioned as both bad and not bad for it. I'm at a loss. It's like a parallel universe. Or several. I'm going to Portland next month so I'm going to be on the lookout for this phenomenon.

I guess it really is awesome to be upper middle class white male. Because none of this rings true for my experience, at all. I feel like Roddy Piper in that 80's movie where you have to have the sunglasses to see the aliens.


Don't be terribly surprised if you don't see it. It's just not particularly easy to notice if it's not directed at you, because when men tell us to smile, the common response is to ignore them. You'd have to move through the crowd in slow-motion with a rewind button to associate the faint eyeoll or scowl (or smile) with a word coming out of a man's mouth in the vicinity.
posted by desuetude at 11:52 AM on July 21, 2010


Apropos of nothing, I, as a male 20-something retail clerk in New Orleans have also been instructed to smile by both men and women alike. I am gay, although I don't think I act particularly flamboyant, however I guess I do look younger than I am? Whatever the reason I get it, I always just thought it was just some weird older-person quirk and never once considered all the baggage that would come with it if it were directed to one of my women coworkers. So I guess I just wanted to say thumbs up to this thread for making me think about just how pervasive this kind of sexism and yeah, infantilization really is.
posted by bookwo3107 at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do doubt that most women are catcalled and harrassed multiple times every day, because by god it should be visible if it happens that much.

I'm old and fat now, so it doesn't happen anymore. But when I was younger, I can assure you that this did happen to me.

I put myself thru school by working in a plastics factory that was on the opposite side of the city. I didn't own a car and I worked the overnight shift. I had to change buses around 9 or 10 o'clock at night in downtown Minneapolis. This would have been late 1970's.

I can assure you that nightly, I would be catcalled at least 3 or 4 times during the 20 minutes I had to wait on Hennepin Avenue. I would have been wearing jeans, sneakers, t-shirt, carrying a backpack, nothing sexy at all. Once or twice, a guy would even reach out and try to grab me. No man ever came to my aid.
posted by marsha56 at 12:07 PM on July 21, 2010


Chicago here. The "Smile!" request? It's in my experience a fairly common convention, and one I've personally encountered in federal court as well as at the auto parts swap meet. And while the smile cajoler may be younger or older, blue collar or white, he is virtually ALWAYS male ...I surmise because even the butchest lesbian understands that women, in their honest and natural state, aren't necessarily decorative?

The fact that many male Mefites have never witnessed or participated in this convention means, to me, that you're among those heterosexual men who happen not to presume the entire female gender as your personal candy store.
posted by applemeat at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess it really is awesome to be upper middle class white male. Because none of this rings true for my experience, at all.

Upper middle class white male is probably a pretty accurate description of me as well, and yet the things said on that site and in this thread do ring true for me. Some of it is stuff my female friends tell me about when they need to vent. Some of it is stuff that happens when I'm out with them, like who gets the bill at a restaurant or who various salespeople actually talk to and how.

And some of it, like the catcalling, is stuff that it would be really easy to miss. Because it doesn't happen when I am out with female friends and obviously with them, walking beside them. It happens when one of us gets a little too far ahead of the other, and then it stops when we catch up. So mostly, this category of stuff only happens to them when they're alone, and in the same situation when I'm there, I don't get many opportunities to witness it. It would be really easy to conclude it doesn't happen much because of that.
posted by FishBike at 12:12 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Grew up in SC; currently in Atlanta. As catlet says (disclaimer: catlet is currently my neighbor so same area here) being told to "smile" was much more frequent when I was in my teens and 20's but it has happened dozens if not 100+ times in my life. It has been in my experience very prevalent in the South and I always chalked it up to the widespread belief that girls should be nice and quiet and decorative as opposed to useful or brave.

I don't know what to say except that this is not like we're seeing UFOs. A better analogy is that we have noticed that the earth goues round the sun (not vice versa) and some people haven't noticed that yet.
posted by pointystick at 12:12 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


grapefruitmoon: "Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

Absolutely not. I live in New England and it happens to me at least once a week. It's universal across the US, from what I understand of friends' experiences and what other people have shared on MeFi.
"

Yeah, one of the rare advantages of being fluffy and forty is that I no longer get hassled to be decorative by men I don't know.

On the issue of female vs male gyns, I generally choose women because I'm more comfortable that way, and gyn visits are not someplace you want to be all tense. Also, in my experience, female doctors tend to use much smaller speculum, keep them warm, and have never once made a comment about how "I must be doing my kegels" while giving me an exam.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2010


It is visible.

Two weeks ago it was 103 degrees in NYC. I was wearing a sundress-a sundress cut below the knee and I wore a light scarf draped around my shoulders. As I was walking down the street, I passed a guy (early 20s) who stopped turned around and followed me for 2 blocks trying to talk to me. Finally, I stopped and yelled at him "I'M JUST TRYING TO CROSS THE STREET! FUCK OFF ALREADY!" (Normally I wouldn't have yelled but I was on my way to deliver an important project that I was really worried about and just didn't have my normal patience/self-control with random twits on the street.) There were lots of other people on the street and not one NOT ONE stopped and looked. At the point I yelled, I was getting a bit nervous about this guy as following someone and refusing to respond to her "I'm not interested" signals is a little scary. That no one reacted tells you how easy it is to ignore if it's not you. And this was not the only street harassment I experienced that day. I grant you that because of my size (I'm under five feet tall) that people are more aggressive with me, but still I see it happen to other women all the time. I also hear about it from my female friends.

My first day at work at a highly ranked university, I was introduced to my fellow professors in the department. The last prof. I met was a male prof in his 40s. My guide left me immediately after introducing us. First, the prof was very aggressive in demanding to know how I expected to teach my course material. Then he asked me if it was OK for him to fantasize about me. I was totally shocked and said "I have no idea how to stop you" (I left out "If there IS a way to stop you, please tell me."). He responded "But I want to TELL you about it." He wasn't joking and at that point I explained that my fiance would frown on that. Still, for the next five years, he would come into my office and offer completely inappropriate sexual comments. He also routinely told female students "I can date you once you graduate." He was never, ever reprimanded for this behavior even though I and other women brought this up to administration multiple times. (This was 10 years ago, fyi.)
posted by miss-lapin at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


I finally trained a friend of mine to quit with the telling people to smile. He really just thought he was cheering people up and could not understand why we kept telling him to knock it off. I'm still not sure he gets it, but he did at least eventually comprehend that if several women, independent of one another, told him they did not like it, maybe he should stop.

I'm actually a bit careful about smiling in public. Every instance of the creepy-guy-who-follows-me-for-blocks I've experienced happened while I was in a really good mood and was smiling at the world. And then I had to berate myself -- "stupid girl, you know better than to beam when you're out alone."
posted by Karmakaze at 12:20 PM on July 21, 2010 [25 favorites]


I'm actually a bit careful about smiling in public. Every instance of the creepy-guy-who-follows-me-for-blocks I've experienced happened while I was in a really good mood and was smiling at the world. And then I had to berate myself -- "stupid girl, you know better than to beam when you're out alone."
This. A thousand times.
posted by pointystick at 12:24 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


One thing that I've noticed since moving to the South that's kind of related to the smile thing is that I'm expected to be smiling more, especially as a female. When I'm dealing with cashiers or tellers or university people and not smiling (I have a face that is kind of serious/frowny in repose), they are much more impolite or rude. If I go in fake smiling, I get much friendlier service. Which drives me up the wall because I am always polite and to get rudeness in return? Yeah. I'm not a big believer in Southern politeness.

I do think this relates to me being female too. Men here can be straightforward and polite but as a female I'm 'required' or socially pressured into being fake friendly in addition to polite.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2010


so catlet, your estimation would mean you've been told to smile by random strangers somewhere around 7,000 times. I don't know what to say, except yes that would indeed be awful.

It clumps in situations, as well. When I worked constituent-facing positions in politics, I was told to smile probably 10+ times a day by random people coming through my door (never by coworkers). When I taught community college courses, I was told to smile by my male students or by people walking by my office during office hours. When I worked in TV (advertising side), the admonitions to smile were frequent. So, maybe one year I got told to smile 2500 times and one year 50, but the number itself - like the concept introduced upthread that this issue is solvable - is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if I've been told to smile 70 times or 7,000 since I was 12 and hit puberty. It matters that some people think it's okay to dictate the facial expressions of a complete stranger.

Also, it's unlikely that you'll see it. This, like catcalling, tends to happen to women walking or sitting alone, or who are in subservient positions like reception desks or gas station counters and working without male counterparts nearby. It's hidden and, like pointystick says, it hits a lot of us in the automatic reaction spot where our mothers and grandmothers told us to be nice, be pretty, be sweet, why wouldn't you smile if a nice man asked you to?
posted by catlet at 12:33 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


mostly, this category of stuff only happens to them when they're alone,

You've pinpointed an excellent reason why some of this is harder for men to see - that many of the more conscious sexist, somewhat predatory behaviors are carefully reserved for targeting at women who are alone. That's not coincidence. For one thing, it's easier to get away with making a totally inappropriate comment if there are no witnesses. But another aspect continues the idea of the patriarchy that women are the property of men. If you're alone, you're fair game; if you're with a man (regardless of whether it's your friend, brother, or SO), you're "his," so you're off limits unless you want to take that guy on, too.

I just spent the weekend with my SO, a male friend, and a friend of the friend's whom I know less well. We ate out a few times. I spent a fair amount of time cringing at the friend-of-friend's behavior with waitresses. Every time a waitress appeared, he made a personal inquiry ("Hey, let me see your tattoo! What does that mean?"), tried to get her to pay attention to him ("Do you think I look like anyone famous? Who do I look like to you?"), delayed her leaving our table by silly inquiries, etc. I am sure he considered this jocular and fun, but having spent a lot of time in waitress shoes, I know how gender-divided this behavior is. And for the person waitressing, you're captive; you're working, so you really can't smart off and walk away. There's a certain variety of man who will frequently take advantage of the professional captivity and required pleasantness of women at work in a public place, whether it's at the Dunkin' Donuts or a fine dining restaurant. You're meant to become their entertainment, delivering their ego hit as well as their dinner. It's completely icky. When I was a waitress, I remember people trading off their assigned tables to male waitstaff (or women who didn't mind going through the charade) when a known attempted-flirter sat down.
posted by Miko at 12:34 PM on July 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


hydrobatidae: "Men here can be straightforward and polite but as a female I'm 'required' or socially pressured into being fake friendly in addition to polite."

Hence the reason for all the coded phrases like "Well, bless his heart" and "that's lovely" instead of "what a blithering idiot" and "fuck you".
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:36 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


nd this was not the only street harassment I experienced that day. I grant you that because of my size (I'm under five feet tall) that people are more aggressive with me, but still I see it happen to other women all the time. I also hear about it from my female friends.

I don't know why this reminded me of my all-time street-harrassment horror story, but it did.

So, last summer I was looking for nanny jobs in Providence. And one of them was off the bus line on the nice side of a bit of a seedy neighborhood. Only thing is, I was having trouble determining *how* far off the bus line it really was, so I was randomly meandering around the seedier side of the neighborhood - totally lost. Being as I was without GPS, I called my mother to have her look up the address on Google so perhaps she could give me a better clue where to go.

There I am, wandering around obviously lost and talking on the phone and some guy drives up to me. Literally drives up to me and stops his car.

"Hey!" He says.

"Hi." I say politely and try to somehow politely run off as fast as I can, as any kind of "incident" will make me later to the interview than I already am. Asking him for directions certainly didn't cross my mind.

"You're really pretty!"

"Um. Thanks." I mumble as I start walking away.

"WAIT!"

Instinctively, I turned around.

"If you're not seeing anyone, maybe I could get your number?"

"I have a boyfriend." And at this point, I just booked it.

I was ON THE PHONE the whole time. The. Whole. Time. The only thing I did to invite this man's attention was simply to exist.

This is the most egregious example I have of men trying to initiate "romantic" (or just plainly sexual) encounters with me on the street, but it's certainly not the only time something like this has happened.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:37 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hence the reason for all the coded phrases like "Well, bless his heart" and "that's lovely" instead of "what a blithering idiot" and "fuck you".

One of my favorite Texas jokes, which I learned from a Texas relative about twenty years ago, concerns a young woman whose stint at finishing school taught her to say "Well, ain't that nice" instead of "fuck you."
posted by Miko at 12:39 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


@discountfortunecookie I have been told to smile in Atlanta, as well. And sexism in general? The South is one of the worst places for it, in my opinion. There is a good ole' boy mentality in most of the South that is very hostile to women.

Sexism is pervasive. Acts of sexism are happening all around you, but not to you, so you aren't necessarily aware of them.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:39 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had totally forgotten about the PITA flirters can be while working. While I was in college I had a job selling coupon books, usually on street corners. The rule of thumb we were taught was 10 pitches = 1 sale, so get those nine failed pitches out and over as quickly as possible. As a petite young female, this was IMPOSSIBLE. Women were fine, but men stuck like glue and I'd end up with no sales because men with no intention to buy (the coupons at least) would hang around me, asking numberless questions about the product intermixed with questions about myself. Between them eating up my time and the territorial markers they were throwing off to stop other men from coming near me, it was a very short-lived job... just couldn't feed myself doing it under those circumstances.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:41 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


desuetude: "Re: the South, men and women get called honey/baby/sugar by women. Men do not call other men honey/baby/sugar. They do call other women honey/baby/sugar."

Depends. Here in Baltimore, I hear black men on the city bus call each other babe or baby all the time.

I'm a Yankee, born and bred, and the Southern use of endearments throws me no end. I have to listen carefully, so I don't accidentally punch someone who really isn't being sexist or insulting. (A lot of the time, it just means "hello, person who is roughly equal to me and whom I see no reason to dislike at all, even though we're perfect strangers.")
posted by QIbHom at 12:45 PM on July 21, 2010


And then I had to berate myself -- "stupid girl, you know better than to beam when you're out alone."

That's exactly it, how the thousand cuts distorts and manipulates a personality, how a person is forced to bend or break but discouraged to resist. A person cannot even smile in public without having to decide when, where, how, for how long; without having to measure the cost of being in a good mood and decide if it is worth it. If that isn't fucking bald enough to justify everyone's rage, I don't know what else could convince the skeptic.

discountfortunecookie, I appreciate that you're trying to rationalize and comprehend an alien concept, and I do sympathize. Too often, though, those attempts to discover this component or that component sound like attempts to discover what women should do differently to avoid this "clearly anomalous behavior". I'm sure there are many components and facets to this bullshit, but check it out: a woman in your community sometimes berates herself for smiling when she's in a good mood, because it's like sharkbait and she should know better. Is that really justifiable or explainable via geography? If that only ever happened once, wouldn't that still be intolerable? That it happens constantly, that women have to police their own expressions or feel like they are enticing danger and discomfort, that that happens every day and everywhere -- doesn't that tell you that something is really, really wrong?
posted by Errant at 12:48 PM on July 21, 2010 [27 favorites]


One other thing that happened in the South. I'm in a STEM field and they sometimes like to have Women in Science conversations in departments. My department is about 80% male so I like to go to these things (I want to meet this one female prof who seems really cool).

Anyway, we all get together in the conference room, grad students, techs, professors, various other employees, all women. And they hand out pink, Disney princess folders. Okay. We do a survey to find out our discussion style and I am the only one to get assertive (surprising to no one who knows me) and the discussion leader mocks me. And then letures us all about being more assertive.

Then we get a speech about balancing our husbands, homes and kids and we're constantly refered to us as "ladies" which is kind of weird and very Southern. Actually, to be honest, I was offended. It felt very unprofessional and completely against the point of what these Women in Science things are supposed to be about. The assumption was obviously that we're just biding our time in science while our husbands have the real jobs.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:54 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


@discountfortunecookie: What confuses about this topic is that there always arises a cacophony of voices saying "I am harassed constantly, every day, in every setting". Most men do not engage in this behavior. And many men (even in this thread) say they've not even witnessed it, except for events so rare and noteworthy they were particularly memorable.

For many women, it's very much a part of everyday life and a lot of it isn't threatening, just irritating, and for the most part not worth mentioning. I only mention the most ridiculous examples of it to my husband.

As an upper middle class white male, you probably don't see as much of it; as an upper middle class white female, I find that my class is, to some extent, a protection against being dismissed because of my femaleness. I just don't deal with as much of it as some of my friends do who come from different class backgrounds. Some of that is the professional circles I move in where sexism is less-accepted than in some of my friends' working environments, some of it is that we unconsciously project class differences and people treat us differently.

Two places where it has been very evident to my upper middle class white male husband have been when we deal with my insurance agent, who I mentioned upthread (always talks to my husband even though I'm the boss of the insurance) -- and we both LIKE him okay, he's a nice guy, he's just from a different generation, and it's an irritant -- and when my husband is out alone with our kid. He never noticed before we had a baby that dads are referred to as "babysitters" and now he notices it ALL THE TIME. People had been saying it all along -- "I have to babysit my kids tonight" -- but it hadn't registered because it wasn't really a part of our life. Now it makes him crazy that he's considered the babysitter and that people praise him for doing normal kid care stuff, while I'm considered the "real" parent ... and don't get any praise.

A lot of this stuff is just background noise. Half the time I hardly notice it, like when I go to the hardware store to pick up a screwdriver for a project I'M working on, and the dude says, "Which one would your husband like?" First, I have a husband, second, I do usually think about him when I'm buying stuff for the house, so it doesn't strike me as that weird a question -- unless I stop to think about it and I'm like, "Wait, what makes him think I have a husband? (I'm not wearing my wedding ring just now) And why do I care what he thinks about my screwdrivers? Does he ask men which tool their wives prefer?" And of course I don't say, "WHAT THE HELL, ASSHOLE?" I just answer, or don't, politely -- because I was raised to be polite, even to assholes, and I'm sure there's some gender norms going on there too -- and move on with my day. And I don't really think he's trying to be an asshole, I think he's trying to be helpful. But he's making sexist assumptions.

"I only meant to say I found it supremely unlikely a project manager in the modern era was incapable of typing."

The senior partners at the firm my husband is at don't type; they still dictate and have their secretaries type. My dad didn't learn to type until about five years ago -- he's only 60ish -- and does it with two fingers on each hand, and slowly.

"Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?"

I, for one, have never been told to smile by anyone but my parents. But I've certainly seen it happen to other people. Whether this is a function of where I live, my vibe, or that I naturally smile when my face is at rest (I don't know! I've never looked!), I have no idea.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:59 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, smorange, I would have flipped the fuck out if this had happened to me, too. It's creepy as hell.

I think when I write it out, it seems creepier than it did at the time. It's certainly not something I'd do, but our mutual friends didn't think it was out of bounds. But whether leaving a card for someone is creepy or not, what seemed weird to me was that my friend's reaction seemed to come from the fact that this guy had asked about her at all. It was almost as if his interest itself was the problem--as if strangers shouldn't be interested in people they don't know anything about. And it's true that many people (including me) don't seek out dates this way. But lots of people do, and I think there's room in society for them too. My friend seemed to think not, and that attitude strikes me as overly antisocial and lacking in understanding of other people.
posted by smorange at 1:23 PM on July 21, 2010


Errant: I wanted to specifically respond to what you said.

No, long ago in this thread I abandoned any notion that the "smile!" thing was misperception, and it never crossed my mind that the women could somehow be to blame or causing it.

And yes, the situation as described is deplorable.

I am still not convinced about the baby-talk doctor thing being anything except remote occurrences. (Especially the talking cervix thing... what the bloody hell???). Although I am going to ask around.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2010


I'd be interested in reading more about your experiences. I think you offer a unique empirical perspective.

I'm wracking my brain to come up with examples that haven't already been listed.* I have a few that are work-related:

1) I find the typical "corporate casual" dress-code more stringent for women vs men. Khakis and a blouse often aren't considered dressy enough for women, yet a man could get away with an analogous wardrobe. As female, I got unofficially reprimanded for wearing khakis (there was the expectation I'd always wear some kind of two-piece skirt suit thing), even though the dress code allowed them. As male, I can go to work unshaven, with an un-tucked shirt, and no one cares.

2) Food as corporate gifts. Women employees in my old office would get little perks in the form of food baskets or restaurant giftcards. Men would get BestBuy giftcards. Female clients would always get some kind of food item with a pitch, as if they were basing their business decisions on how much chocolate came with the proposal. A male client never got food, unless he had a prominent (and female) secretary.

As a male, if I buy food for my (mostly female) new office, I make sure I get something I also enjoy and want to partake in. Otherwise, it comes off as manipulative to me.

3) My old office's hours were an hour later than most. If the (male) boss went home before this extra hour, he'd lock the front door if there were only women left. Five women working at 6pm? Oh god, lock the door! One woman and one man? Door stayed unlocked. It's worth noting we were not in a dangerous part of town and everyone had a view of the front door, so it wasn't like people could sneak in after hours.

4) Being constantly called, "Miss Firstname" in a business setting. This is pretty prevalent in the South. And sadly, "Miss Firstname" is an upgrade to "Honey" and "Sweetie".

This honorific, coupled with constantly being ignored at meetings makes you feel like you're ten years old, finally allowed to sit at the adult's table at dinner, but only if you're well-behaved and stay quiet. As a man, of course I'm now, "Mr. Lastname" and have no problems being seen as the meeting leader.

5) PMS and the double standard. Female and in a bad mood? Oh, you little dear, it must be the PMS that is controlling you again. Poor thing, we'll get back to you later when you're yourself again, we understand you can't help it.

However... actually have vomit-inducing cramps during your cycle? Suck it up, woman, it happens to you monthly, why aren't you in control of it?

So, yeah. Reading upthread, I find it interesting that women have explained these types of social experiences as a "death of a thousand cuts". That's pretty much how I usually describe what it felt like to be closeted. Every day a series of little stings to one's dignity and self-image. It sucks.

*Though I will weigh in on the "Smile" thing. So. Fucking. Annoying. It happened almost weekly at college when I was female. I've never gotten it as a male and I'm prone to frowning when in deep thought. I'll occasionally get "are you ok?", but never that commanding, "Smile!"
posted by Wossname at 1:36 PM on July 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Also, a factor in why men are not generally aware of this is because most of the time when women discuss these instances, it's with other women.

About half the time when I mention some instance of sexism to a man, their first reaction is to get defensive, and question the validity of what happened. "Surely," they say, "there must be some other explanation?" This happens whether or not the guy himself has sexist tendencies. So yes, even though more than half my close friends are men, I avoid discussing sexism or feminism with them, for fear of this reaction.

And also, there is a much different dynamic here than with bigotry based on race, class, ethnicity, etc. Societies typically separate themselves based on those lines, but not by sex. So the people perpetuating sexism? These are our friends, boyfriends, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons. We simultaneously love and spend time with people who, as a group, have systematically oppressed us since, well, forever.

I know many women who try hard to not complain about their husbands, even when there's a hugely disparate division of labor. Mothers are always making excuses for their son's behavior. Since this is mostly anonymous, I can tell you that when I was twelve, my father told me that "men are inherently better than women, because men go out and do things, while women sit at home and talk." But, in real life, I'm embarrassed that he'd say that, so I haven't told many people.

So right, there are tons of reasons men don't hear about sexism. This is a complex issue. Which is why they should generally approach the subject with a bit of humility rather than barging into the conversation throwing out accusations of hyperbole.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 1:39 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


These are our friends, boyfriends, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons.
Also our friends, girlfriends, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters. We do it to ourselves, too.
posted by purpletangerine at 1:50 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Karmakaze: "Every instance of the creepy-guy-who-follows-me-for-blocks I've experienced happened while I was in a really good mood and was smiling at the world. And then I had to berate myself -- "stupid girl, you know better than to beam when you're out alone.""

This broke my heart. I know it's part of the "luxury" I have in being a male that lets me not to ever have to think of something like this if I don't want to but it's still heartbreakingly awful. :(
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:02 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


discountfortunecookie: I did single you out and you don't quite deserve that; you haven't been belligerent or ignorant. When I read things like what Karmakaze wrote, my blood boils, and so to the extent that I took my anger out on you, I apologize.

But I don't think you think the "smile" thing is misperception or that women are to blame; what I was saying is that when you direct your energies towards finding out what the "components" of this behavior are, when you focus on whether or not something is a "remote occurrence", it comes off as marginalizing or dismissive, whether or not you intend that. As I said before, even if it happened once, it would still be completely beyond the pale. It doesn't happen just once, it happens all the time, but even if it didn't, so what? You seem focused on the individual behaviors as unique events, when what the women here are saying is that every instance, however unique or novel, is a different flower of the same corrupted tree. Who cares if the baby-talk doctor thing only ever happened once? It's immediately and obviously recognizable as another version of the same old bullshit. This is the thousand cuts thing: it comes at you in a myriad of ways, some new, some painfully old, but the cumulative effect is to force women to submit.

It doesn't really matter whether they use different words in the South from the words in the North, different hand gestures in Greece to the ones in California. It's all of a piece. You're asking whether or not there are really that many of these particular trees in the forest, and the women are saying, dude, look at this fucked-up forest we have to live in.
posted by Errant at 2:09 PM on July 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


I feel like I'm on a dance floor, reading this thread. Do-si-do, around we go. "Told to smile? All the time? No way. I'd notice!" And then the chorus calls out, and people chime in, and we pour out all these examples. And then the next round begins, and we're swinging back again. "Doctors babytalking and not paying attention to what you say and refusing to use technical terms? No way. I'd notice!" Next round of dancing has begun...
posted by lriG rorriM at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Miko, thank you for posting that latest link! I'd sent the original Pinko Feminist Hellcat link to a friend but neglected to keep a copy of the actual text. A year or two later, when I needed the link again, it was dead. Aaargh. All I could remember of that blog posting was that it brilliantly explained why most women react to "Smile!" with frustration and fury. Not that we can risk showing it publicly.

ANYbody would react angrily, really, subjected to it as often as it happens, when we're damned well doing something else. The shock and disorientation, going from thinking

(Yeah, so if I approach this intricate problem this way, that'll open up these lines of inquiry, great, of course it'll also open up these legitimate objections, hmm, ok but I can counter them by explaining xxxx, yay, now what are the deeper layers in those new lines of inquiry that will really make this argument irrefutable, here's 1., here's 2., here's --)

"Smile!"

(WHAT? WTF?) "What?"

"Smile!" and since he's walked on past, he calls it brightly over his shoulder.

(Oh my God you FUCKER I nearly had it SOLVED) "....."


discountfortunecookie: It's like a parallel universe. Or several.

Perceptual Segregation. That article is about differing worldviews based on different race-based experiences, but the principle is the same.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I also live in the South and have most of my life. "Smile" became a part of my daily life in junior high school (I can't imagine any reason why a 13 year old girl wouldn't be smiling, can you?)

The worst street harassment I ever received was in Raleigh, where I would daily walk along one of the main roads from my house to the NC State University campus and my job nearby. I would get yelled and honked at multiple times on every walk. More than once cars slowed down and attempted to follow me. Only once did I actually run away from the road across a strip mall parking lot and inside Burger King and hide in the women's bathroom for a while hoping the guy was gone. I went to college in Maryland and it was not quite as bad. In Athens, GA, things were about at bad as Raleigh, especially close to the UGA campus. Here in Durham, I would say the street harassment is not that bad, as long as you stay away from Duke's campus--nothing beats a Jeep Wrangler with New Jersey plates with the top down full of frat boys for the most humiliating, threatening street harassment of my life.

And still I get "Smile".
posted by hydropsyche at 2:21 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I do not doubt any given female has been approached in an undesired way by a male. I do doubt that most women are catcalled and harrassed multiple times every day, because by god it should be visible if it happens that much. It doesn't seem possible that this much activity happens in the shadows.

I do not think that you are an idiot. I do think that you are giving a good impression of one, because by god it should be perfectly clear to you by now that it indeed happens that much. It doesn't seem possible that anyone not an idiot could read this entire thread and have their head buried so deeply in the sand.
posted by languagehat at 2:29 PM on July 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


Oh, I forgot to tell my doctor baby-talk stories. When I was in high school getting a sports physical my doctor was going down the check list of "Do you have..?" and when he got to constipation he said "constipation - all week no poo-poo?". I was mortified and don't remember if I said anything beyond shaking my head. This was our family doctor, someone I knew and respected, but he was an older guy and old-fashioned and I think this was just his attempt at bedside manner that utterly failed.

More recently, I was at my first visit to a rheumatologist. This was a highly recommended, highly respected specialist. After examining me he said, "Most women I see with your symptoms have PTSD. You need to act like a grown up and get help for that problem." It's not babytalk, but surely telling a 32-year old woman to act like a grown up is condescending. I also had never suffered any trauma in my life. I also turned out to have a form of inflammatory arthritis which was slowly destroying my spine, when I actually got a full examination, lab work, and x-rays done by a doctor who bothered to listen to the words coming out of my mouth instead of dismissing me.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:45 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can assure you that nightly, I would be catcalled at least 3 or 4 times during the 20 minutes

I used to walk between my campus and the coffeeshop where I worked daily. This was during broad daylight, on a relatively crowded street.

The first obstacle was a bench in front of a bar, where a small group of homeless men almost always sat. If I was walking with a male friend, they would just ask for change; if I was alone, they would say things like "hey pretty lady" and "smile" and "hey I just want to talk to you" when I ignored them.

So, let's say they did this four times a week--knock off a day for their infrequent absences, me being accompanied by a man, or not going to classes that day. Over three months, that would be nearly fifty times. Sure, I could have taken a different route, but I did that once and I felt like such a coward for giving in. (This wasn't fair to myself, of course.)

When I related this to my male friend, he could hardly believe it. After all, it never happened when he was there. He never saw them behave that way with other women, either. Sometimes he would give them change and I would silently fume because I hated these guys.

The second obstacle was a group of confrontational men right outside of my shop. Thankfully, this didn't occur as often, because the crowd varied and the owner was sympathetic when women let him know they were being harassed--but I would still say that about once a week, someone from that group would say something sexual ("looking good," etc) to me and then turn abusive if I ignored them or told them I didn't appreciate it ("bitch," etc). If you take once a week on average, then over three months I had an encounter like this over ten times.

Sixty times in three months.

That's not counting catcalls on the street, of course. I would guess that men honking at me and/or yelling happened "only" about once a week, also.

Seventy times.

Then I moved to a different school in a different state but in a surprisingly similar town. I don't do much walking anymore, but I would say that I get honked or yelled at about once a week on my way out of work. Each time it makes me a little more furious. Each time, I kick myself for not reacting quickly enough to yell "FUCK YOU ASSHOLES" before they've sped out of range. Each time, I wish I had something messy in my hands that I could throw in their stupid fucking faces through the open window of their stupid fucking car. But then, I guess, missing would just make me feel worse.

And you know a reason that you might not have noticed? They don't tend to do it during the day, when there lots of people around. I don't remember ever being honked or catcalled in this town on campus during the day, when the place is swarming with students. They do it at night, when I'm alone. Crowds put them off. Perhaps there are simply too many young women to harass! Or more likely, perhaps they know that they're being assholes and simply don't want that many witnesses.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


So it seems that skepticism, questioning, qualified support, and apparently the crime of posting while male are unwelcome and met with hostility. Good to know there's an honest dialogue happening.

Is there a flag for passive-aggressive sulking? Because I couldn't find it.
posted by msalt at 2:55 PM on July 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, a factor in why men are not generally aware of this is because most of the time when women discuss these instances, it's with other women.

I don't think this is right. If you spend any amount of time with women, you see this behavior. The catcalls, the snubbing by waitrons, the condescension, the assumption of mechanical ineptitude, I've seen it happen to women I've been with and it pisses me off half the time (the other half the woman laughs at it and I do, too). My wife makes a big show of handing over her credit card and they hand it back to me, and I make the waitstaffpersonhoodshipcy stay there while I make a big show of handing it back to her. Sometimes the get-person laughs, sometimes not, but I have a hard time believing that any man that spends any amount of time around women in a semiconscious state would notice this crap.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:56 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Er, "...wouldn't notice..." Idiot.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:56 PM on July 21, 2010


My most hated frequently encountered bit of sexism is when I pay at the supermarket and I'm with my husband, the cashier will often hand the change back to him instead of me, even if I'm standing right there and he has bags in his hands. Because it must really be his money right?
posted by supercrayon at 4:59 PM on July 20


As a follow-up, this literally just happened AGAIN yesterday. My husband and I go into a shop, he plunks down his chips, I plunk down my bottle of water, I fork over a 10, and they lady goes to hand the freaking change back to him! And then says "sorry" - to him! Because his hands were full! AND DOESN'T EVEN FREAKING MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ME! If I let loose with all the f-bombs that are inside me right now it would be like a metric fuckton of fucks. Dammit! And why is it always older ladies who do this? You'd think they might know better given the time period they grew up in. Fuckety fuck fuck! Okay I feel better.

Also I've never been catcalled with nearly the frequency some women here are reporting and I think that's because due to the unusual geography of the places I've lived in - back home you drive everywhere; here I walk past pastures to get to Uni. I get yelled at if I'm out in town at night on like a Friday by myself but that's about it. Now I'm sort of really depressed because if I move to a city after I graduate, and I'm around heaps more people, can I expect to get yelled at all the time? Because having it happen a few times a year already makes me feel bad enough.
posted by supercrayon at 2:57 PM on July 21, 2010


Mirror Girl: Two different things.

I am willing to accept the thing about Smile because I'm not a woman and I have already admitted I have never seen this behavior, so how could I know about it?

But the doctor thing is my job. I deal with doctor complaints regularly, and have for years, in multiple locations including a metropolitan hospital. This I do have experience and a stake in. And despite the actions of the posters here who apparently never complain, complaints about doctors are rather common.


languagehat: Glad you're here. So to be clear, then, you are saying that most women are indeed catcalled and harassed multiple times per day? That's a strong statement.

Because otherwise your callout is rather transparent, and we all know you're above that.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 3:07 PM on July 21, 2010


More than once cars slowed down and attempted to follow me.

Oh, yeah, the following thing is really scary. I've been followed multiple times, in my car and on foot. As a teen, I had a pickup truck full of guys follow me all the way to my home (on a dead-end street) and then tear off, yelling things out the window when my Dad came to the door.

As an adult, I've been followed in libraries, malls and subway stations. I've had complete strangers come up to me, telling me I'm beautiful (harmless, but a bit unnerving) or exposing themselves to me (creepy and scary).

And I've had to ask for personnel to walk with me out to the parking lot, feeling embarrassed but not knowing what else to do, when a strange man followed me around a store, aisle after aisle, the same week a number of women were attacked in the area. My alarm bells were going off bigtime with that one; I was afraid he'd jump me in the parking lot.
posted by misha at 3:19 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Regarding the doctor thing - I'm a nursing student, so I've been around doctors some but not for like years and years or anything. I can attest that health professionals are frequently horrifying people to work with. You get them alone away from the patients and the most appallingly racist, sexist, and just otherwise inappropriate and dehumanizing things will sometimes come out of their mouths. I've heard health professionals tell me that women who were critically ill just needed "a bit of attention". I've heard them say that women were just being big babies about their level of pain and that they needed to toughen up. I've watched them ignore their female patients and only talk to the husband instead. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The baby-talking thing I have personally witnessed a couple times, although my own personal prejudice is that I can't tell if it's because the doctor is sexist or just because some doctors seem to think that everyone besides them is grotesquely stupid.
posted by supercrayon at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


languagehat: Glad you're here. So to be clear, then, you are saying that most women are indeed catcalled and harassed multiple times per day? That's a strong statement.

Jesus. There are going to be variables here but for a large number of women living in urban metropolitan areas or using public transport, YES.

I live in CORK, for crying out loud. There are like 12 people here. (Well, 160,000 people.) There isn't the same street culture of harassment from construction workers and subway groping there was when I lived in NYC and London and for that I am grateful, but it is still prevelent.

Walking through or past a group of teen boys is running a gauntlet. There is NO CHANCE I will pass without incident. When I walk past grown men smoking outside a pub, there is A GOOD CHANCE they will remark to each other if not to me. When I walk down the highstreet there is a chance GREATER THAN NULL that a group of men will shout some form of abuse at me from the other side of the street or a car.

Will the teenagers be there? Will I walk by on a smoke break? Will I encounter a group of men on a drunken joy ride? I HAVE NO IDEA. But I walk in apprehension of it happening because it happens ALL THE FREAKING TIME.

I don't understand why you don't believe me and 122 women like me in this thread. Why do we not have the credibility to convince you of something outside your own experience?
posted by DarlingBri at 3:33 PM on July 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


Oh and one more thing, and then I'll stop spamming the thread - I've been really disheartened to read all the stories about how crappy it can be to deal with someone in the health system (usually doctors and nurses) if you're a woman, and how devalued it makes women feel. I might try to bring this topic up in one of my classes and see if I can't make my classmates aware of it too. Going forward in my own practice I'm going to be extra careful to monitor my interactions with my female patients because honestly everyone else who's seen them to that point might have been acting like a total shitheel.
posted by supercrayon at 3:34 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


discountfortunecookie, it's likely that this problem is less visible to you because it's not something that's going to escalate to the level of an official complain. Reactions may range from mentally rolling their eyes to quietly changing doctors. We're well conditioned to a) be "nice" and b) not say anything when we're treated like infants because it usually rebounds back on us as either dismissal or affront that we would be affronted, up to being suddenly perceived as a bitch instead of a nice girl. Most of us just roll our eyes and seethe to ourselves. Yes, it's unprofessional when they talk to us like children and dismiss our complaints - but it's not that one doctor, it's most doctors, and the ones we talk about are either egregiously bad or actually treat us like full human beings.

Same kind of thing as the conversations about HR above - a complaint is bringing in the big guns, and just not worth it. We usually end up as the bad guy in a complaint situation.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:39 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think when I write it out, it seems creepier than it did at the time. It's certainly not something I'd do, but our mutual friends didn't think it was out of bounds. But whether leaving a card for someone is creepy or not, what seemed weird to me was that my friend's reaction seemed to come from the fact that this guy had asked about her at all. It was almost as if his interest itself was the problem--as if strangers shouldn't be interested in people they don't know anything about

As I read your comment, this is what happened: the guy saw your friend a the gym, and wanted to approach her. He found out her name and watched her to see which car she owned. He then kept an eye out, I presume, for her comings and goings so that he could put a card on her windshield. If you don't understand why this kind of investigation and scrutiny can be frightening, you might want to check out the Schroedinger's Rapist thread. This kind of tracking and watching is analogous to what you would do should you be looking for a victim, not a date. Again, if I returned to my car from a workout to find a card from some guy I didn't know-- or only knew in passing-- I'd be utterly creeped out. I sure as hell would avoid him from then on, as well.
posted by jokeefe at 3:40 PM on July 21, 2010 [16 favorites]


discountfortunecookie: Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

I know that a lot of people have already provided numerous examples of this, but to add an international perspective, while visiting friends in London, I've gotten the British version, which expands the command to "Smile love, it may never happen." I bit my tongue because as a woman you learn pretty quickly that it's just best not to engage (much like the injunction not to feed trolls on the internet - and no I'm not suggesting that you or anyone else is a troll, just making the comparison).
posted by kaybdc at 3:43 PM on July 21, 2010


discountfortunecookie: But the doctor thing is my job. I deal with doctor complaints regularly, and have for years, in multiple locations including a metropolitan hospital. This I do have experience and a stake in. And despite the actions of the posters here who apparently never complain, complaints about doctors are rather common.

It's been mentioned several times already what typically happens when we complain to authorities (of any gender) or departments whose job it is to deal with complaints:

"It was just a joke! No sense of humour...
"You're making a big deal out of the doctor babytalking about/to your cervix?"
"I'm sure s/he meant well."
"You seem upset. Here, have a doughnut."
"Are you sure you didn't misinterpret?"
"Are you sure you're not misremembering?"
"Are you on your period?"

Futility. More formal complaints will happen when a critical mass of people stop contradicting, denying, trivializing, and dismissing. And start listening and taking seriously, instead.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


jokeefe, so if I observed what car you drive (which I probably would if I'd met you, I remember stuff like that) that would be creepy and stalkerish?
posted by wierdo at 3:55 PM on July 21, 2010


In support of DarlingBri, I've already admitted to being catcalled multiple times a day and many of my friends are as well. And these things don't happen just when I'm dressed up nicely. They happen when I'm wearing a baseball cap, jeans, and an old t-shirt as I pick up cat food or run to the post office. They happen when I'm dressed to go to work at a catholic university (translation: very conservatively). I often walk around with my hands balled into fists with a scowl on my face to send the message "DO NOT START WITH ME" and even THEN I still get catcalled. I've been followed multiple times and had men try to physically grab me and various body parts as I walk down the street. None of these events seemed to be noticed by others. Some people have offered explanations for the "invisibility" of this problem (it's not happening to you, women unfortunately accept this behavior as just something we have to deal with, people who do this are often smart enough to do it when women are alone, etc). So no languagehat's statement is a realistic one.

Oh preview-
Remembering the car of someone you have met is not the same as finding out and remembering the car of someone you have not met. It's possible the guy happened to notice her going to her car one night and filed that away mentally. It's also possible that he was engaging in stalkerish behavior. Considering his behavior it's possible he lacked some social awareness. But as jokeefe pointed out, and multiple women did so as well in the Schroedinger's Rapist thread, the stalker assumption is the safer assumption. Honestly, I would find it threatening. But then I get annoyed at the gym with men constantly offering to help me with the damn machines. Like I can't possibly understand how to adjust a weight machine to my liking. Grumble.
posted by miss-lapin at 4:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


wierdo, it would be unsettling if you knew what car I drove if I'd only ever seen you in the gym, because it implies that at some point you've followed me out to see what car I got into. If you haven't at this point, spoken to me, it could be a little scary - think about it: I don't necessarily know who you are, but you know who I am and which car is mine. You've also, again without ever letting me know about your existence, found out my name. You're invisible, and I'm in a sort of uncomfortable spotlight.
The level of threat this would represent depends highly on the individual, but I wouldn't call it over the top to be at least a little freaked out and it would make that gym a really uncomfortable place to return to.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


so if I observed what car you drive (which I probably would if I'd met you, I remember stuff like that) that would be creepy and stalkerish?

If you observed which car was hers, and then put a card on it, effectively saying, I know who you are, I know how to find you, and I can get to you, anytime...yep.

That wouldn't be what you meant, most likely. But it's certainly what you'd be saying, because half of what you say is what the other person hears, and expecting strangers to be able to comprehend perfectly your intentions and inner goodness is foolish at best.

I should know, I've done something like this. It was stupid and childish. My only excuse is that I was a child at the time, and that's not much of an excuse. But, yeah, it's weird and strange and I know better now, at the cost of a friend I might still have. Trying not to come off as a creep may occasionally be difficult, but it's nowhere near as difficult as being creeped on, so it's worth the effort.
posted by Errant at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Things I personally have experienced: catcalls; demands for smiles; "you're too pretty to smoke" (from a strange man - I'm not super proud of being a smoker but I doubt this would have been said to a guy)

the smoking thing--I'm a guy and I can tell you something similar has been said to me by an old guy--obviously instead of 'pretty', he asked "what makes a handsome young man decide to smoke?" I was unable to muster a witty comeback, so went with "they might enjoy it, fuck off." With smoking in particular, a lot of assholes take it upon themselves to tell you you're a bad person doing bad things.

The rest, not so much. I used to get "smile" from adults as a teenager because I looked totally miserable, but I guess that just goes to show that it's a condescending thing to say not unlike something you might say to a child or minor.

so if I observed what car you drive (which I probably would if I'd met you, I remember stuff like that) that would be creepy and stalkerish?

WEIRDO!
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:16 PM on July 21, 2010


wierdo, if you saw me getting out of my car and remembered it, that would be fine. If you then, out of nowhere, asked *other people* about me and left me a note on my car (which either you asked about or happened to remember), that would be creepy -- remember, you've never met me, just seen me at the gym.

I did not complain about being spoken down to by a doctor, because it's not worth the energy, because I had other things to worry about at the time, and because who would possibly take me seriously if I complained that when she thought I was a teenage mom, she said shmushed but when she found out I wasn't, she spoke appropriately. (I have been very lucky with my medical care.)
posted by jeather at 4:23 PM on July 21, 2010


I guess it really is awesome to be upper middle class white male. Because none of this rings true for my experience, at all.

I don't understand this. Do you leave your house? When you leave your house, do you leave your car? When you leave your car, do you go anywhere other than your men only gym or men only workplace? Because, seriously, go sit at a cafe with an attractive waitress and watch the men.

Then extrapolate the behaviour you observe to interactions containing one or more men with one woman. Then come back here and tell us what you've learnt.
posted by doublehappy at 4:45 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


jokeefe and others, I don't want to argue about the note-on-the-car part. Obviously, you have only my take on the situation, but that's all any of us have in this thread. Anyway, my point wasn't really about that specific thing.
posted by smorange at 4:50 PM on July 21, 2010


I was genuinely curious, not arguing.

I was envisioning something more along the lines of how if I go to the grocery store at a regular day and time, chances are I'll see many of the same people on a regular basis. Through merely happening to be around doing my thing, I might notice what car they drive, or what their name is or whatever.

It doesn't seem any different than knowing the cars your neighbors drive just from seeing them regularly. I guess I can see how acting on that knowledge could give someone the wrong impression.
posted by wierdo at 5:11 PM on July 21, 2010


You know, the only thing more fucking infuriating than putting up with sexist shit all the time is being told - time and time again - that it doesn't actually happen.

It's not enough to repeatedly dismiss a women's actual, lived experience - but to express that with a smirking, "Well... OK - but I've certainly never seen a Snuffulupagus!" level of incredulity just adds (yet more) insult to injury.

I take public transport in Los Angeles, so I will acknowledge that I'm more likely than most to be exposed to catcalling, harrassment, and other unwelcome and threatening behavior from men; but even so - I don't think my experiences are that unusual. I'm a short, roundish woman in my 40's commuting in business casual clothes and I always wear my ipod, sunglasses and don't-fuck-with-me stare. I couldn't possibly make myself less approachable, but I still get men driving up to the bus stop to "see if I need a ride." Yes, this has happened 3 or 4 times now. It's starting to give me a complex. Unfortunately, that's only the most recent example - some of the stuff the younger women deal makes me want a bleach shower.

That 'smile' shit - as annoying and pervasive as it is - is the tip of the damn iceburg. If only other people not believing us could made the whole issue go away.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:46 PM on July 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


what seemed weird to me was that my friend's reaction seemed to come from the fact that this guy had asked about her at all. It was almost as if his interest itself was the problem--as if strangers shouldn't be interested in people they don't know anything about

I don't want strangers to be interested in me in the context you describe. Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it seems like he observed your friend for long enough to decide he wanted to date her (or just thought OMG HAWT) and then instead of talking to her, talked to other people about her. That seems creepy to me. Maybe I missed something though.

Also, I must add another Me too to both the catcalling and smile. Luckily it doesn't happen to me very much at all anymore (ever since I cut my hair off, which is an unexpected benefit if they are in fact related). When I was younger though...like when I was twelve and really looked like I was twelve...not only did I get harassed relentlessly every time I went out by myself, but if I was with a male friend then older guys would still get in my face to let me know that "when that guy breaks your heart, I'll be there to pick up the pieces. Don't worry, Baby, I'll give you a kid if you want one." This would happen every time I walked outside for at least five years. (And no, I have no idea where they all got the same damn line, but they all said the same thing with minor variations. They always wanted me to know that not only would they take care of me, but specifically that they would impregnate me. Happily.)
posted by (Over) Thinking at 5:49 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do doubt that most women are catcalled and harrassed multiple times every day, because by god it should be visible if it happens that much. It doesn't seem possible that this much activity happens in the shadows.

So if it's "not possible" that this much activity is really going on, what DO you think fueled the 600+ anecdotes in this one single thread?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:49 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I get shouted at by men on the street often (NYC) and mostly I don't really pay attention to it. Sometimes it really frustrates me, but I never feel I can confront them because (surprise surprise) this usually happens when it's just me and the dude or just me and the dude and the dude's friends on the street.

Last weekend I made the obvious mistake of wearing my new pretty dress out in public (I'm usually more of a frumpster) and as I was walking this guy coming towards me moved so I had to squeeze between him and the wall and when that was happening he whispered "I'll peel that dress off you."

Just adding my drop to this bucket of sad.
posted by prefpara at 6:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


2. Walking down the street last fall with a fellow mefite, when I was traveling around a bunch, and having some guy drive by and throw out a "hey, baby!" at her. And the whole thing was driveby so there wasn't really anything to react to in any meaningful matter, and I found the whole thing odd situationally in any case since (a) it seemed more like mere obnoxiousness, not nastiness and (b) it was her home town, not mine and (c) I didn't know how she personally felt on the subject enough to feel sure-footed about commenting on it.

It was a tiny moment, I think it just made for a brief hiccup in whatever conversation we were having, but it was also one of those "for all I'd like to think I have a handle on this stuff, here I am just sort of not responding to clearcut bullshit harassment in action" moments that will stick with me for a long time.
posted by cortex at 6:08 PM on July 20


I was that mefite (and I actually thought about that moment, Cortex, while reading this thread).

Neither of us reacted to it other than to just shrug our shoulders and move on.
I don't find these encounters dangerous or traumatic, they are tedious and on the rare occasion, annoying.

I understand the complaints here, and I once shared them. Somewhere along the way though, I just let them go, and if I stop to think about them at all, my reaction tends towards pity. Pity that people can still be so ignorant in this day and age. Other than that, I don't let it trouble my mind.
posted by msali at 6:25 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really grateful to everyone who shared their stories so far; I'm too... worn-out to join in this time around, at least insofar as sharing specific incidences of this or engaging with doubtful people. But my experience so far has been that talking about these things really does help, even and especially if you just talk on MeFi, so thank you. MeFi is actually one of the best places to talk about this, in my opinion; it's less insular than a feminist blog might be, and it's generally supportive lately. Though there is always some doubt and denial and such that pops up, it always sinks in for at least some people. There is always progress. I really do feel confident that things will keep getting better; I feel like every year I notice how something has improved in society because people are more sensitive to it than they were they previous year.

MFIF and the comments here are not senseless venting or complaining. It really does educate people, men and women both, and makes them change behavior they might not have realized is sexist or upsetting to women. It makes people pay more attention to the behavior of others -- is the waiter really going to ignore my girlfriend and defer to me? -- and realize that yes, women are not making shit up. It really is heartening to hear people express understanding, that if we share our stories we're not just shouting into a well, that there are men who have paid attention and seem to get it. It really is valuable for other women to hear they're not alone, that what they thought were seemingly insolvable personal flaws are actually someone else's biases and there's nothing wrong with them; most women are forced to be overly introspective, and out of necessity and persistence and luck sometimes we find ways to survive and succeed despite sexism. Sometimes we come up with the perfect retort, or we figure out the perfect way to explain something so that we reach an understanding and our concerns our heard. But no one can do that every single time. No one should have to look in the mirror wondering, "Do I look like a victim, do I walk in the wrong way, is my natural expression kind of unintelligent?" because they've tried so many ways to be taken seriously and they're grasping at straws. Society gives us enough insecurities as it is.

And thank you to everyone who is bothering to engage with the doubtful people. What's been said multiple times in this thread is true -- it's so very wearying to have to keep saying the same things your entire life, and most of the time you don't have the energy because you almost always have to argue with someone who is defensive, and puts you on the defensive, and tries to tell you your experiences aren't normal and it's your fault and you're a bitch and you're not assertive and why don't you talk about this and educate those people (HEADDESK) and on and on. Despite everything I've said about how valuable it is to keep sharing anyway, I still don't have the motivation to say much else right now except that a ton of this stuff has happened to me as well. I hope sometime in the future I have the energy to get off the bench again and do what you guys are doing right now. Right now, the thought just makes me want to pull a blanket over my head and never come out.
posted by Nattie at 6:26 PM on July 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


No, long ago in this thread I abandoned any notion that the "smile!" thing was misperception, and it never crossed my mind that the women could somehow be to blame or causing it.

I am still not convinced about the baby-talk doctor thing being anything except remote occurrences. (Especially the talking cervix thing... what the bloody hell???). Although I am going to ask around.


Well, progress! If we come up with another fifty or a hundred examples of appalling condescending and bizarre behavior from medical professionals, THEN will you believe us?

I swear to god if you come back into this thread proudly reporting that seven women you know said that THEY haven't had this experience, I will light my pitchfork on fire and freak the fuck out.
posted by desuetude at 6:29 PM on July 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


Actually, I will say one more thing: I, too, say "elevatrix" instead of "elevator." It delighted me to read that someone else had thought of the same thing. I didn't consciously try to change its gender, though, I just said it one day. I think what must have happened is my unconscious mind threw that together because of the word dominatrix; the elevator is a year and a half past its inspection date and is always trying to kill us.

It made me realize that I sort of vaguely thought of my apartment's elevator in masculine terms, though, so it's weird I call it an elevatrix. It is not, however, weird that I anthropomorphize my elevator; if you felt daily threats to your life you'd start talking to your elevator too, and then it's a small step to think of it as having a personality.
posted by Nattie at 6:33 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

There are lots of women who don't see it either, you know. That's part of the problem when you're raised from birth in a sexist society. Most people don't see most of what's actually happening around them. My bet is that the women you're surrounded by have not encountered these kinds of discussions, or with enough frequency, for anything like any of the stories here to have registered with them as sexist, though they likely experience them every day.

I refer you to a terrible/wonderful comment from the MeTa thread about the "Whatcha Reading?" thread.
That thread made me all righteous and pissed off for a week. I bike and take public transportation in a big city, so I get yelled and poked at by strangers every day, and it took reading that thread to realize I would have to deal with much less harassment if I was a man.

Somehow I didn't know I had the right (emphasis mine) to just get to the videotheque or the grocery store without men stopping in traffic to open their car doors and shout at me.
posted by tzikeh at 6:42 PM on July 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


Maybe I'm just getting old and ugly, but things have gotten better. I can get a rare steak now. 20 years ago, I nearly always had to send the medium well steak back and insist I meant rare-rare. I take public transportation and walk around a lot, and I get cat-called a lot less than when I was young. Of course, I don't look as good as I used to. Work places have gotten a lot better. No one has assumed I'll get them coffee just because I'm female in 10 or 15 years.

But there is still a very long way to go. Yes, it is the death of a million cuts. It wears you down. Energy I could put towards my job, my friends or my hobbies goes towards brushing off crap. Every day.

It is hard to see everyday sexism in action, just like it is hard to see everyday racism in action, because we have to look at everything and not filter. It is absurdly difficult and the reward is rage and embarrassment. But, I think we all still need to try to see, sometimes.
posted by QIbHom at 7:02 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've been blessed with some strong Scandinavian genes, including a default expression that is often referred to as "Norwegian Battleaxe" in my family. In their natural state, my lips turn down. My biggest smile involves my upper lip achieving a perfect horizontal line. Even my smile isn't very smiley. After years and years of people telling me to smile (sometimes adding the justification that I'll be prettier, or it will put me in the proper happy mode a girl should constantly be in), I trained myself to have a less default downturn (I look much less grumpy) -- and there was no lessening in the number of times I was told to smile. I hear it slightly less in the sub-rural area I now live in than in the suburbs and big cities I used to live in, but that may be a population thing, or an (my) age thing.

Wierdo, the note on the car would worry me a bit, too - if the car is at the gym, so is the car's driver. Leaving a note instead of striking up a conversation combined with the research about me would make me wonder. I'd prefer to have the conversation because it might turn out that he hates me and not want to ask me out, and I might figure out that this guy is actually a pretty good, if shy guy. But just a note, from someone I have no context for, but who knows plenty about me would concern me.

I wasn't going to post to this thread either because so many others have detailed similar experiences to mine, but since this thread started, I've had:

+ Yet another library/bookstore experience where a man interrupted my browsing/selecting to recommend a book that he was sure would turn me into jelly and ignore the fact he was standing way too close, treating me like I was a brainless nitwit who would be bowled over by his big smart brain, and as if I had been standing there in stasis waiting for a man to introduce me to a big new world. The first thing out of his mouth wasn't "Hi." or "Excuse me." or "Could I get to that shelf." It was "You need to read Anais Nin." He leaned in and leered.

+ Upon hearing that I didn't have children, a man shook his head and said "What a waste." and his wife told me that she was sorry I wasn't going to be able to experience complete happiness. The husband then said, "A woman isn't complete without children." I didn't say anything because a woman in the booth across the aisle burst into tears, and almost ran away, and it occurred to them that perhaps they had been a trifle rude, and they moved on. As they walked away, the husband helpfully told me there was more time.

+ As I was standing in line to buy my bags of concrete today, I was told my husband shouldn't have sent me out to buy concrete. It's not right for women to lift such big things. When I told him the concrete was for me, he was skeptical.

+ I was pumping gas and reading the newspaper on my phone. A car pulled out of a parking space, drove by the pump, and through the open window I heard, "Women Drivers. Ptuh!"
posted by julen at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are lots of women who don't see it either, you know. That's part of the problem when you're raised from birth in a sexist society. Most people don't see most of what's actually happening around them. They're probably just too stupid to realize that everyone's against them, though.
posted by jacalata at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2010


discountfortunecookie: But the doctor thing is my job. I deal with doctor complaints regularly, and have for years, in multiple locations including a metropolitan hospital. This I do have experience and a stake in. And despite the actions of the posters here who apparently never complain, complaints about doctors are rather common.

In addition to all the descriptions of sexual harassment in this thread, there's also been quite a lot of discussion of the common reluctance to complain about it, either in the moment or afterward.

To recap, for your benefit:

* It's common to minimize the experience and question your own reaction: "Oh, he's just being nice" or "Oh, he didn't mean it" or "Oh, I must have misheard or misunderstood." This often comes from years of socialization to be polite and biddable; those same sources of socialization reinforce the minimizing.

* Many women have experienced a sudden, scary escalation in hostility when they've pushed back against invasive attention. Once bitten, twice shy—especially when you're alone with the doc in an exam room. (Also, it can be difficult to summon up a lot of personal authority when you're flat on your back, nearly naked, crinkling up your little section of a roll of white butcher paper while a wee stainless-steel jack cranks open your genitals. Try it sometime.)

* Despite the impression some may have, most women don't react to sexual harassment by trying to destroy the harasser's career. Instead, they (we, I) just try to get away from and past it as soon as possible. There's a strong reluctance to "go to HR" or "complain to discountfortunecookie" for fear of bringing down excessive punishment.

I offer this to you as a thought experiment: Given the factors I've just listed, is it surprising that you've never encountered a complaint about baby-talking OB/GYNs or similar? Is it possible that some of the plentiful complaints you have received were really displaced complaints of sexual harassment?
posted by dogrose at 7:13 PM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


But the doctor thing is my job. I deal with doctor complaints regularly, and have for years, in multiple locations including a metropolitan hospital. This I do have experience and a stake in. And despite the actions of the posters here who apparently never complain, complaints about doctors are rather common.

Since the implication was that I should have complained about my doctor, let me just say he's on this list. Who are they going to believe, one of "North Carolina's very best doctors" or some patient? You say you handle complaints for hospitals, so who would you believe?

My current rheumatologist got his notes and she read them to me. They just said that there was no sign of any problems or illnesses and he expected me to get better with rest and exercise. They didn't include his helpful comments about my immaturity or alleged PTSD, or the statement I didn't mention earlier that he "could diagnose me with fibromyalgia if it would make me feel better, but that's not a real disease anyway." (The notes also didn't include any consideration at all of the disease I was later diagnosed with and continue to struggle with 2 years later and will have for the rest of my life.)
posted by hydropsyche at 7:25 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I swear to god if you come back into this thread proudly reporting that seven women you know said that THEY haven't had this experience, I will light my pitchfork on fire and freak the fuck out.
posted by desuetude at 6:29 PM on July 21


Put your torch down, in the intervening hours and re-reading a few of the comments, I've decided that while some people's experiences matter and count, others don't.

I have been told, repeatedly, that my experience is invalid, inaccurate, and just plain wrong. I've never witnessed this behavior, so it is my problem, something wrong with me, I never leave my house or car, and it must clearly be that I am a sexist pig who doesn't know any women, and further I'm so sexist that I actually do see it, but am too sexist to even recognize it when I see it. (Those are all direct quotes from above, with 1 inference).

No, everyone's experience is absolutely sacred and unimpeachable, except for mine. Your experience is your own, but mine is not.

There's a giant line forming to tell me how invalid my personal and professional experience is. I am just wrong.

So no, desuetude, no need to freak out. I am sufficiently bludgeoned. Everyone here, except for me, is right. I'm converted. There is, literally, no claim anyone could make about this topic that I would not instantly believe.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 7:31 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just was talking about this, wanted to offer it as more credence to the "Chicks get catcalled by douches" argument: On Monday, was out canvassing in front of an Albertsons, and two guys saw a woman walking into the store, and one of them yelled, "Hey Pochahontas, you wanna get with this?" at her. They then proceeded to follow her around the store, stealing shit and talking about their cocks. When she came out, I talked with her a little bit, and commiserated (the same guys were, surprisingly enough, not supportive of gay marriage). She was pissed and baffled—"Pochohantas? I'm Asian. What the fuck?"—but there was nothing I could really do. The guys took off before the security guards got there.
posted by klangklangston at 7:32 PM on July 21, 2010


jacalata, that was pretty close to trolling there. Stupidity is not the issue, as you well know despite your attempts to make it a pushbutton; the problem is cultural blindness. Not noticing sexist behavior when you have been raised with it as the norm doesn't make you stupid, it just means that you see nothing out of place because that's the way things work, same as the sky is blue and grass is green.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:33 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


discountfortunecookie: one can never prove an absence, only a presence.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:33 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


I could have phrased that less obliquely, discountfortunecookie: that you have no proof a thing exists, in your own empirical observations, just means that a thing does not exist in the boundaries of your observation. We're saying "hey, there are black swans over here" and you are saying "I've never seen a black swan therefore I doubt that black swans really exist." You can't prove a thing doesn't exist simply because you don't see it, and to imply that the evidence of a thing's existence is dubious when you've got a bunch of people saying "hey, check it, black swans over here!" is frustrating, especially when we're talking about the effects of sexism on women, one of which is that we're often told that what we say is not important, or true, or valid. Your opinion *is* being discounted because all you are saying is that it doesn't happen in your sphere of experience, but then you are extrapolating from that to say it mustn't exist in *our* sphere of existence either, which is a tad insulting in the face of our personal experiences.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:42 PM on July 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


I have been told, repeatedly, that my experience is invalid, inaccurate, and just plain wrong.

It is your apparent unwillingness to acknowledge that your experience does not trump the collective experience of everyone who is not you that has people annoyed at you.

Your experience is yours. Good for you, you've seen what you seen, and haven't seen what you haven't. You've been able to be very clear about the content of those respective lists.

But if you can't grapple with the idea that you are one person on a planet full of other people who have their own experiences, and that their collective experiences involve a lot of unpleasant things that your failure to encounter or perceive personally has just about nothing to do with, then you are just pissing in the wind. Once saying "man, I really haven't encountered this" would be totally unexceptional. Returning to that refrain repeatedly in a thread where there has been a big outpouring of discussion from a whole lot of people that aren't you that contravenes your personal experiences should be a really clear sign that your personal experiences matter to about the length of your nose on this.

The frustrating thing is that you seem fine with that, and upset that people would suggest you should be casting your gaze any further.
posted by cortex at 7:50 PM on July 21, 2010 [32 favorites]


When I was 20 I worked in a factory type situation installing car stereos after the cars came off the line. I needed the job. It really wasn't my cup of tea but the $ was good. I had a feeling that my supervisor was interested in me but I ignored him (like so many times before...not just him) and then one night he sent everyone out to move cars. This had never happened before. Suddenly the lights went out and he called me into his office. It was just me and him in this big warehouse. He called me into his office and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and said that every thing was cool and we should just hang out and get to know each other. I was totally freaked out. I didn't show it. I sat there with him and tried to pretend that this was a normal situation:

Me: Um, it is kinda funny that everyone is gone...
Me: Why are the lights out
Him: Ahh, don't worry about it. I heard that you like *specific whiskey* with this *specific mixer*.

The fucker told me exactly what I needed to do to him in order to keep my job. Luckily, one (ONLY ONE!!!!!) of the 12 guys came back to the warehouse and turned on the lights. There was no power outage. This was a management level employee who convinced his "boys" that he was going to have sex with me. The one guy who came back to help me did not last long at his job. He got fired too. It tuns out that they were all in on it and only one guy helped me.

Thinking about this is making me cry. I have a hundred other stories. A HUNDRED.
posted by futz at 7:56 PM on July 21, 2010 [21 favorites]


Oh, my god hydropsyche, your awful medical experience just recovered an old memory for me: At the time, I was a young, single parent in the emergency room with my daughter. She was being examined for a suspected broken wrist.

They x-rayed it, and the results weren't conclusive. My daughter has one of the highest pain tolerances I've ever encountered, so when she continued to complain of pain, I persisted. The doctor suggested he could "Put a cast on it if would make Mom feel better." To my credit, I did point out that I wasn't actually the patient.

Later, when Space Kitten lost full range of motion in her arm, (!) we discovered that a cast might 'make Mom feel better' but it does fuck-all to treat a tendon that's torn away from the bone. She ended up needing reconstructive surgery thanks to that patronizing misdiagnosis.

Thanks for taking us girls seriously, doc.

Ass.

posted by Space Kitty at 8:02 PM on July 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


discountfortunecookie: Get down off the cross, kind sir.

I have been told, repeatedly, that my experience is invalid, inaccurate, and just plain wrong. I've never witnessed this behavior, so it is my problem, something wrong with me, I never leave my house or car, and it must clearly be that I am a sexist pig who doesn't know any women, and further I'm so sexist that I actually do see it, but am too sexist to even recognize it when I see it. (Those are all direct quotes from above, with 1 inference).

My impression is that you've been told, repeatedly, that your second-hand experience, as reported to you by your female friends, is inaccurate, as demonstrated by the many, many counter-examples offered in this thread.

You've repeatedly argued that the women in this thread who are describing their own experiences are exaggerating or confabulating—not relating their direct experience, as lived.

What is your stake here? Why are you so resistant to accepting what women say about their own lives?

No one is asking you to believe anything outlandish. No one is saying, cf. McMartin, that women are regularly and repeatedly dragged into underground tunnels, flown up in hot air balloons, forced into carwash orgies, or molested by Chuck Norris.

But dozens of women from all over the US and abroad, in hundreds of posts, have described the everyday annoyances and occasional threats of violence they encounter simply by living their lives.

And the fact that you don't believe us makes you a martyr.
posted by dogrose at 8:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


despite the actions of the posters here who apparently never complain, complaints about doctors are rather common.

I would complain about a misdiagnosis. I would complain about racism or egregiously overt sexism. I don't think I would even think to complain about baby talk - it's garden variety condescension, and though it's symptomatic of overall contempt for women and/or the patient, I doubt I would view it as actionable. I would just view it as what it is: weird, uncomfortable, probably archaic, and definitely evidence of a pathetically dorky attempt by a doctor to sound like a man of the people.

I don't doubt your job includes processing medical complaints. I do doubt that most people who have experienced condescending doctor talk go to the trouble to complain about it.
posted by Miko at 8:13 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Comedian Tig Notaro has some pertinent experience on street harassment.
posted by msalt at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe the problem stems from being surrounded by women who tell me this type of thing never happens to them.

Consider this: just as it's hard for some men to notice this behavior, because they've never experienced it, it may be hard for some women to notice it, because they've never NOT experienced it. It's the air that they walk through, not something they see or discuss.
posted by msalt at 8:34 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh I just remembered a time I witnessed an example. I was running some errands with my friend's roommate, a short female who might weight almost 100 pounds soaking wet in military fatigues. She needed to exchange a wall mount for a flat screen TV to the local big box and get a heavier duty one. We went over to the electronic section, with me trailing after her like a puppy or a duckling. Well, the salesman would start answering her question about the specs of the mounts, and then gradually start talking to me. At the time, I was totally confused by this, I mumbled, "I don't know why you're talking to me. Talk to her." and sort of stepped behind her.
posted by fuq at 8:38 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hadn't seen this thread. I've been busy this week being ignored by 600+ men of my industry at an event in Austin. Men who would kill to have my business if I were a man.

I've spent the better part of the last ten years being ignored by these folks. Until someone clues them in. Then? Then my phone never stops ringing.

I have a long, long memory. And oh yes, I hold a grudge.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:41 PM on July 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


My god, futz. Thanks for having the courage to recall that experience for us. That was utterly fucked up.
posted by contessa at 9:05 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have been told, repeatedly, that my experience is invalid, inaccurate, and just plain wrong. I've never witnessed this behavior, so it is my problem, something wrong with me, I never leave my house or car, and it must clearly be that I am a sexist pig who doesn't know any women, and further I'm so sexist that I actually do see it, but am too sexist to even recognize it when I see it. (Those are all direct quotes from above, with 1 inference).

No, everyone's experience is absolutely sacred and unimpeachable, except for mine. Your experience is your own, but mine is not.

There's a giant line forming to tell me how invalid my personal and professional experience is. I am just wrong.


I'm tempted to point out that having your observations beaten down and invalidated by popular opinion could possibly be a teachable moment.

Your poor me response would be a lot more credible if you hadn't argued over and over and over and over and (WTF!) over that the experiences of scores of women are just too fantastic to be true. You're scrambling for any sort of explanation, rational or otherwise, ANYTHING but you being mistaken.

Several people have even tried to point out why you would not have noticed loutish behavior on the street. This has gone without comment from you. Several people have noted why your professional experience holds no records of baby-talk and condescension and outright sexism from doctors. That, also, is not worth your consideration.
posted by desuetude at 10:23 PM on July 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


smorange: "What seemed weird to me was that my friend's reaction seemed to come from the fact that this guy had asked about her at all. It was almost as if his interest itself was the problem--as if strangers shouldn't be interested in people they don't know anything about. And it's true that many people (including me) don't seek out dates this way. But lots of people do, and I think there's room in society for them too."

There's stranger dating and there's stranger dating. I think the fundamental disconnect lies between the following statements.

A.) "I find that stranger attractive. I'm going to get to know them better so I can ask them out on a date."

B.) "I find that stranger attractive. I'm going to ask them out on a date so I can get to know them better."

I can be receptive to A, under the right circumstances. A is the guy who stood next to me in that endless line at Heathrow Airport and grumbled with me about the slowness of the line, which turned into a rambling conversation about lacrosse and The Matrix and our philosophy on, like, life, y'know? And he seemed really nice, so we got dinner together and despite his plane being delayed by hours, it seemed to take off way too soon.

B will never date me. B is all the guys who left their number on napkins for me when I was working behind a bar. I guess they figured that maybe I would call and take a chance on them and I just did not understand how they thought that would ever work. It took a real mental leap to realise that their lives were so different from mine that - for them - accepting a date from somebody you'd never even spoken to was okay, because you could speak to them on the date. They didn't perform all the tiny conscious and sub-conscious safety checks that I do, to determine whether it's safe to express romantic interest in a guy or whether it's likely to end in violence. Me and the napkin guys basically lived in those parallel universes dfc mentioned, which brings me back to your gym story.

I don't know your friend, or the full details of what happened, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the following interpretation, but I do think it's illustrative of the parallel universes.


SHY GYM GUY'S PERSPECTIVE

1. Guy notices girl at the gym and thinks she has a cute body.

2. Guy continues to notice girl.

3. "There's that girl again. She's so cute. I wonder what it would be like to date her. I bet she's nice. I'd love to talk to her and maye ask her out, but I have The FearTM (of being rejected and maybe laughed at). I guess I'll just moon after her some more."

4. "This is ridiculous, maybe I could just hand her a note or something?"

5. "Okay, apparently I am too shy to even hand her a note. FAIL, self. EPIC FAIL."

6. At this point Guy decides to be proactive and goes to the front desk, using some pretext to get Cute Girl's name and license plate.

7. Guy carefully rewrites note. This is perfect, now he can address her by name!

8. Guy goes out to the parking lot, finds her car and leaves the note.

9. Guy decides to wait by the lobby window, so he can see what her reaction is upon getting the note. "Maybe she will think it's super romantic? Maybe it will turn out she has secretly been noticing me too? I hope, I hope!"

10. "Oh god, she's screaming and yelling. What did I do? WHAT DID I DO?"


CUTE GYM GIRL'S PERSPECTIVE

1. "Hmm. There's something on my windscreen. I can't have gotten a ticket, can I? I'm a member for crying out... Oh, well, that's... um... Apparently some guy has been watching me in the gym and thinks I have a cute body. Except he's asking me out without having spoken a single word to me, so I guess he's only interested in my body. And how does he know my name and what car I drive? I didn't tell him. I don't even know who he is! What else does he know? Does he know where I live? How long has he been watching me? Is he watching me right now? Oh god, now I have The FearTM (of being raped and maybe murdered)."



Parallel universes suck for everybody.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:35 AM on July 22, 2010 [32 favorites]


And on lack of preview, I should apparently not leave a fast moving thread open in my browser, go to bed, then comment in the morning without reloading. Sorry if the conversation's moved on already. I'll be catching up now.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:38 AM on July 22, 2010


"Epileptic fit" (a term I've already mentioned despising) is not synonymous with "tantrum."

I can totally see why 'fit' offends you - it's the accepted phrase over here, used often by epileptics themselves. Conversely, 'spaz' is really offensive here - 'spaz' and 'spastic' are seen as slurs against people with physical disabilities - but I think it's common in the US. It's a bit odd to me to see it in American articles - jarring like seeing 'nigger' or 'gook' just there in the text.

'Eppie' is kind of on the offensive level of slang, btw.
posted by mippy at 2:23 AM on July 22, 2010


I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

Nope, it happens to me and friends of mine in the UK. Once when I was on the way back from a hospice, so, thanks for that.
posted by mippy at 2:33 AM on July 22, 2010


A friend of mine lived in Bologna for a year. By the end of it, she wouldn't walk alone anywhere in the evening because she'd get followed or guys would block her path when she was walking.
posted by mippy at 2:35 AM on July 22, 2010


discountfortunecookie: OMG Troll.
posted by kalessin at 5:16 AM on July 22, 2010


I was pumping gas and reading the newspaper on my phone. A car pulled out of a parking space, drove by the pump, and through the open window I heard, "Women Drivers. Ptuh!"

As a child I asked my dad 'Why are women drivers not good at driving?' because it was so much part of the culture that I thought it was actually biological, like having children. He told me it was because they panic and don't pay attention. I didn't take him up on his offer to teach me to drive years later.

To be honest, the most patronising treatment I got from a medical professional was from a female, and when I was actually a child. (Went to the surgery bent double with a stomach-ache; it took forty minutes to walk a distance that would normally take ten. Doctor told me it was wind and told me to grow up and stop acting silly. Two weeks later, my appendix burst.) My sister's arthritis, though, which started when she was a teenager, was diagnosed by her doctor as 'growing pains'.
posted by mippy at 5:18 AM on July 22, 2010


My sister's arthritis, though, which started when she was a teenager, was diagnosed by her doctor as 'growing pains'.

This is super common. My cousin's kid, at 16, had the same problem. I, however, actually *did* have growing pains as a teenager (gone now) that were very similar to (if milder than) the symptoms that he had.
posted by antifuse at 6:02 AM on July 22, 2010


Conversely, 'spaz' is really offensive here - 'spaz' and 'spastic' are seen as slurs against people with physical disabilities - but I think it's common in the US.

No, it's not. Spaz is totally unacceptable in the US, although it is used as a slang term for someone who is acting unpredictably - it's about the same as saying "retard." That is, people say it, and they usually know they shouldn't and very often get called out on it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:18 AM on July 22, 2010


I am willing to accept the thing about Smile because I'm not a woman and I have already admitted I have never seen this behavior, so how could I know about it?

But the doctor thing is my job. I deal with doctor complaints regularly, and have for years, in multiple locations including a metropolitan hospital. This I do have experience and a stake in. And despite the actions of the posters here who apparently never complain, complaints about doctors are rather common.


and

Put your torch down, in the intervening hours and re-reading a few of the comments, I've decided that while some people's experiences matter and count, others don't.


Do you really not see that this is all part of the same thing? That because you personally have not experienced this, somehow those experiences must not have happened, and therefore the women reporting them - right here in this thread - must be lying?

You didn't believe the "smile" thing because you've never witnessed it and no one's ever mentioned it before now. And you don't believe the baby-talking doctor thing because you've never witnessed it and no one's ever reported it. Is it possible, just possible, that you've never encountered a report in your professional capacity because women to whom this has happened regard it as something not worth reporting? That is, annoying in a thousand-cuts way, but not enough of a bar because, hey, you already might have to wait three months to get an appointment with your GYN and why fuck that process up? That it might be the case that the women to whom this happens may live in places where there just aren't that many GYNs to go to that take their insurance, etc.? That it might be something that women don't think will be taken seriously if they do report it? Because, as you can see, we get told a lot that what we experience isn't that big a deal, or we misinterpreted it, or it can't really have happened that way.

It's weird. Your first comment in this thread announces that a reported incident did not happen. Multiple people have explained that these kinds of things are so common for so many of us that we often don't bother mentioning it. I mean, I wouldn't mention that oh, hey! I saw a car today! It's not a thing that comes up in casual conversation - "So, did your doc do anything sexist at your appointment the other day?" It comes up in thread like this. Your continued insistence that people reporting the experiences they've had can be debunked by the fact that well, you haven't had them, therefore they didn't happen, is weird and frankly offensive.
posted by rtha at 6:41 AM on July 22, 2010 [21 favorites]


I don't understand doing this "Smile!" thing to women (or even just people). I have a little outgoing words filter in my mind that does things like flinch and shout "PATRONIZING!" to me in my inner voice when I'm considering (which I hope is rare) saying such things to people. And I almost always listen to this voice and it keeps me out of trouble. I think a lot of people call it a conscience.

Men: Please consider installing a conscience like mine. It might help you with the foot-in-mouth syndrome.
posted by kalessin at 6:48 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing has occurred to me during the course of this thread about why men often seem dismissive of these incidents of sexism. I'm not talking about the outright denials that these things happen, but more the attempts to explain away the incident in some other way.

It has to do with our propensity to try to fix problems you tell us about, rather than listening to you and being supportive. So a sexist incident occurs, and it upsets you, and we hate to see you upset, so that becomes the problem we want to solve. Sometimes we think if we offer an alternate explanation that is less upsetting, you'll feel better about the whole thing. "Oh, I'm sure she didn't mean it like that, maybe she meant..." or "Maybe he's just a jerk in general, not just to women specifically" or that sort of thing.

And instead this comes off as dismissive, as outright disbelief, or as taking the side of the sexist asshole. We may actually not even believe the explanations we're offering up, we just hope they'll take away some of the bad feeling, and instead we probably cause the opposite to happen.

I'm not saying this is always what's going on, just that it happens sometimes. I know this because I've done it myself, though I'm trying to be more conscious of the "fix it" behavior in conversations with women.

Ironically, I'm doing the same thing right now with this comment: offering up an alternate explanation about why men may come across as dismissive when you tell us about this stuff, in the hope you will feel less bad about it. It's a tough habit to break, I guess.
posted by FishBike at 7:07 AM on July 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


grapefruitmoon wrote: "No, it's not. Spaz is totally unacceptable in the US, although it is used as a slang term for someone who is acting unpredictably - it's about the same as saying "retard." That is, people say it, and they usually know they shouldn't and very often get called out on it."

That's a very regional answer. Around here, nobody will give you a second look for saying "spaz" or "retard." I do live in Oklahoma, though.
posted by wierdo at 7:10 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


FishBike, I totally get where you're coming from. I have "I can fix it!" tendencies as well, and when bad things happen to people I care about, I want, first for those bad things to not have happened, and second, to be able to fix it. So, yeah, I get you, absolutely.
posted by rtha at 7:13 AM on July 22, 2010


Actually, I just thought of what I hope is a good analogy.

Everyone who lives in an urban area in the U.S. is familiar with graffiti, yes? You probably hardly notice it anymore, unless it's a particularly garish (or beautiful) example.

Graffiti is against the law. It's illegal to tag a building or bus stop or whatever. But I would bet some amount of money that if you called your local cop shop and asked about the incidents of reported graffiti, the list would be really really short. Because when Joe the hardware store owner comes to open his shop in the morning and finds a new tag on the rolldown, he doesn't call the cops to report it. He either leaves it there or he gets out the can of paint and paints it over.

Asking to see reports of complaints about tagging would lead you to believe that tagging is really uncommon, because no one reports it - it's the low-level cost of living in an urban area. It's annoying and ugly but generally not a sign of danger. But walking around with your eyes open? It's everywhere.
posted by rtha at 7:21 AM on July 22, 2010 [40 favorites]


I think one reason why some guys don't really get this is because we imagine the reverse situation (a woman shouting at us that we look hot, or something like that), and we think we'd like that. Or at least, we think it wouldn't make us uncomfortable.

I think there's a difference though between thinking someone is attractive and, telling them so in a way that objectifies them. A stranger was in my livingroom one day quietly waiting to speak to someone else. When he finally did say something it was, "you'd be good looking if you lost some weight." as he eyed me up and down. I fired back, "that's ok I wouldn't want to screw you either." as I gave him the once over. I've told a lot of people this story over the years and, some just don't understand how I felt humiliated over being reduced to some arbitrary I'd Hit It Scale.

I gained the weight back within a year and was surprised/relieved/upset at how safe I felt with my protective layers back on.

That was one of my mini epiphanies too. When I hit puberty I didn't like the shift in how I was treated from sexually neutral to sexual being. I gained some weight during my depression when I was 14/15 after being raped the year before. The weight stayed on despite the pressure from those around me to improve my Pleasing Eye Candy Score. I don't think anyone put two and two together and, realized how much of threat going back to being skinny felt to me. I certainly didn't get it, I just knew I really resented the pressure and bribery (free trip to Hawaii if you lose 30lbs!) I got over my weight. I gained even more in the last decade'ish. As my weight was coming off, the male gaze was being amplified a hundred fold, I realized that men like roomy women too and, though I got less of it when I was heavy I was still getting it.

(wanted to say this yesterday, but real life got in the way)
posted by squeak at 7:23 AM on July 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think there's a difference though between thinking someone is attractive and, telling them so in a way that objectifies them.

There's a huge difference, yeah, I completely agree. My point is just that for many men, we think we wouldn't mind the objectifying remarks either. Partly it's the difference in perceived threat, where we (perhaps unwisely) think that if we don't want something to happen, then it's not going to happen.

And partly it's just that being on the receiving end of such objectifying comments is such a rare occurrence for us that we haven't yet realized, you know what, this is bullshit, this sucks, and I wish it would just stop.
posted by FishBike at 7:34 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


objectifying comments is such a rare occurrence for us that we haven't yet realized, you know what, this is bullshit, this sucks, and I wish it would just stop.

Though I have heard from a couple straight men who have been in situations where overt objectification of them was more common, like a majority-female workplace with a bit of a bullying or provocative culture, or a neighborhood or workplace with a lot of directly flirtatious gay men, and those men have expressed a sense of discomfort with it once the novelty was over, and in one case mentioned that "I finally got it" about why women find it exhausting and oppressive.

This came up in the MetaTalk thread too, and someone pointed out that the analagous situation isn't one in which a sweet, nice gal is calling out "hey baby!" with a big smile. It's one in which a group of burly male bikers is doing it. The signals sent aren't positive ones.
posted by Miko at 7:54 AM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


The weight stayed on despite the pressure from those around me to improve my Pleasing Eye Candy Score.

Oh, the damn Pleasing Eye Candy score. I commit the incomprehensible sin of being a decently attractive woman (I'm not model, but I'm not bad-looking) who wears her hair very short. I am regularly told by strangers or situational acquaintances (like smalltalk with other people at the bar, etc.) that I'd be pretty if I grew out my hair. Okay, fine, but it gets weirdly aggro pretty quickly. It's somehow offensive that I don't want to conform to what "most" men like?

When my male friends see photos of me from college with long hair and compliment how much prettier that was, I will take the time to explain that I don't want to be THAT kind of pretty anymore, I want to be THIS kind of pretty, and it's okay if THIS kind of pretty isn't their preference, because I'm not being pretty for them. That I'm the one that has to look at my face in the mirror and be happy with what I see. I usually have to explain this a couple of times, and they still kind of have to take it on faith and sure, it's your hair and can do whatever you want but why don't you want to be pretty?
posted by desuetude at 7:57 AM on July 22, 2010 [18 favorites]


Also, I too have never heard of the "Smile!" thing until Metafilter. I wonder if it is something specific to NYC?

I know that this has been addressed enough times in the thread that it's clear that it's not specific to NYC, but I don't understand how that was even a question in the first place. Do you think everyone who posts to MetaFilter is from NYC? I'm honestly baffled by this question.
posted by tzikeh at 8:20 AM on July 22, 2010


No, it's not. Spaz is totally unacceptable in the US, although it is used as a slang term for someone who is acting unpredictably - it's about the same as saying "retard." That is, people say it, and they usually know they shouldn't and very often get called out on it.

Not speaking from a US perspective, here, but Toronto ain't so much different from the US in most respects. I have never ever heard of somebody being called out for saying "spaz" in a negative way. Of course, I also don't think I've heard anybody over the age of 15 actually *use* the word spaz lately.
posted by antifuse at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The city was mentioned as a place where such harassment is common / pervasive before he made the comment.
posted by zarq at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2010


It has to do with our propensity to try to fix problems you tell us about, rather than listening to you and being supportive.

FishBike: I get what you're saying there, and it's a fair and thoughtful response to the conversation. But... I'm seriously wary of the "men want to fix problems, women want to talk about them" thing, for reasons that would also apply pretty well to this discussion.

If I have a problem, I do want it to be solved. I'm not usually looking for a solution from whoever I'm grumbling about it to, but if the recipient of said grumbling has some genius solution that hasn't occurred to me, then, well, so much the better. Last week, it turned out I was short of a license key for some work software and would have to wait a week to get another from our suppliers; colleague overheard me getting all This Goddamn Day Can Throw Itself In The River I Swear, said "Huh, I've been keeping this quiet, but I actually have two spare license keys for that on my computer, do you want one?" Problem, solved. Awesome. I certainly wouldn't have expected him to rein in his desire to offer a solution in favour of being sympathetic, when he actually had a solution.

On the other hand. I have a friend (who's female, incidentally) who likes to solve all problems she's presented with, and assumes that her role in conversations about them is to Fix Stuff by patiently pointing out all the solutions that you, poor soul, are too foolish to see. Bitching about problems to her leads to conversations like this:

ME: God, work was annoying today. I was on hold for twenty minutes with [admin department] about [situation with new workers], again.
HER: You should have told them you were in a hurry.
ME: Yeah I did, they don't care. Anyway, so now it's taking days on their end to get all the paperwork through, and -
HER: Why don't you just explain to them that you need these workers registered as soon as possible?
ME: Did that, they don't care. Thing is, they always take four days to -
HER: Maybe you should think about telling your boss this.
ME: Yeah, he already knows. See, what's frustrating is -
HER: Well, in that case, you should speak to the manager of that department directly. I know it's hard to stand up for yourself, but it really would help you here.
ME: The manager is the person who put me on hold for twenty minutes!

And so on. The issue is not that she wants to offer solutions while I want to wallow around in a mire of GRAR; the issue is that she's not very good at giving people credit for thinking up obvious stuff for themselves.

It's the same with discussions like this one. Pervasive low-level sexism is frustrating, and women complaining about it do want it gone. But the proposed 'solutions' are all too often things like "Why didn't you just tell your boss you won't stand for being spoken to like that?" or "It sounds to me like that guy was just joking," or "Huh, have you thought about that maybe just being a coincidence?" or "If it was that big a deal, you'd have formally complained about the doctors who are patronising you." Solutions are great; but pseudo-solutions, offered in response to an incredibly simplistic understanding of the problem at hand, and offered without any understanding that if the problem could be solved by doing something so quick and easy and hassle-free that's occurred to you after a mere two minutes of thinking about the situation, we'd have done that already.

tl;dr - Problems bad. Solutions good. 'Solutions' that assume helpless ignorance on part of person with problem, part of problem.
posted by Catseye at 9:29 AM on July 22, 2010 [23 favorites]


Uh. "Solutions are great; but pseudo-solutions..." should read "Solutions are great; but not pseudo-solutions..."
posted by Catseye at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2010


FishBike, I'm not sure there's always a threat to my physical integrity that's implied when I get those kinds of comments though. Depending on the context, I don't necessarily parse them as A Threat. I've thought about this over the years and, I keep coming back to thinking that the crux of it is this feeling that I'm being reduced to Sexual Object on two feet that exists solely for the titillation of strangers when I do get these kinds of comments. That's why I find it so galling.

desuetude, I hear ya. I committed the mortal sin of shaving my head bald in my early 20's ...
posted by squeak at 10:23 AM on July 22, 2010


'But I have a wife and daughter! I'm not sexist!'

I've had that one implied to me many times. It's made my life interesting.

I'd tell more, but won't. Bad idea.
posted by bibliogrrl at 10:26 AM on July 22, 2010


2/3 of the way through, late to the comment-party, but it's time to share.

This thread spurred a conversation with my dad, who tried to relate because he was groped once on the train. I told him I was sorry that he had that experience, and that that experience was meaningful, but it was not comparable:

I learned to dance with my fists and elbows to keep gropers away on the dancefloor.

I learned to stomp and kick when hands got gropy when I was penned in at a NYE crowd in Times Square (never did that again).

I envisioned what I would do to an attacker enough times that when I was reach-around-grabbed by an outsider in a crowd of 200+ clearly "my people" at a costume event, it was second nature to clothesline the guy. I didn't drop him because I was too scared of myself that'd I'd stomp his face, so instead i kneed him to standing and punched him in the head, pushing him out of our crowd.

I don't complain or react every time something physically non-violent happens, because I cannot exist as a healthy, full human if I keep my lens focused on the harassment and let it rile me up. Bars, parties (like the men who try to save you from other harassing men, please, dude.), subway cars, with male friends, walking on the street, at work, in my doctor's office... just a few places off the top of my head where I've gotten shit for my GenderSex.

It's not my fault, but it's sure as hell my problem.
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 10:33 AM on July 22, 2010


Tip: even if you don't have a music player, keeping headphones in your ears can help you ignore the catcalls by pretending you don't hear it, so the cat-callers don't get riled up at your straight up ignoring them.
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 10:33 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is your apparent unwillingness to acknowledge that your experience does not trump the collective experience of everyone who is not you that has people annoyed at you.

This.

People come up with the most fascinating rationalizations to avoid dealing with "Some people do this fucked up thing- but society at large accepts and protects it" - including, apparently, omniscience about the validity of the experiences of other people.

Or, you know, "men know what they're talking about, women are just imagining things"...
posted by yeloson at 10:40 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


...if the problem could be solved by doing something so quick and easy and hassle-free that's occurred to you after a mere two minutes of thinking about the situation, we'd have done that already.

'Solutions' that assume helpless ignorance on part of person with problem, part of problem.


Indeed: c.f. Mansplaining.
posted by tzikeh at 11:15 AM on July 22, 2010


FishBike: One thing has occurred to me during the course of this thread about why men often seem dismissive of these incidents of sexism. I'm not talking about the outright denials that these things happen, but more the attempts to explain away the incident in some other way.

Shelly Tochluk's Witnessing Whiteness talks about a related phenomenon, but with race: the tendency of white people to play devil's advocate, after hearing a POC describe an experience of either deliberate or thoughtless racism ("Maybe that white person meant that remark in this innocent way, rather than in the racist way you think"). She observes that this can stem from putting themselves into the place of the white person in the story. They're thinking "If I were that person, I'd have meant it in this entirely non-racist way" and voicing it, projecting it, as "That person could have meant..." -- which while well-meaning, effectively leads to

never listening,

never considering that maybe the POC has had a tedious lifetime of experience distinguishing between racist and innocuous incidences, so maybe they'd be in a better position to evaluate than the person who only ever hears about 1. a teeny tiny fraction of the thousands of cuts that happen, and hears about that fraction 2. secondhand,

always thoughtlessly assuming that the POC didn't already second-guess and micro-analyze before coming to reluctant conclusions (or, that the POC is just too stupid or deluded or high on being a victim to have thought of alternative explanations?).

Pretty quickly, the cuttee learns to keep quiet about cuts. The "friend" never hears about them again, and goes through life confirmed in their presumption that fillets are the only kinds of cuts that exist. The parallel universes keep spinning in their separate spheres. Yay status quo!

Sure, there are a few people who jump to conclusions and claim victim status at the drop of a hat, for asshole/wacko reasons of their own. If there are solid grounds for assuming that these people account for the majority of formal or anecdotal incidences reported, or even merely typical, I'd sincerely like to hear what they are.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:40 AM on July 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


When he finally did say something it was, "you'd be good looking if you lost some weight." as he eyed me up and down. I fired back, "that's ok I wouldn't want to screw you either." as I gave him the once over.

Or you could have paraphrased Winston Churchill: "That may be true, sir, but no matter how much weight you lose, you'll still be an asshole."
posted by msalt at 11:50 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Want another medical anecdote? In my late 20s I decided I definitely never wanted kids, and went to have my tubes tied. The male gynecogist I was referred to – a pillar of the community – asked me what would happen if I later married a lawyer and he got sued for having done the surgery on me without due diligence. He also insisted on sending me to a second doctor to ascertain my sanity. I passed this sanity test and was sent back to the first guy.

When I was being put under for the brief surgery, the gynecologist stood over me, cackling and saying loudly "THIS IS IT! NO BABIES!"

I still can hardly believe it. But who would have believed me?
posted by zadcat at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was being put under for the brief surgery, the gynecologist stood over me, cackling and saying loudly "THIS IS IT! NO BABIES!"

With the mad scientist image my brain is putting on that description, it just sounds awesome, sorry.

Seriously though, stories like this and the obvious abortion and birth control restriction efforts drive me insane. People should have total autonomy over their bodies and that should be unquestioned unless there are real potential sanity issues.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:44 PM on July 22, 2010


Catseye, thank you so much for that lucid and thought-provoking comment. Well said. It helped me understand something that I have long found frustrating, and all the more so for being unable to put my finger on what exactly is bothering me about it.

The crux of it is:

"...the issue is that she's not very good at giving people credit for thinking up obvious stuff for themselves."

I've found this to be so pervasive that, when it happens to me, I sometimes just shut down rather than fight that particular battle to be taken seriously. Over time it wears me down to describe a problem to people, only to have them assume - over and over and over again, and in spite of my attempted protests to the contrary - that I must not have considered THIS option or THAT possibility. It's especially galling when the options in question seem blatantly obvious, and/or when it's someone who has seen previous evidence that I always do my homework and research things carefully. It insults my intelligence, and when it happens time and again, it wears me down to the point of being unwilling to talk about certain kinds of problems with people who do this frequently. (And to add insult to injury, sometimes this sort of behavior is later followed by questions like "Hey, why so quiet? You should speak up more often and let me KNOW when you have a problem!" GRAR.)

Now that I'm able to identify and articulate this pattern, though, I'll be that much better equipped to address it directly - or try to, at least - the next time I have an opportunity to do so, so thanks for that.
posted by velvet winter at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have never ever heard of somebody being called out for saying "spaz" in a negative way.

I grew up in the Midwest. "Spaz" was something an adult would call me if I was behaving in a way they thought was hyperactive. Kids of my generation never used it widely themselves; it's not totally gone with us, but it's just not all that common.

It wasn't until I saw an online discussion a few years ago between someone who had used "spaz" and someone with cerebral palsy who didn't like it, that I realized the history behind the word and that some people consider it very offensive. I didn't even know that it came from "spastic" or that "spastic" had been used derogatorily. I had no idea that anyone considered it to be hurtful.

So I'd definitely disagree that "spaz" is considered totally unacceptable in the US. I'd probably used it myself and never gotten called on it. Things are changing (look at Sarah Palin objecting to "retard"--to score political points, yeah, but her target audience is one I'd consider more likely to be "anti-PC"), but we still haven't reached a place where calling someone a "spaz" in a newspaper is likely to result in serious consequences, I don't think.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2010


A friend of mine lived in Bologna for a year. By the end of it, she wouldn't walk alone anywhere in the evening because she'd get followed or guys would block her path when she was walking.

Wow, nearly forgot about this! I lived in BO for a year too, with a number of female roommates. At least two of them ended up using me as Proxy Telephone Boyfriend because they'd each made the mistake of giving an interested guy our telephone number and these "lovesick romantics" wouldn't otherwise be dissuaded from calling 10x a day.
posted by kittyprecious at 2:22 PM on July 22, 2010


But... I'm seriously wary of the "men want to fix problems, women want to talk about them" thing, for reasons that would also apply pretty well to this discussion.

If I have a problem, I do want it to be solved. I'm not usually looking for a solution from whoever I'm grumbling about it to, but if the recipient of said grumbling has some genius solution that hasn't occurred to me, then, well, so much the better.


This might be the key point right here, so hopefully it doesn't seem argumentative that I'm quoting this as a starting point to expand on my previous comment a little bit.

One of the ways I've had trouble interacting with friends (particularly female friends) in the past is that I've assumed that they are looking for a solution from me when they grumble to me about something. So I start going through a sort of systematic problem-solving exercise very much like that conversation you described with your friend.

Why do we (men) tend to take that approach? Because it's how we do things ourselves. A lot of us find it very difficult to admit we can't solve a problem ourselves, or actually say that we need help with something. So we just sort of throw a problem statement out there and expect that our friends will figure out from that what our internal mental state must be to lead to such a remark, and will then offer advice or assistance without us actually having to ask for it.

So I have learned that with some of my friends, I shouldn't jump in and try to solve the problem they're recounting to me, unless they clearly indicate they're looking for help. Unless, like you said, I've got access to some information or resources that they don't, or I've come up with a truly non-obvious solution. But the "let's go through all the obvious solutions and see if you've tried them" is to be avoided unless directly requested.

Then what happens is I start to look at it like, okay, don't try to solve the problem they are describing. The immediate problem is not that (though it is the root cause), it's that my friend feels bad about that. So how can I try to solve the feeling bad problem? And that's where the alternate explanations or suggesting less upsetting ways of seeing the situation come into the picture. It's pretty clear that, too, is a bad idea.

Instead, the right thing seems to be to remind myself that talking to me about what happened is solving the feeling bad problem. And if I would just stop trying to solve it myself and listen to her, I'd stop getting in the way of her solving the problem herself.

So to summarize, it's not really that I think men are interested in solutions and women are interested in discussion. It's more that I think we often misunderstand each other as to what problem we are trying to solve, and what approach we are taking to solve it.

I keep describing this as primarily a difference between men and women. I guess that itself is a somewhat sexist point of view. I don't mean that we are intrinsically different in this way and always will be, just that I think we are socialized to communicate about our problems in different ways that lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. And as with any such generalization, there are many exceptions and counter-examples.
posted by FishBike at 2:23 PM on July 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Fishbike, I have a friend who reasons much in the same manner - in fact he once said "this is what we men do, we try and solve the problem, but you just want to talk about it" at the start of our conversation. Thing was, his "solving-suggestions", rapid as machine gun fire was my "could please stop interrupting me, I haven't even finished this sentence yet!"
posted by dabitch at 2:37 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I have been told, repeatedly, that my experience is invalid, inaccurate, and just plain wrong. I've never witnessed this behavior, so it is my problem, something wrong with me, I never leave my house or car, and it must clearly be that I am a sexist pig who doesn't know any women, and further I'm so sexist that I actually do see it, but am too sexist to even recognize it when I see it. ... No, everyone's experience is absolutely sacred and unimpeachable, except for mine. Your experience is your own, but mine is not.

Oh, you poor, poor thing. Looks like you're going to need years of therapy. By the way, there actually is such a thing as being too sexist to even recognize it. Not that that would apply to you, of course.
posted by languagehat at 2:38 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


FishBike: I keep describing this as primarily a difference between men and women. I guess that itself is a somewhat sexist point of view. I don't mean that we are intrinsically different in this way and always will be, just that I think we are socialized to communicate about our problems in different ways...

Well you can re-frame it as a difference in two distinct camps of communication styles if that works better, more like Ask vs Guess. In this case I would call it Empathy vs Action.

Interestingly I'm more inclined to discount a suggestion of action if I do not feel it was preceded by empathy; I don't perceive the suggestion as being fully responsive. That has to be fairly universal on some level because it follows the basic pattern "I hear you saying ____ and that it makes you feel ____ and you're asking me to _____ (or not)" you learn in marriage therapy or family therapy or even workplace training in many instances.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why do we (men) tend to take that approach?

You acknowledge that this might just be another sexist point of view to think that this is the male approach, but then go on to suggest that the difference is due to socialization.

I don't think that there is as much difference as people think. It personally grates on me when I hear someone repeat the believe that men try to solve problems, while women listen to them. It goes right back to the stereotype that men are practical, and women are emotional. Women are practical too. We don't just sit back and feel things.

I'm a woman, and I constantly have to remind myself not to offer advice that might sound like it's criticizing and condescending. When someone has a problem, I want to help. I want to try to solve it for them. The problem is that I have to give the person I'm listening to credit; I can't just assume they haven't thought about whatever really obvious tactic comes to my mind. That's condescending.

If there is actually a gendered difference, I'm inclined to think that it's because women often don't get the credit they deserve. It's easy to imagine a fed-up woman snapping to her partner, "stop trying to solve it and just listen" after being suggested a series of actions that are either totally obvious or totally miss the point. This is just a guess, of course, but I think it has just as much plausibility.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:42 PM on July 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


My point is just that for many men, we think we wouldn't mind the objectifying remarks either. Partly it's the difference in perceived threat, where we (perhaps unwisely) think that if we don't want something to happen, then it's not going to happen.

I have a hunch that if the objectifying remarks happened as relentlessly as some women get them, though, you WOULD start to mind.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a hunch that if the objectifying remarks happened as relentlessly as some women get them, though, you WOULD start to mind.

I think so, too, yes. When it's a rare occurrence, I would find it easier to write it off as the behavior of a few idiots rather than being representative of the way a significant fraction of our society thinks of me.
posted by FishBike at 6:58 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are two things that get pounded into your head when you study counseling: don't have sex with your clients, and never ever give advice. Advice-giving creates a power imbalance in the conversation and implies that the advice-giver, instead of responding to the feeling and deeper meaning behind the speaker's words, has been busy creating the perfect plan of action instead of participating in the conversation.

I had a long thing typed out about the ascending hierarchy of helping skills, from simply being present and judgmental through and up to the collaborative identification of a goal and the steps that the person-with-the-issue is willing to pursue, but it got long. Suffice it to say that both learning these skills and watching other people learn them fascinates me. It's difficult for people of all genders and conversational styles at some point, because Person A gets frustrated by trying to identify the speaker's feelings while Person B gets knotted up about creating specific, measurable goals.
posted by catlet at 7:13 PM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


NON judgmental. Sheesh. "...being present and nonjudgmental."
posted by catlet at 7:15 PM on July 22, 2010


Spaz is totally unacceptable in the US, although it is used as a slang term for someone who is acting unpredictably - it's about the same as saying "retard." That is, people say it, and they usually know they shouldn't and very often get called out on it.

No. "Spaz" and "retard" are common slang terms for 7 to 12 year old children in the U.S., used in an ironic or cute way by some adults the same way they might describe a "boy" they just met when they and the man are both 28, or the way a college student might sport Hello Kitty gear.

Some consider this offensive, more often with retard; some consider it affected and twee; and some consider it charming. Some also find those who object a bit ridiculous. People on Metafilter are skewed toward finding it offensive compared to the general U.S. population.
posted by msalt at 11:33 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was away from my home for a grand total of 45 minutes yesterday. During my brief trip to the grocery store to buy 15 items...

A homeless man in front of the store said "Nice ass," just loud enough for me to hear as I passed by. I ignored him.

A man passing by me in the produce department informed me I would be prettier if I'd smile. I ignored him.

A man selling perfume in the parking lot carried on the entire conversation while blatantly staring at my chest and then closed the conversation with "Well, thanks anyway! Stay beautiful, beautiful! And smile!"

A car passed my parked truck while I was loading a 30 pound box of kitty litter into the front floorboard (I was bent over), tooted the horn while the man in the passenger seat said "Woot!" I glared at them, causing them to laugh and speed away.

Four times in 45 minutes, and there were probably other things said or done (or just male gazes or following me around the store, which sometimes I do notice) that didn't even register in my brain, because I just don't notice it all anymore. After a lifetime of experiencing it, it gets filtered right out and ignored. I'm too busy to pay attention to it all and react to it all or even complain about it all, because it is a constant daily thing. An annoyance ... like the constant daily sound of traffic in the city ... that simply gets filtered out after decades of hearing it.

And none of the incidents were "visible" to anyone but myself and the men doing it. None of these things were yelled at me or even said loudly. Someone would have had to be standing right next to me in order to witness them. I think too many people have the stereotypical view of catcalling/on-street sexist harassment as being construction workers at a job site shouting at women on the street over the sound of heavy machinery.

Not saying that doesn't happen, as I am sure it does, but sexist commentary from men directed at women out in public just going about their lives isn't always (probably not even mostly) a loud and showy event visible for everyone in a parking lot or grocery store to notice. One would have to be right in the immediate vicinity and paying attention to what strangers are saying to each other in normal speaking tones (or even less loudly) to see/hear it from some feet away.
posted by Orb at 7:25 AM on July 23, 2010 [23 favorites]


when you study counseling: don't have sex with your clients, and never ever give advice.

coun·sel/ˈkounsəl/
Verb: Give advice to (someone).
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:26 AM on July 23, 2010


coun·sel·ing   /ˈkaʊnsəlɪŋ/ Show Spelled[koun-suh-ling] Show IPA
–noun Psychology .
professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems.

She's right - therapists/counselors are not supposed to advocate for a particular course of action, they instead are supposed to help the client think about the problem and surface options and consider them more fully. A prohibition against "you should do X" advice is pretty standard from all I've read and heard about therapeutic counseling. So, Mental Wimp, your definition of "counsel" is an accurate definition, but for a different sense of the word.
posted by Miko at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seems you might want to find another word for it, then.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2010


Or maybe your advice is to "think about it and surface options"?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:23 AM on July 23, 2010


I'm afraid that I can't singlehandedly change the name of a century-old profession to forestall confusion with the concept of legal counsel (which does involve the giving of formal advice).

Thanks for the advice, though!
posted by catlet at 11:29 AM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Seems you might want to find another word for it, then.

No, thanks. I think everyone understands its meaning perfectly well, including you.
posted by Miko at 11:36 AM on July 23, 2010


No, thanks. I think everyone understands its meaning perfectly well, including you.

No, actually they don't. I suspect the reason they have to drill it into new "counseling" students is exactly the confusion the term engenders, not only in students drawn to the profession, but also in their potential clients. I've known many people who expected to get advice from their counselors, not unreasonably given the apparent meaning of the term. It's only the insiders (e.g., counselors and their experienced clients) who understand that they are not there to counsel their patients. And this "century old" profession did not begin by saying "For god's sake, avoid giving any advice." This is a relatively recent invention, I suspect as much to avoid liability as anything.

This is a derail, though, and I'm just venting my general distrust of the value of "psychological counseling" as it is currently practiced. I apologize for bringing the conversation here.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:42 PM on July 23, 2010


Yeah, I was snarkily suggesting it was a derail. Apologies for tone. Moving right along.
posted by Miko at 1:06 PM on July 23, 2010


I realize this thread is deadish, but something's been bugging me and I just have to say it anyway.

Someone somewhere in this long line of comments suggested wearing an iPod to block out the commentary from random men. I tried that a few times right after we moved to a new neighborhood (and I was feeling a lot like fresh meat), and I have two problems with this approach.

First off, the guys can then just tell themselves "Well, she didn't hear me," which is a much different message than "She heard me and is actively ignoring me/not reacting." I want them to know I am actively not responding to whatever it is they have said. I want them to not have an excuse for why I am not reacting other than that I simply won't react to the crassness and stupidity.

And also, wearing earphones while out and about also shuts out good stuff. I won't hear the elderly man asking me what the difference is between regular milk and the organic antibiotic free stuff and which is better. I won't hear the lady in the produce department dipping strawberries in chocolate wanting to give me one free. I won't notice the sweet folks in the bakery area waving and saying good morning. I'd miss out on the guy asking where I got my tee-shirt because his wife would love one just like it (and then getting to be friends with them).

So yes, it would make it easier to ignore the bad, but it also makes it impossible to enjoy the good ... and not everyone out there is an asshole. I'd rather just learn to ignore the crap (and maybe send a message to them that it is crap to be ignored) than to miss out on meeting nice people, making friends, and having positive experiences with strangers.

Anyway, just had to say that, because it's been eating at me.
posted by Orb at 2:37 PM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Orb- I agree. Also, you're blocking out the dangerous, along with the annoying. I'm happy to ignore the "mmm mmm mmm!"s if it allows me to hear the "Fucking bitch! I'm going to cut you!"s (Direct quote.) For me, one of those is code yellow and one is code orange.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:26 PM on July 26, 2010


I usually have the headphones on with nothing playing-it means that I have an excuse to ignore people if I want, but can respond to someone if I need to.
posted by dinty_moore at 3:46 PM on July 26, 2010


So yes, it would make it easier to ignore the bad, but it also makes it impossible to enjoy the good ... and not everyone out there is an asshole. I'd rather just learn to ignore the crap (and maybe send a message to them that it is crap to be ignored) than to miss out on meeting nice people, making friends, and having positive experiences with strangers.

Me too. Meeeeee too. Thanks for saying that. And no offense, dinty_moore, but I don't talk to people so much with headphones in/on and when I do, it's with the assumption that they're listening to music.

I don't even like to use the boyfriend/husband excuse when I get hit on. I don't want them thinking that they would'a had a chance if I hadn't been snapped up! No. Dude. You are weird.
posted by desuetude at 9:48 PM on July 26, 2010


Ask MetaFilter has at least a few stories of young men whose doctors refused to perform a vasectomy.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:23 PM on July 27, 2010


I'm coming in way after the fun is over just to mention this:
"...the issue is that she's not very good at giving people credit for thinking up obvious stuff for themselves."

Whenever I'm about to offer those kinds of suggestions, or at least while offering them, I'll often apologize and recognize that I'm asking/offering "is it plugged in" level of things. Once in a great while, it is something simple and easily overlooked. But making it clear that you're going over the basics is a way to cover that ground and also make it clear that you're doing it as an ally -- "I'm sure you thought of this, but just to be sure" has a different tone than "Well, did you think of this stupid stuff?"
posted by rmd1023 at 12:58 PM on July 30, 2010


I think after this thorough discussion, we can all agree, it's her fault, she's female.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:28 PM on July 30, 2010


Ok, Mental Wimp, but I'd really prefer that something so patronising not to be the final statement in this thread.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:32 PM on July 30, 2010


Yeah, it's kind of sad he couldn't resist a cheap and lazy bit of "humor."
posted by languagehat at 6:25 AM on July 31, 2010


The Diet Coke thing is fair enough. There's discrimination and chauvinism, and then there's just common sense retail. I've never met a guy that drank Diet Coke. I've met a lot of girls that drink Diet Coke. I was once told off for bringing back normal Coke from the bar. If I was working in a bar and a woman asked for a Coke I'd probably consider asking if they wanted Diet, same way I'd ask a guy if they wanted a tall glass or short glass, OR A STRAW.
posted by doublehappy at 7:54 AM on August 1, 2010


Your crowd is probably on the younger side, right? Plenty of middle-aged guys drink Diet Coke and light beer. (Or probably should, heh.) But I do think that the "common sense retail" thing is understandable, as long as it's backed up by a person's actual experienced frequencies of their customers preferences rather than presumptive stereotyping.

Outside of being a waiter or a bartender, however, if a girl asked me for a Coke I'd probably just go get it. Saying "don't you want Diet" seems like a fairly loaded question--especially coming from a male. Assuming that she must, even worse. If a girl throws a fit because I didn't read her mind--well, there are other girls to talk to who won't mind being treated like thinking adults.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:21 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


You've never met a male diabetic?
posted by sciencegeek at 8:28 AM on August 1, 2010


sciencegeek & doublehappy - yeah, it's a pretty well-known marketing phenomena. Men don't like to buy things with the word "Diet" on it, apparently. Hence the birth of sugar-free drinks like Pepsi Maxx and Coke Zero - which are essentially the same thing.
posted by dabitch at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2010


(in the UK people avoid "Diet" for the "it sounds like medical diet" reason, not the "weight loss" reason, hence words like "Light" instead of diet in Europe)
posted by dabitch at 9:10 AM on August 1, 2010


Huh, I know lots of guys who drink Diet soda. A few are diabetic, the rest are keeping an eye on their beer gut.

I know it's a legit marketing truism that men don't want to buy "Diet" stuff. But there's no secret rule in the Womens Playbook that states that when we say "Coke," we really mean "Diet Coke, of course, as you have taken note of my gender and adjusted the meaning of my words accordingly."

I was once told off for bringing back normal Coke from the bar.

This sounds passive-aggressive to me. She's responsible for asking for what she wants with enough words to get her meaning across. If she didn't, it's her fault.
posted by desuetude at 3:34 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


But there's no secret rule in the Womens Playbook that states that when we say "Coke," we really mean "Diet Coke, of course, as you have taken note of my gender and adjusted the meaning of my words accordingly."

Srsly. I'm a lady and and if you bring me a diet cola beverage, I won't drink it. I also won't drink Pepsi if what I asked for was COKE, but that's not a gender issue - that's a "Oh, so you think I can't tell the difference and simply asked for cola, which I did not" issue. I absolutely do appreciate it when servers say "Oh, we have Pepsi, is that ok?" because it is in no way ok and I almost always change my order.

But in any case, diet soda tastes like drinking napalm. Or what I imagine napalm to taste like. I'll admit that I've never actually tasted it.

Anecodtal: almost everyone I know who has a diet vs. regular preference claims that it's because of the taste. Why someone prefers napalm is beyond me. I only know one person (male, FWIW) who will flat out say that his preference for diet is based on calorie content, or lack thereof.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:24 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do admit that I started drinking diet Coke for the caloric benefits, but after only drinking the diet variety for two years, I will say that the regular type tastes far too rich and sugary for me. Coke with ice is a little better, since it's more diluted. I think it's just a matter of acclimatization.

I've never gotten used to diet Sprite/Ginger Ale/whatever, though. That stuff does taste like napalm.
posted by Phire at 7:33 PM on August 1, 2010


but after only drinking the diet variety for two years, I will say that the regular type tastes far too rich and sugary for me.

Yup, that happened to me too, and again when I switched from diet to water several years ago.
posted by smorange at 7:53 PM on August 1, 2010


Ok, Mental Wimp, but I'd really prefer that something so patronising not to be the final statement in this thread.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:32 PM on July 30 [1 favorite +] [!]


Ouch! I thought I was going with the spirit of the original blogger. And sort of slamming those that are essentially arguing that, yes, it is women's fault for seeing these "slights" that some men just don't seem to be aware of. You'll note I'm of the opposite opinion.

Yeah, it's kind of sad he couldn't resist a cheap and lazy bit of "humor."
posted by languagehat at 6:25 AM on July 31 [1 favorite +] [!]


Double ouch! I'll try to raise my standards.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2010


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