I just had a “Eww!” moment that actually made me feel really good.
I just signed up for a money card and when setting it up, forgot to arrange to get a second card for my wife to use. My wife called them and they had her give the phone to me to verify that it was OK for her to talk to them about my account. After verifying I was who I said I was, I handed the phone back to my wife so she could finish taking care of things. As I handed the phone back to her, in an attempt at humor, I quipped, “Here, you have my permission to talk to them”. This was when the “Eww!” moment struck.
I felt repulsion at the idea that I had to have to give permission to my wife to talk to someone else, like some old timey patriarchal, pompous, douche bag, even though it had all been in jest. The fact that I felt like I needed to take a shower after saying that to my wife made me feel good because it means, at least I hope it does, that I have put most of the male privilege bullshit I’ve grown up with behind me.
My daughter was standing there when this happened and she said something to the effect that if a guy talked to her like that for real, she’d tell him to take a hike. I told her I agreed and I felt proud that I’d raised her to not take any sexist crap.
I know that this may not see like such a big deal to most people, but to me it is so important. I’ve tried hard all my life to not just treat women as equals, but to THINK of them as equals even when my upbringing was trying to tell me otherwise.
There was a riddle that was popular for a while when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It went something like this:
A boy and his father are in a car accident. The father is killed instantly, but the boy is alive and is rushed to the hospital and then into surgery. The surgeon enters the operating room, looks at the patient, and says, “I can’t operation on this patient, he’s my son.” How can patient be the surgeon’s son if his father was killed?
The really sad thing is that hardly anyone, including myself, got the obvious answer. The surgeon was his mother. People would say that the man killed in the accident was the boys step-father, or try to rationalize some other kind of relationship that would fit.
This had a profound effect on me. I was almost ashamed that I didn’t know this. Of course a woman could be a surgeon, but I was so conditioned to think that only men were surgeons (or doctors, really) that it never entered my mind. I made decision that day to always tell myself that women could be whatever they wanted and that they were really equal to men in every meaningful way.
It has been, and is an ongoing, struggle. Sexism becomes deeply ingrained from an early age and it takes a lot of conscience effort to push it away. To have a visceral emotional reaction like I had against a sexist idea means that all the effort is paying off. I’ve also managed to pass some of that onto my daughter as well. It might be a small win for society, but it is a big win for me.
Featured image by wrecersub