“Hey, honey! Come here!” he calls across the book-filled building. I look up from my work, an angry warmth flooding my face, as a realize he is speaking to me. He is tall, at least a foot taller than my 5’2 frame. A red plaid shirt stretches tightly over his protruding belly as he pokes at the copy machine with a thick, dirt-stained finger.
“I have a name,” I whisper as I help him make his copies. He does not hear me.
“That’ll be fifty cents,” I say, without the smile I usually reserve for patrons of the library. He fishes the coins from his pocket and holds them slightly out of my reach. I stand on tip-toe, an unwilling participant in a game that provides him with amusement and me with humiliation.
A scene like this is not uncommon for me. I am called “honey-sweetheart-dear” on a daily basis. In most cases, it is intended as a benign expression, an annoying byproduct of living in the South. Because I reside in a female body, it seems as if I should expect these expressions of “endearment.” Instead, they anger me.
As the plaid-shirt man exits the building, his booming voice still resonating in my head, I wonder how the scene would have played out if I were a man. He would not have called me honey, but most likely, “sir.” He would have asked for help instead of demanding my attention. He would have paid his bill in a straightforward fashion, no games, no crooked smirk. He would have seen me as an equal, as human.
When I think of my daughter, twenty years from now, experiencing such treatment, I am saddened and angered. In an age when so many people have declared feminism no longer relevant, I am reminded that not only is it relevant, it is necessary. When I go to work in the morning, I should not be afraid of being made uncomfortable merely because I have a female body. I should be able to expect respectful interactions.
I hope, someday, that my biological status will not matter. That I will be viewed as a professional, as an equal. Until then, I will continue to speak out about things that make me uncomfortable. About the fact that women are still expected to be caregivers, are still paid three-fourths the amount that men are for the same jobs, are still seen as lesser beings in the middle of work environments.
And next time I am called “honey” and beckoned, like a dog, like a servant, my reply will not be a whisper. “I have a name,” I will say, firmly, looking into his eyes, making him feel the discomfort that I have felt. “And don’t call me honey.”