Saturday, January 17, 2015

I Don't Do Coffee and My Name is Not George; Bucking Gender Bias

Today I was on my way out of the school gym after my youngest son’s basketball game.  We were in a hurry, running to pick up the dog from the groomer.  Another parent called out to us just as we were walking out the door.  She said she was actually looking for George, my husband, but needed to talk to me.  What followed is a really good example of why we need to take stereotyping seriously and stop reinforcing it even among other women.  She began asking innocently if he could work the concession stand, but looked at me as she asked.  She assumed that I managed his schedule.  I realize this was not intended as an insult and I could have just laughed it off…but I did not.  And neither should you unless you want to continue to foster an environment of stereotyping women as secretaries and caretakers of all schedules and household responsibilities.

I immediately fired back, “I’m not my husband’s or any other person’s secretary.  If you want to know when he’s free, ask him.”  I realized instantly my words were harsh and waspish.   I did apologize for my tone, but not my words.  I found myself trying to apologize, but I could not in good conscience take back words that needed to be said.  For me, for her, and all the other women in the world that face the same gender bias every day.  It’s so pervasive we don’t even realize when we do it to one another.  I saw this as a grassroots cause I needed to rise up and champion in that moment.  I felt like I was speaking for more than myself in that hallway.  I was speaking on behalf of every woman, who has worked hard to have a career and family and somehow managed to make it work. 

In our household, the “Leave it to Beaver” days where a docile Mrs. Cleaver is waiting at home are long gone.  I admire women, who choose or have the opportunity to work at home as a career. But I won’t support or foster a culture where it’s the expected norm.  And I work too hard on my own career to let anyone ever suggest I take a back seat to anyone or serve in a support role for my family. 

After I’d stepped back down off my soapbox, I could better appreciate the situation.  My husband was looking at me and smiling…not uttering a single word.  And the fellow parent was looking at me with what I thought to be an equal amount of frustration.  It was at that point I realized she wasn’t a catalyst out of control, pulling womankind down.  She wasn’t trying to make me angry.  She was the one stuck with the concession scheduling for the season trying to fill up volunteer slots that are rarely met with self initiated calls to step up and help.  She was a mom, a volunteer for the school, and someone with a busy work schedule as well. 

I still maintain my position and resent being asked about my husband’s schedule…but I am contrite in having taken it out so bluntly on a fellow mom and woman, who was just trying to do her job.  I ended up signing myself up to work an early two hour shift next Saturday morning.  As it turns out, it also involves making coffee.  Don’t get me started again.  


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