Today, as I was walking in to work, a girl was crossing South Congress when a truck came speeding through the intersection, even though she had the right-of-way, and almost hit her. Scary, right? Yeah. You know what’s scarier? The fact that the driver pulled up alongside her, holding up traffic, (to apologize, I assumed at first) to yell at her, “Hey! You got a boyfriend?!”. When she shook her head and sped her walk up to the quick clip I recognize from being in so many similar catcalling/harrassment situations where you just want to *get away*, he called after her, “Well, you’ve got great tits!”. By this time, my heart had stopped for her, and I’d jogged up to her side and asked if she was okay. She clearly wasn’t. We got across the street and I started walking with her and chatting so she could calm down and feel comfortable again, and we looked up to realize that the driver had pulled a u-turn in the middle of the block and pulled in to the valet area of my hotel and was out of his truck, waiting for her, talking to the valet guy and gesticulating toward us. Happily, my salon was between us and them, so I had her come inside and sit down for a glass of water. She was shaking, still stunned and scared. After 10 or so minutes, the valet he’d been talking to came around the corner and let us know that he’d asked the guy to leave, but she was still afraid to go out on the street again for fear that he’d be waiting for her, so she stayed with us for a while to calm down. She left the salon a while later, late for work, self-conscious, with her sense of personal safety shaken, because this man decided that his sexual attraction to her was more important than her or her comfort.
I know this feeling so well. Something like this happens, and you walk away feeling ashamed, automatically analyzing what you could have done differently to have avoided the situation. Then, once your cheeks stop burning and you catch your breath, the anger sets in. How dare that person invade your space, make you question your actions, your clothing choices, force YOU to change what YOU are doing? Why am I in the wrong for YOUR actions? Why do my choices ‘provoke’ a response at all?
But, you know. Sexism doesn’t exist.
When I was around 11, I appeared in our local newspaper for a certification award I’d received in my ballet exams (Cecchetti method, of course) with a few other girls from my dance school in our ballet exams, proudly holding our awards in our required black leotards & pink tights. The day it came out, I got home from dance class and was staring at the photo in the paper lying on the kitchen table when the phone rang. I grabbed it, said hello, and all I got in response was heavy breathing. I stood frozen, phone in hand, and after what felt like a lifetime, he told me that I looked pretty in the paper today, and asked me what color panties I was wearing. I slammed the phone down, ran up to my room and cried, and never told my parents – because I was so ashamed.
But sexism isn’t a thing in today’s world.
We bought a car a few months ago, and I tapped my *amazing* sister-in-law’s wealth of knowledge on the subject, as it’s her field of expertise. She helped me figure out what we wanted and what we should pay so I walked in to the dealership on my own, armed with all the knowledge I needed (or so I thought). After a few minutes of me waiting while a group of men stood in the office, staring at me staring back at them through the plate glass and talking about me, I assumed, a young male salesman came out who had been chosen by the panel of paunchy old dudes at Leif Johnson Ford to help me, who was very nice and respectful. We hammered out a great deal that we shook on that day, with the intention for me to come back the next day to officially buy our first car! I was so proud of my bargaining skills! Tom joined me that next day for the actual signing of the papers with my original salesman’s manager, and even though Tom told him multiple times that I was the one who’d done the deal start to finish and that he knows nothing about cars, the paperwork we were signing, or what price we were paying, he spoke to Tom the entire time. He also explained the transmission in ‘a way I could understand’ TO Tom, and had to be told with each signature (there were more than 15) on the paperwork that yes, it WILL be Tara signing and not Tom. Every. Single. Signature.
None of that happened because I’m a woman though.
Ever think that she’s wearing headphones because she’s just trying to get to work and doesn’t want to be bothered by some self-important douche trying to get his dick wet? Good thing there’s this parody to bring my rage level down from the first article from a 10 to a 4.
He just wants to tell me I’m pretty, or strike up a conversation! This absolutely isn’t sexism.
Tom & I went to the 116th Street Bank of America in NYC to combine our bank accounts after we got married in 2012, since the fees were lower at mine than his. We sat down with the banker and explained what we’d like to do. He then asked Tom if he was sure, and didn’t he want it in HIS name, and that it wouldn’t be *that* much more work to open an account in Tom’s name and then and combine mine into his so it’d all be in his name. I had to stop him midsentence, and after repeating what we wanted to do multiple times, he got up and said with a shake of his head that he’d need to ‘ask his manager if he could do it this way’.
Totally not sexism.
My husband recently looked at me and said, with bewilderment in his eyes after hearing some of my Austin friends’ recent goings-on (threats, abandonment, restraining orders) when it comes to the men in their lives, “It’s scary to be a woman”. And he’s right – it is. Seeing it through his eyes like that made me realize that even someone as close to me as he is doesn’t walk my exact same path and sometimes doesn’t or can’t see what I struggle with. It’s scary to be a woman, yes. It’s also scary to be a person of color in today’s world, to be LGBTQ, to be different at all. I’m writing this piece because I was recently told by someone close to me that “Sexism isn’t a really thing anymore”, and thinking like that is SO problematic to me. Just because YOU don’t PERSONALLY experience something doesn’t mean it happens, it just means you’re lucky (read: privileged) that you don’t have to deal with sexism, racism, homophobia, sizeism, ageism, the list goes on and on. All I ask is that you do your best to speak up when you see it, remember that everyone around you walks a different path and faces their own difficulties, and that you walk this world with an empathetic heart.
But maybe that’s just my delicate, simple lady-brain talking.