Thursday, June 26, 2014

You Think It's Misogyny. Really It's Being Polite.

Every once in a while I skim through my social media feed and see posts shared by well-intentioned, strong, independent women warning us about the misogyny wherever we look. Men opening doors for women! Men being expected to pick up the tab! Men taking up space! Most recently my feed was hit with share after share of “16 Instances of Micro-Misogyny that Prove Patriarchy Is Everywhere!”

Here’s the deal: I don’t think hardly any of these constitute examples of micro-misogyny or hatred of women. Maybe they’re relics of an older time, maybe they’re just efforts at politeness, or maybe they’re examples of individual displays of rudeness but with all the real issues in the world (Iraq War 3, gun control, health care) is this really something that needs to even register on your irritation radar?

My simple advice to reducing how often you feel offended is this: Say “thank you” – or look past it entirely. Here’s how it works.

You want to open a door for me? “Thank you.” We’re in an elevator and you let me exit first? Why, “thank you!”

You want buy my meal? That’s not necessary but “thank you” for the offer.

You ask me if I need to be spotted or need help with the weights at the gym? That’s because you either recognized that I may be struggling or it’s a pick-up. Either way, “thank you” for being considerate or “thank you” for the compliment.

In fact, earlier today I was deplaning and an older gentleman with a big cowboy hat reached above my head, grabbed my bag, and handed it to me. He cocked his head to the side and said, “after you, little lady.” Did I feel insulted, looked down upon, and diminished? Did I sputter in outrage, “Sir, I am half your age and have twice your strength and I can carry my own bag and leave at my own pace”?

Nope. I said (that’s right), “thank you.”

And as for other situations?

Did some guy encroach on your space on an airplane? When you’re on an airplane, the rule is this: One person has a window, one has an aisle, and one person gets screwed. You could be a man, woman, or emu. If you’re in the middle, you get the armrests. It’s the least I can do to make your experience a little less miserable when you’re locked in a sardine can 30,000 feet in the air.

Did a guy tell you to smile? Okay, sure, that’s a little personal but maybe you have bitchy resting face. Or maybe he just wants to spread a little happiness. Just smile. It cost you nothing and postponed a Botox treatment.

Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, R. Kelly – I get why they’re controversial, I get why they’re in the wrong and agree the actions they’ve committed are reprehensible. But liking the product of a controversial artist doesn’t make one a misogynist (or a racist or a supporter of child pornography or a socialist or anything else). If you disagree, let me go through your book or iTunes library and clean it up for you – and give you a sliver of content back.

Are you going to hand the check to my brother or husband or my male subordinate? That’s fine. I appreciate your nod to traditionalism and you don’t know the dynamics of the relationship of who’s at your table. Because I do, I’m comfortable with myself and with my dining partners, I have no issue with reaching over and paying the check.  No harm, no foul. (And by the way, I honestly believe the question of “who pays?” is just as uncomfortable for men as it is for women. So don’t gripe. Just laugh it off.)

You need to stretch your legs out? Hey, I get it. You’re a foot taller than I am and even I realize these seats are made for Oompa Loompas. Don’t trip me and we’re cool.

And as for the guy who asks me if it’s that time of the month? Sorry, sucker. You’re on your own there.

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