Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Well-intentioned insults

Today my friendly waitress referred to me and my female friend as 'guys' as we sat down. This happens to me a lot, and it's supposed to be a sign of respect - likening a couple of women to their male counterparts. In our society men receive more respect than women - they earn more money and are almost completely responsible for running the Fortune 500 companies (or whatever the Australian equivalent is), have a long history of being the political leaders (from Edmund Barton [the first Prime Minister] to Tony Abbott [the first PM after the first female PM]) and so on. The waitress wants to indicate that my stature is somehow like a man's so as to seem more likeable, and it's hard to know how to respond. I'm there to relax and have a good time, not to give her a lecture on gender politics. Yet every time I let it go it occurs to me that this is one more instance of casual sexism I've let slide, and it all builds up to oppress me and everybody else. Perhaps a single, co-conspirational 'but I'm a woman' might work in some cases, but I'm yet to try it. Am I too concerned about hurting the feelings of strangers? I'm constantly being told that I'm overly political correct (as if it's possible to be too much so), so that comes into play.

But it is an insult. It shows that my 'mere' female state is not good enough, is somehow 'lesser than'. But if I seem confident and powerful, I am associated with maleness. Surely we can all do better.

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