Gymboree's indiscretion last week continues to offend me. If you haven't heard about it, some moms were in an uproar because the children's outfitter sold a variety of onesies in which "Smart like Dad," was written on the boy's version and "Pretty like Mommy" on the girl's. An article about the onesies on Salon mentions some of the backlash this controversy created citing one writer's words, "if we get hysterical over every perceived slight, we won't get anywhere. Choose your battle, ladies." The article on the onesies goes on to include a commenter's response to that statement, "These moms obviously have nothing better to do."
These moms have nothing better to do? I've seen what moms do and they are usually very busy people. I'm sure they have plenty of better things to do than continue to fight an uphill battle in which for every step women in the US take in the direction of equality (outnumbering male enrollment in universities, even) they are thrown backwards by petty, yet offensive distractions like this type of children's wear. I do not fault the mothers across the U.S. who spoke out against exposing their daughters to gender discrimination at increasingly younger and younger ages. Is being valued for our intelligence too much for a woman to ask for?
Perhaps the detractors are right and those of us women who found this offensive are being too sensitive (the suggestion itself is invalidating in nature). Maybe we should just let this stuff roll off our backs, and possibly take it even one step further and forfeit the fight completely to resume 1950's gender roles where even women during that era were considered equal enough to work along side men -- just not equal enough to be treated as equals. Lucky them-- they got to work, take care of the house, get sexually harassed without any laws to protect them, and make 60 percent of what men made for comparable positions while doing it! Even today we don't have equal wages, a study of wages over one quarter determined that "as of 2010 Women earned 82.8 percent of the median weekly wage of men," end even that is the closest we've ever come to wage equality. Should I not be offended by some of the sexist comments I run into not only in my dating life, but in day-to-day interactions when I, for whatever reason, have to introduce myself to a man?
In one week, I have gotten both of the following comments from two men. One was when I was on a date and the other was when I was introduced to a friend's new roommate. It is not the first time I've heard either of the following comments, and I'm pretty confident that it won't be the last. (And by the way, a woman has never made either of the following comments to me.)
The first comment usually comes after I reveal the amount of cats I own: five. Yes. I own five cats. They are all rescue animals. I love animals and I also spend at least one or two mornings a week volunteering to clean cages at a local cat shelter. So when a man asks how many cats I have and then after hearing my answer says, "Oh man, you're one of those cat ladies," or even better, "one of those crazy cat ladies," I get really offended. Talk about how no good deed goes unpunished ...
Most recently I went on a date with a guy who also had a few rescue cats of his own. Even he had the nerve to call me it. This is how I responded,
"Well you have a bunch of rescue cats too. I guess that also makes you a crazy cat lady ..."
"No," he said, getting real serious, "I'm a man."
"Men can't be crazy cat ladies ..."
"Right... Doesn't matter, you have a lot of cats so by default you too deserve the title. You are in fact, a crazy cat lady whether you like it or not." He did not like it.
It is super insulting and in no way do I view that or the next comment as flirtatious banter.
My next gripe may actually be even worse and when it comes out of a man's mouth I start to think that I am clearly surrounding myself with the wrong kind of people. Not that I am arrogant, but after this comment is uttered in conversation, I start wishing I was home on my computer and hanging out with my cats -- as opposed to having a drink with the sexist jerk sitting across from me.
"So you're a writer, what do you write?" They ask.
"Articles about the news and women's issues. I also have a book coming out next year."
"A book? Really?" They look at me curiously, like perhaps I may not only be a crazy cat lady but a compulsive liar as well. "Is it a romance novel or something?" This makes me steam. Romance novel!
"No, it's more like an anti-romance novel, actually ..."
Not much has changed in the last century when it comes to women, art, writing, and whatever. The American patriarchy is still hard at work trying to keep us down. So many men -- and women too -- still refuse to view us as individuals who not only have feelings, but brains; people who are capable of writing sustenance, material that exists outside of the realm of a crazy cat lady's fantasy daydreams. Romance novels?
As a woman writer, not one who writes romance novels, I find this comment offensive and not because I have a problem with romance novels or the people who write them (yes people -- men write romance novels too). I have a problem with the association that because I am a woman who writes I therefore must be a romance novelist.
I wish I was more sexist, ignorant or whatever trait compels these men to ask such stupid questions, so I too could think of an equally insulting comment to give to the engineer, for example, who sat across from me last week during a lunch date and assumed that I write romance novels because I have a vagina.
I guess my mind just doesn't work in that way -- as in thoughtlessly degrading by accident. So guys, I have to warn you again, always be careful what you say to a woman, especially a woman who's writing range is not limited to romance novels. We like to blog, we like to write and you will be immortalized in print as that jerk who said "(insert offensive sexist comment here)" if you're not careful ...
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"Well you have a bunch of rescue cats too. I guess that also makes you a crazy cat lady..."
"No," he said, getting serious, "I'm a man."