Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.
I’m not going to get into the big political issues of the day. This is purely a personal perspective on the day-to-day ways women and others are reminded they are not as important as men, especially white males.
The reminders are there everywhere we go. A woman in the electronics department of a store can expect to be ignored in favor of any male. I have reached the counter, sought help in the aisle, whether at an office store or a department store, and discovered I must have a magical cloaking device. Seriously. I am invisible if any male customer is present. I have had to go to customer service and demand help, and on more than one occasion have told them, “Your employee keeps walking past me one or two aisles over, glancing at me, and then striding away.”
And invariably it’s because he saw a man somewhere. The guy doesn’t even have to look important or prosperous. He can be a sixteen-year-old dressed for the beach, but he’ll get help quicker than I will. And I get especially annoyed because I run a business, I’m usually there to spend a hefty sum of money, and I get overlooked in favor of someone who wants to drool over an iPod.
I see it everywhere I go in one form or another. Men will be attended to first. Men will stand in the middle of an aisle as if they own it, making it impossible to get around them unless you make a point of calling attention to yourself. Most women, on the other hand, will stand as close to the edge of the aisle as possible to leave room.
I see it in parking lots when men walk down the middle of a parking row without regard to the fact that cars are trying to get by. They own the world and it shows. Most women cling to the bumpers of cars as they make that same journey, leaving room.
But the most egregious case of this kind of privilege I ever saw occurred fifteen years ago in a grocery store. A friend who had late stage cancer was visiting from out of state. She was wearing a scarf on a head that was clearly bald, she had a permanent IV port hanging out of the front of her shirt, and was using a walker.
Up come three EMTs who should have recognized the signs that she was weak and sick. Shouting “Make way!” they nearly bowled her over, forcing her to jump right up against the shelves. I thought someone must be having a heart attack or something. No, they had stopped at the grocery to grab lunch. I am quite sure they had notified dispatch that they were getting food, and the make way scene was simply from their own sense of self-importance.
A lot of men, I’m sure, don’t realize how much privilege and space they claim. It’s always been their right and they don’t even notice.
But we notice. We also notice that other women accord them the same privileges.
Well, I’m getting old enough that I raise a ruckus these days. I’m willing to say, “I was here first.” I’m willing to say, “Would you mind making some room.” They always look so startled.
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