Monday, December 12, 2016

Merry Christmas, Women

I wondered what I would put up today for my daily blog post and then I went to Julian's school to do take home reading and found my story.  Here's what happened:

In case you're curious, each student has daily take home reading, a book they take home, read, and return the next day to get a new one. The classes have a crate full of folders and ziplock bags for each student where they can deposit their books to be checked into the computer system (via scanner) and then get a new book checked out. In my experience, this is done by moms of students, of which I am one.

I try to find a time when there might not be so many other people since the space is limited and I just like to work in the sweet glory of my own company (brag?). But today there were three other women there, the most I've encountered, and all the surfaces were being used. 

"Oh! Full house today,"  I said, upon arrival.

One replied, "It's a party."

I said, "you betcha."

So I said I'd wait and parked my crate  out of the way on the floor nearby. Then, realizing there were things I could do, I started going through the folders and doing the job.  After a while of this, a woman using the scanner at the computer glanced back and said to me, "Oh! Look at you, do you want to use this table?" Another one chimed in with the same comment, kindly offering their spaces.  Knowing it can sometimes require extra space to do the old book switcheroo, I declined, happy to crouch on ye olde floor.  The woman at the scanner said, "but you're on the floor! That would kill my knees."  And then she turned around and perhaps got a better look at me? And exclaimed, "Oh, but you're young.. and darling! So I guess if you're young and darling you can handle it! laugh laugh"  

My expression went from polite smile to:

and a little bit of

Because what she said was condescending and offensive.  I replied, "I am neither, but thank you."  Someone laughed.

Being in tight quarters like that with strangers is AWESOME for me. You never know what's going to happen.  Will people talk to each other because they can't stand the silence/close proximity factor? Add that and the dynamic of women, and i'm fascinated.  I don't know if the other women were close friends-- they may have been. They spoke to each other like besties.  But there's a chance they weren't. And every now and then someone would pipe up with a commiseration or common conundrum about take home reading and the other two would reply, "Oh FOR SURE."  "Yes! All the time!"   I'm amused.

By this time I had finished all my book swapping and assigning out. Now all I had to do was use the scanner.  I waited by the computer table and texted my friend all the goings-on while I waited.  I then began to scan and check out the books while there was only one other woman there, who was still working on her books.  She was crouched at a shelf selecting the books and she sort of laughed and said, I believe in an attempt to be conversational (born out of nervousness, is my theory, but that's ok), "I just feel so BAD giving boys these like, Junie B. Jones books..."  (Or some other girl-geared book. I honestly can't remember what it was, actually. But now I'm feeling super glad about the fact that Julian's teacher reads the class Junie B. Jones books, especially if they are, indeed, deemed "girl books.")  And I replied, "Don't! Don't feel bad. Give it to 'em.  They may enjoy it.  And you know, breaking stereotypes."   She laughed, somewhat maniacally, (also born of nervousness, I believe) and that was the end of that. 

I was almost finished with my scanning. At this point she hefted her crate on the table and said to me,

"do you mind if I just FLY through these real quick?" 

I don't mind sharing the scanner. It's the only one in the room. We all need it. So if I were to be compromising it in any way, then yeah, have at it. We can take turns. But I get it all the stuff done so that all I have left is the scanning.  I kind of paused and said, "well, I am very close to the end here..."  And sort of trailed off, continuing to scan.  At this point I'm feeling all feministic and standing up for one's ye olde self, I should point out.  

She said, "It's just that I have to have this crate back to the kindergarten before they get out, which is in fifteen minutes. But I don't want to mess up your system..."  I really could have let her do her books but honestly, I really am almost done. And it doesn't take long to scan once you're done with all the other stuff.   So I told her, "ok, well I have three books left. I mean, I could let you have it..." Hoping she might see it my way.  I paused here and asked her, "so you still really want it? I've got three left?"  And she stood there silently and I said, "while you're thinking about it, I'll just keep going..."  HA! That sounds super jerky. It probably was. I can be at times.  She mentioned again, "I don't want to mess up your system..."  And by that time I was done.  It was awkward, but, again, awesome.  And she did, indeed, fly through her books and was out of there in two shakes. 

Upon reflection, I have this to say:

1. Come on, Women.  Let's pay attention to the way we speak to each other.  I've often had the alarms go off in my head when it comes to women and comments made.  But mostly they're made by men. I am not a hater by any means, but it's just up to us to speak out. There is a prominent leader in my church who was doing a sort of Q&A panel with a bunch of youths. As I watched the video, I heard him choosing to answer a girl's question and referred to her, (a 14 or 15-year old) as "that cute little girl in front."   {see straight mouth, straight eyes face}  Once again, I have been taught that if I see something, I should say something. So I wrote him a letter and then never sent it because I don't know why. I wasn't sure I wanted to.  But it bothered.  You wouldn't say words like that to a boy, unless he was 2 or 3. Picture it.  I know you agree with me. I watched the girl, too, hesitate before speaking, as we all have a million times, when something is said that undercuts, like "darling."  I'm a grown-ass woman, lady.  Hot dang.  It's meant to be a compliment. It's not.  She meant no offense. I get it.  Nevertheless.

2. And mostly as a side note: Books for girls and books for boys.  Come on. Come ON.  "There's no way the boys would identify with a female protagonist! I mean, how could we even ask them to?  giggle giggle."    And yet let's not think anything of having girls read the "boy books."  Which are what, exactly. Books on bugs? Science books? No.  Just, no.

So this experience made me realize that if women aren't even aware of the way they might speak to other women, about other women, about themselves, then how can we skip over them and ask the men to? I mean, we can, and we should. But it's a serious problem if the women, who maybe grew up hearing this kind of speech, were accustomed to it, were never made aware of the effect the words can have. It was never drawn to their attention.  This saddens me, but I guess that's what jerks like me are for, right. 


Joel said...

This topic, both regarding women and minority races, has been on my mind lately, not at ALL because of recent political events... Anyway, it's made me try reevaluating the way I treat people who aren't heterosexual white males. Progress takes time, but as long as there's someone willing to move forward others can eventually be dragged along.

)en said...

Ha. I love this. You're right, progress takes time. "Be the change you want to see in others" has been rolling through my head on repeat these days. High ten, Joel.

Alanna said...

Yeah, stuff like this is so hard. I'm not usually aware of it (except for when my father-in-law takes it upon himself to mansplain stuff to me), so it's hard for me to call people out-- good for you for being on your toes like that!

And I hate when people want to jump in front of me-- in line, driving, anywhere-- and I'm like: Oh, I'm sorry, was your time somehow more precious than mine???