I’ve received the feedback from society since I can remember that girls are “less than”.
I remember asking my high school basketball coach why the football team had an entire weight room and gym- and they hadn’t won a championship for over a decade- while the girls teams had access to nothing, practiced with old basketballs, old uniforms, and we won the state championship my Freshman year. We won shorelines multiple years. The volleyball team won the state championship year after year, but they also didn’t get new uniforms, new balls, or their own gym.
The athletic director at the time was an alcoholic, my freshman history teacher, and generally a misogynist that consistently prioritized the boys sports and provided boys sports teams with more resources than the more deserving, in my humble opinion, winning girls teams. He was also a bad teacher.
I was at a charity softball tournament recently and I saw a big sign with that particular athletic directors name, “The ‘John Smith’ Field”. I was like what. the. fuck. They named a sports complex after the alcoholic misogynist. I tapped my sister on the arm, and she nodded, and she wasn’t surprised. That’s how small suburban white towns roll around here.
Then of course I became a nurse. Female dominated profession that is marginalized, undervalued, and consistently gaslit by management. Then I became a psychiatric APRN. The general message to me was that I was not a doctor (Which I knew…because I chose to go into a NURSING master’s program), and working in a field and ultimately a hospital, dominated by old white dudes. I didn’t feel like I fit in, was valued, or had worth until I went into practice for myself.
I love my work. I love that I can own a practice. I love that I have created a female owned business with many female employees, who I treat as I was never treated by an employer. Ever.
But I still have to walk around in society as a female. Which is mostly fine but often not. For example, I literally had to stop going to a liquor store because the owner was too friendly. To the point I had to be unfriendly. I go to the liquor store about once every two weeks. In the Fall and Winter I buy a bottle or two of Malbec or Merlot. Sometimes I go wild and get a chianti. In the Summer I usually do white wine or a gin and tonic or a tequila and soda. I don’t drink every day. I have a glass of wine maybe 3 nights a week. I don’t drink- vodka, dark rum, whiskey, bourbon, and probably many other things. I know what I like. Don’t mess with me.
So the owner of the local liquor store literally would follow me around the one aisle of red wines talking to me about “pomegranate liquor”. I should try it. He will give me a sample. He thinks I should really really really try it. Don’t I like pomegranate liquor? He literally went on and on. This occurred three times I was in there. Then the last time he asked how I liked the pomegranate liquor. I literally never tasted it and repeatedly had told him I would never taste it. I stopped dead in my tracks, “Look, I come in here like once every two weeks. I buy two bottles of red wine. I hate pomegranate and it’s not liquor it’s vodka. I don’t drink vodka. Just let me buy my two bottles of red wine and leave.” Mind you, every single other time I’ve been in there I have stated that I am just there for a couple bottles of wine. This was not news. But I had to stop, make eye contact, and set a firm, non-smiling boundary. At which point he threw up his hands, and muttered something in another language, then checked me out clearly annoyed and butt hurt.
I left and found an online delivery service and ordered a bulk order of wine. I’m set for a few months and when I need more I’m ordering online again. Later that day I went into a gas station because the card reader wasn’t working at the pump. The guy’s eyes lit up and I know that look, it’s a fresh meat I’m going to flirt with her look, and he proceeded to smile ask me if I was single, what I’m doing there, etc.
These interactions do not leave me flattered. They leave me feeling annoyed and insulted. Can I just buy the damn wine? I’m running on fumes just let me fill up my damn tank. These are only two examples in one day of my life of 36 years. I’ve had countless interactions like this, and honestly the only time I didn’t was in the two or three years after I had my sons and was still overweight. It was kind of a nice time and I didn’t even realize the lack of creepy male attention until it started again when I was fifty pounds lighter.
The annoying part about all of the times I’ve had to set boundaries is the male’s instinctive defensive response when they then say I’m a “bitch” or “cold” or whatever clever new insult they derive from me relaying that I actually just want gas. wine. I don’t mentally track these encounters but I would guess that I receive unwanted, unsolicited, and/or creepy male attention at least weekly- more or less depending on how much contact I have with the public.
The rub of it all is that I’m raising two young men. The other day Declan was telling Jackson to stop touching him and Jackson kept going, as brothers do, I went, pulled them apart, and we talked about boundaries, and how it is very important that we do not touch or talk to people if they are asking us not to. That we respect boundaries and we don’t make other people feel bad about boundaries. I’m not sure how much of it they understood. But we will continue this same discussion over and over until it sinks in. Because my sons will not be the creepy dude telling me I have pretty eyes while I’m trying to just pay for an oil change…because that wasn’t awful at all.
I keep getting this message, overtly, that women should suck it up, and accept male attention because if and when we set boundaries its upsetting to them. We should accept that this is the way of the world. Well that didn’t work when I was 14 talking to my coach about fair allocation of resources, and it doesn’t work now at 36. I will not accept this treatment by the opposite gender. I will continue to set boundaries.
It’s exhausting and at times scary. I will also address this in raising my sons to accept No as an answer. To respect boundaries. To read non-verbals that if I’m ignoring you, stop talking to me and stop following me. These behaviors by men are not cute. They are not fun. They are creepy, scary, and tone deaf. Do not be this person. Do not raise your kids to be this person. Do better.