I called a plumber last week because a busted pipe had been drip dripping in the basement for a few days and it was clear that neither my partner nor I had the time or desire to give it a go ourselves. The trades person shows up, I show him the problem, he says okay, gets to work. My male partner comes in from the fields a minute later, and gets a detailed explanation of what the issue is and how this plumber is going to fix it. I let it go. No problem. This might be why women learn less about plumbing–because people are so quick to assume that we couldn’t possibly be interested in corrosion–but whatever, I’m going to let this one go.
He does the work in the basement. Comes upstairs, to the entrance tap that’s leaking and that I asked him to fix as well. Dude asks my male partner « your wife asked me fix this tap. Is that okay? » Unfortunately, P.’s french isn’t quite 100% so he doesn’t catch the nuance here. Doesn’t get that he’s being asked to okay the directions I just gave, as though he’s really much more of a Person than I–Male Decision-Maker that he is.
I was in another room, trying to get a baby to sleep, so this all went down unchecked. But since I called this plumbing outfit and I paid the bill, I have a really hard time with this kind of BS. I’m not a 12 year old playing at being an adult. I’m the real deal.
I haven’t let it go because it’s these seemingly harmless, everyday acts of sexism and misogyny that create a culture where it’s just a-okay to treat women and girls as though they’re lesser than. And we often excuse it by saying that the people who do this, mean no harm or don’t know any better.
But the thing with this plumber assuming that P. can trump my decisions by the fact of his maleness is that it’s just one more thing. It’s being told to smile by male strangers on their motorbikes at traffic lights. It’s the rates of sexual violence that migrant women are facing. It’s new laws being passed to limit women’s reproductive choices. It’s people being quite bothered by a boy child’s pink outfit. It’s the culture of impunity around sexual violence. It’s not being able to watch comedy without jokes about rape, rohypnol, and nagging wives being commonplace. It’s being treated like my partner’s secretary. It’s a million mundane happenings.
Bottomline is, if folks in your life get really worked up about a particular act of injustice, keep in mind that it’s never ever just that one thing. Be an ally, will you.
To add insult to injury, the plumber tried to walk off with our copper. Not on my watch, buddy. It’s too perfect a metaphor.