Friday, August 23, 2013

Sexist, dumb-guy small talk

I've mentioned before in my ramblings that when I was a teenager, I worked at a grocery store (Safeway, to be specific). I still have all sorts of stories to tell from that experience, and hopefully I'll eventually get around to writing them all down. For this, I just have a little anecdote to get things started.

I was sweeping the aisles one evening, and a fairly attractive woman passed by me. One of the night managers came up to me and said, "Wow. She's a real cutie." I nodded my head in agreement. Generally speaking, I'm not the type who feels the need to point out every attractive woman that I see. I can enjoy her beauty just fine on my own, and I don't think that I have to remind my fellow men that I am, indeed, a heterosexual who finds women attractive. Anyway, that didn't really bother me until he had to follow it up with the comment, "Too bad she has a couple of thunder thighs though."

Yes, it was true. The woman wasn't supermodel thin.

My response was to tell him - mind you that he was my manager and I was just a teenage kid - "Too bad you have an ugly face." 

He was shocked that I would say something like that to him - so much so that I think he forgot that he was the guy in charge. He responded by saying, "I was only pointing that she has thick legs. You didn't have to say that."

I then said, "Yeah, but I didn't actually mean what I said. You did."

I'd be lying to you if I said that I don't sometimes notice the flaws that people have, but I wouldn't exactly be honest if I told you that I was looking for them. It was a long time ago, but I'm pretty sure that I was more interested in the woman's pretty face than the fact that her legs were on the thick side (not that there's even anything wrong with that in the first place).

It was this incidents, and countless similar incidents that inspired me to write a short story back in college where a guy makes a similar comment about a woman and then gets violently humiliated. I'm not sure why it bothers me so much, but it does. I could go on about how women are basically regarded as crap in this society and how I don't like the unfairness of it all, but if you don't already see that for yourself - and the connection - then any elaboration on my part will just be lost on you.

When I left Safeway to work for my dad, I'd still hear these kinds of things, and even worse as we worked on a lot of construction sites. While I hate to stereotype, the construction sites too often fit the stereotype, and whenever a woman would pass by, a lengthy commentary about her attributes would be announced by at least somebody. (I need to be clear that I never heard this kind of talk from my father - he was a very good role model in this regard.) Don't get me wrong; I don't have a problem with somebody being impressed by how attractive a woman is and pointing it out. I guess it's all just in the way you say it. I'm not sure where the line is, but I remember a former co-worker from that time once saying about a woman, "I'd let her suck my dick." Pretty sure that's far over the line. (Not to mention that I'm pretty sure the woman would prefer to cut his off than suck it.)

One thing that I was proud of back when I worked for my dad was that I made it pretty clear to my coworkers that I didn't think that kind of talk was cool at all. Of course, I'd get teased, as obviously a guy who doesn't feel the need to constantly reassert his heterosexuality must be gay (not that there's anything wrong with it). Still, I held my ground, and I'd often turn it around on them and make fun of their various deficiencies.

As I got into different professions in my life, I kinda hoped that being around people who were a bit more educated would reduce having to listen to the ultimate in dumb-guy small talk. Too bad for me, I was wrong. Unfortunately, I haven't been as good as my younger self when it comes to speaking up on matters like this. That has me pretty disappointed in myself, to be honest with you.

I mentioned the short-story that I wrote. It featured my character Eagle-Man, who at that time basically existed as my "repressed Id" as my roommate once described him. He was the one who made an example of the guy who was making the rude comments. I still write about Eagle-Man from time to time, but it's hard to get into my young man's mindset when I was full of rage at the injustice of the world. And let's face it, the fact that these kinds of judgments are inflicted upon women - whether to their faces or behind their backs - is proof of the inequality that we have in our society. I guess getting older tends to make you not want to speak up every time your sensibilities are offended, but maybe it's time to let my id out a little - not just in fiction but real life.

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