13 September 2008

Asshole Customer of the Day: Special Uber-Sexist Edition

I still don't really want this to be a recurring feature, but I find it useful to remind myself of how much bigotry is still out there in the world, and that complacency and "post-feminism" (damn right those are scare quotes) won't get us anywhere. Onwards:


[I was helping a customer with walking poles, and was having difficulty explaining to him the differences between the two types we carry. He was dealing with back/hip problems, and both his doctor and physio had suggested he get some. Problem was, they'd given him conflicting information--one had suggested one type, and one had suggested the other--which he was conflating in his head. He kept insisting that this mythical 3rd type existed, and that I just didn't know about it, and tried to prove it to me by invoking his health professionals' authority.]

Asshole: "Well, they're men, and they told me I needed [list of qualities of non-existent product].


Note that he could have been just as much of a patronizing jerk by going with, "Well, they're doctors/have PhDs." But no; there had to be that extra little note of putting the uppity woman in her place to really bring his point home.

Unsurprisingly, I was livid after the interaction (years of working in customer service have left me with the useful ability to completely shut down my emotional responses until the customer has left the building and is out of range of my fists) and went to commiserate with some of my coworkers. They were likewise unimpressed, and brought up their own experiences with the sexism that they could not believe was still around. A lot of it was either some men's inability to believe that women actually know what they are talking about when it comes to sporting goods/outdoor recreation (this happens way too frequently) and second-guessing us with our male coworkers, or their inability to recognise and respect personal boundaries and doing things like asking "can I watch" when one female coworker was giving another a quick shoulder rub.

There were a couple incidents that really stood out for me, though. The first didn't actually involve an altercation, but was still disgusting: one of my female coworkers had to serve a guy who came into the store wearing a t-shirt that said, "Your fish smells like pussy." She was polite and professional, which I'm not sure I could have managed.

The other involved one of my male coworkers--let's call him "Boogie"--and another asshole he was helping check out at the registers:


[Girl who checked out before Asshole sets off the alarms by the doors, and Boogie motions her back to the till so that he can re-check her tags. She and Asshole are complete strangers to one another.]

Asshole: "Strip search!"

Boogie: "Excuse me? That was completely inappropriate."

Asshole: "Oh, come on, she'd like it."

Boogie: "No. What you said is inappropriate and offensive. Stop right now."

Asshole: "Man, what happened to your sense of humour?"

Boogie: "My sense of humour is just fine. That wasn't funny."


Thankfully, the vast majority of the men and women I work with would (and have) respond the way Boogie did, and get as angry as I do at the shit that gets thrown at women in this world. They're one of the reasons I love my job, even if one of its occupational hazards is exposing myself to this kind of treatment. It's people like that that give me hope for all of us, and they remind me just how little it costs to call people out on their bullshit. If each of us did even that much, this world would be a safer place to be a woman (or any minority, if we expand our calling out to racism, heterosexism, ablism, classism and all the rest of the nastiness that's still out there).


Sarah J said...

oh, man, do I feel you on these. I ran a bicycle shop for three years, and I can't even count the amount of times that someone walked straight past me to go find "a man," couldn't believe that it was me who was going to fix their bike, or otherwise argued with me about something that when a man agreed with me, they suddenly took as gospel.


lankydancer said...

Meh indeed. I'm guessing most hands-on and gear heavy jobs are similar in this respect.

I do sometimes get a measure of satisfaction in these kinds of situations when the "man" in questions turns out to not know a thing about, say, a technical aspect of climbing gear, and refers the customer back to me with the statement, "Oh, go talk to [lankydancer], she knows way more about this than I do."