Right Cross to the Face

Feministe has a post up about the man-hating feminist myth and the “has feminism gone too far?” argument that men like to argue about – you know: feminism must be going too far not because we’re making more money than men or are able to keep tabs on our reproductive health without legal or social consequence, but because men aren’t sure if they should open the door for us or not.

This one tugged at me because one of the architects for the project here in Denver is – let’s call him Juan – the same guy who gave all the women in the office Belgian chocolates for Christmas and forwarded all of the women in the office a hysterical “women beware” e-mail.

He’s the sort of guy who does these little things that irk me. Just these little moments where it’s like he’s trying to remind me, “You’re different than me. You’re a woman. I’m a man.” Like if he didn’t remind himself, he’d forget. I don’t mind people holding doors open for me, because I hold them open for them – it’s a politeness issue. You treat everybody around you with respect, no matter their gender. And yes, if you really like someone you’re going to probably treat them even more respectfully than you would other people. What bugs me is when guys go out of their way to show me how different I am from them, like the world will implode if I don’t get told I’m pretty for a day.

Juan gave me and the other architect a ride to the office this morning for our hotel, and stopped the car in front of the door to our building. I thought he was going to back into a parking spot, so waited.

“You can get out,” he told me, “I figured I’d drop you up front so you wouldn’t have to walk.”

Um. OK.

The other architect, of course, did not get out behind me, but waited to park with Juan and came in later.

Did I jump and scream at Juan and tell him he was weird? No.

I realized that he’d been taught certain ways to act toward women, and I let it slide.

Did it bug me?


Last night, at dinner, he made a “I get to be here with two beautiful women,” announcement. It’s a generic statement, he says such things around all women. There are guys who’ve been taught that being nice to women means speaking softly to them and telling them how pretty they are.

No, I don’t like it, but I don’t bitch to him about it. He’s operating on a different system.

Why does it bug me?

First and foremost, because we don’t know each other well, I’m not attracted to him at all, I have not invited any sort of attention from him, and don’t pretend that we’re “close.” His comments imply an intimacy that’s not there, and I think it’s rude.

And, more in general, when people give me “special” attention, or “special” treatment, I feel that they’re trying to highlight my difference from them. If this is a real physical difference – my graduate degree advisor was just over three feet tall, so I walked at her pace, made sure to put things within her reach – then so be it, but if it’s just a matter of, “I realize that I must acknowledge your womanliness by treating you differently than everyone else in this car with two legs,” then it feels condescending. It feels like some guy’s going out of his way to remind me that I might be taller and stronger than him, but I don’t have a dick, so I’m incapable of looking after myself.

But would I ever, ever snipe at somebody for opening a door, moving out of my way, or saying, “I’m so glad to be with such beautiful company tonight”? No. I wouldn’t. And if it was somebody I really liked and was attracted to, it wouldn’t bug me at all, because there would actually be a mutual respect and affection.

When I start bitching is when hands go where they’re not invited, and “beautiful company” becomes more explicit phrases heavily laced with sexual innuendo – or just outright sexual.

Then I’ll turn into a man-hating bitch.

In fact, I’d react to such unwanted attention in about the same manner a guy would –

A heated verbal tirade to combat the verbal violence –

And a right cross to the face the minute he touched me.

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