I spent a decent amount of my morning under the hood of my car. The engine was overheating. Awesome. Lucky for me I have amazing powers of deduction and a father who used to drive this car. Between the two I figure out the problem and am in the process of rectifying it when a random man walks by. This man is not my neighbor. I know this because I only have 12 neighbors. He proceeds to ask me, “Need help little lady?” He’s stopped walking and has his hands on his hips and gives me the look. You know, the one that says I know better than you and what are you doing trying to fix a car? I get it often. The thing is I’m from the country. I may not know everything about cars but I do know my car pretty well. And after today I know even more about it.
First of all do not call me a “little lady.” I do not even let people I know well call me this. Maybe if you were John Wayne and I was a child and we were in a Western this would be okay. But you are not John Wayne and I am not a child. There is nothing little about me. I am a grown woman and you look to be about the same age as me. If you were old I might give you a little more leeway. Maybe. The term little lady is meant to be demeaning to me and to showcase your (percieved) power and knowlege. It is supposed to intimidate me, to tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing, and that you of course do. While you may be a little bit right you don’t actually know that. See, here’s the thing. You don’t know me. I may be a mechanic or a goddamn race car driver but you don’t know that. You assume that because I am a woman I know nothing about cars.
Here’s another little tip about me. If I wanted help I would ask for it. I’m the kind of person who blunders around a bit trying to figure it out on my own, because let’s face it, I’m a bit stubborn. But I also admit when I can’t do something or don’t know how. I am not the type of person to shy away from asking for help. Again, you wouldn’t know that because you don’t know me.
Of course, none of this came out of my mouth in such an articulate manner when the man was standing there. I do pride myself on the fact that I remained calm, level-headed, and managed to say no thanks through my forced smile. The fact that he continued to stand there and watch after I’d already dismissed him sent me over the edge. “Can I help YOU?” I ask in a voice laced with sarcasm and a touch of fuck off. He looks at me, smirks and walks away. I breathe, count to ten, and continue fixing my car.
Here’s how the conversation could have gone:
A neighbor walks up, “Car trouble?”
I look up, smile cause I know him and he’s a nice guy, “Yeah, but I got it covered.”
He says, “Alright, well if you need help with anything I’ll be home all day.” Then he leaves.
I say thanks and we both continue about our business.
Being a woman is not synonymous with being a child. It does not mean that I am ignorant, clueless, and in need of rescuing all the time. I don’t even think this guy wanted to rescue me. He wanted to be able to flaunt his knowlegde, not teach me. Arrogance does not sit well with me and treating a woman like she is stupid is not a turn on.
In all fairness I have seen this happen the other way around. I have seen a woman take a crying baby from a man assuming that he is overwhelmed or doesn’t know what to do. I have seen women take over in the kitchen because “men don’t know how to cook.” We live and embody these stereotypes on a daily basis, both men and women. Maybe it is time we start recognizing each others strengths individually rather than our percieved, gendered weaknesses.
And the next time you call me little lady expect to hear the words fuck off little man. End rant.