When I joined the dad blogging community, something stood out to me right away. These guys are really defensive about how dads are represented. For the most part, I thought they were over reacting somewhat.
You see, I know what I do is not the norm, even if it is becoming increasingly more common. I don’t expect for Tide to advertise to me (yet). It would be nice if they paid attention, but I don’t buy the cleaning supplies, so they would be missing the mark anyway. Other men do though, and I think we will continue to see a slow…very slow…move in that direction.
Then, it happened.
I was at my part-time job, and we were just having a normal conversation like any other day. The woman I was working with had just returned from maternity leave. Maybe because of social conditioning, maybe because of gender differences, but she didn't bring up her kid to me right away, something I've seen happen at work before. I suspect that had I been a woman, her newborn would have been the very first topic of conversation.
At some point during the day, she asked me what our electric bill looks like. I, of course, did not know, because Tammi takes care of it.
“Who is the man in your relationship?” she asks. Where the Fuck did that come from? She was happy enough to have me teach her how to swaddle her newborn, but this makes her uncomfortable?
“Uhh, I am…” This is the last time in the conversation that I attempted to de-escalate the situation, and it was a bad attempt at that.
“Yeah, but your wife takes care of everything that men are supposed to handle.” I honestly don’t even know what she means here. Is she asking me if I take out the trash or if I have a penis?
“Well, what are you doing here? I mean by that definition your being a terrible woman, because someone else is watching your child. Shouldn't you be at home?”
“Yeah, but I’m single, so I don’t have a choice, you have decided to let your wife take care of things.”
Her rigid adherence to stereotypical gender roles shocked me. Because I’m in a relationship I should make Tammi stop working? The whole conversation had made me very angry, and I was surprised how much so.
“Well, if you had a penis than you would be smarter and have a promotion already. Instead you’re 28 and working for 9 bucks an hour.” Essentially, it was the adult version of pulling her pigtails.
At this point, my boss, who had been sitting close enough to hear, decided it was time to step in before I said something that was going to get me fired.
Here is what I would like to do. Let’s define our gender by the genitalia we have? Let’s not even include what you do with it or who you do it with in the definition
OK, getting a little too crude….my apologies.
More than anything, I was shocked at how quickly I had become offended. Was staying at home making me more sensitive? No. She was being straight up offensive.
Listen, the vast majority of people are very comfortable with a dad staying home. Well, maybe not the majority. If it was truly the majority of people, than I would be able to find someone to pay me to watch their kids. I can’t. Tide would feel comfortable asking me to buy their product. They don’t. Yet.
I’d like to feel that when confronted with racism or sexism or some other -ism that I respond with a reasoned and mature response that avoids name calling. I want to tell the person that, even if they are not racist or sexist or some other -ist, the comment was, in fact, sexist. And we can do better than that. We have to because A) it benefits us all to allow each person to contribute their best work instead of being shoehorned into a role they don’t like and B) it’s simply the right thing to do.
That’s what I’d like to do every time. This time, I made a penis joke and thought some inappropriate words. I’m sure there will be a next time.