Eating My Words
“Silly girl,” I thought to myself when my friend decided to stay together with her sexist boyfriend. Little did I know I’d have to eat those words one day.
The summer after my first year of college I worked in a fairly non-traditional work setting (a dorm) with a plot of outspoken senior girls. I attend a radically liberal university that prides itself on its diverse student population, a population of Respectful Advocates who fight the patriarchy, honor each other’s cultural experiences, hate Taylor Swift, and only discuss topics at work that Tomi Lahren would condemn fit for a flurry of snowflakes.
One particular girl on the staff – let’s call her Esmé – was a Venezuelan woman dating an Indian man also on the staff. Their relationship, like any other twentysomething love affair, had been less than breezy, but they stayed together because they were (of course) in love despite it all. Needless to say, when I walked into my shift I could always expect an update on Esmé and Rohit.
“He comes from a small town in India, you see,” Esmé was telling Clarisse, another girl on the staff, as I slipped behind the desk and clocked in.
“So it’s really understandable as to why he doesn’t get women, you know?”
“But that’s no excuse for his behavior! Like that time he asked you why you never cook for him? Unacceptable.”
Yes, Clarisse. Stick it to him.
“But he doesn’t know any better, Clarisse! In his culture all the women cook and clean. None of the women go to school or join the workforce – they don’t even want to!”
“How can they know they don’t want to if they aren’t afforded the opportunity to begin with?” I chimed in. Clarisse shot me a look.
“You’ve entered a really big conversation here. Have some respect, okay?” Esmé sounded like she was talking to a ten year old, a ten year old who just so happened to be me.
“So anyway…” Esmé returned to her intended audience. “We were talking over dinner, and when the check comes he picks it up to pay for it – he always pays and it’s sooooo cute – and I said ‘Hey, you should tip the waitress 25 percent instead of 20 percent because she worked really hard and she was nice.’ And he looks at me like ‘What the hell, Esmé?’ and he says ‘She was just as good as any other waiter…I’ll tip her 20 percent’. So I explain that women only make 77 cents to the man’s dollar and that extra 5 percent might really help her, and you know what?”
Clarisse is waiting on pins and needles. Admittedly, I am too.
“He says ‘That’s just not true. Women get just as many opportunities if not more because they’re, you know, women. A guy can’t flirt his way into getting a job, you know. Women actually have it better. That statistic is just what women say for sympathy. It’s not true.’ And I just looked at him, and I didn’t know what to say. I was stunned Clarisse.”
Esmé paused, clearly confronting the boiling pot of emotional turmoil she’d yet to take off her own personal stove.
“You know,” she said, quieter. “It just really hurts to know I’m dating a man who is inherently… sexist.” The word landed like a lead paperweight on the counter. “I tried so hard to get him to see my side – you know, about how women truly are at a disadvantage in the workplace, or really anyplace – and he refused to see it or acknowledge his privilege or even acknowledge the fact that he had hurt my feelings!”