WARNING: It’s about to get a little serious in here.
Recently, my sister told me about an unpleasant encounter she had experienced at her college, Fairfield University. She walked into her Physics class, minding her own business, when the male professor asked her if she was lost. Being the overtly kind person she is, she just laughed and said, “Uh, no?” The professor then proceeded to scoff at the rest of the male-dominated class and tell her, “Well, good luck.”
This professor, this college-educated man is a sexist. He thinks because my sister is female, she doesn’t belong in a Physics class, and therefore she deserved to hear about it. He thinks math is harder for women, or we’re better off at home doing laundry, or some other sort of 1950′s ridiculousness. Now, maybe he thought he was being funny, or maybe he thought it wasn’t that big of a deal, but either way I would’ve liked to have punched him in the face and then asked what the velocity of my fist was.
It drives me up a wall when males in positions of authority or advantage see no problem when cracking a joke here and there about females abilities, in the classroom or anywhere else. It’s 2013, folks, it’s time to find some new material. My sister said she didn’t want to cause a scene and confront the professor, and coincidentally she was forced to change class because of her volleyball schedule to a FEMALE physics professor. I hope someday my sister has the opportunity to bring her “A” Physics grade that I know she’ll get and politely shove it in that male professor’s face.
So while my sister was experiencing some unwelcome gender bias on her side of the country, not a few days had gone by before I, too, had a run-in with a chauvinist pig. As I was walking the few blocks in downtown San Antonio to my car in the parking lot, and young man slowed his car down to yell out the window his opinion of me. Which would have been flattering, had it not been put in such a disgusting manner. And believe me, this happens to girls in every city, in every country, every single day. What made this experience unique was the fact that as I crossed the street and began to search for my car in the parking lot, I realized that man had pulled into the parking lot as well and was waiting for me. My heart started to race a little faster, even though it was broad daylight and there were other pedestrians around. “You got a name, baby?” he drawled out of his window. “Sorry” was all I could muster before hurriedly getting into my car and locking the doors. What was I supposed to do? Keep walking until he left? Make sure he didn’t see what kind of car I drive? The man eventually, slowly, pulled out of the parking lot, but the uncomfortableness was forced to continue when I pulled up at the stoplight next to him. What if he follows me home? Thank God, he went on ahead while I turned right, but for a split second I thought, “I shouldn’t have worn a skirt and heels to work.”
Why would that thought even cross my mind? Do you think a man puts on a dapper suit in the morning and thinks to himself, “Man, I hope no one makes any unwanted sexual advances on me today.” Of course not, because there is this ridiculous double standard for women in our country that if we dress a certain way, we’re asking for men to hit on us. As if that’s ok. As if it’s understood that we’re just supposed to giggle and accept it for what it is. Was that man harmless? Probably. Did he make my skin crawl and my hands shake? Absolutely.
My point is, we hear a lot today about how women are ever present in board rooms, in college classrooms, and we’re kicking butt. And that’s all well and good. I’m thrilled to live in a day and age when I can vote, own property, and run a company if I want. BUT, we still have a long way to go. My sister should be able to walk into a Physics room without being harassed and I should be able to get to my car without a male stranger making me feel frightened. And THAT’S the way it should be. Someday.