PhDork’s “Feminist Dilemma” post gave rise to some intra-Harpy discussion of my own recent feminist dilemma. Y’all can tell me what you think. Oh, and as a special add-on, I’ll tell you about the one time I was on the horns of a major dilemma, and instantly threw away all my feminist ideals.
Here’s my messed-up situation: this summer’s renovations left my TV cable completely ferkakta. The cable guy who came to fix it was a good-looking young dude, and when I showed him the TV, he was all flirtatious and cute with me: “Oh, mami, you gotta put it on channel 3! See, that’s what your problem is!” Of course, I knew the fucking problem wasn’t Channel 3, but that undoubtedly topped his troubleshooting list: silly girls don’t understand cable! (I ignored the flirtation and the “mami”, since it’s pretty much par for the course where I live.) I did take some real enjoyment in watching his expression change as he realized that the problem was not the silly girl, but that the cable was genuinely fucked up. Since the problem turned out to be my cable line (thanks, contractors!) I was responsible for paying for the service call. But Mr. Cable Lovah Man gave me a megawatt smile and said, “No problem, mami, I ain’t gonna charge you for the visit. It was nice to meet you.” And he collected his stuff and left.
Upon review, PhDork and I agreed that if I were older or uglier or in possession of a penis, he would have charged me the full $40. Without asking, I had just cashed in on my thin privilege and my blonde privilege and my age privilege and my damsel in distress privilege all at once. Mr. Cable Lovah Man was being a nice chauvinist, but a chauvinist nonetheless.
Now, on one hand, it’s good to save money, and it’s wouldn’t bring down the Patriarchy or change the plight of womanity had I insisted on paying for the call. And for once, I actually benefitted from chauvinism. God(ess) knows, I’ve been belittled and ignored and patronized plenty of times for being young and blonde, in both my personal and professional life. If I have to pay the penalty, why should I object to the occasional benefit? Cashing in on chauvinism kind of feels like fucking the Patriarchy with its own dick.
But still…I feel a bit icky about the whole thing. Even if I benefit, it’s still further proof of the general fuckitude of gender relations.
Once the cable line was fixed, the technician who finally came by to resolve the problem was a woman, and there was no flirtation or ensuing dilemma; she hooked up the cable box, let me sign for it, and left. I much preferred that scenario, even if it did cost me $40.
In that case, I was the unasking recipient of a little chauvinist kickback. But lest you think I’m above playing right into the Patriarchy’s hands when it suits me, I bring you this confession of my complete and utter abdication of all feminist scruples.
In 2007, I was in Zimbabwe with MamaSharper and BigStepdaddySharper to go animal-watching. We were in a relatively peaceful part of Zim, but we were still very much aware that we were in a country where the rule of law pretty much didn’t exist–or existed only at the whim of a thoroughly corrupt and brutal despot. At the Victoria Falls airport, the immigration officer squinted at my paperwork and called over her boss. You see, in the “occupation” section of the visa form I’d named the media company I work for. And the thoroughly corrupt, brutal despot–there was a huge picture of him looking down on me, with his little Hitler moustache–had recently thrown every writer out of the country. The authorities wanted to make sure I wasn’t a reporter trying to get back into the country posing as a tourist. I probably should have put something else down as my job, but I had been travelling close to 24 hours at this point, and was nearly brain-dead. Of course, my brain suddenly jolted alive with fear when I was pulled aside (so did my bowels, if you must know). I had an absolutely horrible, nightmarish moment when I realized that if I said the wrong thing, I could be detained–and I’m sure my family would have gone with me. Jail in a third world country with an HIV infection rate of 25%? Holy fucking shit. It took less than five seconds for me to toss aside every scrap of Western feminist pride and start shamelessly pandering.
I gave the official my best helpless Bambi look. “I just work on things that ladies like to read. Like, romances and silly stories.” Yes, I actually said the word “silly.” In fact, I practically lisped it. The official looked somewhat relieved, so I upped the ante, “I’m here with my father–” I pointed to BigStepdaddy, “if you want, you can ask him. It’s a family trip and he’s really the head of the family.”
Between my little girl routine and invoking my daddy’s patriarchial authority, the official decided I was clearly harmless, and stamped my passport. My parents were somewhat oblivious to this exchange, since they were standing in different lines. I didn’t want to say anything to them, lest BigStepdaddy spring into hyper-protective mode, which might make things worse. But three days later, when I crossed the border into Botswana–beautiful, stable, democratic Botswana–I silently flipped the bird at the evil despot’s portrait as my jeep drove away.