we come to know that a couple at work is going to be married (to each other) shortly. it's common knowledge also, that they commute to and from work together. it's lunch break and people are eating in little huddles. a colleague (call him Z) stops by the cubicle where pair who are to be wed are lunching, and starts what he fondly imagines to be a polite conversation.
Z to woman : what is this! so selfish... you never cook for him. you bring lunch only for yourself.
woman (unflapped) : why Z, what is your problem? first do you know that we're only engaged and we're not married, we don't live together yet?
Z: so what! you come together to work no? or you can bring from home for him also no?
woman: he likes this food - and it upsets only my stomach. do you know he comes by my house in the morning and has breakfast at home?
man (startled and hopping mad by now) : and hang on, what makes you think she has to cook for me?
Z: very bad. this is not how a wife should be. you know, both my brothers-in-law can cook. they cook coffee, they cook lots of other things. but i cant. so my wife keeps comparing. whenever she says anything i just say "look at them. they are married to very bad wives, so they have to cook. you are a wonderful wife". and then she feels very happy, so i say "ah good, make something nice for me today".
(turns to man)
you know why they call her a "wife"? to rhyme with "knife". because they are like that.
man (thoroughly disgusted by now) : really? do you know there's something called "animal husbandry"?
Z crawled away, a silenced and thoroughly confused man. i mean, this wasn't how the male-bonding script went, right? alas for poor Z. running into a deconditioned man must've been such a rude shock! :))
we (minus Z, of course!) had a quick conversation after that, discussing the incident. i wouldn't attribute that degree of deliberate sexism to Z. even if he were that sexist, i think it was more about a couple of people interacting because they had to share a common public space. it was (meant to be) pc. he was, i think, just being another random member of society, socialising and bonding with another man in the way he knew how.
the dominant culture has made "oh man, you're dead now! you too got suckered, huh?" and "hah! you're in chains too now!" sort of remarks the "acceptable" way for men to socialise. it's pretty telling that it's not considered the appropriate thing to say to women. at least i have never heard a woman's announcement that she's getting married being greeted with a "welcome to the chains!". probably has too true a ring to it?! and of course, acquiring a man is always a good thing. he's premium in society after all.
it just so happens that that is what society has put in the public "neutral" space. i personally think it makes sense for women to crucify the social dictates and social authorities that make this appropriate, rather than random, unthinking idiots like Z. otherwise there are just too many battles to fight, and it may get impossible to do much.
i fully approve of the man's withering rejoinder though! - it's so nice to see a guy calling out sexism.
Labels: my life