If someone had asked me early on if I'd ever experienced mistreatment based on my gender, I would have laughed and said "No." In fact, when it came to talking about the dreaded "f word," I was pretty sure that all feminists were women with beards and cargo shorts and argued with everything everyone said just to hear themselves talk. However, the longer I'm alive, the more I start to realize that I've kind of been a feminist all along. I've never felt like I was unable to do something simply because I was female. I can even remember, at some point, being really happy with myself when I managed to do more push-ups than some of the boys in my gym class. I believe I am just as capable of thinking and functioning in the world as men are. I've always felt this way--so why wasn't I always sticking up for my own? Why in the world was I the one to jump to the defense of men when it came to the women on which they were always stepping? I don't have a great answer for those questions other than that feminists had a bad kind of reputation in the area where I was raised, I had a group of female friends that mostly behaved like boys, and other than that group of girls, I preferred the company of men to women.
The term "feminist" wasn't fully defined for me as I grew into myself, and when I went on an overnight college visit where the dorms were full, and I had to stay in what the campus host referred to as the "Feminazi House," I did not get an accurate picture of what a feminist was or why I was, in fact, a part of the crowd. No, on that fateful campus visit to Oberlin College, I stayed overnight with a student whose roommate was livid because she walked in on my host and her boyfriend going at it for what sounded like the fifth or sixth time that semester. This host of mine wasn't embarrassed in the least about the situation, and after a few good door slams, she smiled at me as the dust of the fight settled and asked me if I'd like to watch a movie with the rest of the housemates. A movie sounded good--less confrontational, less awkward. Sexual liberation is good and all, but not if it is at the discomfort of the person with whom you share your 4x4 living space.
Later, as I found myself sharing a couch with approximately five other people, two of whom decided to loosely hang their arms around me as if we were old pals, though I didn't even remember their names, we watched "Harold & Maude" (which, in and of itself, was a bit strange for someone who really loved the Superman series on the WB at the time). The pungent aroma of body odor settled around me and the girls with hairy armpits who held hands with more than one other girl at a time, did absolutely nothing good for the image I already had in my head of feminists. If this was them, no thanks! I returned home, after being hit on by a girl in the bathroom the next morning and having no idea what to do about that, and promptly crossed Oberlin off my list, as well as living in a co-op and not shaving my legs ever again.
I've veered. This was supposed to be a modern tale of sexism. At any rate, let's just say that all the learning I did when I attended Wooster opened my eyes to inequality on numerous levels. The ways that I myself had experienced it had just been a part of life for so long that I had never even thought about not accepting them. And the ways I didn't accept inequality because of my gender also became apparent. At some point, I realized that even though I dislike confrontation and am not the person who will yell out of turn in a crowd generally, I am, in fact, a feminist in other ways.
When I found my very capable self locked out of my hotel room at a conference in Denver in 2010, I floundered for a moment. I always seem to get myself into stupid situations like this: slammed my car door into my own face and gave myself a black bruise down the side, walk from one side of campus to the other to teach a class only to realize that the book I was teaching was in the first classroom I'd taught in that day, go to Aldi for groceries only to realize my debit card was at home. Needless to say, being locked out of my own room was not a new situation. I had decided that a quick workout before a reading would be a good idea, so I clothed myself appropriately, left my hotel room, and when I returned for a shower, I realized I'd left the room key in the room. Whatever, no big deal, right? WRONG. This gets ridiculous. Get ready.
I went down to the main desk of the hotel, explained my situation, and expected to be escorted back to the room and have the door opened for me. This, unfortunately was not the case. The guy behind the desk looked at me incredulously and said, "Do you have your ID?" To which I replied, "No?" I went to the gym. Within the same hotel. Why would I need my ID? "Well, I'm sorry, I cannot let you back in without your ID."
I remember just looking at this guy, wondering what his deal was. "I can show it to you when the door is unlocked," I said, being the extremely rational person I am. He shook his head. And this is where I started to get angry. I mean, really, how would I prove who I was without my license that was locked with the door key in the hotel room? What kind of stupid situation was this?
I tried another approach. "I'm sorry, but I didn't think that I would need my license to go to the gym. I left it in the room, with my room key accidentally, and I have an event (WHICH WAS SUPER IMPORTANT ;) ) to get to in just a little bit, will you please have someone unlock my room? I will show them my license as soon as they do it."
This crap went on for a little longer, until I just walked away, stunned that this place was being so unreasonable. I mean, had no one ever lost their room key in their stupid hotel before? CROWNE PLAZA, I'M LOOKIN' AT YOU. Unsure of what to do, I took the elevator up to a room where a handful of my friends were staying. They looked at me like I was nuts when they opened the door. "Is that what you're wearing?" Yes, men, I will wear these workout clothes to this swanky reading and eat my cheese and drink my wine as I drip sweat into my plate. I quickly explained the situation, and one of my man friends decided he would call the front desk. I warned him, "They're not going to do anything. Especially since you have absolutely nothing to do with the room I'm in." My name was on the hotel paperwork. So he called the front desk. He CALLED the front desk. Let me remind you that I went to the front desk IN PERSON. He called the front desk, and in a friendly tone, he said, "Hey, uh, my friend locked herself out of her room and needs to get back into it. Can you have someone come unlock it for her?"
And that, my friends, WAS ALL HE SAID. In ten minutes, someone was at my hotel room to unlock my door. This was, to me, blatant sexism. And it pissed me the eff off. I made much more of an effort to get the room unlocked than my male friend did, it was MY name on the bill, yet this he calls, he could have been calling from anywhere, and makes the same stupid request I made and gets immediate action. W. T. F. I mean, really. REALLY? Just because he had a nice man voice, he got the response I needed to have twenty minutes earlier? Had I known this was the case, I would have taken my fake mustache with me to the gym instead of my ID and key and just worn that to the front desk and requested the door to be unlocked in my best man voice.
What kind of crap is going on in the world when a man can get a door unlocked but a woman cannot? I don't know, but I'll tell you that it isn't right. And had I been an owner of bigger balls at the time, I would have complained about the injustice. Instead, I took a five minute shower, had bad hair, and ended up at the hotel bar with all my friends wearing fake mustaches and drinking for the rest of the night. How's THAT for being a feminist!
All in all, sexism is a for real thing that still happens today, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Will all this matter when I'm dead? Yes. But this post will not because it is poorly written and fell apart. If you got here, you win.
And, hey, I can see that there are actually quite a few people reading this thing these days--if you are one of those people, you should comment sometime so I don't always feel like I am just writing into the vast space that is the interwebs.