kept woman assumption

Your independence is adorable, but let's be logical

My friend and I moved to a new city at the same time and we both had trouble qualifying for an apartment. His problem was that he had bad credit. My problem was that I did not have a job yet. He suggested we move in together to make it easier to qualify, and I said that was out of the question.

Suddenly mansplaining mode kicked in.

“Now listen,” he said, “I know you want to be an INDEPENDENT WOMAN. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.”

Last time I checked, this move-in-together situation he was proposing would have been *equally* beneficial for us–certainly not a case of me “needing” him and becoming dependent on him while the reverse was not true. I somehow doubt he would have seen this situation as him giving up being an “INDEPENDENT MAN” if he’d leaned on my credit to qualify for a place.

Clue-phone, guys: If your phrasing would sound ridiculous describing a man, you probably shouldn’t say it to a woman. It’s pretty ignorant to insinuate that a woman claiming she can take care of herself is awfully noble but ultimately impractical.

(We ended up qualifying separately with special contracts. I got a job within a month and qualified for a better place the next year. Throughout our friendship he continued to bring up wanting to live together and tried to tell me it would be good for me to quit my job and work on my writing. No thanks.)

You must be a kept woman, a secretary, or an incompetent!

I still cannot believe the following “conversation” actually took place…the story never ceases to amaze everyone. 

I was at my cousin’s pre-wedding cocktail party back at the tender young age of 22, about 8 years ago. I was talking to my dad and telling him how excited I was about my upcoming travels to London and Bangladesh. An interested older gentleman who I thought was trying to make small talk interrupted because he overheard the conversation. Apparently small talk wasn’t what he had in mind…

After my dad walked away to rejoin my mother, the older fellow said, “It must be nice to have daddy pay for your vacation, huh?”

I was a bit shocked at that patronizing and utterly presumptuous comment, but I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, and calmly replied, “Actually, I haven’t asked my parents for money since I left for college…but to be fair, work is sending me to London, and then I’m travelling on my own.” I was a bit unsure of what else to say, and why this guy would be interested in these matters, other than to piss me off or satisfy some ridiculous need to undermine random young women’s ambitions…he kept pushing, “So, your boss is taking you along to London on a business trip? Are you some sort of an assistant or secretary?”

Not that there is anything wrong with being a secretary, but I’d like to think that perhaps just maybe we’ve moved beyond the stereotypical ladyjobs of the 60’s, and that men wouldn’t make these assumptions before even knowing your name. My patience was starting to wear thin, “No, I’m an architectural designer, I’m in the process of becoming an architect."  

…to which he replied, "Imagine that, a female architect. You know I’m in the construction business, and from my experience, I haven’t come across many women architects…it’s not exactly a women’s job, is it?” To add a bit of a visual description of this jerk’s smarmy attitude, as he said that, he put both hands in his front pockets as if to emulate the classic cowboy stance and bounced on the balls of his feet. 

I wish I could say that I gave him an unbelievable verbal beating right then and there, but I was at a loss for words particularly because I was so shocked that someone would even behave like this in such a civilized environment. I did, however politely let him know how narrow minded and sexist his views were and that I had nothing else to say to him.

This was in 2004, and sadly, I think the above mentioned perceptions haven’t exactly improved among a certain male demographic, particularly when it comes to the professional field of architecture. 

Doesn't see the problem

I was at a scientific conference recently and was attending a workshop on “getting a job in academia.” During the course of the discussion, several of the women present, along with men who were married to fellow academics and thus concerned about the dual-hire situation, were talking about how to deal with the awkward situation of being asked questions about your spouse, partner, or family in the course of a campus interview. These people were commiserating about how hard it was to figure out what to say if someone asks such a question during a campus visit…do you call them out on it? Report the incident to the chair? Decline to answer? One man, though, helpfully protested that when *he* was interviewing for jobs, he would have no problem answering questions about his wife, who is not an academic, so he didn’t see the problem.