A daily dose of sexism
In recent months, I have encountered a number of situations in which I have felt victimized in some way. The most recent was last week when a telemarketer heard me answer the phone and asked “Is the lady of the house in?” If the guy assumed that the lady of the house was me and asked, “Am I speaking to the lady of the house?” I still would have been mildly disgusted at his meager attempt at flattery, but when he heard my obviously feminine voice and then asked for someone else who might be the lady of the house, he really ticked me off.
“Yes,” I said, not giving him any clue as to whether I was that lady or if she was around, but not currently on the phone with him. So, anyway, he launched into his pitch, beginning with “I represent the Corporation for Character and we are professional fundraisers for the F.O.P.”
“Well,” I huffed, “If you were truly about character, then you would not have characterized me as the lady of the house.”
“And,” I continued, “If you were truly professional, you would not refer to me in such an archaic way, not to mention sexist and insulting.”
He stammered a bit, then said, “I’m going to have to check my manual on that.” Seriously, he really said that. I told him to do just that and call me back when he evolves into this century.
The expression “Lady of the House,” reminds me of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet), star of the old British comedy “Keeping Up Appearances,” who in order to pretend that she employed servants in her home used to answer the telly, “The Bucket residence: The lady of the house speaking.” It worked for Hyacinth. It doesn’t do much for me.
A while back, my husband and I opened a bank account in the town where we live in the south. He wasn’t planning on opening an account, but we were doing other errands one day and I asked him to stop at the bank, for which I had gotten some good recommendations from our neighbors. We opened our joint account with a woman who was the branch customer care specialist and it was very simple and over with quickly.
So a couple of weeks later, I get a phone call asking for my husband. It’s the customer care woman from the bank. I told her that he wasn’t at home, but asked if there was something I could help her with. “No,” she said. “I will call back another time to talk to your husband.”
A few days later, a letter came from the bank, addressed only to my husband. It was from the same customer care woman and asked, among other things, if he was happy with the services he received upon opening his account. His account! Was he happy? I was furious!
Seeing that I was the one to choose the bank and seeing that I was the one to initiate the opening of the account, I was really miffed about these overt acts of sexism—and from a woman! I wrote her a letter expressing my complete displeasure at the way she handled that call and the letter. I told her that she was ignoring at least 50% of her customers, and the ones she was ignoring were likely the actual decision makers in the households. I received a form letter in return and when the bank calls the house, they still ask for my husband.
But, the worst sexist offenders I have encountered are at car dealerships. Three times now I have bought a vehicle and clearly expressed that I would be the primary driver. Still, whenever a representative called to ask about the service we received or to ask if we want to schedule an oil change, they ask for my husband. My husband, the guy who is never home at the time that they call and the one that never drives the car or makes appointments for the car. Every single time this happened, I would ask them to change the name in their computer to reflect that I was the one who handled all dealings with that particular vehicle. Did it work? No.
During my most recent auto purchase, I anticipated the same old sexist stuff so when the papers were fully drawn up in just my husband’s name, I insisted that my name be put on the contract as well. The dealership’s financial guy acted like I was asking him to hand copy “Gone with the Wind,” in crayon, rather than just add another line to a computer-generated form. When he asked me why, I told him that I was trying to save the business from any future anger they would face from me if they called my house and asked for my husband. He did it.
Women have been in the workforce for decades now. They are CEOs and U.S. Senators. In many homes, women are the primary fi- nancial contributors to the household. If they are not the breadwinners, they are still managing homes and families, and making hundreds of tough decisions each day. We are competent, vital and equal members of society. Still, the Neanderthals out there dial my phone number, ask for my husband. Good luck with that!