Or so I thought.
And then I had to go and read Gail Collins' When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. It was an infuriating read, on a lot of levels, and a frustrating read, too. I literally lost count of all of the injustices, little and big, that were (yes, and are) heaped upon women--many times by their male civil rights counterparts. One telling passage that stuck out to me was the recounting of one female politician (naturally, one of the first of Second-Wave Feminism), who was about to go into session with one of her female colleagues. Up strolls one of their male politician counterparts, who gives them a blithe, cheerful, "Hello, girls!"
A lot of people wouldn't read anything into it. Sometimes, I think that I don't read anything into it. But then, I am of a generation of females that are by and large respected and treated as equals in the workplace. Still, I can see where an accomplished woman with a solid career would resent being referred to as a "girl." Actually, no, scratch that, I can see why any woman, accomplished or not, career woman or housewife or college student or college dropout or whatever--would resent being referred to as a girl, particularly by one's professional equal.
Why do I bring this up? Well. Since you asked.
About a week after I finished reading When Everything Changed, I was working the Reference Desk with Papa Bear. A patron-dude steps up to the desk and says, "Hey smart guy and red-headed girl. I need some information."
What. The. Fuck.
Mustering all the dignity--if not much presence of mind--I turned to him and said, "That's red-headed lady to you."
Afterwards, though, I began to think--his address was insulting on any number of levels. Completely aside from not saying something as simply courteous as, "Excuse me, may I ask you a question?" or "Hi, I need some help," he chose to go with the rather more informal "Hey smart guy and red-headed girl." And now let's address the whole thing about referring to the male as the "smart" guy while distinguishing his (obviously equal) female counterpart not by the presumed-hefty intellectual capacity needed to be a librarian but rather a physical trait. And then of course, there's the whole "girl" reference. All of a sudden, I began to appreciate a lot more where those female politicians were coming from.
Here's the funny thing: the patron-dude was probably in my age range.Probably grew up with a lot of the same PC/equality stuff hitting him from all sides, same as me. And I choose to really, really doubt that he was intentionally trying to slight, denigrate, belittle, or discriminate against me. He did slight me, but I am fairly certain that his condescension, his automatic discounting my professional persona, was on a completely unconscious level. And this makes me wonder--I doubt I would have noticed it had the Collins book not been fresh on my mind. But the book was on my mind, and wouldn't you know, there it was. A fairly harmless incident that shows that sexism and patriarchal attitudes still abound--often in ways that neither perpetrator nor victim are aware of.
We've come a long way...but we've got a long way yet to go.