Along the lines of Beth Mann’s stellar post, Unhinging the Bitch, which articulated much of what has been on my mind lately, I am throwing down a gauntlet. I am serving notice: do not patronize, ignore, insult, ask the impossible of me, dis-respect or otherwise raise my ire because I WILL react as I see fit and you may not like it one little bit. And that’s just too damn bad – for you.
Now I’ve never been one to hide my feelings in print or among friends, but I am amazingly meek in my public dealings. Despite being screwed around for more than a year by one of the big Canadian banks that refused to allow me, my mother’s legal power of attorney, to change her address to my new address without her coming in person to do it, which is not in the banking regulations, I was polite. I mean, what if she was in a coma? Would I have to wheel her on a gurney downtown into the gleaming high rise paid for by customers like her? I spoke politely to many people, wrote two polite letters and today, politely transferred all of my mother’s money and investments to another bank. When a representative from the old bank called to ask, not particularly politely, why I had done that, I found myself telling them exactly why they would no longer have my mother’s business. I mentioned the unanswered letters, their numerous screw ups and the self-serving response that only came when I finally took action. And then I hung up. It felt good! I didn’t swear, and I didn’t yell, but I doubt that smarmy rep will soon forget me.
I hope I'm not bothering you
Like most women (and many men as well), I often let people go ahead of me, I try to not take up too much space, I’m considerate to old people and children, and I take care not to forget the small gestures that make up the nuances of civilized society. A smile and a hello, a please and a thank you cost nothing and help smooth the edges of the rough world we all inhabit. I talk to the people I interact with on every level of my life. I know the names of the women who take my money for coffee where I work, the staff at my doctors’ and dentists’ offices, and I chat with people everywhere I go. I’m a social person by nature and I like to hear what’s going on in people’s lives and what they’re thinking about. I am going to continue to do all of those things. I even apologize when I return something to a store and I know that it is unusual because clerks sometimes tell me “It isn’t necessary” and “You’re the first person I’ve ever heard say that.” Now I no longer apologize, but I am still polite. I don’t like inconveniencing people even if it is their job.
But when I am standing at a counter and being ignored by the women or men working behind it while someone else, usually a man, is served before me, I am going to say something. Once I waited more than 20 minutes in that situation before finally walking out without saying anything. I never went into that shop again, but the memory still stings. I felt vindicated when they went out of business.
How dare you?
When I am not given promised work in favour of colleagues, mostly male, some of whom barely passed my courses when they were my students, I will not remain silent but inwardly raging. When they steal my course content without even removing my email address from it, I will confront them and ask why they think they have a right to do that. When I am ignored or interrupted in a meeting, I will ask to be heard just as others have been heard. When students insult my intelligence by cheating or making bullshit excuses for their laziness, I will tell them that their behavior is not acceptable and that they will suffer the consequences.
Just like Beth, I will no longer internalize my anger to fit the stereotype I was indoctrinated into of being quiet, ladylike and subservient. I am not so very old but I can remember when it was considered shocking for a woman to raise her voice, much less disagree in public with a man. My grandmother once saw one of her grown daughters arguing with a man on the street and from her wrathful reaction, she may as well have been doing it in the street. Suppressing anger is incalculated so deeply in most women that we often don’t even realize we’re doing it.
By committing to this, I hope to stop taking my anger and resentments out on people who do not warrant it. My family, my friends, even my cat, deserve better. I deserve better. I will focus on letting those who treat me badly know exactly how I feel about it. Politely, of course.