Thursday, March 6, 2008

male privilege, sexism, and invasion of privacy: a grocery-store tale

Oh, the boundless limits of male privilege: I am male, and I deserve access to all women unaccompanied (or "claimed") by other men at all times. Unclaimed women, you are always my business, and you are always available for my pleasure.

I am bothered my two things this evening: a) the encounter I will describe, and b) my reaction.

This all started a few weeks ago while shopping at Trader Joes, and I asked an employee to help me locate balsamic vinegar. I thanked him for his help, and moved along to the next item on my list. A few aisles down and a short time later, that same employee--we'll call him TJ--accosted me; he had clearly been looking for me, spotted me, and zeroed in.

He asked me for my number in some lame way. I declined (although my response deserves a blog in and of itself). Case closed.

So there I was tonight--very much exhausted and irritable after a long day of work and a disaster or two on my mind. And here comes TJ with a lecherous grin on his face.

"You always look so good whenever you come in."

And before I even registered what happened, I automatically smiled as I tilted my head a bit and replied "thank you."

Then I took two steps, realized what happened, was absolutely disgusted and more importantly, very unhappy as a customer.

But there is TJ's sense of male privilege--no amount of professionalism can surmount his sense of entitlement.

And then there is the reply of my inculcated female script: smile and nod. Just take it. You are here to be looked at, and you better like it. And if you don't, you are a bitch.

Is it so absurd that an employee should treat me as a customer, not a play thing? And the automatic compliance on my part is so perverse. I can't help but think of Marilyn Frye: I contribute to my own erasure.

What I should of said is how I feel. This is not professional; treat me like a customer. Is there no privacy for women?


1 comment:

Lizzy Davidoff said...

Ok so I work at a Trader Joe's and I see this kind of shit happen all the time because the culture of the store is such that it leads certain employees who have no sense of boundaries to not understand that FRIENDLINESS is not the same as HITTING ON. Several employees in our store have been fired for this exact thing. Please please please go to the store, report this to the captain, and have the employee fired. I beg of you. This is not acceptable