Recently someone suggested I hate men, and honestly I had trouble denying it. In retrospect, hate is a very strong word and to suggest that I hate men is too severe of a statement so I will say that there are a lot men that I dislike. There are also many women I don’t like. Toss in certain kids and I can say that there are a variety of people that I dislike. I don’t think I am unique in this. I am one of those people who doesn’t pretend to like everyone. I don’t feel it is necessary to have everyone, male or female, like me. If I like you, I like you. If I don’t, I don’t. If I don’t like someone, I usually just ignore or avoid them.
When it comes to disliking men there are certain criteria that stimulates my reaction. In general I have an immense dislike for chauvinistic men with entitled attitudes. Given my age (61) and the times I lived in, I have had my fair share of exposure to these type of men.
To start with, I had three brothers who I always wanted to be like, until I didn’t. Eventually they grew into men who expected women to behave in a certain way. Men who made pointed remarks to and about women. One of my brothers actually told me one time that when it came to sex, he didn’t care what a women looked like. You could put a bag over her head for that matter, he said. He thought he was being funny. These days, I have a strong tendency to keep some distance between myself and my brothers.
Looking back, I believe my mother, single handedly, did more to promote chauvinism in our house than the four males who lived there. At twelve years old, I had two older brothers, but I was the one who had to make suppers, clean up afterwards and put the younger kids to bed on the alternating nights that she worked. I was the one who she went ballistic at when she arrived home after 9:30 at night and there were crumbs on the kitchen floor. I was the one who was expected to pick up the slack without complaint. It wasn’t a job I asked for and at 15 when I did complain, I not only had to put up with her displeasure, but was berated by my brother who was two years older than me and was, by then, a full-blown chauvinist with the freedom to come and go as he pleased to play hockey and work on cars. His implications were that I was a mean and selfish person.
My mother was the one who folded all of my brothers laundry into nice neat piles while tossing mine on my bed to be folded by me. She was the one who expected all females to clean up after holiday dinners while the males fell asleep in the living room or sat around and continued to drink. To cut her some slack, she did pretty much the same thing that all mothers of her day did. But most of them weren’t working mothers. They had not been exposed to the idea that a woman could exist outside the home and be more than the stereotypical females of their youth. My mother worked all our lives. You would have thought that she might have considered bringing up sons that respect women.
Mom was always a fiercely independent thinker and the family decision maker, yet she gives the males of our family more credit than the females. Life advise from my sister and I doesn’t receive merit. It is the way it has been all our lives. She is now 89, and it continues to surprise me that she still treats her daughters so radically different than her sons.
It wasn’t just mom. My parents were divorced. When my older brothers and I visited our father, I wasn’t allowed to ride the mini bike that my older brothers used. I wasn’t taught how to sail the prams that the boys used for racing even though many girls also sailed prams. I was expected to be quiet and act like a lady, which I eventually found was impossible to do so I stopped visiting.
Then there was my first after-school job at a medical clinic where certain doctors felt entitled to pinch and touch inappropriately and make chauvinistic comments about the female staff. It was a job where Christmas parties didn’t include partners. What happened at the Christmas party, stayed at the Christmas party. I had heard those exact words. I was sixteen. Yet I changed schools and moved out of my parents’ home at the age of seventeen to keep this job because it was better then being a babysitter, cook and maid.
Fast forward a few years and I, a shy twenty-one-year-old late bloomer, met my first boyfriend. The relationship didn’t last long, but there were repercussions that left me looking over my shoulder and taking a long break from men for many years. Now this is the one man I can honestly say I hate; but since he has been dead for twenty years, I don’t feel the need to waste any more energy on him.
Recently, I learned to use power tools. This is something I honestly have been wanting to do for years, but everyone would just laugh when I mentioned it. I am not a big or strong woman: but if I had been exposed to power tools when I was younger, who knows what my career trajectory could have been. I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, a place where career opportunities for women were limited. High-school programs and guidance counselors consistently promoted the options of teacher, nurse or secretary to female students. So few choices in a world of engineers, architects, doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, company presidents… artists.
I bounced around a lot during my career. Partly because of the hierarchical and chauvinistic attitudes of companies and bosses. Endorsed perspectives that limited my growth, stressed me out and made me angry. In one case I was actually told by a boss to take the day off and get my hair done. I had brought up what I felt was an injustice towards me because I was a woman. The injustice being that the men were holding departmental meetings at 7:30 in the morning when they knew that I, the only woman in the department, didn’t start until 8:30 when the work day officially began because I was still home getting my son off to school. On another day with the same company, a manager who was supposed to take me out on customer visits as part of my training actually called in sick, then went on his visits without having to come into the office to pick me up. I lasted eight months in that job.
In another position, as a graphic designer in the advertising department of a jewelry store chain, I was shocked to discover that all the women in the office were expected to take turns making and serving coffee, then cleaning up all the dishes. And appalled by the fact that this rule was implemented by a woman, the wife of the company president. This was the late 1990’s, and I appeared to be the only person who seemed to have a problem with this. By that time, women had been fighting for equality for over thirty years. Had I been a male graphic designer, I wouldn’t have had those particular responsibilities. This was another eight-month job.
Things haven’t really changed that much. Chauvinistic undercurrents are everywhere. Just last week our neighbour wandered over to see what we were doing. He always wanders over when we are doing noisy work. We were tearing off old and putting down new deck boards. My husband and I were standing right next to each other in our driveway. This neighbour said hi to my husband and literally addressed him by name but didn’t acknowledge me except to make a comment about cheap labour.
People wonder how I went from a shy kid who wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouthful to a person who doesn’t take any shit from anyone. A person who stands up for herself and expresses strong opinions. A real bitch, based on my definition of the word, something I am extremely proud of. Well I think you are beginning to get the picture. Because I stand up for myself and express strong opinions, many people–both male and female–don’t like me. And although some men may have had pivotal roles in my journey; and I have an immense dislike for certain men because of this, the people who really frustrate me are the women. The mothers, girlfriends, wives, sisters and peers who allow men to be that way.