The Man in the Truck
A few months ago, the Car Cleanliness Double Whammy happened: my car windshield was dirty, and I was out of windshield wiper fluid. I’m all about efficiency, so while I pumped gas, I went into the gas station and bought windshield wiper fluid. When I returned to my car, I lifted the hood, opened the lid to the windshield wiper fluid reservoir, and poured the fluid in.
I write these details to illustrate that the process was simple and rote; I’ve done it many times before and probably will do it many more times in the future.
As I poured windshield wiper fluid into my car’s depleted reservoir, a man---I’m guessing in his 50s based on his resemblance to my father---drove up and stopped behind me.
I’m impressed that you are doing that. Most women wouldn’t know how,” he said with a laugh.
I paused, turned, and replied with a smile, “Well it's so easy, even you could do it.”
Reflecting on this small moment in time, I felt conflicted. I was insulted, insulted that the subtext of his comment was that women are too stupid to learn anything---even the simplest of tasks---related to car maintenance. And then I thought, am I overreacting? He was just trying to pay me a compliment, right?
But, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve heard a sexist comment like this (And it was sexist. A preconceived opinion based solely on my sex is the definition of sexism). At a safety and health conference I attended a few months ago, the facilitator of the safe driving breakout session said something along the lines of, “I’m surprised more women aren’t in this session because they’re such bad drivers.”* Others in the crowd groaned or laughed or did a mixture of the two. I booed. Loudly.
*[For the record, I've never been in a car accident. My male husband has been in two.]
The danger with comments like these is that it sets the precedent that because of someone’s gender (substitute: race, age, etc), they aren’t capable of X, Y, or Z. We limit our God-given potential when we try and fit into molds we, individually, weren’t created for.
In addition, we not only limit ourselves, but we limit others. We don’t allow them to try because we are already establishing the expectation that they cannot do things because they don’t fit the “norm.”
As a mother, I want my children to try new things. I want them to push past “norms,” and I want them to experience everything life has to offer. I want them to do things that interest them, and I want them to seize every opportunity for growth. But most importantly, I want them to ignore the collective version of the man in the truck, and I want them to figure out how to align themselves with God’s will and then ignore the rest.
And since I’m striving for complete honesty here, I want these same things for myself. One day, I’ll get there.
Are you there readers? It’s me Tiffany. I’d love to hear from you. What say you? Have you had similar encounters? How did you respond?