I went with my mom today to pick up our car; one of the seats needed some material repair, so naturally we brought it to a place that specializes in car upholstery. As we’re paying the upholsterer, my mom and I get to talking with him about music. As there were no other customers at the moment (it was a small shop, and he was the sole proprietor), we shot the breeze for a minute and it was cool. Then he said something that pissed me off.
He made mention of the fact that we was a Rolling Stones fan, to which my mom noted that she’d never been much of a Stones fan (as it happens, I’m not a huge fan of them either). Not in an accusatory way; just a matter-of-fact way noting that she didn’t know too much about them because of that. This was what followed:
Upholsterer: Yeah, lemme guess, you probably like all those women musicians.
Mom: Excuse me?
Upholsterer: Yeah, like Carole King and all that shit.
Mom: Umm, fuck no. I used to be a drummer in high school. I saw KISS and Def Leppard last summer.
Now to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with liking Carole King, nor was my mom combative in her tone. She’s good that way; she knows how to play things off without upsetting anyone, but also without getting walked all over. But that interchange really ticked me off.
The sheer presumptuous nature of the guy’s comments, combined with the clear sexism (it really wasn’t hard to see where he was going), pretty much dampened the mood for me. I was ready to leave after that. Though I’ve unfortunately encountered sexism in my professional space, seeing it unfold in front of my eyes still always shocks me.
I give my mom a lot of credit for not burning any bridges; she was way calmer than I would have been. It peeves me immensely though to see someone like her—Ivy League-educated, in this day and age, successful and personable—exposed to backwards thinking like that. I’m sure anyone who’s ever experienced some degree of sexism will agree.
In the end, all I can say is that I’m super impressed with how she carried herself through what appeared to me to be a potentially embarrassing and combative situation. That’s really the thought process I came away with. That, and that we really need to do better with educating backwards-thinking people, because this sexism shit is really getting old.