I used to work at a big backpackers hostel in the centre of Melbourne which had four floors and no elevator. We would regularly get young women checking in who had big suitcases instead of the common backpacks which would be hell to try to carry up the many flights of stairs. We also had a loudspeaker, or as I liked to call it, The Voice of God. I would use TVOG to call for “big strong men to reception please” so that they could carry the suitcases upstairs. In hindsight, this was incredibly sexist of me. Although the reality was that it was less about taking advantage of the mens muscles as it was taking advantage of their horn, as the regulars all knew that if I was asking for strong men in reception it meant there were new ladies to meet and impress. Still, I was either being sexist or heteronormative so either way. FAIL
The idea that men are inherently more strong than women is pervasive. A few months ago at a circus show my brother had to be convinced that a particularly muscley performer was actually a woman, just one with big muscles (the really funny part of this story is that the person in question is very feminine, with curly ringlets and long eyelashes and yet my brother was still convinced that it was just not possible for a woman to be that well built). I’ve been giving him shit about it ever since but the reality is that a lot of people would probably feel the same way. We’ve been brought up beliving that men are always stronger than women. And at the extreme end of the scale (killing bears with your bare hands) maybe it’s correct. But on a day to day, lifting suitcases/boxes/mowing lawns level, the chances are that in a representative sample of men and women, the same percentages would be capable of the daily activities which we commonly make the sole domain of the male.
And all of this would be completely find except for three key factors or common events which I have witnessed time and again and which I find massively infuriating.
The first is the way that people will go looking for men to perform tasks that they or other women standing around would be perfectly capable of completing. Another is when women themselves, who are entirely capable of performing certain tasks will go hunting for a man to do it for them and the last is when men take offense or are hurt, when women complete tasks themselves. I’m going to deal with them one by one.
The Hunt for Male Help
Does everyone rememberthe Hire a Hubby handyman franchise? No? That’s probably a good thing because honestly, how they could come up with such a gendered and insulting name for a property maintenance company completely astounds me. And to be honest, I think husbands out there should be pretty insulted as well. The idea that as soon as something needs to get done you immediately have to start looking around for a good strong man to do it makes me feel ill! My other massive pet hate is the school based gendering of young people. Like when a table needs to be moved from one classroom to another at primary school and the principal comes looking for a bunch of boys to complete the task. Because clearly no young women could possibly be capable of carrying a table with the assistance of several other children?! I went to an all girls school so I never experienced this in high school but I have no doubt that it does happen and that it makes a lot of young women feel inadequate and weak.
The Man Hunting Weak Woman
WHY! Women go looking for a man when they need something moved, or the lawn mowed or the kitchen cupboard door replaced leaves me at an absolute loss. Do these women enjoy being seen as the softer sex? I completely understand if fixing a kitchen cabinet is something that an individual can’t do, but to automatically assume that the closest man CAN do it, just coz he’s got a willy, is so insulting to 51% of the population! Skills are one thing, learned, earned skills, but assumed knowledge and ability based on ones genitalia is insulting. I have incredibly capable female friends, especially the ones that tech for circus shows etc, who can lift and carry, can set up light banks and move largescale rigging. These friends are strong and capable and intelligent and they learned their skills. I can’t do that, but I can change the oil in my car and I can change a spark plug and a wheel and I can do these things because I was taught how to do them. My vagina didn’t get in the way of my climbing under my car just like my friends didn’t start menstruating as soon as they climbed a ladder with a heavy spotlight. When you need something done ladies, look around for someone who knows what they’re doing rather than someone who’s got a dick.
The Menz Who Think Their Penis is a Pallet Jack
Ok, let’s get this straight. Menstrual blood will not attract bears, women’s heads will not catch fire if we educate them and the penis is not a pallet jack. Men of the world, when it turns out that your womenfolk are just as capable of carrying boxes up stairs as you are, it’s not a strike against your masculinity, it’s just a demonstration of the amazingness of the human body. And guess what?! You are likely to be just as capable of baking a cake, or knitting a scarf, if only you’d learn how. When I do something physical, and my massive guns pop out and hit you in the nose, I’m really not trying to insult you, I’m just being me, in my own womanly way, being capable and physical and beautiful all at the same time. Please recognise it as such instead of feeling emasculated and small. Really, I’ll think you’re much braunier if you follow me up the stairs with the next box instead of sulking.
And don’t forget to check out this opportunity to join the founding board of the feminaust fund.
Image taken from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet‘s photostream on Flickr under Creative Commons Licence.