Wednesday, May 27
Monday, March 9
It is a popular feminist trope that men have daughters and then have their "Road to Damascus" moment where they are suddenly (sort of) feminists. And I get that it is shitty that someone wouldn't be a feminist before having a daughter -- I have never NOT considered myself a feminist, though I'm certainly not an activist, or probably doing close to enough. But I love strong women, support equal salaries, try to be a good partner to my wife, etc. I am not clueless about male privilege.
But I think it is a legitimate thing that men with daughters get exposed to sexist dynamics they might never have had to consider before, especially if (like me) they grew up without sisters. In a recent two-week span, I had a female colleague at work complain to me about one of her superiors telling her to smile more -- classic workplace sexist bullshit that you pretty much expect will happen at some point. I was sympathetic and supportive of my friend (who told the guy off, as an awesome-sauce gal would), but assumed this was just a symptom of a dying breed of horrible douche-baggery.
But then this weekend, we went to our local diner, which our daughter has gone to since she was an infant. But this time she was wearing a crown because she was pretending to be a queen all Saturday. Suddenly, the staff was treating her like a little princess, and even calling her that. And our incredibly sweet server, who we've known for over a decade, who has a college-age daughter of his own, who he is very proud of and has work with him one day a week or so, asks Mila to smile.
The penny dropped for me. No one asks little boys to smile. No one asks grown-ass men in a work environment to smile. It is an infantilizing behavior, and it starts when women are three and four years old. I had never seen this before. No one has ever asked me to smile. I would never ask a growed-ass woman to smile. And I saw that our server's intention was not patronizing in the way that my coworker's superior was. But it was equally thoughtless, and pigeonholing, and sexist. And it wasn't even something that I could respond to -- it wasn't a malicious kind of sexism, just the clueless sort. The sort our daughter is going to encounter and internalize throughout her entire life. And that sucks.
A woman's smile is not for you. Perhaps you just want to spread happiness wherever you go. One sure way not to do that is to implore women and young girls to smile.