Did you say that because I’m a woman?

July 17, 2015
Lady Gaga

Over the past week, I’ve come into contact with one rude person after another. I’ve had so many people give me funny looks, I began to thing someone had stuck a badge on me which said “I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan”.

The final straw came yesterday when I was on the phone to Vodafone. After the usual rigmarole of “Press 3 if you want to talk a real life person. Press 4 if you want to listen to horrendous muzak. Press 5 if this call is making you want to throw your phone at a brick wall” I eventually got through to human being. A male human being. Who couldn’t speak coherent English.

I lost my rag. It doesn’t happen often, but it happened yesterday. I was being continuously lied to, one member of staff saying it wasn’t my fault, him saying it was my fault.

One thing this man said to me, which I’ve thought about a thousand times since the moment it left his lips, was “Madame. Why don’t you talk to someone who’s a little bit more techno savvy than you are?”. At the time, I thought it was a horrendously unprofessional, patronising thing to say. I am 19 years old, and have been around mobile phones since the day I was born. I think I know a fair bit about the techno world.

And, for all he knows, I could own a very successful technology company with a turnover of £20 million a year.

I don’t, but I could.

“Madame. Why don’t you talk to someone who’s a little bit more techno savvy than you are?”

It wasn’t until a couple of hours later, on mentioning it to my partner, that he remarked “What a sexist thing to say!”. I shook my head. No, it wasn’t a sexist comment. He was simply bad at his job and had no idea how to talk to a real life person without being atrociously rude.

But then I thought about it a little more. Had I been a big manly man with a deep voice, would he have said the same thing to me. Would he have said to my male partner, “talk to someone more techno savvy?” I don’t know that he would. Because I have a female voice, did he presume that I was an airhead who had no idea what I was talking about, even though I’d already made it quite clear I did know what I was talking about?

It made me think about all the other events this week where people have been rude to me. One woman wound her car window down and shouted at me to “use my eyes”, even though she was the one who nearly ran me over. Would she have said that had I been a big matcho man? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Maybe I’m taking it all too personally and reading too much into it, but it’s an interesting thing to think about. When I look back at all the times someone has said a rude comment to me, I doubt they’d have said the same thing had I been a boy.

The same thing also happened when Lady Gaga was asked about why her music is so highly sexualised. She replied straight back “Would you have said that if I was male rockstar?” We are still in a society that has double standards for both men and women. It’s OK for male rockstars to be highly sexualised and be seen to be sleeping with as many females as possible, but if a woman does it, it’s seen as shocking.

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