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How about just considering us people?

I spent much of the morning sitting in a local bank, opening a new bank account for the new homeschooling cooperative — the Discovery Learning Center — that is now a corporation (and on its way to being a nonprofit).

Doing things in banks always takes longer than it should, doesn’t it? This is why we didn’t bring our children. There we were, four homeschooling moms, out to create something really great for our kids. I know that at least two of us have master’s degrees, and that we are all clearly over the age of consent. We’d brought all the paperwork. We had our act together. There was nothing about us to suggest anything but the obvious: four smart women starting a nonprofit.

When, then, did the young man helping us feel the need to refer to us—not just once, but repeatedly—as “girls”?

The first time he said it I only paused a second before pointing out, “I think we’re all women here.”

When he was off at the photocopier, we discussed this weird tick he had.

“I have to wonder,” said one of the moms. “Does he refer to male business owners as ‘boys’?”

I’d been wondering that myself.

“Most of us are old enough to be his mother,” said another mom. “I know I am!”

I certainly was.

“Perhaps,” I suggested, “he’s not from around here. Most kids these days speak in a much more gender-neutral way.”

When he returned, one of the moms asked him, without embarrassment, “Where are you from?”

“Santa Cruz, born and raised,” he said.

Well, there goes that theory.

Feminists talk about the difficulty of reaching the “post-feminist” generation. Young women these days think that all the wars have been won. They think there’s no point in making a ruckus like their moms and grandmas did. Or at least, that’s the way it seems.

But really, “girls”? When I told my husband, he said to me, “I do hope you started to respond to him with ‘young man’!”

Alas, my irony-generator was out of operation. I just thought it was so weird.

Think about it: a few men starting a nonprofit corporation go in to start an account. The young female banker looks at them suavely, her face in a carefully insinuating sneer.

“So, what can I do for you boys today?”

That’s something from movies, right? Could you ever imagine a woman treating men—even more, men twice her age—that way? Or even a young man treating a group of men that way?

Really, I’d like to think we were angry, but we were in fact quite amused. Who does that… boy… think he is? He’s a bank clerk, for god’s sake. We’re doing something real, starting something that will benefit our community, and he sits around all day taking two hours to set up business accounts for businesses that make so little money the IRS hardly wants to hear from them.

Half of me wishes I’d said to him what I was thinking, which was something like this: “You are showing yourself to be so small, so weak, so completely lacking in worldliness when you call us girls. Do yourself a favor and grow up.”

The other half of me wishes I’d taunted him: “Thanks, boy, for handling that. Typing that data must have been so exhausting. Perhaps you need to rest your pretty head now a while.”

But the polite whole me of me thanked him and walked out. We’d made our point. The first time he said “girls,” I’d made it clear to him that wasn’t acceptable.

So for the rest of the time, we were “ladies.”

Great. And here’s for the really mind-blowing suggestion: How about just considering us….


Posted in Parenting.

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