“You’re a girl. You can’t be here.”

Posted: October 1, 2013 in Self-esteem, self-respect
Tags: ,

“What do you mean I can’t be here?” I asked. All I wanted to do was take a class in auto mechanics. I had gotten my first car and figured it would be a good idea to learn how a car worked.

The High School teacher rolled his eyes and walked me to the door. “No, this class is only for boys. Besides, you’ll just be a distraction to them. Now run along and go to your Home Ed class,” he said and walked away and closed the door in my face.

I went to my school counselor and said I wanted to add a class to my schedule. When I told her which one, she laughed and shook her head.

“No, only boys can take that class,” she said and looked at my schedule. “You already have enough credits to graduate, so don’t worry about it. Now, aren’t you supposed to be in Home Ed? Hmmm? Now run along before you get in trouble,” she said and picked-up her phone and started dialing.

I walked to my Home Ed class and sat down. The teacher gave me a disapproving look. I didn’t care. She was right in the middle of teaching us how to make cookies. Cookies. What the hell did I care about cookies? I sat at a table with 3 other girls. They were giggling and talking about boys while they added the exact right amount of butter to the batter. I watched them for a while.

“Susan, what are you doing this weekend? Anything exciting?” one of them asked me.

I perked-up. “Yes. Jeff is going to show me how the brakes work on my car. Then he’s going to show me how to replace them…”

All 3 of them laughed. “What kind of a date is that? Good grief, why would you want to learn that? That’s for boys! Besides, there are mechanics for that,” one of the girls said.

Their giggling increased. I took the 2 raw eggs and threw them into the batter without cracking them open. They gasped and one grabbed the eggs and took them out. She held onto them protectively in case I decided to do it again. The girl stirring the batter moved the bowl closer to her and put her arm around it and sneered at me.

“You know what your problem is, Susan? You don’t understand how things work. You don’t accept your place. You’re not supposed to know how cars work because it doesn’t matter if you know or not. And if you’re going to date someone, do fun things instead of working on his car. Boys like feminine girls and getting all dirty and greasy is not feminine!” she said.

I took a handful of batter and threw it at her. It hit the bowl and she shoved her seat back and gasped.

I was soon back at my counselor’s office. Later, I was put with another group of girls in Home Ed. I graduated knowing how to bake cookies, how to keep brown sugar moist and a bunch of casseroles.

That summer, I applied for a job at a gas station. I still wanted to learn about cars and figured maybe I could while I pumped gas and cleaned windshields. This was in the day when we still had full service gas stations.

The manager laughed when I asked for an application. I felt my face turn red, but I didn’t budge. He looked me up and down and smiled.

“Nah, I don’t think so. I can’t have you pressing your titties against the windshield while you clean them.  You’ll only cause trouble for me. Go home and bake something instead,” he said.

“Give me the God damn application! You have to! It’s the law,” I said. I had no idea if it was the law or not. I was only 17 but it sure sounded good.

“Fine!,” he said and handed it to me. I sat down and began to fill it out. I knew he wasn’t going to hire me, but I felt like annoying him.

The application asked me about my periods and required intimate details. I sat back and thought. Since I wasn’t going to get the job, I decided to write down the most disgusting and gory details that I could. I finished it and handed it back to him.

I watched him read it.

I watched him cringe.

I smiled and walked out.

In college, my Sociology teacher told sexist jokes throughout each class. Most people laughed. I tried to be a good sport but I couldn’t do it any longer.

One day I raised my hand and waited for him to call on me.

“Yes?” he asked while he still laughed about the rape joke he had just told.

“What do these jokes have to do with the subject?” I asked. My voice shook a bit.

“You obviously don’t have a sense of humor,” he said and proceeded to carry-on with the subject.

“And you obviously are an asshole,” I said.

I, once again, was asked to leave class.

After the 3rd time he kicked me out, I dropped the class.

Over the years, so many have told me:

“You need to do something about your hair.”

“You need to lose/gain weight.”

“What’s wrong with you that you don’t have children?”

“You should do as your husband tells you.” This one always made me laugh.

“You should play hard to get. Don’t ever let a man know what you’re thinking.”

“Aren’t you just a bit too young/old to wear that? You should dress and act your age.”

“You can’t write, so don’t even try.”

“It’s up to you to keep a man. You know how they are…”

“You need to behave yourself and stop being so loud and vocal. It’s not ladylike.”

The list is endless.

Just because people say things, it doesn’t make it true.

It’s only true if you say so.

So, disagree…completely and go live your life.

Not theirs.

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Comments
  1. A good piece. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Ellen Wright says:

    Oh, GOD, this is me. How many time did I hear this??

    Finally told one MCP (male chauvinist pig) that there was one thing and only one thing he could do that I couldn’t. He smirked and asked what that was. “Sire babies.” I replied. The sheer frankness of the reply rocked him a bit.

    “And you know what I can do that you absolutely cannot do?”
    B
    Still a bit rocked, “No, what?”

    “Get pregnant and nurse them afterwards. Other than that work is merely a matter of figuring out how much brawn and brains is required to get a job done. If you have sufficient brawn, you don’t need brains. But if you don’t have the brawn, you use brains. So which one do you think women usually use to get the job done?”

    He looked sheepish. The man never, ever mentioned to me again that something was man’s or women’s work. His wife said it changed him profoundly.

    But, yeah, I heard that trashy advice all my life. Never paid attention to it. In fact, it only steeled my resolve to prove them wrong. I’m one persistent bitch.

    Thing is – I’ve ATTRACTED men because I could change tires, hitch up a horse trailer and drive hundreds of miles, camp out primitively by myself, drive a pickup, pitch hay bales, and bargain a deal on a farm tractor. These people giving that advice don’t know squat about all men-they just know about the men in their socially correct little circles. They are very, very limited in their knowledge.

    I am so glad we didn’t listen to them!!

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Oh what a great story! I’m still laughing.

      Unfortunately, in my younger days, I did listen. I tried to do what I thought I was supposed to do. It didn’t work, to say the least.

      But somewhere along the line, I found myself and my voice. I just hope it never falters. I don’t think it will.

      • Ellen Wright says:

        One thing about it, Susan, if you are going to face these folks down, I’ve found that what I call “verbal full frontal nudity” works the best. Just haul off and smack ’em. They’ve been damn insulting anyway, so why the hell not? I wasn’t rude now – just used the correct verbiage very briefly. But I will admit that it pissed me off.

      • Susan Lewis says:

        Yes, I really should just carry a taser all the time. 🙂

  3. Huh. I love this blog but I am 40 and I did not experience anything like what you did. How old are you? I was actually encouraged in the 80’s to do whatever I wanted to.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Oh thanks!

      I am 58. I was born in 1955 so….things were just a bit different back then.

    • Ellen Wright says:

      Tonia,

      I was encouraged and discouraged by both parents. Now here’s the caveat – I was raised in the DEEP South where women are “supposed” to be the Harriet of Ozzie & Harriet. It was a very strange dichotomy of positions. On the one hand, I was being encouraged to learn to set a table, sew, walk properly, do makeup, read the good manners books by Emily Post, and yet was also being told to go get a college degree so I could support myself with a professional career. Say what?

      What really didn’t help was I was a natural tomboy-the kid who climbed trees, came back with bugs, contracted poison ivy regularly, rode horses bareback, and disappeared into the woods for hours. My mom kept hoping I would turn boy crazy-never happened.

      So her friends at church gave me lots of this kind of advice. Just tons of it. And, predictably, I was held out to be of “questionable moral character” when I refused to take it. Surprised the pantyhose off all of them when I married. (That was so much fun-I can’t begin to tell you!)

      Some of this is because of the times, but some of it is cultural. You’ll find it lingering down here. You’ll find it very heavily in first generation Chinese, Latino, and Indian/Pakistani families. It is the way they are accustomed to their women behaving. This “women’s liberation” stuff is strictly Western European/North American/Australian. It doesn’t exist elsewhere.

      • Ellen Wright,

        I was raised in Ohio, in “Yankee” territory, lol. I was encouraged to do non-traditional things and I was a big tomboy as well as a “bookworm” who loved to read tons and tons of books and was in the Gifted classes.

        I wanted to learn to cook and sew, though, so I took those classes on top of woodworking and computer classes.

        Although I could be anything I wanted to be, I still chose to get married and have children and be a stay-at-home Mom. It’s the best life for my children and when they are older I will continue on with my life and do what I want then.

        Staying at home, raising kids, cooking and cleaning, those are not negative things. It upsets me to no end when I see the younger ladies acting like they are horrific things. It’s NOBLE and RESPONSIBLE to stay home with your children because it gives them a stable, warm, loving home with fresh homemade food most every day. It is the best way to raise a child.

      • Tonia, Let me clarify-I cook (quite well, really), sew (my nieces beg for my services), cross-stitch, and a number of other things. Wasn’t blessed with kids, so my kids are foster kids through CASA and international medical work. My “kids” at home include 8 horses, 3 dogs, and 3 cats. I am a paralegal. I used to work in healthcare. I’m just not into pink, ruffles, and pantyhose. I can get with kids having a mom who cooks for them. I’m just not going to be the ones who has the chocolate chips ready when they come in the door! At my house, it is far more likely to be sourdough bread or homemade yogurt. I’m not dissing you. I’m saying that isn’t ME!

      • Homemade sourdough?? That is AWESOME stuff. 🙂 I’ve done that, too.

      • Susan Lewis says:

        Feel free to send me some! 🙂

  4. As ever you’re like a breath of fresh air!

  5. Beautifully elucidated. 🙂

  6. Good for you! Both of my daughters know how to change the tires and brakes on the car, change their own oil, and do basic tune ups! My oldest’s car was a $500 p.o.s. that she and my husband stripped down to the chassis and totally rebuilt so that she would never HAVE to depend on any man to do anything for her for her car, or in general!

    • And it is positively astounding how many men find it incredibly sexy when a female can talk gaps, trannys, and overhead cams vs slants. Why the hell do you think Dannica Patrick is such a sex symbol on the NASCAR circuit? It ain’t for her brownies!!