I'm Starting To Understand Feminism

5 years ago

I've never really considered myself an active feminist, though I've always been a huge advocator of equality. Of course I am sympathetic to the plight of women that have fallen foul of sexism at work and in social situations. I've balked in horror when people have dared to blame rape victims for their own 'misfortune'. There is one area though that will always bring out the raging feminist that is clearly dormant inside me and by god, she has some teeth.

Car service/sales men. They will always stir a feeling of discomfort in me. I've been a driver for 11 years, which admittedly is a lot less many women. But in those 11 years I've experienced all manner of idiocy from condescending men that seem to have this preoccupaption with women as being denser. 

When looking around a car forecourt last year as my husband and I were looking for a new vehicle, it took about three minutes of being away from his side for a salesman to approach me with 'alright there darlin'. I'm all for playful colloquialism, but it still makes me uncomfortable when a man I don't know calls me love, sweetheart, pet, darling etc. Especially when that same salesman then approaches my partner and addresses him as 'sir'. Calling someone sir is a sign of respect, right? So why didn't he call me madam? Is it meant to appeal to this supposed softer nature I have that is perpetuated consistently by every media outlet ever born? 

So, I've managed to make it through the rigmarole of buying a car (there's a huge amount of documentation involved when buying a vehicle in the UK) and you'd think that given I obviously have the ability to walk into a dealership and buy a car, I have the ability to handle looking after it. Apparently not. As I've moved around a fair bit since the age of 18, I've been to many different service garages and all except one have given me reason to walk away feeling demoralised. I grit my teeth through the inevitable 'hi there love', and politely refuse the various 'special offers' that apparently I can't refuse and we get to the nitty gritty of servicing my car. In less than two minutes, I've been insulted twice.

Firstly upon informing me that a buckled wheel would need replacing, the servicer quickly said 'and the tyre and wheel are different things sweetheart'. To assume I didn't know that is plain insulting off the bat - would the guy have said that to my husband? And then when I pressed for an estimated time that my car would be ready to be picked up, he said 'well, cars are complicated and work can take some time'. Cars are complicated? Really? I couldn't have worked that out myself with my blissful blonde brain and XX chromosomes, obviously. Never mind that cars are mechanical objects that generally require a lot of education on to class yourself an expert. 

It's always been this way, sadly. I could reel off another four or five instances where I've been belittled or talked down to when dealing with men in the motoring industry. Interestingly, the one (seriously, just one) garage I've been to that have always been wonderful have a woman at the helm. Their reviews online are completely positive, too. 

Many women I've spoken to agree that they get entirely different results when they are accompanied to service garages by a man, even to the point where they get completely different prices quoted for the same job. How is this even acceptable? When we got our new car last year, even though all the documentation was (and still is) in my name, the salesman addressed my partner, looked at him throughout, and asked him to acknowledge his understanding. I'm not under the illusion that this is an industry that is suddenly going to experience an influx of female workforce, but most estate agents I've met are males and they've never spoken down to me. Similarly, any time I've come into contact with firefighters they are largely male, but not preoccupied with reminding me that I'm a woman by calling me 'love' or 'sweetheart' every other sentence. 

I can't be alone in this, surely? 

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