"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assumption Culture

A consequence of living in our heteronormative society is that people * even random strangers -- always feel entitled to assume a few things about you. These things include: 1) that you are straight, 2) that you are married or in a relationship (with someone of the opposite sex, of course), or 3) if you aren't married or in a relationship, you want to be in one.

A technician came into my workplace today to fix some equipment, which of course resulted in the type of idle chit chat you make to pass the time with someone you've never met but are forced to be in the same room with for twenty minutes or so. He commented on how he hoped he wouldn't get caught in traffic going home, which led to comparing the length of our daily commutes, which led to naming our cities of residence, which led to him going on and on about how great it is to live by the lake. Upon discovering that I had never spent much time at said lake, his next response was,

"Oh, it's great out there. You should get your husband or boyfriend to take you there sometime."

I acknowledged him with a sort of nod and a look of forced politeness, but inside, I was sort of steaming. I DO happen to be straight, and I DO happen to be in a relationship, but his comment left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This man knew nothing about me and had no business making the kind of assumptions about my sexuality and my relationship status that were required for him to make such a statement. Not to mention the implication that I couldn't take it upon myself to visit a location, but would have to "get my husband or boyfriend" to take me there. It's the type of statement my mom would dismiss instantly as conversational friendliness and tell me I'm overreacting, but It didn't feel friendly to me. It felt patronizing and downright presumptuous.


Anonymous said...

i think it's interesting how older generations have views on what is patronizing and what is not... so many times i have ranted to my dad for him only to say "oh, i'm sure they didn't mean it like that."


Anonymous said...

Yes, I have the same issue with my parents. With my dad, it's to be expected-- he's a sexist who denies that he's sexist. With my mom it's just aggravating, because she's a strong, independent woman, and yet she still sees it as "flattering" when older customers at her job call her "honey" or remark about how "young" and "pretty" she looks, as if that's somehow at all relevant to the person that you've never met before and is selling you lotto tickets.