Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday Morning Manhandle

6am may be too early for some to tackle sexist language, but not this feminist gal. (wink)

Mondays and Thursdays are my early days. I work at a methadone clinic and since drug abuse is a non-discriminating disease (meaning anyone can be addicted to drugs) many of our patients have 9-5 jobs like the rest of us and get their treatment before work. Anyway, i work 6am-3pm two days a week... 6am may seem way early for some but i actually love being able to get home by 3:30 and spend QT with Beans...

Today, much like any other 6am Monday morning, counselors, nurses, and staff alike stumbled into the building after a not long enough weekend of rainy weather. (Why is it that rain likes to happen on the weekend and as soon as the work week begins again, it's gorgeous outside?) Per routine, first thing i do in the morning is fill up my Mickey Mouse mug with water. Frequently the water cooler is empty in the mornings (because no one likes to change them) and frequently that becomes my in-office work out for the day. I do this regularly, without complaint... because i secretly like the feeling of being able to lift a 40+ lb water bottle 4 feet off the ground.

This morning, a new clinician happened to see me do it. Unlike the other counselors, he doesn't yet know that i "read into things too much." Anyway, he watched me carry the 5 gallon bottle from the kitchen through the hallway, lift it off the ground, place it on top of the water cooler, and then proceeded to say, "hey, you should let the guys do that."
"Why's that?" I replied.

"Because it's heavy." He said. Then another counselor walked through the hallway and he said to her, "Look at the way Galina just manhandled the water cooler."

I snarkily replied, "Is it still 'manhandling' if a woman does it?"

"Don't take it so personally, it's just a term - it's in the dictionary, look it up"

I turned the defensive off and the patience on and responded, "Just because something is in the dictionary doesn't make it any less sexist. Language is often sexist, and most of it is in the dictionary. All that means is that sexism is institutionalized and more ingrained in our way of life than we realize. Sometimes it's good to think about these things"

"Maybe sometimes" he said, "but not 6am on Monday morning."

"Agreed." I smiled, "There's not much i do well at 6am on Monday morning, well, except womanhandle the water cooler" :)

definition via dictionary.com:

man·han·dle
–verb (used with object), -dled, -dling.
1. to handle roughly.
2. to move by human strength, without the use of mechanical appliances.

Again, male as the default. "Human strength" = male strength, male power.

All i'm trying to say is that language, in itself, is sexist. Since language represents and shapes so much of our daily lives, this is something to think about. And think about often.


5 comments:

Smirking Cat said...

I agree, totally. And the defense of "Hey, this sexist term is so common that it's in the dictionary, meaning simply that millions of people mindlessly use it and perpetuate sexism" is lame as can be. THINK!
P.S. My job requires quite a bit of heavy lifting, so I womanhandle on a daily basis.

phd in yogurtry said...

thought #1

"its in the dictionary" is about on par with "slavery is in the bible"

thought #2

its never too early to womanhandle your coworkers into egalitarian speech

La Pobre Habladora said...

I agree with you - people don't realize how much their ideas and stereotypes are formed by the everyday language they hear and use. And your coworker meant everything he said - he meant that you were being 'manly' because you failed to make him feel strong by running to ask him for help. (Awwww... poor little guy just wants your attention - Dr. Laura would tell you to pretend you can't do it just to make him feel good). So, no, you don't read too much into things - Mr. Guy maybe just doesn't read the writing on the wall.

Kandee said...

It's never too early or too late to tell someone where to put their crap!

Queers United said...

people are stupid but by carrying the water jug you are breaking stereotypes

http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com