Today, I witnessed a bizarre scene at the Post Office. If you are an adept customer of the USPS, you know that this is not an uncommon event. But this one was particularly outrageous. It was one of the most blatant cases of sexism and gender bias I have ever witnessed.
When we talk about sexism, we immediately think about discrimination against women.
Well, today, the one discriminated against was a man.
There was a young dad, holding a one year old girl, right in front of me in line. Once he made it to the counter, the lady behind it, pretty angrily, asked why his envelope was open. He said that he hadn’t realized, with the girl and all. The lady barked at him several pearls:
“Moms do this everyday, you know? And they don’t have so much trouble”. (Yes, yes we do have so much trouble. I also have trouble running errands while holding a baby in my arms. And, you see? I don’t have a penis.)
“I’m sure her mom does this every day, and she doesn’t look so frazzled”. (How do you know that? He could be a single father of five, as far as you know.)
“You need to better your hold, she is slipping. Can’t you hold her properly?” (Moms also have trouble holding their babies while they are using their hands to sign a receipt, close an envelope, etc. At least I do. And, you see? I don’t have a penis.)
“You need to get it together”. (We all need to get it together, starting with you, mail lady. And with me. And, you see? I don’t have a penis.)
“You better get more practice”. (We will always need more practice regarding our kids. Learning as you go is part of the game of parenthood. 9 years into it, I practice every day, as that Dad was doing. And, you see? I don’t have a penis.)
She said that, all of that or something very similar, all of that within a four minute span.
The Dad stood there, way more calmly than 99% of the moms I know would have been in his situation. He finished his business and left. I, being the coward I am, didn’t want to confront a mail lady. But I chased after him to tell him that he was doing a fine job (he was, really). To tell him that the mail woman was totally out of place treating him like she had. To tell him that not all women think the same way. To thank him for parenting his daughter. He smiled, thanked me, and we parted ways.
But I have been bugged about it since. Because I have witnessed different versions of this way too often.
I witness discrimination against fathers every time I hear a woman, including many moms, say that their partners are going to “babysit the kids”. They are not babysitting. They are parenting.
I witnes discrimination against fathers every time my husband leaves a message, with HIS name and HIS number for the medical provider of one of my sons only to have the call returned to me. Fathers are as valid as moms when discussing medical issues, school problems, and the likes. They profusely apologized when I scolded them that time. But nothing changed.
I witness discrimination against fathers every time I see a place with a changing table in the women’s restroom, but not in the men’s one.
I witness discrimination about fathers every time someone makes a joke about them not knowing how to change diapers, or take care of the kids.
I witness discrimination against fathers every time a woman, often older, takes a newborn out of his father’s arms just to hold him “properly”.
And I am done. My husband doesn’t babysit, he is not some second rate substitute for me, he doesn’t “help”. He parents. Exactly like I do.
And if we want for things to change, for life-work balance to be shared fairly, for fathers to be as involved as moms usually are, we need to change the discourse. We need to treat them as equals. We need to respect them, and their way of doing things. We need to stop berating, chastising and criticizing them. We need to stop making jokes.
We need to change things because parenthood is not a joke. It is the most important job that we, both mothers and fathers, will do in our lives. And it is a hell of a lot easier if we do it together.
Did you like this post? If you want to keep having fun with the foreign life you can follow this blog on Facebook.
If you want to contact me, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also suscribe! Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button to receive my posts. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.