So, Miss W spent all day thinking about what she wanted to write… toying with different, obviously super cool ideas. However, the fine young men at my local Tesco’s gave me a reason for my angry little fingers to hit the keyboard.
When I was at the checkout with my packet of sad-looking fresh spinach (yeah, Tesco’s, this is a dig at your fresh produce) the checkout assistant, who was probably about 10 years younger than me, said in his listless drawl, “you want a bag love?” Well, if Miss W could breathe fire she probably would have burnt his sorry face off in response. I will now calmly try to elucidate why.
If there is one thing that infuriates me is when men use pet names to address me. The other day when I was at a local cafe having brunch the same thing happened to me, the waiter called me “darling” and “babe”, not once, but twice. Usually Miss W chooses to keep silent just for the sake of not causing an argument, but I feel like this is a feminist issue I need to write about. So, to all the people that think I am making a big deal out of this, please feel free to stop reading here.
Obviously I’ve heard all the arguments around this issue, it’s a local way of speaking, I was just being friendly, it’s banter, you’re being too sensitive,are you on your period? and so on and so forth, but I think there is a more disquieting reason behind why women are often addressed in this way.
Pet names are generally used for inferior, younger, smaller people or animals. I am a grown-up, I am a woman, and on top of it I am a customer, so there is no need to address me by an infantilising pet name. I know that many older women use pet names with younger men, but I find this equally annoying. When the guy in Tesco’s calls me love this assumes a much closer level of intimacy than that of a transaction. Unfortunately for him, he is not one of my close friends, or my mum or dad, or any significant other, from whom I would probably grudgingly accept being called love or darling, etc. I don’t object to little old ladies calling me love or dear, although I still find it slightly patronising, but the terms “love”, “babe” etc when used by a young man are probably not meant as a term of endearment. The term “babe” bothers me in particular, because it has sexual connotations, it implies the speaker is talking to an attractive person. Why should my physical appearance be alluded to when I am in the supermarket?
Let me ask you a question, would these men call a male customer love, darling or babe? I very much doubt it. Therein lies the problem. As a woman I am not being treated the same way that a man would be, and that is what bothers me. That is probably the crux of feminism, for men and women to be treated equally, in fact, it’s not just about feminism, it is about gender equality, but since most of the existing structures in western society were mostly set up by men, then feminism seems to have a longer way to go.
In another recent incident I was equally incensed when one of my husband’s (26 year old male) work colleagues and I were talking in a pub when talking about the subject of age. He said, “well, Miss W, I don’t see why you were worried about turning 30, you met a very nice man and you were married before you hit 30.” Again, for the sake of politeness and working relationships Miss W said nothing, but inside I raged. Why should I be relieved to be hitched before the age of 30? Is a single woman no longer desirable at 30? So what if I weren’t married? Would spinster suddenly be branded on my forehead on the eve of my 30th birthday? Is the fact that a man decided to put a ring on my finger suddenly make me acceptable? I also have issues with the institution of marriage, but let’s leave that for another post. I admit this is an assumption, but I think a 30 year-old man who was married probably wouldn’t get that reaction. Again, another difference in the way we treat men and women.
I have often heard men complain they can’t win, saying they are only trying to be nice by calling us sweet names, or by being gentlemanly, and in some ways I can understand their point. I am not a man hater on any account, I live with one, and I enjoy their company generally, but what I object to is not being respected. I don’t want to be treated any differently because I am a woman. I don’t want to be infantilised, or patronised and I don’t want to be thought of as a physical being foremost.
Anyway, I could probably go on and on about this subject, and unfortunately it’s probably not the last time I will feel this way, but in the meantime, in the words of the probably long forgotten Madison Avenue, don’t call me baby!