Well, I've been stewing about this for a little while. Obviously the state and national politics aren't helping with their various ways of suggesting that women are lesser, weaker, dumber... you name it... I'm utterly fed up with that.
This past week I have also been reminded of the middle of February last year. When the budget rumblings were just beginning and customers were coming in asking for our buttons. We didn't even HAVE buttons yet, we were still reeling. And the requests have started up again. Sachi just finished a series of Obama buttons; we had been talking about how we were feeling a little at a loss for where to go, but also trying to figure out what exactly to say. Then on Tuesday, a few customers came in and said, "where are your contraception buttons?" And on Wednesday, a customer called and said that she heard we might have some buttons, or could make some for her. She said she hasn't been particularly political, but all these attacks on women's rights were forcing her to get involved. "We're mad as heck, don't ya know." Classic. Seriously.
So I told Sachi on Wednesday that we really needed to get going on the next set of buttons. We watched the girl at her ballet class that night and brainstormed possibilities. I went a little too far in the dictionary of urban slang.. but did emerge with "my lady business is none of yours." Meanwhile, as expected, Sachi just needed a little push but threw herself into her panty protest pin series, debuting today.
I've also had a few incidents - a very few, and not enough to constitute a pattern by any means, but nonetheless ones that makes me annoyed with a certain category of person - one who wields power and perpetuates a system whereby they have more power than other people; specifically, they, as men, have more power than other people, as women, and then goes out and yells at the people who have less power.
In all, over the last year, I have been pleasantly surprised. I have managed to maintain mostly civil retail relationships despite having opponents to my clearly stated point of view. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. And, fine, if you feel that you cannot support our store because we disagree with our Governor, that's your prerogative. That said, I am much more likely to respond to paying customers. Although I myself have been tempted with the boycott approach, on a very basic level, I feel like there's no way we are ever going to find any middle ground if we can't even buy, say, a donut from each other (a customer recently told me about a "horrible Republican" baker.. but, yeah, I won't give up the donuts). Now that I have learned that I can still get along with some Republicans, well, hey, maybe we can start to have a conversation about what it is we do have in common and what it is we want to make our world better for our children.
Nonetheless, between myself, my sister and our part-timer, we've had a handful of unpleasant experiences. Maybe we just caught these men on a bad day, maybe as women, we just ignore the whisperings of other women, maybe it's just a matter of that particular communication style butting heads' with our own particular communication style. Still, it is irksome. And more than that when combined with the behavior of political men on state and national levels.
What is it exactly about these few incidents? Well, for starters, they were all men. They stopped in (or stood in the doorway); in all of my situations, there was very little room for discussion, because they basically said what they wanted to say and went on their way. In the case of our part-timer there was some feeling... not threat exacly, but unease, given that the that it was a group of high school wrestlers (a situation with an underlying potential of physical harm, whether conscious or not). And yes, this is our store, we are the owners, and we made the decision to be vocal about our opinion. However, there is some imbalance of power in the retail relationship. After all, we are trained in customer service that the customer is always right, even when they are wrong. There is an underlying element that you must maintain civility and that the customer holds the fate of your store or job in their hands. This gives the customer an advantage. Additionally, I'm never really sure - does that customer realize that I am the owner of the store, or am I just a hapless shopgirl? If you think I am not the owner who set policy, then that's even more objectionable that you take your ire out on me. My objection to these incidents is they way they are like a microcosm of the way certain men (notably politicians) seem to be treating women right now. No effort for interaction or understanding, just a wielding of power over matters that, honestly, are none of their business. Sure, these customers are free to disagree with me, but they are not free to expect that I will change or impose their views over mine. I have just as much right to have an opinion - but since they didn't stop for a conversation, they aren't even letting me have mine. Well, they might say that I imposed mine on them first, but I don't require them to read or listen to mine. YET, because of the imbalance of power in the retail relationship, I am required to "smile and nod" in the face of their opinion.
(and another thing, what is the party that regularly complains about the
"nanny state" and calls for small government doing in anyone's personal life? Unfortunately Citizens United only went one way to declare that corporations are people. Because if people were declared corporations, then maybe the Republicans would be more amendable to privatizing our private lives?).
I have worked really REALLY hard to get where I am today. I think every person should have a say in who they want to be and where they want to go. I think you should behave in this world the way you want other people to behave towards you, and also not assume that your way is the only/best way. I am personally not suited to stay at home in the kitchen with the children, but if someone else wants to do that, that's fine. The point of all the work of all the people that have come before us is that WE get to have a say in our destiny. Just like anyone else. We can make mindful decisions about what our life is going to look like, and not be subject to the whims of other people. We deserve that as much as anyone else. We are smart enough, we are capable enough, and if anyone says otherwise, they are losing out because we could have rocked their world.