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On casual pub sexism

I don’t want to cause alarm, but it turns out that despite years of battling for equality, there are some people in the UK who have completely missed the memo about women being independent, equal human beings.

I was in the pub on Friday with some friends, and one of my favourite boys. We danced, drank, flirted, and occasionally snogged each other like teenagers with a bucket of cider in a park.

After a couple of hours, a kind gentleman from the bar decided that the situation had reached tipping point. He could no longer stand by and watch the horror of the unfolding scene – what I can only describe as ‘some people having some fun that caused no harm whatsoever to those around them.’

With a slightly drunken leer, and eyes sparkling like those of someone who is about to make a truly knicker-wetting joke, he marched up and spoke to one of the boys I was with:

“You should control your woman.”

There was a distinct absence of laughter. ‘Control your woman’? Anyone would have thought that I was robbing the pub, or having a violent altercation with one of the other customers. But no – it turns out I was just dancing with someone who a passing stranger had identified as Not My Boyfriend. And he obviously felt that the boy he had mistakenly identified as My Boyfriend required help in handling what he perceived to be a crisis situation.

I can only begin to imagine what was going on in the mind of this gold-plated cretin. What is this woman doing – dancing? With a man? What if she gets pregnant? What will happen next? After all, dancing has been known to lead to so much more – women expecting oral sex, for example, or owning their own passports, perhaps even trying to have jobs with equal pay or something equally unconscionable.

omg it was just a joke lol

Perhaps I’m overreacting here – he was just trying to make a joke. He was a reasonably friendly dude and by the looks of it he mainly wanted to start conversation with a friendly-looking bunch of drunk strangers. I didn’t overreact and follow my immediate instinct – to piss into his pint glass then cackle like a terrifying harpy, but nevertheless I felt angry and uncomfortable.

Not only has someone told me that I am effectively ‘out of control’ for having the kind of fun that would happily be shown before the watershed, but he’s also implied that some other people see me with boys and infer ownership.

So instead of actually confront him about it, I thought I’d tackle it in the traditional nerd way, by retreating to the internet to have a bit of a rant. Because although this guy was joking, jokes like these are far, far too common for my liking.

“Blimey, she’s a fiesty one.”
“Looks like she wears the trousers in your house.”
“I’m surprised he lets you do this kind of stuff.”

One of the reasons I don’t have a boyfriend is that I don’t want any unrealistic expectations placed on me. I don’t want to have to remember birthdays, leave parties early, go to things I won’t enjoy, or not occasionally rub my crotch on people in the pub. In telling the boy to ‘control’ me, this guy reinforced everything I hate about relationships, and the expectations placed on you within them.

He also, even more hatefully, implied that once you have entered into a relationship with a boy, that boy has not only a right but a duty to control you. God forbid men should let their guard down in a public situation – the scorn of sexist pub men will be brought to bear on you if they witness your girlfriend dancing with another dude.

So in conclusion: no, I don’t want to let it go. Despite the no doubt side-splitting hilarity of this throwaway sexism, I’d urge sexist men to avoid ‘controlling their women’ – instead, why not learn to control your fucking self?

17 Comments

  • Tor says:

    It must be the week for it. I made a comment about football on Twitter that was retweeted and to which I received the comment “Get back in the kitchen”. I wasn’t sure whether to be angry or disappointed. To be honest, I’m a bit of both. It surprises me that men still think it acceptable to speak like that even if it’s meant jokingly.

    • girlonthenet says:

      Bloody hell. I am almost bereft of words and tempted just to reply with a horrified splutter.

      What did you say in response? Or did you just ignore it?

  • Ian says:

    god to love ridiculous, stereotyping horseshit. The man has to be in control, and if he’s not, it’s cause for humour and concern. What a gold plated turd.

    Reminds me of the only time when my sister has insisted using her professional title. She was buying a car about 2 years ago, and she went to a dealership with her husband. From the moment she walked onto the forecourt, the salesman acted like she was either a spectator to the purchase or the lucky little lady having a car bought for her. She’d ask questions about the cars they were looking at, and he’d turn and give the answer to her husband instead. At one point when she asked something about the price, the salesman said “Well, how much can he afford?”.

    After about 20 minutes, when she was determined never to buy a car from this pillock as long as she lived, they left. On their way out, the salesman said “We hope to hear from you soon, Mrs XXXX”

    She turned and said “It’s DOCTOR XXXX, actually”.

    Sad how common this stuff is.

    • girlonthenet says:

      This depresses the hell out of me. I am delighted that she didn’t buy the car, but sad that she did not punch him into the sun. The laws of physics, sadly, are often not on the side of justice.

      • lightinthedark says:

        Punching bad guys into the sun to preserve equal rights sounds like exactly the sort of thing Doctor XXXX would do in a comic. :-)

        … not exactly on topic, but thought it might lighten the mood.

  • Guineapiggypiggy says:

    This low-level sexism permeates every sector of society. I’m in a relationship but my b/f respects me not just as a woman but as a fellow human being.

    One of his friends on the other hand, believes that women belong in the kitchen. Needless to say, he gets a right ear-bashing every time he comes out with that view.

    He also believes that women are harder to work for than men. He says he’s had so many bad female bosses that it has to mean something. I usually counter with the comment that most of my male bosses haven’t been that hot either but the fundamental difference is that I don’t think they’re bad because they’re men. I think they’re bad because they’re assholes/incompetent/lecherous etc. This guy believes that they were bad bosses because they were women. But women can also be assholes/incompetent/lecherous etc.

    I hate that in the 21st century, we are still having to fight our corner.

    • Fabricatus says:

      Maybe he finds women are harder to work for because they have noticed his attitude to women or he doesn’t like working for women and lets that attitude colour his perception of the boss/employee relationship? I’ve worked for both sexes and found little to differentiate between them.

      • Polomint38 says:

        This noticing events that confirm your views while ignoring those that go against them is referred to as Confirmation Bias.

  • Maureen says:

    I can’t get in a rip about this.

    Unfortunately there are entire generations which will have to pass before this shizzle will die out. And even men of my peers (30 somethings) say this sort of thing – it is banter, they are relentless with each other about everything under the sun and femmes of their acquaintance do not go unremarked upon, even whilst they are wearing their offspring in a Boden sling.

  • girlonthenet says:

    Bloody good point on the female/male bosses – I think there’s still quite an odd assumption that most of the higher ups will/should be male. I get extraordinarily twitchy if I refer to my boss and people say “oh, what’s he like?” without considering the possibility that my boss might actually be female.

    Your tale also reminded me of a hilariously sexist dude I once knew who would not let his wife buy a specific type of drink, because he did not like it. When I asked her why she didn’t buy it anyway and just, you know, not force him to drink it, her answer was that he was the man so he wanted to choose what they bought in the supermarket. I was speechless.

  • Chaz says:

    I applaud your restraint in not tearing this fuckwit a new one. I’d have rounded on him and let rip (not being one to hold my tongue very often).

    Thankfully, I haven’t been on the receiving end of such sexist shit for some time. Maybe it’s a factor of growing older, that once you’re over a certain age men stop viewing you as “the little woman”? Or perhaps it’s because I have a reputation for taking no prisoners, lol.

    My colleagues, both male and female, know I don’t take any nonsense from anyone. They know that I don’t care what your status is, you will respect me, or suffer the consequences. I can have a laugh and a joke the same as anyone, but don’t try to belittle me, or you will come off worst.

    There is no excuse for this type of sexist behaviour, but the less we challenge it, the more it persists. People use the stock phrase, “it was only a joke” to excuse their own behaviour, making the person they’re targeting out to be the one in the wrong. By not challenging these remarks as they arise, we are giving permission for these cretins to continue with their poor behaviour.

    I hope that next time (and there probably will be a next time) you will confront this behaviour, rather than letting it slide. I don’t care how friendly the guy is, he needs to know that comments like that are unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.

  • Grizzlybaz says:

    Great piece – like others, I’m full of admiration that you retained your composure. I’ve experienced similar situations as the story about the Dr and the car above with my own wife, though in her case they are just as much down to disability discrimination.

    My wife uses a walking stick, due to an incurable physical condition that causes her chronic pain. It does not, however, affect her mental faculties in any way shape or form, which just makes it all the more infuriating when complete strangers ask me, in front of her, what’s wrong with my wife, as if she is incapable of answering for herself.

  • Grizzlybaz says:

    It can be very patronising, yes, particularly when they nod in her direction to indicate that they are referring to her.

  • Wantz Gardener says:

    As a 42 year old fairly around the block London chap about town, I’d just like to say the obvious.. That actually many men wouldn’t and don’t think like the dinosaur who said you needed keeping under control.. It’s not the case that “men” think like this.. It’s the case that ‘some’ men do, (and some of us don’t) and those that do need to be challenged.. and over time it will hopefully get better.

    It mostly derives from a certain type of male insecurity anyway, which has been perpetrated by church and state for generations.. As those power bases are becoming less powerful, and more education is available, if not through the state system but at least from blogs like yours.. more men will grow up not feeling so distant that they have to put a whole sex down to make them feel better..

    Also though in this case it sounds like he was looking for an entry into the group, so he may not have actually meant what he said (no excuse!) but made a play at your expense that he thought would ingratiate him with your guys.. oops.. epic fail on his behalf on two counts.. He will have noticed the lead balloon..

  • Wantz Gardener says:

    Oh.. and my second point, and what prompted me to start writing a comment in the first place is that relationships don’t have to mean expectation of a power slip into the you as the women who has to as she is bid and the he who wears the trousers etc.. How awful would that be?

    If some people on the outside want to interpret it or paint their own prejudices onto it, you and the boy don’t have to play that game.. and doing the odd birthday or thing if you are / were together just implies some care for each other in your relative family contexts.. Its no big deal is it? With good communication providing you and he come first and not the families?

    Or is the objection simply because it’s a stampy foot based on older thoughts.. (I do stampy foot’s too as a bloke.. not a gender specific stampyfoot there) Take each social engagement as they come? Build better types of relationships..? Don’t allow unrealistic expectations to be placed :)

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