Did your husband SAY you could do that?


Some of the stories here really make me cringe. Being a man I’ve escaped the brunt of sexism, although as a bisexual I’ve also had the misfortune of witnessing just how differently my male and female exes have been treated in similar situations (the “real man” meme being a whole other discussion).

What I really want to relate, though, is my mother’s experience with her co-workers. Comparatively late in life, she began rising through the ranks in a regional hospital system, which means that she has had to negotiate with surgeons and other high-ego staff (but not too aggressively, because if she was as assertive as her male counterparts she would have a reputation as a “bitch”). She is in the unusual position of working several hundred miles from where her husband/my dad lives, and she splits time between the two locations, travelling back and forth about once a month, as time and money allow. They both seem fairly satisfied with this arrangement.

In any case, she does a fair bit of socializing with co-workers. And through many of them, she has learned that she is supposed to ask her husband for advice and permission regarding such matters as:

* Haircuts and hair dying.
* Make-up.
* Going to a movie with a male friend.
* Going on a hunting trip.
* Actually, going anywhere without a close relative or another woman to guard her.

These people (mostly male) constantly try to remind her by asking “What does your husband think of that?” or “How are you going to get out of dodge (you know, when your husband finds out that you were doing something fun without him)?”. Apparently, despite the fact that she does not live in a conservative Muslim theocracy, despite being about four decades too old to need a chaperon, despite her husband living hundreds of miles away, and despite the fact that she is deemed responsible enough to shepherd volatile physicians and manage eight-figure budgets for medical programs, she still can’t make decisions about her appearance or social behavior by herself.

But that’s just what she should expect. After all, it’s Her Fault She’s Female.



8 Responses to “Did your husband SAY you could do that?”

  1. Alexa Says:

    I hear burqas are in fashion! I’m sure she’d look just lovely in one!


  2. SkyHawk Says:

    Nice variation on the hashtag! Anywho, I’m sorry on my own behalf for the sh*t you have to put up with from these people. Reading this blog reminds me of 1950s America. If you weren’t male, white, upper-middle class, and a Rupublican, you were screwed.

  3. Sarah Says:

    That is appalling discrimination, as usual, but I’d just like to point out that there is a huge difference between aggression and assertiveness, contrary to popular misconception, and (in keeping with that misconception) you seem to have used the two terms interchangeably:

    “but not too aggressively, because if she was as assertive as…”

    Perhaps this just highlights another double-standard, in terms of societal perceptions – if a man behaves in an aggressive, dominating, way he is perceived (wrongly) as being assertive; whereas if a woman does the same thing it is seen as the aggression that it is, and she is labelled a bitch.

    • Axiomatic Says:

      Alternatively, if a man is assertive, he is seen simply as what he is, whereas if a woman were to dare such a thing, she would be seen as an aggressive bitch. Which is what this post is all about, isn’t it?

  4. Sean Says:

    (This is the author of the above.)


    My mom has experienced a lot of Ye Olde Tyme discrimination. Her parents couldn’t imagine why a nice young pretty Christian girl would to college, instead of just finding a well-to-do man to support her! Even worse, then she married a Mexican!

    I do admire her for not letting her family’s attitudes hold her back.


    I agree that assertiveness and aggression are not quite the same thing. I probably should have been more careful with my words.

    My mom was brought into her current job because they (it seems correctly) believed that she could revamp and expand some of their failing programs. A significant part of her job is about convincing people to do their job in a certain way (or in the case of really critical procedures, /making/ them change even if they think the change is a PITA). Because certain situations require her to be forceful in this way I consider “being aggressive” as something wholly appropriate to her position. However, I’m open to the possibility that I should adopt a more restrictive definition of the word.

  5. A Different Sam Says:

    I find it ironic that this system of rules the insane sexists dream up for married women makes it clear that the best option for women is not to get married at all, which is exactly the opposite of what the sexists want.

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