Saturday, December 3, 2011

...ladies first

I've mentioned before that men outnumber women here--by a lot.  The majority of those men are laborers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Phillipines. They occupy the lowest rung in the social ladder. 

The lines at the bank machine and in the grocery store grow quite long when the laborers are off work for the day.  I try to run my errands early in the day, but it doesn't always work out.  Sometimes I find myself in line, surrounded by many men.  Sometimes, no matter how much I protest, the men will step aside and motion for me to go ahead of them. At first, I thought this was chivalrous, but a couple of recent incidents have changed my mind.

Last week as I stood in line at the bank machine a man of status came along.  He hollered at the laborers to get out of the way, and made the man using the machine stop his transaction.  He motioned for me to move to the head of the line, all the while grumbling loudly about "these people."  He used the machine before me, then left in a huff.  After that, there was no way that the men would allow me to get back in line where I was.  I apologized, completed my transaction, and left.

A couple of days ago I was in the grocery store at a busy time of day.  As I stood in line a clerk came along and wordlessly took my basket from me.  I followed him, thinking that he was going to open another checkout.  Instead, he put my basket on the belt in front of someone else's things.  The men in line stepped back to allow me in. They had been doing back-breaking labor all day.  I had not.

So why don't I think this is chivalry?  After all, I was allowed to move to the head of the line just because I am a woman. To be chivalrous is to be courteous and generous, especially towards women.    For a couple of reasons.  Both incidents left me feeling embarrassed, with a sick feeling in my stomach.  I wasn't given a free pass to the head of the line because of my gender, but because of my social standing.  If it was chivalry, then the man at the bank machine would have allowed me to use the machine first.  He would have asked the men who had been waiting if they minded.  If it was chivalry, then the men in the grocery store would have invited me to go ahead of them. Instead, they had no choice. 

I have adjusted to many things here, and for the most part, I like it here.  But I hope I don't lose the catch in my belly when people are treated badly.  I hope I don't adjust to classism.


Arlene said...

Oh my, I got the sick feeling in my stomach just reading this. Dignity and respect should be more important than money and status.

Janie said...

Me too. Horrible.

I don't think you're in Kansas anymore Dorothy.

Doozyanner said...

Arlene, you know that money and power trump everything, world-wide! Janie, I came to that conclusion a few months ago! Not everyone treats the workers as I described. There are good people everywhere; those who treat others badly just stand out more. Just recently a kind man allowed me to pull in front of him after I had waited through two lights behind a stalled truck.