There is nothing that irritates me more than not being taken seriously. I don’t mean that you have to agree with everything I have to say, but don’t be dismissive. Don’t roll your eyes or smirk or do a bitter little laugh that implies “Oh, here she goes again.”
There’s nothing more rude than assuming that what I’m saying must be wrong because I’m, I don’t know… me. How am I supposed to make a touchdown if you instantly place me 30 yards deep into my end zone, while you allow others to start on the field?
It’s especially annoying when I happen to be expressing an opinion. Opinions aren’t facts. They’re how a person feels about a subject. Again, you don’t have to agree, but to imply that I don’t really know how I feel, or that how I feel does not bear any consideration whatsoever, or that you know how I should feel better than I do? Nope. Not acceptable. My opinion does not require your stamp of approval to be valid.
If you’re not even willing to entertain what I’m trying to say, then why do you bother asking my opinion in the first place? It’s insulting. It’s a waste of time. It makes me think rather less of the person who is doing it.
I come by my irritation honestly. I am discounted all the time. All. The. Time.
Sometimes it’s because I’m a woman. Sometimes it’s because I’m of a lesser rank in one pecking order or another. And heaven forbid that things happen the way I suggested they would, or that others eventually come to the same conclusions that I did. Do I ever get an apology or even the tiniest bit of credit? Of course not.
A few examples:
There’s a minor repair that is long overdue in my office, and I have even volunteered to do the work myself, if they will just provide me with a particular product that I’d need to do the job. I’ve been asking for over three months now. First, they sent me a different product, and I explained why that wouldn’t work. Next, they ignored me for weeks. But I kept asking.
Mind you, this product costs less than 5 dollars, and it’s readily available at a store where they shop for supplies on a daily basis. The fact that they refuse to provide said product when it’s so cheap and easy to get leaves me with only one conclusion. They think I don’t know what I’m talking about and/or they don’t think the issue is important.
I remodeled my first house, for the most part, all by myself. I may be “just a girl”, but I know what I’m doing. And why would I lie about the importance of the issue? Why on earth would I make all this up?
And to add to my irritation, winter is finally upon us in terms of temperature, even though the solstice has yet to occur. That means that the needed repair is going to be much more urgent. But I guess since only three of us will suffer by freezing in this office, it’s insignificant. Forget about the fact that as the problem worsens, our options for repairing it will be ever more expensive and time consuming.
But, you know, my thoughts don’t matter. They’re not even worth hearing. The arrogance!
(UPDATE: Admin finally provided the product I needed. It only took 13 weeks.)
And I get that same dismissal any time I walk into male-dominated territory and attempt to contribute to the narrative. I walk into a mechanic’s shop and explain what’s going wrong with my car, and I’m not believed. I walk into an auto dealership because I’m hoping to purchase a car, and they think I haven’t done my homework, and that I’ll primarily be interested in learning about features such as the makeup mirror in the visor, or that certain buttons were designed so one won’t break one’s nails. (Never mind the fact that I don’t wear makeup and I keep my nails cut short.) And the arrogance of some doctors when I’m attempting to explain what’s going on with me, the person who has occupied this body for 57 years, is beyond the pale.
Don’t worry your pretty little head, honey. Just take my word for it, or buy this overpriced lemon, or shut up and take the damned pill. Why do you insist on thinking?
Even my own mother, may she rest in peace, was such a product of her generation that she would discount me all the time. When she was cold, I used to tell her that you do lose a lot of body heat from your head, so if she’d put on a hat, she’d feel warmer. I told her that every winter for decades. She ignored me. But when my brother-in-law said the same thing to her, exactly once, she put on a hat, and said she did, in fact, feel warmer. I wanted to scream.
Throughout my adolescence, I kept telling her that my mattress was too short. She said I was being silly. I spent 7 years having to sleep with my feet and ankles sticking out over the edge of the bed. Even when I showed her that this was the case, she didn’t believe me or her own eyes. Then, one day, when we were moving, I took a break by lying on my mattress, which was, for the moment, in the front yard. My feet were hanging off one end, my forearms were hanging off the other. She looked at me and said, “Wow, that mattress is way too short for you.”
My head nearly exploded.
After spending the summer in the Youth Conservation Corps, I was looking forward to showing my mother and my oldest sister the many construction projects we had done. I was really proud of them. My sister wanted to go see a certain project, and I said, “We might want to skip that one. To get to it, you have to go several miles down a road that’s covered with deep, soft sand, and I guarantee you that your car will get stuck.”
She said nonsense, and insisted we go. I told her it was a really bad idea. And sure enough, her car got stuck and had to be towed. She was furious.
So when I suggested we see a different project, she refused to go. (She often meted out this form of punishment, and I think she delighted in it.) I told her the work site was on a paved road, with a paved parking lot, and there was absolutely no risk in visiting that site, and still she refused. And at first, she convinced my mother not to go either.
Why would I lie when I hadn’t lied about the first project? What would my motivation be? Did she think I wanted to ruin her car or something? Did she think that, at the age of 16, I was incapable of distinguishing pavement from sand? It felt like I was at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. I half expected one of them to turn to me and say, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
Eventually, my mother did go with me, and was impressed by what we had accomplished. Unfortunately, by that time I was so frustrated at having to beg to be believed that the compliment fell flat for me. I still struggle with the idea that she felt I couldn’t be trusted but at the same time knew that I had done some very complex construction work that required a great deal of trust.
Another example: When I mentioned to someone with no drawbridge experience that opening a drawbridge for a vessel on a river that has a strong current is much different than opening for one on a canal with almost no current at all, he said I was wrong, and that, anyway, the canal had a strong current.
I only sit here 5 days a week, looking out at this body of water, and the behavior of the vessels thereon, all shift long and have done so on one bridge or another for more than 20 years. But of course, I’m wrong. (He also believes in mermaids, and that homosexuals are aberrant. So yeah. He’s an expert. Pffft.)
Like every woman on the planet, not a day goes by when I’m not underestimated. I’m told I shouldn’t feel the way I feel, shouldn’t react the way I react, can’t possibly know how to do x, y, or z, and that I need to be quiet and just take whatever comes my way, all while being told that I should smile much more than I do.
Discounting people seems to have become the cultural and political norm. Women are not even allowed to control their own body parts. Politicians are ignoring their constituents. I worry that all of this will end badly.
There is no end to the damage that can be done when people believe that they have a right to determine who gets to be heard. It’s like a heinous, twisted, even more despicable version of banning books, because the censorship takes on human form.
I am so f**king over it.