So last night, Al and I are having dinner at the best burger joint in the world, sitting at the bar, crammed in next to two male drunken assholes, apparently lawyers, and one female drunken asshole, a cop. Here are a few snippets of the conversation I couldn’t help overhearing, because the one right next to me was talking at eleventy billion decibels, before I fucking snapped:
You don’t understand, I work with these women every day. They all act like they’ve got something to prove. They don’t understand professional behavior.
…too emotional to practice law…
They come into the office wearing their little open-toed shoes… [For real, y’all. OPEN-TOED SHOES. ]
Well, I would never take female clients there, but that’s how business gets done! Women may not like it, but that’s how business is done.
Yes, I admit I’m a chauvinist. I have no problem with being called a chauvinist.
No, I’m telling you, I work with women, and you would not believe how many of them are incompetent. I mean, the incompetence is just staggering.
[woman attempts to say something]
No, no, NO, you listen to ME! Don’t say anything until you LISTEN TO ME. NO. SHHHH.
[woman gets out a few words about just wanting to be a good cop]
Asshole: You have to understand you are not a WOMAN cop. You are just a cop.
Woman: I just want to be the best cop I can be.
Asshole: Well, that’s fine, as long as you understand you’re not a WOMAN cop, you’re just a cop, so you don’t get any fucking special privileges.
I’m telling you, you don’t understand what men go through with women in the office…
Aaaand that’s where I lost it.
Me: Excuse me, but if you’re going to sit there and insult women, do you think you could be a little quieter about it?
Asshole 1: What the hell? I did not insult one woman!
Me: No, you insulted us all.
Lady Cop: Why don’t you just shut up and mind your own business?
Asshole 2: You have no idea what we’re even talking about.
Me: Actually, I do, because I’ve had to listen to it for the last ten minutes.
Asshole 1: Look, we were having a private conversation here, and you–
Me: No, you weren’t. You were sharing with the whole class.
Asshole 1: You want to tell me what I can and cannot say–
Me: I didn’t tell you not to say anything. I asked you to please be quieter.
Asshole 2: All right, well let me throw this out there, then. Would you like to have a debate about women?
Me: No, thank you.
Asshole 2: Well, what the hell do you want?
Me: I want to eat my dinner in peace.
Asshole 2: You barge into our conversation, but you won’t debate me?
Me: No, I won’t.
Bartender: Hey, how ’bout we give it a rest?
Me: Thank you.
And predictably, that started up the Drunken Asshole Chorus: My GOD, we were having a PRIVATE conversation, and she just thinks she can barge in and TELL US WHAT WE CAN SAY, and some people are SO RUDE, blah blah fucking blah…
Some seats opened up farther down the bar, so Al and I moved down there, and the bartender helped us with our stuff. I apologized to him for making a scene, he told me it was perfectly fine, and then he went back over to the assholes.
Asshole 2: What the fuck? You’re on her side?
Bartender: I’m not on anybody’s side. All I know is, I don’t need people yelling at each other in here.
Asshole 2: So you think it’s okay for [inaudible]
Bartender: [also inaudible]
Asshole Chorus: WHAT THE FUCK WE CAN’T COME TO THE BAR AND SAY WHATEVER WE WANT WE’RE JUST MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS AND SOME BITCH BLAH BLAH AND NOW WE CAN’T SPEAK OUR MINDS BLAH BLAH FREEDOM OF SPEECH BLAH BLAH SO RUDE BLAH BLAH WHAT THE FUCK BLAH!!!!
The bartender walked away and they finally settled down and began speaking in relatively normal tones. Al and I quickly finished our meals, gave the bartender a big tip, and walked out. I totally expected them to take a parting shot as we walked past them, but they deliberately avoided looking at us. Heh.
Then, as Al and I were walking through the parking lot, we heard somebody yell, “Goodnight, you guys!” and looked over to find another bartender, a waitress, and some kitchen staff out having a smoke, all of them waving at us. I’d only seen one of them inside the restaurant, but the waitress yelled, “Hope your night gets better!” so apparently they all knew who we were. And, oddly enough, weren’t too put off by my efforts to abridge other customers’ freedom of speech.
The thing is, the whole time I was engaged with these assholes, I was shaking like a dog in the rain, heart pounding, mouth dry, etc., etc. I sat there for a good ten minutes fantasizing about triumphantly telling Asshole 1 off before I actually attempted it, but once I started, I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. It wasn’t even that I felt threatened by them–I knew it wasn’t the kind of place where an actual bar fight would have been allowed–but I felt horribly vulnerable and exposed, even though I was speaking quietly and being fairly reasonable, all things considered.
Thus, my dinner was completely ruined, and I was still keyed up about it for the whole drive home. (Al, after 15 minutes of tense silence: “You know… he was probably right.” Me: “I HATE YOU.” Al: “Tee hee.”) And of course, I have absolutely no illusions about what I accomplished there–nor did I have any about what I would accomplish before I spoke. I know damn well that if those people ever think of me again, it will be as “that cunt who barged in on our conversation.” The whole thing went pretty much as I figured it would go, as all arguments with bullies go.
So why did I bother? I’m still not entirely sure, to be honest. I said to Al, I think I just needed that guy to hear that what he was saying wasn’t acceptable to everyone around him. I didn’t expect him to agree with me or change his ways, but I thought it was important that someone say it to him. Guys like that are allowed to spout their hateful bullshit without ever being called on it way too often.
And I guess I’m just fucking done with being yet another woman who lets that horseshit go unchecked. Of all three drunken assholes I confronted last night, I might be angriest at the woman, because she was sort of trying to stand up for herself–she’s the one who called Asshole 1 a chauvinist in the first place (Whee! We’ve progressed all the way to 1973!), and I heard her say, “Fuck you,” more than once. But eventually, she just went on the defensive, accepting that what he was saying was basically true, but arguing that she wasn’t one of those women, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Because those women are, if not a myth, a small minority. They exist primarily in the minds of insecure, unhappy men. And I’m sick of hearing about them as if they’re taking over.
I’m also sick of participating in a culture that hasn’t at least marked that kind of talk as officially shameful yet. Racism still exists in abundance, but these days, it’s a rare drunken asshole (I hope, anyway) who would sit next to an African-American person in a bar and start loudly going off about how lazy, incompetent, uppity, what-have-you, his black co-workers are. And I think that’s a step forward, however small. I’m wary of regarding political correctness as a panacea–eliminating nasty words certainly doesn’t eliminate nasty thoughts, and one would be a fool to lose sight of that. But if the average drunken misogynist asshole were as circumspect about his public rantings as the average drunken racist asshole, at least I could eat my goddamned burger in peace. That seems like something worth working toward.
Update, August 2008: I have been quite rightly called out for the idiocy of the last few sentences in this post, and I apologize for them. This post is almost two years old, and I have learned a lot about privilege since then — and still have a lot to learn. I absolutely deserve to be told I had my head way up my ass when I wrote that, and I regret that I ever thought that that was a reasonable point.