Overheard at work: carrying tissues is a girl thing

I have a co-worker with whom I frequently butt heads on gender issues.  He refers to himself as “old school” when it comes to how he believes men and women are supposed to behave, and firmly believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that most, if not all, gendered behavior is biological, rather than socially constructed.

We each have a child who just entered kindergarten this year, so we end up talking about parenting quite a bit, which is where a lot of the head-butting comes in.  Recently, he explained to me that he wanted to hold his son A__ back a level in school, despite the fact that A__ is ready for the next level academically, because he would be the only boy.  His reasoning is that the girls in the next level, who are excelling academically, would be too “feminizing” of an influence on his son.  What he meant by that is that he wants his son to be comfortable hitting his peers, because that’s what boys are supposed to do.  And no, I am not paraphrasing or misinterpreting.  He literally means that he wants his son to believe that because he is a boy, he is supposed to be physically rough with his friends, and to him, that includes hitting them.

So anyway, his secretary sits outside my office, and he just wandered up to her to ask for tissues.  He can’t just leave it at that, though.  He has to explain that the reason he does not have tissues is because he is a guy, but that he expects that she will have some, because she is a woman.  He further explains that he “likes to give his wife grief” for being a “bad mom/woman” because she does not carry tissues.  He then turns to me, through my office door, for confirmation and says “Right Jane?  You carry kleenex, right?  Because you’re a mom.”

It happens that I do carry tissues when it gets cold, because I walk to the train and the cold makes my nose run.  I guess if I were a “man,” I would just snot all over my sleeve or something.   But really?  To give your wife grief for not carrying fucking kleenex, and then pretend that your testicles give you a pass for not being prepared?  That’s just fucking dumb.




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