Saturday, March 06, 2010

Misogynist Me

I was accused of being a misogynist today. OK, the nice lady didn't use the word 'misogynist', but her intention was pretty clear.

I woke early enough and feeling refreshed enough to think a workout at the gym was a good idea. I dressed, hopped in the car and headed out. The workout felt good. I've been sick the last two weeks and it felt great to be physical and strong. Near the end of my workout as I was making cool-down laps around the track I noticed a lady giving me looks. I could not exactly define the 'looks' – they could have been 'look at that cute guy looks' or 'he's got a booger on his face looks' or even 'he might be tasty with a light white wine sauce looks' – but looks they were.

I did not have to wonder long.

The nice lady, the one who was perhaps contemplating if I would be better braised or poached, walked right up to me, put her face very far into my personal space and announced with a little tremble in her voice: "It's guys like you that make this world a bad place."

I like to think of myself as hard to surprise. However, this did just that. I was taken aback (I think a first for me). I stammered out an "Excuse me?" and tried to back away from the little jolts of crazy now clearly detectable.

The nice lady, seeing that her point was being lost on stupid me, poked me in the chest and said, "Your shirt. It’s not funny."

I do have some funny shirts. I have one that reads: See a penny pick it up and all day long you'll have a penny. However, I was not wearing this shirt. I was wearing a workout shirt. You know, the wicking, breathable, don't-die-of-heatstroke kind. I looked down both at her accusatory finger and my shirt. Ah. I was wearing my Skirt Chaser shirt.

"It's a race," I said, still trying to back away from the crazy now achieving a rolling boil.

"I don’t care what it is," she said, still refusing to lower her finger-of-doom. "It's not funny."

I tried to explain to her that it's a 5K put on by SkirtSport, a company that makes sportswear for women. A company founded by Nicole DeBoom for cryin' out loud! And moreover the race had been a fundraiser for breast cancer research.

It didn’t matter.

I was merely a thing to be placed into a preexisting category.

This encounter left me…thoughtful. On the one hand there is enough irony in accusing me of being hateful towards women that it was almost funny. Almost. If I have a failing in that area it is that I'm perhaps too much of a philogynist. One the other hand, prejudice is not pretty no matter who wears it. Or why. And that was a prime and plump example of prejudice.

And that's kind of the point. The nice lady doesn't know me. She doesn't know anything about me. Yet she can judge me. I think that is a lot of what makes this world a bad place.

A prejudice is merely a prejudgment. And we all have them. They are both positive and negative. They are, in large part, our basis for likes and dislikes. But they can exist in a vacuum – which is what can make them so ugly and so dangerous. To judge something, anything, without ascertaining the facts of a situation, is one of the greatest failings of human nature. That we can hold onto an attitude that is resistant to reason creates much of the antagonism in this world.

I'm not angry at the nice lady; I feel sorry for her. I'm certain there must be a reason she holds that kind of hostility in her and lashes out. In her mind it might even be a good reason. However, it has nothing to do with me. And I am upset at an attitude that makes people dismissive of an individual's worth.

I don't think you should ever judge based on the lowest common denominator. And I will not judge the next nice lady I encounter at the gym based on my experience today.

If I know you, or someday meet you, know that I will do my very best to see you for who you are and how you act and not what I think you might be.