Gender stereotypes leave me powerless even in my own home

Oppression, a photo by isabellaquintana, <a href="">Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication</a>
Oppression, a work by isabellaquintana, Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

This morning Chris and I decided to call a technician to look at our furnace. I never knew this decision would expose so many other problems.

The vibration of the furnace grew with intensity over the past week, and so had our annoyance with the noise. I felt so relieved when the company could send someone right away. An hour later, the technician diagnosed the problem, and identified the part to be replaced. He explained the cost to me and asked, “Does your husband want to go ahead with the repair?”

I was standing there talking to the technician. My husband never met or spoke to him. But, in that moment, my husband automatically had more power than I did.

I know what some of you are thinking, “Who does that?!

Honestly, the answer is worse than you think:

Nearly everyone.

While we might not outright say it, but in our thoughts and actions, subconsciously, we automatically give men more power. And it’s not only men who act and think this way. Women do too. We are socialized in the same patriarchal society. Women may just recognize it more than men, as it directly affects us. But there again, we also have gotten good at repressing the oppression. It’s complicated.

Whether or not we speak up about it is complicated too.  It puts us in complicated situations – further discomfort, further stereotypes, and further minimization and dismissal. This shows up in perceptions of assertive women as “bitches” or “bossy” and comments that we’re making a “big deal” out of nothing.

I also have to say this is additionally complicated for people with additional identities. For some, their speaking up may marginalize them more. People are perceived differently based upon their identities and the stereotypes that affect them.

Just because we don’t say anything doesn’t mean we don’t mind. It just may be less marginalizing and traumatizing to remain silent.

For more reading, read this UN publication about Gender Stereotypes and the Socialization Process.

For a broader view on gender and women, read some of the content at UN Women.

For some good books and intro into feminism, see Feminist Frequency’s resources.

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