How to Shut Up a Man
I was doing one of my least favorite things last week: sitting in a dental chair with a numb mouth with what felt like an interogation light in my eyes while my dentist and his assistant hovered over me with various scary looking implements.
I recently read that people in jobs that involve touching their clients need to create a bond or connection with the person for whom they are providing services. I get that when it comes to the person who does your hair. Sara, my hair dresser, is a better therapist than most therapists I know, but I have absolutely no need to pour out my heart to my dentist.
And yet, here he was, trying to make a crappy moment more chummy by inserting himself into my personal thoughts – or, in this case, the podcast I was trying to listen to in an attempt to tune out my real life situation.
“What are you listening to?” he asked.
Here’s the thing: when someone has their earphones in, that is a signal that they don’t want to engage in conversation. It’s the human version of putting a “do not disturb” sign on the door handle of a hotel room. I can understand if my dentist couldn’t see that I had them in, but I had specifically asked if it was ok to use wireless earphones in the dental chair and was assured they were fine and would not interfere with any equipment.
But even if he couldn’t read that I had absolutely no interest in engaging in small talk, I didn’t want to be rude to someone who had the potential to really hurt me. So I turned off my podcast and told him I was currently obsessed with the Murdaugh Murdaugh trial in South Carolina.
He surprised me with his knowledge of the case. Thankfully, he didn’t expect me, with my numb and drooling mouth, to explain it to his assistance, who said she loved true crime but didn’t know that case. I missed some of what he said as I pondered how anyone would be interested in true crime and NOT know about the Murdaugh saga, But then he drew me back into the conversation, “I can’t believe that in this day and age, there are still good old boys who get away with so much.”
He was looking at me for a response, and without thinking I said, “That’s because you aren’t female.”
He actually seemed shocked as though he thought I should have appreciated the fact that he was calling out the good old boy system. He reacted as though I were saying he was part of it. He even stopped trying to make small talk.
In truth, I really hadn’t made the comment to make him feel bad or call him out on anything. I was simply making an observation that he has never been affected by the good old boy mentality in a way that I, and most women I know, have.
I’ve quit a job because the male CEO never even asked his female employees if they were interested in his position when he retired. Instead, he came to us and said, “I know the perfect person to take over the organization when I leave.” Of course it was a white guy just like him who didn’t have nearly as much relevant experience as the women who already worked at the organization. I have had sit in silence listening to the verbal back slapping and one upmanship of men who have turned to me and asked if I could get them something to drink. I’ve even had to tolerate a community leader who insisted on calling me Mrs. Snyder (my husband’s last name) even though he knew that wasn’t my last name. It was his way of putting me “in my place.”
And none of that even touches on the sexual harrassment and discrimination I’ve endured in a system built by and for white men.
My dentist never followed up on my comment, but if he had, I probably would have said something like this: people in power want to stay in power. Until a few decades ago, doing favors for each other while ignoring wrong doings was how men got what they wanted. That doesn’t change in a few decades, especially in communities where that power generates fear and keeps everyone “in their place.” Even worse, in the past few years, I’ve seen women using the same tactics to gain power and control over others.
I think that is why my immediate reaction to his disbelief that the good old boy network still exists was to tell him that’s because he doesn’t have to see it.
I can only hope that maybe, just maybe, the reason he was so quiet during the rest of my appointment was not because he was upset with me or my reaction but because instead of talking, he was thinking about what I’d said. And hopefully, he also understood just a little bit more than he had before.
Posted on February 12, 2023, in My life, people, perspective and tagged good old boys, Murdaugh, musings, People, perspective, privilege, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
Power is definitely the ultimate aphrodisiac. It is no wonder when those who have power, do not easily relinquish it.
You are so right, Trina. I remember that CEO and the outrage I felt when he ignored your contributions to the agency and your high degree of competence.