Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Don't Call Me Babe!

So, you know what I hate? (Aside from, like, everything.) I hate strangers who call you pet names. Honey, sweetie, doll, babe, cutie, little lady, the list goes on and on. I usually encounter it on one end or the other of customer service. I don't really get it. But I hate it. Hate it hate it fuckin' hate it.

So let's break down the arguments I've heard when I mention my annoyance: "Oh, Lemur, you're too sensitive/it's the South/they don't mean anything by it/I do it all the time /so you don't let your boyfriend call you pet names?"
I know, it's terrible. I'm just an Angry Humorless Feminist™ and I should just calm down and stop thinking so much. You know what? I think most people don't think enough. No matter how strident I sound bitching about this, it's still not as obnoxious as calling a total stranger "babe". So here are my responses, as I vent about this anger-trigger of mine.

-"You're too sensitive": Fuck you. No, really. I'm "sensitive" if you stick a dildo in my ass without lube. Being belittled because I happen to have tits is friggin' aggravating.
-"Oh, it's the South": First, south Florida isn't the South. It's a combination of several foreign countries, several New York boroughs, and Mars. Second, just because it's culturally acceptable here doesn't make it any less friggin' aggravating.
-"But but but they don't mean anything by it": Which makes it worse! They don't even notice how patronizing they're being. It doesn't even cross their mind to consider that for one, I'm not your fuckin' sweetie. Ew. And for another thing, I wouldn't do that to you. Especially older guys who do it- not only is it creepy to begin with, it would be wildly inappropriate for me to call a 50 year old man "honey", so why is it ok for him?
-"I use it all the time (to people I don't know)": Well, you might reconsider this, since you might meet someone like me who may well bite your head off for addressing them in a condescending, infantilizing manner. Consider: is it really "people", or just women? And if that's really the way you normally interact, well... I say again: yes, intent counts for something, but just because someone doesn't intend to be a dick doesn't make it ok when they, you know, act like a dick.
-"So you never let your bf call you pet names?": Well, setting aside the fact the my "boyfriend" is female (you're just assuming like crazy, arent'cha?): Sure. I get mushy and adorable with my lover, and my close friends, and that's about it. If I know you and am comfortable with you, I will allow you to call me pet names or silly nicknames. If you're my friend, you can hug me and sit on my lap if you wanna, but we don't allow strangers that privilege, or at least I don't. It's kind of the same principle. If I don't know you, have some fucking reserve and respect for goddess' sake.

How did I get started on this? I don't know, I was just thinking about it and how, while I worked at the vid store, I had to put up with a lot of rich old white dudes and Chanel-clad WASP wives calling me cutesy names. Even the regulars who presumably knew my name or could have asked it. If you don't know me and need my attention for something, I would rather be called "miss" or even "ma'am" than "hey, sweetie" or "doll". It sets my teeth on edge with the injustice of it: I have to smile and take it, and it's utterly inappropriate for me to say it back, or even ask them to stop. So I don't do that shit, not only because I choose not to, but because it's socially incongruous. It's an opportunity for both sexism and classism! YAY!

To me, it's right up there with the customers who would stand too close and put their hand on my shoulder or arm while talking with me ("So, what're the latest movies, hon?"). It drove me nuts and I was inching away the whole time, trying not to let it show. Because, even in America where we've got one the biggest "personal space bubbles", if you ask someone to back out of your space or stop touching you during conversation as it makes you uncomfortable, even if you're polite about it, they usually look at you in shock. As though you're the one that's been unspeakably rude. Yeah. I'm rude, not the person who's been infringing on my personal space or autonomy without so much as a thought.

I don't generally call people on it when it's a casual encounter and if they're not obviously creepy- mostly because then I immediately get slapped with the "bitch" label and it can be not only tiresome (excuse me for not wanting to be addressed like a two-year-old, you priveleged douche), but hindering. I will, however make exceptions for: 50-year old waitresses in diners and certain swishy gay men. They say that shit to everyone. Their mom, their congressman, their customers, their pets, their priest, everyone. Can't argue with that kind of egalitarianism. So fine, they slide by.
But creepy old dudes who call you "little lady"? A) Are the reason I never want to move to the REAL South and B) Are likely to get a new asshole ripped if they call me that.
Anyone else hate this?