Yesterday I stood in a long line at my local bakery, because I was craving sugar cookies and if I just buy a dozen at the bakery, I don't bake three or four dozen myself, spend hours frosting them, and then eat them all.
I didn't mind the wait, as I had enough time before I needed to get to work and besides, I was standing in a line while the scent of baking bread and cinnamon rolls wafted around me. What's the problem? But eventually I was almost to the front, with just one woman in front of me. She was older—in her 70s—and was ordering 10 dozen rolls for an upcoming family party.
Just as she was getting her credit card out of her wallet, an older man banged open the door to the bakery (no small feat as those doors are heavy) and barged past all the women waiting in line. (Seriously odd side note, the line really was made only of women.)
He got to the cash registers and started yelling at his wife.
The other cash register opened up so I walked around him and started my order, all while watching this unfold.
"You shouldn't even come to a place like this that doesn't value your time, Marjorie!" he shouted.
"I need…a dozen…ummmm, oh yeah, a dozen sugar cookies," I told my cashier.
"I've been sitting around waiting in the car for you for FIFTEEN MINUTES," he continued yelling.
"And, ummmmm, a bowl of corn chowder to go," I continued.
"This place is ridiculous! There should be people walking down the line taking orders!" The yelling did not dissipate. Such volume from an old man.
"And a cheese stick," I finished.
I watched that woman. She very calmly took back her card. She said "Gerald, I'll be done in a minute, go wait in the car."
He stormed out, bumping shoulders with several of the women waiting in line.
She sighed and apologized to her cashier, then stopped to admire the shelves of kitchen items for sale (doesn't your bakery also have pretty dishes and holiday tchotchkes to buy?) before pushing open the heavy door and going out.
Everyone left in the line just kind of looked at each other with that look. That thing that all women recognize and have experienced in our lives we had all just witnessed happening to someone else. We all felt it, pity for the woman being stuck with such a man, and anger that he treated her like that, and also some pride at how she reacted.
The cashier handed me my bag o' carbs and I walked out into the parking lot…where Marjorie and Gerald were still fighting. In fact, they were parked right next to me. Gerald was in the driver's seat (OF COURSE HE WAS) and Marjorie was standing by the open passenger door. I stood behind her because I couldn't get into my car and listened to them shout.
Gerald went on and on about how he'd been sitting waiting in this car for so long and Marjorie was trying to explain that there was a line and that's how lines work, but Gerald kept cutting her off because HE HAD TO WAIT and what kind of incompetent business was this, that had A LINE (at noon!) and if HE was in charge it would never be like that.
But then I was getting close to really needing to leave so I could be on time to work instead of witnessing such domestic bliss. So I touched Marjorie on her shoulder in a way that I hope conveyed my "your husband is a jerk and is behaving like a big baby and I got your back, sis, I'd jump in and defend you but that might make it worse" feeling.
She got in the car, but before she closed the door I said "Gerald! You're not the most important person!" and then I got into my own car.
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I can't stop thinking about this interaction.
It is one example of why, despite all of the women who are complicit in their own undermining who insist we don't need feminism anymore, we still need feminism.
Why the patriarchy is poisonous.
Perhaps the fact that it was all women in the line (and in the bakery) witnessing his temper tantrum illuminates this contrast so starkly. He wasn't only being a jerk. He was illustrating how men in power behave.
Gerald is a person, of course, but he is also a type. An archetype, almost. He is an example of a man who thinks he is the most important person. His time (sitting in the Buick in the parking lot) was far more important than his wife's, which she was spending in a type of work—one of the many little details of planning a family get-together. He, of course, would never see that as work, because it doesn't result in any money in his pocket, and so is, in a sense, invisible.
See the power imbalance there?
And the fact that he had no problem storming the bakery and shouting at her in front of 25 people also speaks to his sense of self-importance. It didn't just impact his wife. It impacted, in some degree or other, everyone who witnessed it. (And now in a smaller way it is impacting whoever reads this blog post I'm writing.) Maybe someone in that line is divorcing an emotionally abusive husband right now and she went home shaken. Maybe one of the bakers frosting cookies revisited the trauma of her step-father shouting at her. Who knows, but he didn't think about anything other than HIS time. That was the most important thing.
Men are in charge of the world because they are powerful and strong, right? Because they are the gender that can handle the work and make the wise decisions or whatever the patriarchy tells itself.
But that display—that was not a display of strength or intelligence. It was a man throwing a temper tantrum because he had to wait.
We need feminism because Gerald's show yesterday at the bakery is not an isolated incident. From my own life I can tell a thousand stories of adult men acting like children. I saw it in the faces of the other women in the bakery—they've all seen this, too. We've all experienced it in some form or another. We can turn on the news and watch politicians and movie stars doing the same thing.
And especially in this Mormon community, where whatever lip service is paid to "admiring women," the basic truth is that women are always second to men—especially here. We still need feminism because there is still a power imbalance.
And if we ever manage something that looks like equality, we will still need feminism to make sure the balance is sustained.
As awkward as it was, I actually feel lucky that I got to witness Marjorie and Gerald's argument. It validated some things I have been pushing against in my own life. It gave me a little bit of courage to keep pushing. I was so proud that Marjorie didn't scurry. She finished her transaction AND she stopped to look at the dishes before pushing once more into the fray.
I only wish I had made sure that Gerald could hear me, because really: He isn't the most important. None of us are, and that is one of the points of equality.