Monday, 13 August 2012

Sexism at the Allotment

I had a rather unpleasant experience at the allotment this afternoon with an older gentleman whose allotment is opposite mine; leaving me thinking that sexism is still alive and kicking in certain corners of the UK.  Fortunately I learnt a lesson from the experience so it wasn't a total waste.  Let me tell you what happened.
I was happily pulling up harvesting nettles when I saw a car approach, I had pulled my car as far over as possible and went over and asked if there was room.  He criticised my parking with the usual adage "women drivers" and said "well move then" I tried to be all jovial and jolly and all "ha ha isn't it funny, silly old me, what a terrible parker", and got in my car to move it, of course stalled and got all faffy trying to squeeze into my space and in the end gave up and reversed into another allotmenter's space.  He passed and I began to move back to my space (I didn't think I should park in someone else's spot) and he said "lazy bitch" and something about not walking a few meters.  I wasn't sure how to take this.  He still seemed to be jokey and talked as if having a laugh, but I didn't really appreciate being called a bitch, I said something about wanting to park near my baby and said to him that I was leaving in a minute anyway.  I started packing my things up feeling a bit cross and annoyed at myself for not saying something sensible and he came over and said "leaving already, you have only been here 10 minutes"  (bearing in mind I had been there over an hour and who the hell was he to criticise my time spent there when he had only just arrived)  He actually often says this and it has become a bit of a running joke.  Yes I can only spend a short time at the allotment, I have a 5 month old baby!  Anyway, I didn't take it amusingly this time, I was quite annoyed and said "yep off home now" still trying to be polite.  He then asked if I was on my school holidays now (I am an art teacher) I said I was still on maternity leave and he then proceeded come up with all manner of criticisms for my being on maternity leave, complaining that he was paying for me to be off, the bemoaning the fact that men can only have a couple of weeks.  I said I had payed my taxes and he joked that I had hardly been out of school long and that I hadn't payed my dues.  This went on back and forth, him throwing out some sexist criticism and me trying rather pathetically to defend myself, and I got more and more annoyed, in the end I said "Look, when men start lactating then they can take a year off work"  and closed my car door and left. 
On my way home I felt really cross and upset and suddenly felt like all my energy had been zapped from me, I felt cross at myself for not coming up with some witty response or argument to defend myself better, thinking about what I had said, re-running the scene in my mind wishing I had said something else.  I almost felt like crying, I just wanted to go home and sit in front of the TV.  I had to do some shopping so went to Asda and got a few bits, and as I was walking round feeling totally drained from the whole thing, I suddenly realised, "it's not me, it's him".  He has never been horrible to me before, in fact he has been quite kind, lending me his strimmer and black plastic to cover my weeds, I had done nothing wrong to provoke such a response.  I thought to myself, maybe he had had a bad day, maybe his wife had upset him before he left, maybe he has had some kind of unpleasant run in with a woman that has left him feeling emasculated, maybe he needed to make himself feel big and manly, what ever it was, it wasn't my fault he felt that way so why was I carrying the upset and the anger that he had put onto my shoulders, and suddenly I felt lighter, relieved, like a weight had been lifted, "it's not me, it's him"  "it's not me it's.......(inset name of someone who has upset me in the past)".  If only I had realised this a long time ago I could have lived my life without carrying other people's burdens.  I am so glad that I have realised it now, and just hope that I apply it to similar situations in future,  it has enabled me to feeling forgiveness, sympathy almost for people who have hurt me.  "It's not me, it's them". 


  1. Oh no! That sounds like a horrible experience but I'm glad you are able to be philosophical about it. You're obviously the bigger person!

    I went on a beekeeping course a few years ago, and most of the people there were lovely but there was one guy who was incredibly sexist - he kept making sexist 'jokes' the whole day (in that way that people say outrageous things that they really do actually believe, but if they pretend it's a joke nobody can criticise them for it) and at one point we had to put together some frames for honeycomb, which involved a bit of hammering things together but nothing too complicated. Anyway, while we were doing it, he went ON and ON about what a terrible job my (female) friend and I were doing, even though a) they weren't actually that bad, b) it was the first time we'd ever done it so obviously they're not going to be as good as when you've been doing it for years and years (and aren't you supposed to be *teaching* us, mr sexist beekeeper man?? rather than just trying to score points to 'prove' your outdated ideas of what men and women can do are right? huh?), and c) the men on the next table had made ones that looked a bit rough, just like ours, and he didn't say anything to them at all!! It was a shame, because I really enjoyed the course, but the guy just made the atmosphere really unpleasant and I decided not to do more beekeeping stuff for the moment, partly because I couldn't be bothered to deal with that kind of attitude. I don't know anything about the guy on your allotment, obviously, but I think there are quite a few men of a certain age who've had these hobbies like beekeeping and gardening for years and years, basically as a way of getting out of the house and away from their wife and kids, and recently loads of young, slightly hippyish women have started showing up in *their* space and being interested in *their* hobby, and doing all these weird things like not using slug pellets etc etc... Most of them are able to deal with it like the adults that they are, but I think some of them feel threatened and take it out on us. Not that that's an excuse mind!

    1. I think you have hit the nail on the head there. Some men don't like the fact that women have a uterus, AND they know how to use a spade. We don't fit into the right box.

  2. What an unpleasant experience. I totally agree with the premise, it is his problem, not yours. I too, wish I had that understanding down pat many years ago. However, I think people like that should be confronted, not so much with a humourous come back line, but with a direct comment on their rude behavior. Maybe something like, "You shouldn't speak to anyone in that manner." Even on a bad day, most people don't behave as rudely as that "gentleman." I find these folks are mostly bullies, and we often give them too many passes in life. On the rare instance that I have had to tell off these bullies, they usually just stand there with their mouths wide open, in shock. Bullies are bullies, because they are never confronted by people. I'm babbling, but it is a subject that I'm passionate about. I hope you don't have to deal with this person in the future, as your positive energy doesn't need to be challenged by his negavive one.

  3. Well done for bringing something positive from a horrible experience! Proud of you xxxx

  4. You did so well in not responding to his critical comments and also deciding not to carry around that particular bag of emotional garbage forever!

  5. That sounds horrible, though I'm glad that you don't feel like you've done anything wrong, because you haven't!


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