Caulk of the Walk
Recently we had a plumber to the house to fix a leaky faucet. He replaced a gasket and then casually mentioned that I may want to have my husband re-caulk the sink because some of the caulk is wearing off and it could cause mold to form underneath if water leaks through. When he said this, I was in the middle of writing him a check for his services.
I stopped writing.
…I’m twitchy these days.
The constant onslaught of random casually sexist comments seems to be overwhelmingly everywhere. I’m tired of hearing it. I’m tired of enduring it. I’m tired of rolling my eyes and bitching in private to my husband or friends about some sexist plumber.
A paradigm shift that’s almost impossible to keep up with is multiplying: #metoo and #timesup and the giant disgusting boil that’s been bubbling under the surface for decades, centuries, has popped and is oozing into and over everything. Including this, yes, perhaps small comment by an ignorant plumber.
Since I woke up to the decades of casual sexism that I casually endured and casually brushed aside, I just can’t casually go back to sleep.
It’s the assumptions that get me.
I’m about to rip up this check, I think. I had to caulk my sink in my Chicago apartment every six months or so because our landlord was a cheap asshole and told me it was “fine” that the sink was basically dangling off the wall.
I’m the one who removed the 90’s style glass sliding doors on our bathtub, scrubbed the scraps off, sanded, re-caulked, and painted the areas that were dented while my husband cooked dinner and cleaned the kitchen.
“What makes you think I’m not the one who does the caulking in this house?” I said to the plumber.
He laughed. I think they laugh because they’re uncomfortable. I had to force myself to not nervously laugh along with him. A nervous laugh that would give him permission to not feel bad about what he said. Because if I’m laughing then I might not be serious.
I continued, “My husband is not handy like that. But I am.”
He said, surprisingly, “Oh, my apologies for making assumptions. Most of the women clients I meet don’t have an interest in caulking and usually have their husbands do it. This where you’ll want to caulk it to make sure it doesn’t leak.”
Of course he didn’t actually say that. He didn’t say anything. He stood there awkwardly. Laughing at me. Laughing at women.
Yes, I know there are “good ones” out there but I also know that there are really really “bad ones.” And mediocre ones. And passive aggressive ones. And mansplaining ones who think they are contributing to the movement by explaining how hard it is to be a woman. Or challenging women to “Out their abusers!” without realizing how offensive that is, or picking and choosing which abusers are really the “bad ones,” because it’s a “grey area,” and because it's "complicated."
And then you’re continuously confronted with the ones who say, “Oh calm down it’s not that big of a deal,” and the other ones who say, “It’s a joke, Beth.” Or when they say “Since you moved to California everything is suddenly sexist,” And those who say “Oh you’re one of those feminists,” like it’s a bad word. Suddenly it feels like there’s many more bad ones than good ones. Or at least a lot of ones who don’t get it and don’t seem to even want to try.
And this makes me twitchy. And makes me want to whip out my caulk and seal every one of their sexist mouths shut until they just stop. Or are impeached.
Yes, I’m angry. Because decades of this kind of bull shit sucks my patience to play nice or at least to play along.
And I’m tired. And I’m definitely never hiring this plumber again. And I’m glad I spoke up this time. And I intend to speak up every other time until the change that is coming is finally, deservedly here. And then some.
Author: Beth Brandon Jensen
Beth is a freelance writer, blogger, and television producer living in Southern California. Originally from Satellite Beach, Florida, she spent much of her early feminist days living in Chicago working in sports, then back to Florida to earn a masters in fine arts at the Florida State University film school in screen and playwriting. She's a mom to two hilariously witty boys who consistently inspire her and help her to question the roles of gender and identity politics. She smartly married a man who supports her need to speak out early and often, and who also makes the best ribs she's ever had in her life. A self-proclaimed mom-tivist, she is active in both local and national politics, particularly those that relate to women's rights, health care, and gun control.