I apologize in advance because this one is definitely a RANT!
The Engineer (my husband), and I have been meeting with a financial advisor to map out our plans for retirement, a process that includes meeting with an insurance agent to review our current policies.
Here’s how that meeting went down.
The agent enters the room. He’s in his thirties, which means he’s young enough to be my son without me having been a teenage mother.
Our financial advisor introduces both The Engineer and me. Mr. Agent shakes both our hands, then proceeds to direct all his comments to The Engineer, giving me only a cursory “Kym, you can chime in any time.”
My muttered “Don’t worry, I will” draws a laugh from our advisor and a comparison to the agent’s wife by the agent.
I am seething. This young man — whose aim is doubtless to sell us new policies — is actually giving me permission to speak about my family finances. As a result, I feel compelled to raise every question I can think of, knowing full well there is no way we will ever buy insurance from this guy.
He and our advisor leave the room for a moment. I tell The Engineer, “I don’t like him, and that was a really chauvinistic thing to say.”
The Engineer responds, “I know.”
Later, as we wrap up the discussion, the agent pushes his business card across the table to my husband, again ignoring me and addressing only my husband.
“Please call if you have any more questions,” he says.
He can expect that call on the day hell freezes over.
The financial advisor is an acquaintance of mine, so I tell him I found his colleague’s attitude to be patronizing and condescending. I do this partly because I am so angry, but also because the agent should be made aware of how he comes across. If he plans to make a living selling insurance, alienating half the population is hardly the way to go about it.
Our advisor hadn’t noticed.
Of course, he missed it. He’s a man, so this has probably never happened to him.
To my male readers, I ask that you put yourself in my shoes for a moment. Pretend, like me, you have worked since you were sixteen, usually at more than one job, always taking pride in pulling your own weight. As soon as you had the opportunity to pay into a retirement account at work, you did so. You are fiscally responsible (most of the time :-)), and are a full partner in your relationship with your wife. Since you are fiscally responsible, you make the arrangements to talk to a financial advisor to get your affairs in order to meet your retirement goals. When you meet with an insurance agent — who is young enough to be your son — to review your policies, he ignores you, directing all his comments to your wife, except for one throwaway comment to you giving you permission to “chime in.”
How would you feel?
How would you feel if this wasn’t the first time you encountered this attitude?
How would you answer when the retirement representative at work doesn’t approve of you putting money (your money) into a foreign investment fund and asks if you’ve discussed your allocations with your wife?
Here’s what I said: “It’s not up to my husband. This is my retirement account.” (For the record, my husband is foreign, having been born and raised in England — he’s the reason I have a world, rather than country, view toward investing.)
It’s depressing to face the fact that some men still persist in believing that because I am a woman, I am intellectually defective and incapable of making decisions about finances.
Yes, I know men can treat other men in an equally condescending manner, but there’s a difference. Men are rarely, if ever, automatically assumed lacking in brain power simply because they are men. And I can’t imagine a thirty-something woman saying to a man, “Oh, Mr. Potential Customer, you can chime in any time.”
It just wouldn’t happen.
In the end, one could argue that it’s Mr. Agent’s loss. He lost a potential customer. In response, I would argue that when people treat others as though their gender diminishes their contribution to our society, we all lose.
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- 19 Examples Of Everyday Sexism (buzzfeed.com)
- Britain ravaged by sexism: women know your place! (telegraph.co.uk)
- Comment: End all sexism (sbs.com.au)