What has been annoying me this week? Well let me tell you. Our plumber came round and said something really sexist. Want to hear the story?
Once upon a time we hired a plumber. He’s a man called… Jerry. He’s got quite a few annoying tics. He goes around the entire roundabout system in Swindon just to arrive at the point he’s trying to make. He starts a lot of those long winded sentences with ‘listen’, which is the opposite of what I want to do when he’s talking. “Listen. Bla bla bla, bla bla bla.” Good point Jerry, glad I was listening.
The cold tap in our bathroom stopped working, so we had to get old Jezzer over to fix it.
He came, he fixed. He was about to leave and was doing up the never ending shoelaces on his Timberlands, which I suppose I should give him credit for taking off. But he was taking so long to do up his laces I had to make small talk when all I really wanted to do was boot him out of the house.
Small talk consisted of him asking how our plans are going to build my dad an annex in our shed. Not great, I tell him, in that we haven’t started.
“Oh well, at least your dad and Gareth can keep themselves busy in the boys’ room,’ he said.
FUMING. Here’s where he’s gone wrong. We’re fortunate to have a room big enough to house a table tennis table and a load of old wine crates stacked up with booze donated by friends who wanted to help make our bar look well stocked. You might say it’s a veritable Games Room. A Sports Hall – that’s what my friend Laurence calls it. Heddington Leisure Centre – that’s what my husband calls it. The bar. The barn. The Fun House. Call it anything, but don’t call it the Boys’ Room.
“Er, Jerry, it’s not a boys’ room. I play just as much table tennis as they do,” I said. I get so annoyed with the assumption that just because something is ‘cool’ it has to belong to men. Girls don’t play sport, do they? Girls just sit about painting their nails and squealing, right? A pad like that, with beer and a dart board, that’d only be for BOYS AND MEN. Right, Jerry? Girls are good for nothing but cooking your dinner, right Jerry?
At this point Jerry could have corrected himself and had a little think about his outdated notions of what it is to be a man or a woman. But no.
“Oh it is a boys’ room. Girls don’t play sports.”
I was busy inventing a new sport in my head where I punch Jerry in the face and win points.
“They do actually. I could kick your ass at table tennis,” I said. “I find it insulting that you think women can’t play sport.”
He had his apprentice with him, a teenager who never speaks much. Jerry is always bossing this poor kid about, so I thought it retribution to take the opportunity to pounce on Jerry. Maybe his apprentice loathes him as much as I now do, and was loving the spectator sport of watching his boss get shouted at.
“Girls don’t play sport,” he repeated. “It’s a boys’ room.”
“I think you’ll find Gareth would agree, it’s a room for all sexes to play all sports available in the space provided,” I said.
“Oh yeah of course Gareth would say that – he’s married to you.”
Which I think is plumber-speak for: “Please kick me in the balls.”
At some point surely he could have considered that he was in my house, upping his insults sentence by sentence. A bit of backtracking wouldn’t go amiss. But he really did stick to his sexist little guns.
I couldn’t convince Jerry to open his eyes to a new way of thinking. If only he didn’t have to rush off to someone else’s bathroom, I could have challenged him to a game of table tennis there and then. I’m not a black belt in table tennis but I have been having lessons and I’d wager I could beat him, prove my point, and dance around the table triumphantly. Instead he’ll write me off as a bit mental, and the only reason my husband doesn’t call the Games Room, the Boys’ Room, is because he’s married to a woman who ‘won’t let him’.
I feel sorry for Jerry’s wife. I think I might track her down, start giving her secret table tennis lessons, then challenge him to challenge her to a face-off. Watching her beat him would be a beautiful thing. And then they could play some table tennis.
In conclusion, women get a hard time when it comes to sport. We’re not taught how to throw properly at school (lucky for me my brother spent hours teaching me to throw. So even though my shoulder bone doesn’t have the structural advantage a man’s shoulder does, I can do alright in a game of rounders) we are pushed by society to get into make up and hair and beauty and being skinny and thinking that all that matters is appearances. Meanwhile men are taught to throw and catch and improve their hand-eye co-ordination. Some men, like Jerry, continue to confound these sexist stereotypes. His daughters won’t get taught by daddy to believe they can do anything a man can.
Which is a shame. A real shame, Jerry.
Despite your sexist remark, you’re welcome in our Sports Hall anytime. Just don’t expect to win.