90s women meet 50s mindset

“You’ve come a long way baby,” states an ad campaign we’ve probably all seen.

Everywhere and anywhere one looks one can spy another sign of how far women have come in gaining, showing and using their independence. After centuries of fighting for opportunities and recognition, women today are, more than ever, taking advantage of those choices available to them.

As a young woman I no longer have to fight for my right to vote or to run for office. But we still fight prejudice and stereotypes.

I can walk beside, or even in front of any man I see. And as anyone who knows me will tell you I have never been one to wait to be spoken to first. But something has happened to me recently that really caused me to ponder just how far we women have come.

Here’s the scenario.

I was driving with a male friend of mine and we decided to stop by a fast food drive-thru to get a bite to eat. Now I was the person driving, I was the person ordering and I was the person paying but when the man at the pick-up window came to tell us that our food would be a few minutes and could we pull over to the side he did it like this.

“Sir, your food will be a few minutes. Could you please pull over and someone will bring it out to you.” Yes, you read that correctly. When the man at the window spoke he looked right passed me and directed all his attention and every word to my friend. He even tried to give my friend the change but his hand wouldn’t reach.

Now I don’t know about the rest of you but this shocked me. I mean really—what could this man have been thinking?

Well I did pull over and then in a semi-state of disbelief I asked my friend if I had really heard and observed the previous seen or simply hallucinated. He confirmed.

Now at this point I had some choices. One choice was to go raging into the fast food place, complain and probably get free food coupons for a month. Or I could stay calm and let the incident roll over me. I chose the latter.

Now I know that some of you women out there are going to be disappointed in me but let me explain. First of all I was in a hurry. But the more important second reason was, I have never been the type of person to waste my time on people as ignorant as this man seemed to be.

I am a person who, when dealing with people’s ignorant prejudices, relies on example and not on words. Prejudice lies within the mind and I know that though one may force another to act differently on the outside, there is no way to change the inside unless one convinces the other to change him or herself. Therefore, instead of concentrating on how to make others act differntly I concentrate on myself and how I present what I may represent on a general basis. (Though, to tell the truth, the fact that in this day of political correctness I may be thought of in terms of what I represent—i.e. Mexican/American, female, student, X-generation, etc.—instead of who I am as an individual bothers me, but that is topic for another column)

The best way I have found to dispel people’s prejudices is to quietly, consistently and unquestioningly prove their preconceived notions about you wrong. I see it as a personal, one person at a time, fight against prejudice; whether it be proving that not all English majors are inept at math or that some women really do read Scientific American.

I heard at a religious service once that it is not up to us to eliminate evil but to do our best to see that we produce good. I may not be out there fighting the hordes but I am doing my best to stop that which is in front of me and which I have better control over. This method has worked for me so far and I do not have any intention of changing it.

As for the man at the window – there was no point in me raging at him because it probably would have done nothing to change his attitude. Plus I’m sure that if he keeps it up he’ll run into someone who doesn’t have the same outlook I do and get what’s coming to him.