Chivalry and Feminism are near opposites.

No, really.  You genuinely can’t have it both ways.  Let me explain.

In short form, chivalry says, “man treats woman like a delicate flower, and does many things for her, out of respect.”  And feminism says, “woman = man.”

I’ll admit, I’m somewhere in the middle.  Well, if I’m truly honest, I side with whichever one is more convenient for my personal situation at the time I need to invoke the powers of GIRL.  (And, I know I'm not the only one, right ladies?)

But here’s the thing.  It’s not really about either of those two extremes.  There is actually a right answer for every situation.  It’s called mutual respect, for person, for abilities, and for circumstance.  People are NOT all exactly the same at the same time.  We need to assess the situation and act in kindness and respect.

Like today for example.  I ended up at the plumbing supply store.  I needed a water heater, and having done some preliminary research, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. But I did have some questions, and well, a store specializing in plumbing supply seemed like the most logical place to ask to be able to make the best decision I could.  

So I walk up to the counter and I say to Associate 1, “I need a water heater.”  

He replies, “OK, what are you looking for?”

“I need a tankless water heater to run a bathroom shower.  It needs to be about 3GPM.”

*blank stare*

“Because we have a 50 gallon water tank, and we want to replace it with a tankless version.  Do you have anything in stock?”

“Oh, sure, let me grab one.” Associate 1 exits stage left.

Associate 1 enters stage left carrying a big box, and proceeds to set it on the counter and scans the box.

Me, “Is this one tankless?”

Enter second, older Associate 2, who notices that Associate 1 is not in tune with what I’m saying at all.

Me, “This is a bit bigger than I had in mind.  I was thinking it would be more like…” vogue hands, displaying the approximate dimensions for an actual wall-mounted tankless water heater.

Associate 2, “Oh, were you looking for something more like…” points to wall mounted units which are large whole-house models, but are in fact tankless water heaters.

Me, “Yes, but smaller, to run one bathroom, a shower mostly, and sometimes the sink.”

Associate 2, “Oh OK, this is not what you want.”

Me, *internal eye-roll.*

Associate 2 walks me back to where they have stacks of boxes and shelves of parts bins, explaining they don’t really keep a lot of the tankless ones in stock, because they have different electrical requirements.  YES - new knowledge!  I start to think I’m getting somewhere.  Until I have to say to him at least 3 times that there are 2 30 amp breakers on the circuit for the current water heater.

Associate 2 grabs Manager 1 to have him explain more about tankless water heaters.  Manager 1 walks me out to the clearance rack and grabs the ONE tankless water heater they DO have, and proceeds to explain to me about average water temperature in the area.  I explain to him that our water is coming from almost 300 feet underground, so I know it’s close to 40 degrees.  He looks at me like I’m speaking a foreign language.  Hurries though about 2 more sentences of mumbled explanation, and brushes me off saying, “I need to go help those CONTRACTORS.”

Me, pretend to look at the clearance rack for a minute and not explode, and walk out of the store.

Obviously, there was a communication breakdown.  I was clearly NOT who they wanted to talk to, and their goal was to get me out of that store as quickly as possible.  Yes, I was the only female there.  Yes, I was asking questions because I knew I didn’t have ALL of the facts I needed to buy the water heater that would best suit our needs.  Yes, I also have spending power, just the same as the contractors do.  If any of them had taken the time to explain to me what I was asking, they would have sold more than one large item to me.

The conflict could have been avoided all together if they had used the principle of mutual respect.  And, I wouldn’t be flaming them for their lack of service.

How about we don’t assume a complete lack of knowledge from those around us?  Why not ask some clarifying questions?  Let me be more clear on that - ask clarifying questions RESPECTFULLY of those around us.  Don’t assume a human being doesn’t know what they’re seeking.  When we take the time to actually talk to each other and ask questions, we learn something new.  EVERY TIME.  

I don’t generally expect a man to open every door for me, nor do I expect them to stand by as I struggle to carry a large and heavy item.  In fact, I regularly hold the door for people who are coming through right behind me.  It’s not about man or woman.  Ir’s about respecting human beings for who they are.  

I didn’t go out today looking for an example of sexism.  But it happened.  Life will go on.  I’m not scarred over this.  The outcome of the incident today in MY life is THEY won’t get $1000 in sales from me.  But if sharing this experience changes one heart of one human, then it was worth sharing.


Jessica Hansen