It’s Hard Out Here for a Good Lookin’ White Guy

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Last week I was working a shift as a host (that’s a male hostess for those who don’t speak restaurant lingo) and an older man walked in and brusquely asked about the wait list.  Our coordinator (a hostess) let him know that it would be 30 minutes before we could seat him and his family.  To this, the old man replied, “Your competition across the street can seat me in 25-minutes.”

Before the hostess could execute what might have been the most justified shrug in the history of apathetic shoulder movements, the old man glanced over her shoulder to find myself (a host) and a new guy that we were training (also a host, because he’s a guy, see).  “Is there anything that these guys can do to get me bumped up on the list?” he asked, obviously assuming that two males standing anywhere in proximity to a female absolutely must be her supervisors.  She gracefully returned the courteous equivalent to “Nope.”

Here’s the thing:  This hostess has been working at our restaurant for like over 3 years.  I’ve been working there for about a month.  The new guy has been working there for not at all because he’s technically still training.  I have surprisingly gotten through many situations in my life by appearing more confident than I actually am, but I was a silent bystander in this exchange so there is no way that I was projecting some kind of authoritative aura that led this geezer to believe that I was the boss.  He just saw a woman and assumed that she was a man’s underling.

My co-workers and I expressed our annoyance to each other about it after the old man walked away and that was the end of it, for me at least.

It was one of many incidences in which I’ve realized that I’ve never been discriminated against or looked down upon for my gender (I’m a man).  

I’ve never been discriminated against or looked down upon for my sexual preference (I’m straight – unlike the new guy who was also assumed to be in charge).  

I’ve never been discriminated against or looked down upon for my race (I’m white).  

The only assumption that people have made about me based on my appearance is that I would be a swell guy to share some crazy with.

Seriously, I’m a good-looking, heterosexual, white man.  If there are glass ceilings for me, I certainly haven’t found them yet!

Brantley Newton picture

My mom actually commented on this picture to let me know that she’s proud of how handsome I am…as if my appearance was actually an achievement.

The lack of discrimination in my life is something that I work hard not to take for granted.  The sheer volume of incredible bloggers on WordPress covering women’s issues and LGBT equality is so invaluable for achieving this.  Obviously reading a blog post is far from “walking a mile” in someone else’s shoes but it is certainly capable of broadening your horizons, provoking thought, and challenging perspectives and I think that these brain exercises are exactly what the world needs.

It’s hard out here for a good lookin’ white guy.  There are so many societal problems that I will never directly encounter and there’s an enormous danger that I could go my entire life overlooking them.

I challenge you, reader (s – hopefully).  I challenge you to observe how people treat each other, especially when those people don’t know anything about each other beyond appearances.

Would their interactions play out differently if you subbed out either person for a different demographic?  

Would the old man have just nodded and walked away had I been the one to inform him of the 30-minute wait?  

If he knew about my new co-worker’s sexual preference, would the old man have put up more of a fight against him?

Would I have acknowledged the old man’s sexism if he were younger?

Once you start thinking of things this way, it’s really difficult to stop.  Consideration for other people’s perspectives could go a long way towards solving most of the problems that plague the human race.

It’s hard out here for a good lookin’ white guy.  I make a conscious decision to notice when I’m not being discriminated against, otherwise, I could spend my entire life in a privileged little bubble.

 

18 thoughts on “It’s Hard Out Here for a Good Lookin’ White Guy

  1. Thank you for your awareness of these issues. I’m glad you noticed the covert sexism. It reminds me of the time I brought my car to the mechanic. My boyfriend happened to be with me, and the mechanic spoke to him the entire time. It can be very frustrating.

    • I hate to say it, but the alternative would have been you going to the mechanic alone and them “finding” $6000 in extremely necessary repairs. They always pull that crap on my girlfriend unless I’m around. It’s such bs.

      • I know. That’s actually why I brought him. I suppose I was annoyed that he didn’t even assume that I would understand what he was talking about. It’s just something we have to contend with. Other people have to put up with much worse.

      • I think it’s so important and exactly what I was writing about that you understand that “other people have to put up with much worse.” I just think that so few people stop and think about discrimination (big or small) against other types of folks. If you don’t recognize when other people are doing it, it’s nearly impossible to recognize when you are doing it yourself (which is where I was going with wondering if I would have noticed the sexism so quickly had it not been an old man committing it).

      • I think as long as someone isn’t intentionally doing it, it’s not so bad. It can still cause offence, of course.

        There was a great programme on in the UK last year where a few situations were staged to see how people would react in certain scenarios. There was a very un-PC waiter with a gay couple. Someone did stand up to him. It was great.

      • I think the fact that people are unintentionally racist/homophobic/sexist/bigoted is the root of the problem. If everyone stops and thinks to themselves, “Would I be treating this person the same way if their skin color/gender/sexual orientation/etc was different?” they might actually realize that though unintentional, they’re still being jerks! The amount of people that are actually okay with being jerks is far smaller than the amount of people who are unintentionally bigots.

        They have some shows like that in the US, where people pretend to be luring children into a rape van and stuff and camera crews wait and see how people respond. Some set ups are pretty sinister, but others are lighthearted and funny. They had one where an old lady with a few items at a supermarket asked if she could go ahead of unsuspecting customers with full shopping carts. When they allowed her to cut in line, she was awarded a giant check for like $50,000 for being the millionth customer or something. People’s reactions were way mixed haha.

        The particular scenario with a service professional being rude and unprofessional is easy enough to wrap your head around morally, but it’s much more difficult in reverse. Customer service professionals get dumped on so much by rude people that employers don’t really leave much room for standing up for yourself or your co-workers. Everyone wants to believe that there is a limit to what they would endure or witness before speaking up, but with the prospect of losing your job in the back of your mind, when would enough be enough?

      • I think a lot of it has to do with how people act in groups too. We have a minority group in Ireland known as “travellers” who traditionally don’t live in houses, but caravans, and who don’t typically mix socially with non-travellers. They’re similar to gypsies in a way. There are some in the school I was teaching in. Once, one of the teachers used a derogatory term when talking about them, and the other teachers just didn’t seem to care. I thought I was going crazy; it was just so wrong.
        I knew if I said something, I wouldn’t be very popular (I was new), so I didn’t. I feel really bad, because I should have, but I just didn’t know what to say. I try my best to be sensitive to other races, cultures and religions. If I ever thought I was offending anyone, I would feel awful.

        I think that indifference is what is the worst. And I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. I did once interrupt a drunk girl racially abusing someone on a bus once. And no one else said anything.

  2. In relation to what Janeybgood just said, I think in the same programme there was a set-up scenario where a British guy (an actor) started harassing a Muslim woman (an actress) for wearing a Hijab, because “if you’re in the UK you shouldn’t dress like that” and this other woman came along and started having a right go at him, it was fantastic.

    Again, it’s really refreshing to hear that you acknowledge these issues, because many people don’t. Sometimes I find it very difficult to ignore the sexism and patriarchal views that are almost everywhere, but I think you’re right in saying that acknowledging and thinking about the issues broadens your perspective and helps you understand them.

    Another thing I watched the other day was about the London public’s reaction to domestic violence. An actor and an actress, posing as a couple, started having a fight in the middle of a crowded area and in the situation where the man acted violently towards the woman, the woman received a lot of support from strangers, but when the woman acted violently towards the man the public just stood by and watched (some of them laughing and applauding the woman). It highlighted how people don’t think domestic abuse can happen to men and I found it really interesting, because I’d never thought about it that way before.

    Good post! :)

    • That’s great that people stood up for the Muslim woman. My film school in college put out a DVD of the top (I think) 7 student films of each year and one year there was one about a girl who converted to Islam and decided to wear a Hijab. She talked about the small, petty discrimination and lack of understanding she faced, but the short documentary culminated in her telling the story of how she was walking down the street and a pick up truck driver swerved to hit her. When she thought it was still possible that it was all an accident, the driver remorselessly said (in the freaking court room): “I could have killed you.”

      Regarding domestic violence by women towards men, I actually revised this blog post to be more about my personal experiences thus far than broader generalizations. Originally it read along the lines of “I will never experience discrimination based on my race, gender, sexual orientation.” I can’t definitively say that because men do face gender discrimination as well, it just hasn’t ever happened to me – though I can understand the frustration of such victims in trying to gain sympathy for their plight. After all, as men we aren’t allowed to let ourselves be beaten up by girls (which is more about looking down on women than it is about placing broad gender expectations on men).

  3. I hope you would have acknowledged sexism no matter what age. Otis a serious problem no matter age or sex. There are women who see men as superior when sometimes that’s just not true.

    I try to treat everyone as equal. And I might be a straight, white woman, but I have been des criminals against. My sex/gender has made people think less of me (until they realize I’m just like a guy only with boobs) and I have been treated differently because of my appearance and weight. There are far too many ways to discriminate.

    • I hope I would have noticed the sexism regardless of age as well. I just know that I have a tendency to make unfair assumptions about older people sometimes. I worked a very frustrating job with several baby boomers that didn’t know anything at all about computers and it made me pretty bitter sometimes, even though I know that those feelings are really stupid!

      I think it’s important for people to go out of their way to treat each other equally!

    • Yeah some of my co-workers wield the whole seating system as a tool for justice. When a server comes over and complains, they get tables dumped on them all at once and are totally overwhelmed for a while. And yet they still do it because some of them just don’t learn their lessonn

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