“Do I want a smoothie?” I mused aloud. One of my coworkers looked up from the couches in our hangout area.
“Is that even a question? Smoothies are always a good idea,” he said.
I laughed. “You’re right. I do want a smoothie. The real question,” I said, waving my wallet at him, “is whether I want to spend the money. Because that would make my wallet very sad.”
He shrugged. “Why would you pay for the smoothie?”
For a moment I thought he was suggesting I somehow blend and steal my own fruit drink, but after a moment he added, “Just ask people for the money.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“No, seriously,” he said, leaning forward, “just tell people you forgot your wallet or you don’t have any money and you’re thirsty and can they spare you any change for a drink. Now, if I tried to do that it would take me all day. But you – you could probably find someone offering to buy you a coffee within – ” he thought for a moment ” – fifteen minutes. Tops.”
Incredulous, I just stared at him.
“Oh yes,” he said, seeing my expression, “sexism is alive and well, and you can exploit it!”
I laughed. We didn’t know each other well yet, this coworker and I, but I knew enough to realize that he was merely commenting on the sorry state of our collegiate society, not being sexist himself.
As I walked to the student union, I half-wanted to try out the experiment, just to see what would happen. My coworker, however joking his tone, had a point. I’ve joked with the Engineer before about using such tactics; whenever he worries that I won’t know how to put chains on my tires going over the pass for winter break, I just bat my eyes and say sweetly, “I’m cute and helpless. Someone will stop.” In reality, of course, the thought of playing Damsel in Distress makes my eyes want to roll out of my head.
But here, on the same campus where I’ve had male classmates say they don’t hold the door open for girls anymore because “they might get mad,” I could probably have flirted my way to a smoothie.
We females are still thought of as Damsels, just with varying degrees of receptiveness to Manly Heroics swooping in to save the day. Many boys don’t let girls do things for themselves because they see us as equals, but because they’re afraid of us snapping at them.
Can’t we all just hold doors and lend money for smoothies regardless of gender, because we’re all humans trying to navigate the madness that is college life?