On Friday, I went to shovel out my car. While I was there, three Hatian women (from down the street) were watching a man get one of their cars out. I smiled, said hello, and went to my shoveling. They started chatting with me about the snow. As I was in just a sweatshirt and my watch cap (and gloves, Mom), and they were in heavy coats, invariably they asked where I was from and did I mind the snow. Then the inevitable happened.
“Where’s your husband? Why isn’t he shoveling?”
I don’t have a husband, I explained. My father lives in another country, my brother in another state. It’s just me and my roommate. Then they want to know who will drive my car out, because a man can back it out better. I say ‘It’s just me and my roommate’ again (who, by the way, drove the car out like a damned hero).
This goes on and on for a while, until the oldest of them laughs and says “Who needs a man anyway? Look at her go!” This is why I joked that I’ve started a Hatian revolution, by the way.
They left and I continued to shovel, pondering the inherent sexism of snow. On Wednesday, I saw no women (besides myself) shoveling out, unless you count the little girl and her brother ‘helping’ their father, and the mother who worked in tandem with her husband. That was clearly a family affair. There were no other lone women doing the work, however, and that bothered me a little. As I kept shoveling, the delivery guy for the grocery store I share an alley with came up. I took a break and helped him dig out a spot to get out of his cab. We chatted as I dug, and he asked me about my technique.
See, I waited an extra couple days before digging out the car. On Wednesday, I spent an hour making a trench around my car, so we could get in and start it, and I shoveled off the car (yes, I had to shovel OFF the car, not brush it) so that it wouldn’t freeze solid. But I didn’t bother to dig the last
3″x5″x3″ 3ftx5ftx3ft couch-sized chunk out until we’d had the alley plowed. After all, the plow was going to shove at least a foot of snow back in, and I didn’t want to double my work. The bonus of waiting was that the snow had solidified into ‘chunks’, enabling me to hoist large ‘blocks’ of snow, about the size of a briefcase or backpack, and fling them into the pile. We were using Jose’s space, next to mine, as our snow mountain. I explained it was easier this way, to get large swaths of snow out. I also explained that I used my core muscles (abs, not back) to do my pivoting, since my knee was not my friend. Then I explained how I used my legs to brace, but I never bent over fully. Keep your back straight, don’t over extend your arms, etc etc. It’s actually pretty easy and a great workout. He was impressed.
That bothered me a little, but as he didn’t make a big deal about me being a girl (except to ask if I was single), I thought little of it.
Today when I got home, an ambulance was having trouble getting their gurney to the building. The jackass who has a snowblower did take care of his sidewalk, but he didn’t blow a path to the street for his wheelchair’d tenant. Which meant when the EMTs showed up, they had no way to get the fellow out. I was clearing off the latest two inches, so I came over with my shovel and offered to help. The young EMT was ordered by his boss to do it instead. We talked a bit while they shoveled, and I said I’d be finishing my walk, but if they needed me, I was just over there. Then I went back to shoveling.
At this point, three Jews (two I knew), a Greek fellow and a Mexican all came by while I shoveled the walk (not in that order). My plan was to widen the narrow path I’d carved the week before into something the mail lady would be able to use more easily. The first Jew (a hippie I knew by site, but not by name) said I was a good person. The second (who owns a unit in my building) said ‘Bless you!’ and squeezed my arm. The third asked where my husband was. I had never seen this man before and just gave him a dirty look. He blushed and said “You know, we send our daughters to Yeshiva, to Israel, and we tell them they don’t need a man, they can do anything. Then we’re shocked when they do! Don’t tell my wife!” I laughed with him now, and he made sure I didn’t have a slacker husband who was making me do the work unfairly before leaving, and telling me I had a good soul. The Greek guy asked about my husband too, and upon finding out that (a) I was unmarried and (b) I lived in the area, wanted to set me up with his son or nephew. The Mexican spoke only Mexican Spanish (which I kind of know…) and wanted to know if I was married (again!?) or for hire (no, I was tired).
So lets review. The only people who didn’t think I needed a husband to help me shovel (or drive) were the professionals and two people who’d seen me around town. People who didn’t know me, or hadn’t seen me around town, immediately wanted to know why I, a woman, was shoveling snow.
What the hell?
It’s 2011. I’m a woman who is perfectly capable of taking care of myself, living my life, and dealing with twenty inches of snow. I do not need a man for anything. I certainly don’t want to date one (I have a girlfriend, thank you, but that’s not their business). I don’t need a ‘big strong man’ to shovel me out, I’m in good shape! I don’t need one to drive my car, I have a license! The only thing I MIGHT need a man for is to win a peeing contest. Seriously. I need a man like a fish needs a bicycle.
Why were all these people trying to compare my worth to a mans? Why is it impressive that I can shovel snow? It’s not like I can fly a space shuttle. And by the way, women can do that too. It irks me that the world is still stuck on comparing men and women like this. My gender, my sexuality, and my ‘marital status’ have no impact, whatsoever, on my ability to shovel snow. Stop measuring me like that. Look at my skills, my achievements, my abilities, and measure me based on that. But my gender? That’s just sad.