Was This Some Sexism?


Yesterday something happened. Something weird. Something that left me befuddled. What was this bizarre and perplexing occurrence? Well, that’s what I need your help in figuring out, because I think it may have been some sexism….but I’m not entirely sure.

Picture it: A very busy restaurant at lunchtime. I’m trying to fill up my cup with unsweet iced tea (my favorite) but the drip is running awfully slow and there is a line starting behind me. An employee of the restaurant comes over, asks me to move aside, and then tilts the tea maker so the flow of tea is heavier….then, this employee (a man) says “Sir, if you bring your cup over here I can fill it for you.”  Cue confusion on my part. At first, I thought he was talking to me, after all, I was the first in the tea line trying to fill my cup, but then I realize he is gesturing to the man behind me. BEHIND ME. He asked the man who was second in line to fill his cup before the woman who was first in line. Um, what the hell? I was so flummoxed, I didn’t know what to say. The man behind me stepped right in front of me and filled his cup and then went back to his table, then the employee says “Mam, you can fill your cup now.” That time, he was talking to me. Again, what the hell? Why did he give the man behind me cup filling preference? After all, I was the one who had been trying for a hot minute to fill her cup, I was first in line, and I was the one who brought the problem to the employee’s attention. What. The. Hell. Was this some sexism?

I looked up the official definition of sexism and it’s “attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles; discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.” I can’t exactly figure how my cup filling incident plays into this. I mean, there isn’t a gender stereotype that I’m aware of where men prefer iced tea more than woman. And being passed over to fill your cup doesn’t even come close to measuring up to job discrimination or sexual harassment. So, I’m left still feeling baffled. Was this or wasn’t this some sexism?

I turn to you, the gorgeous and all-knowing reader for the answer. Please save me from the over-analyzing that’s happening in my brain right now, my ears are starting to smoke…..

– Mae

40 thoughts on “Was This Some Sexism?

  1. I’d like to believe he asked the man to come forward so he could give him the dregs of the iced tea that he just shifted about when tilting the machine. Once those horrible bottom bits were gone and everything mixed around nicely, the staff member let you have the good bits.

    This is my mind trying to believe in the best of people… trying!

  2. I don’t know if it’s sexism or not but it’s pure unprofessional and rude and the thing to do is to say: excuse me but I’m first in the line here not the gentleman (NOT as he skipped the line) here
    and depending on employee’s reaction or got served and go or take it level up asking to talk to manager about his behaviour
    I was a waitress and a barmaid (didn’t like those jobs much but still) and since then I demand a level of service that was demanded of me and I don’t shy from complaining if necessary 🙂

    • I too was once a waitress as well and usually this would be something I would immediately say something about but I was so shocked and discombobulated by it I completely froze up. It was a definite “I should have said *this*” type moment.

  3. Dear Mae, you are working here under the sweet but unfortunately wrong assumption I am gorgeous and all-knowing. Ok, that came out wrong, I am, of course, gorgeous, just not all-knowing. Anyway, I guess, the only person who would probably (one can only hope) be able to shed light on the rationale for said employee’s behaviour is he himself.
    In any case, I think we can agree that his actions were, if not sexist, at least incredibly rude and should earn you an apology and a year’s worth of free iced tea. Jerk!

    • Excellent point, I’m not sure I can be mad at him for being sexist but I can surely be mad at him for being rude. And I could really use a years worth of free iced tea. 😉

      • Yes. That’s it. A years worth of free iced tea. This is only over if you let it be and allow it to fester. The guy brought his own sexism to the, uh, table, and he definitely passed you over, like his effort demanded real-man fortification by another real-man guy in line – he may not have been proud of working in this little joint, and his manly rescue efforts were directed at the nearest man. which makes him one pretty sic F#*k. It’s his personal mental distortion. He made it your agitation. Go back down there and demand fair treatment!!!!

        • I *am* pretty thirsty… 😉 Although, at this point, I’m not sure I have a right to go back and say “Hey, remember that time you were rude two days ago? Yeah, you owe me some tea.”

  4. Not entirely sexism but one would think it was because what else does a girl have to do to get some tea around here? Did you say anything to the staff member? Because by all I means I would have ‘excuse me?’. I’m not one to kick up a fuss but that would definitely have had me kicking! I applaud you for your humble retreat. Maybe they have selective eye sight – choose what they want to see when they want too. ‘Oh hi there forgot you were first…’ lordy this is mind boggling!

    • I know! I’ve been back and forth about this one since it happened. One minute I’m mad as hell, the next I’m completely befuddled, and then the next I’m exacerbated by how much time I’ve spent thinking about it. I didn’t say anything at the time because I was so completely baffled as to what had just happened, of course now I’ve thought of about 100 things I *should* have said…..

  5. Reblogged this on They call me Betty and commented:
    I believe in my humble opinion, the word you are looking for is Chauvinism. He was a chauvinist, in his mind you as a female are a second class citizen. And next to the obvious superiority of the male example that was standing there, you never stood a chance.
    My guess would also be, he has “mommy” issues, still lives in his parents basement, and hasn’t had a viable date since 1988.

    • Bazinga! I think you probably nailed it- that’s the word I’ve been searching for. Not necessarily nicer but certainly more descriptive of what happened. You’re my hero!

  6. Sexism…Meh not so much. His actions were less than chivalrous and your answer may reside somewhere in the moral decline of society as a whole. How old do you feel was the man behind you and the man working at said establishment? My guess, going out on a limb here…Not a day over 60?
    If you really want to get pedantic about this situation you could? Brush it off and move on with life. Now if this was a job interview or something along those lines? Different discussion altogether.
    (Change “practice” with “tea”)

    • The man behind me was in his fifties I would guess. I don’t think it was about chivalry for me as much as common human decency. I wouldn’t have expected the employee to let me go first if I wasn’t first in line just because I’m a woman- I’m just wondering at his motivations for not being logical and attending to the first person in line first. I think you’re right in that I can’t dwell on this forever, but I certainly think it was worth a discussion.

  7. Maybe you accidentally stepped in front of the man and cut in line. I have been guilty of this too! I just have a hard time believing that a man would be given priority these days just because he is a man. Even in areas where old “habits” die hard, a woman would have been given preference because she is a woman and that is the gentlemanly thing to do. Although, if he was a “real” man he would have insisted that you get the tea, even if you did cut in line. I think the waiter, was trying to do the “right” thing and the guy who took him up on it didn’t have any manners.

    • I was the only one trying to get tea when the brewer started running slow. There was no way I cut in line, I created the line. He may not have given preference to the man because he was a man, but I’m wondering what else could have motivated him to ask someone to cut in line in front of me.

  8. I wish you would have asked the employee “What gives” because I am dying to know what he was thinking. It’s just illogical.

    Unless of course Jaina is right in that he wanted to give the nasty bits to the big-nosed man behind you.

    The only other thing I can think of is if the employee saw you unwittingly budge in front of the man when you approached the tea urn and he was trying to make things right. But we all know that couldn’t have happened as you are aware of your surroundings and are a considerate person.

    So that brings me back to: “What was he thinking???”

    This will be on my mind all day. Thanks. Thanks a lot! 😉

    • I know. Had I not been the only one trying to get tea when the problem first started, I may have thought I accidentally cut in line too but I created the line so there is no way that happened. I wish I would have said something too…I’m kicking myself for not saying anything because I might have gotten an explanation.

  9. When the same thing happened to me it was a case of an over-zealous plebian pandering to the mall patrician. I was first in line, ordered and paid for a coffee. He served my coffee over my shoulder to the man behind me, who had not even paid. He took it and left while I waited for the “next available cashier” . I learned later that the recipient of my coffee was the mall special events co-ordinator. Since that date six years ago I have been drinking the far inferior coffee of the merchant next door. But I am a man with his chest is stuck in its expanded version. A Spinster truly worthy of her calling need not concern herself with the petty foibles of the unwashed. I do wish to be supportive. Do continue to enjoy your tea where ever you wish. Love your posts.

    • Thanks! That’s actually something I hadn’t thought of- perhaps the man behind me was a VIP and that’s why I got pushed aside. Doesn’t make it less rude but it does make it a less awful overall. Thanks for the insight!

  10. Whatever his reasons are, his action was just plain rude. You were first in line. Why skip over and go straight to the man behind you? At the very least, he could have said “excuse me.” And when he got back to you, a quick explanation of why he tended to the man first would have been nice and professional.

  11. What the flip.

    I’d actually be fairly pissed at the man behind me who thought it ok to cut in front of you and fill his glass first. Surely a chivalrous “Oh no, this person was first, I can wait until she’s done” would have been in order. Nothing to do with the sex of the players for me, just another example of the death of common courtesy.

    Bad form all around.

    • True story! The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve become miffed at both those men. The first for being rude enough to pass over me, the second for being more than happy to do the passing over. At the end of the day, it’s just a lack of common human decency.

  12. First, I want to say how much I love your (all three contributor’s) lovely blog. It is so well written with topics that cover the real and relavant. Kudos to all of you!

    On this particular topic, I’d say unless the waiter wanted to ensure you didn’t recieve a muck laden cup of tea tainted with stagnant sediment, he was being sexist. And unless the guy behind you happened to be GOD – but then GOD himself would know better than to play that trump card (especially to be served first), yes again, we’re talking sexism.

    I’m a true believer in giving any person/situation the benefit of the doubt. But sexism can be really insidious, like in this case where a man feels that another man should be served first simply for being a man. Or even if it was the case that the waiter thought you had caused a problem (goodness knows for what reason – I’m just giving the baffoon the benefit of the doubt), I highly doubt that he would have bypassed you if you had been a man instead of a woman to serve the man behind you first. But the real insidious nature of sexism is the underlying current that when a woman does something and it goes wrong, it’s perceived as her fault, she’s clueless, hapless, or down right guilty. Now if a man does the same thing and it goes wrong, it’s ooh, that thing must be defunct. Sorry about that sir, let’s get that fixed! Is it any wonder that there’s an imbalance to this world of ours?

    • Thank you for your very well written response! You put a lot of things I was thinking into words. I was just talking with Grace last night about how when something goes wrong, it’s almost always the woman who is required to apologize, even if it wasn’t her fault. As women, I think we find ourselves apologizing a lot for things we need not be sorry for. I for one am trying to make a concentrated effort not to apologize unless I genuinely think I’ve done something I need to apologize for. Thanks so much for reading!!

  13. Everyone before me has basically said it already but I feel so strongly about this as a former waitress. The waiter was WRONG WRONG WRONG and the man behind you was also WRONG WRONG WRONG. It’s pretty humid here already but I’m getting all hot and bothered on your behalf! I would have scowled like anything at their stupid man faces.

    It was incredibly unprofessional of the waiter to 1) bypass you for the man behind you and then 2) not help you with the tea dispenser (was there even any tea left for you afterward??), and it was infinitely indecent of the man behind you to accept the waiter’s invitation without protest. To answer your question, I don’t think it was sexism; I agree with Betty about it being chauvinism, but above all it was very rude and both men ought to be ashamed of themselves. Whatever has happened to chivalry?! (Now I think *that* might be sexist as it implies that only men can be chivalrous… oh what a tangled web of political correctness we weave??)

    • Haha! Yes, the web is tangled indeed, which is why I was so confused when this happened. Bottom line, and I think we can all agree on this, is that it was incredibly rude of both men. I’m thinking I may need to take my tea drinking ways elsewhere….

  14. How bizarre. Not sure about sexist, but definitely rude. The only thing I can think – and it’s a stretch – is if the waiter wasn’t your waiter but was that other guy’s waiter, so he was going the extra mile for the other guy because that would be the one tipping him. Still wouldn’t be ok though. I think you should write a letter!

    • A letter may be in order although I sincerely wish I had said something in the moment. I’m so frustrated at my speechlessness in that moment- I wish I had given him a piece of my mind.

  15. Perhaps the man behind you (could you see what he was doing?) was being all annoyed and exasperated – and the misguided employee thought to get him ice-tea and get him out of there since he seemed like he was about to cause a fuss? Perhaps you just seemed generally more relaxed and able to handle life’s serious trials (such as not being able to get your ice-tea immediately). I was also a waitress for years and there is a certain look that signals a person on the edge of being a pain in the ass – perhaps this man was there. But…if that was the case the employee should have expressed this to you with a smile and “what was with that guy?” look.

    • As a former waitress, I’m also familiar with that look and know I would go to many extremes to avoid it. That very well may have been the case and I would have been totally cool with it if the employee had done the whole “That guy was just a jerk waiting to happen.” In which case I could have commiserated and gone about my merry way. I wish I knew what the guy behind me was doing because if it was acting annoyed I would have felt a lot better about him skipping me. Does anyone have a time machine so I can go back and look at that guy’s face??

  16. It’s because you live in Texas.

    Just kidding.

    I’m not exactly sure how that happened. There’s just little weird occurrences in life that we’ll never know the reason to and we just have to dust them off and keep rolling.

  17. Mae, as a wizened old bat, I’ve learned it’s easier to always have a snappy comment or two handy for people who would otherwise run over you. That way, you can straighten these slobs out from the get-go. Always remember though, since the average IQ is 100, half the population is below 100.( I guess that explains why some people still consider Rick Perry a viable candidate for President, but I digress.)

  18. Possible he had gone up for tea before as it ran out, and got the employee to refresh it and went to sit down while he waited, then returned when he saw a line forming and the employee remembered him?

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