A bit of a rant…
Alex and I make a deliberate effort to split the housework evenly. And luckily for us, it divides out fairly evenly. I hate vacuuming, but Alex loves it. I love ironing, while Alex can never get the seams straight. We’ve been humming along like this for several years now, and all has been well.
When we moved to the UK, we knew we were going to have to buy several appliances new, one of which was a vacuum. And so, after we’d been here long enough to get the carpet dirty, we purchased a brand new Hoover. And I must admit, it hoovers quite well.
Until that fateful day (too long ago now to admit to), when something got wrapped around the bottom, and the belt snapped. “But we’re so smart!” (we thought) … “Hoover has a warranty!” So my darling husband calls the hoover people to ask about getting a new belt. I did not call, because vacuuming has long been established as his territory.
And lo and behold, today when I get home, I find a lovely little package in the mail. It’s from Hoover! And it’s addressed to “Mrs. Barron”. Whoa whoa wait up a minute, I think, as I look more closely. Maybe my eyes are tired from a long day of editing, or maybe the glistening of the packaging tape momentarily blinded me. But no, alas… the name was indeed “Mrs. Barron”.
Now, I don’t have a problem with that name on a philosophical level. There have been many lovely Mrs. Barrons throughout history; one of them is my wonderful mother-in-law. But me? I am not Mrs. Barron.
Now before I get my feminist hackles all raised, I wanted to consider all the options. Does Hoover think that only women vacuum? Or does Hoover think that my husband has a feminine voice? I’m not sure which option offends me more.
So I’d like to pose this question: why does the receiver’s gender/title have to be indicated at all? Why can’t the package just be addressed to “Alex” or “Astrid” ? This is not a formal invitation to tea with the queen! This is a packaging slip from a vacuum company! There was no reason, etiquette or otherwise, for this company to A) insert a gendered title, B) not include the first name of the recipient, or C) assume that the recipient was a female (when the person requesting the item was clearly not). Several things wrong with this scenario, aren’t there?
I know, I know. I get all upset about these little things that “in the grand scheme, are meaningless”. But I don’t think so. I wonder how women will ever achieve full equality with men when situations like this one arise in everyday life.
And as a final note, when Alex got home and discovered the situation, he asked whether this meant that I would be fixing the vacuum. You can imagine my response!