Late last week, I got a letter from my homeowners insurance (Allstate) asking me to sign a form consenting to a premium for the new house. I have questions on the cost, but the thing that disturbs me here is that the form was filled out for my husband, who isn’t the account holder, and has never had his own Allstate account. He’s on my account. I’ve had an account for the past 10 or 11 years. I asked them my questions about the form, and also requested they update it with my name. I haven’t yet heard back.
Early this week, I signed up to log into our HOA’s site, so I can pay the bill (note, I will be paying the bill – we keep separate accounts, and I am taking on the HOA bill). So I filled out the requested form, used my contact information, and waited for the email back. When it arrived in my personal inbox (not a shared inbox or anything), it was addressed to Robert, and the account with the HOA is set up with him as the main account holder, and me as “Alexander” the secondary account holder. So I asked them to fix that right up. As an equal borrower and co-owner of the home, I don’t see any reason to assume that the husband is the preferred primary on something that I have specifically filled out with my own information. They think they can change that account information, so we’ll see.
I love my husband dearly, but he’s not the default grown-up in the house – that’s a role we share equally. I find it bizarre that two separate institutions just assume that the man of the house is the one who needs everything in his name. It’s an antiquated notion, and pretty dismissive of me personally in these scenarios, and women in general.
I was talking with some friends recently, and I found out that in Quebec, women have to pay extra for a pap smear. If you aren’t aware, a pap is a basic screening test to detect cervical cancer. To quote the American Cancer Society:
Cervical cancer can often be found early, and sometimes even prevented entirely, by having regular Pap tests. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers.
It’s mind-boggling that women have to pay a premium to get basic, preventative care. What is ultimately more costly? Having women get regular pap smears, or having women get cancer because they can’t pay? What is worse? Providing a service to half the population, or extorting half the population? Oh I could go on.
The thing that really gets to me is that this sort of thing is so normal to most of us, that we just let it go. It doesn’t really seem worth fighting a lot of the time. Does it really matter whose name is on a silly form? The thing though, is that it’s a big problem exactly because it is so normal. Everything about society is more or less designed to default to the male. What a terrific way to make women feel like second class citizens! I can’t talk about being a person of color or other minorities, because I’m extremely privileged and white, but they absolutely have it far worse, especially when it comes to just basic representation. Someone once phrased really well why using the word “guys” to refer to a group of people is problematic. We’re all pretty used to it (I use it a lot myself, but I try not to), so most women don’t feel alienated if someone says “Hey guys!” But if you say “Two guys crossed the street,” what sex would you assume those two people were?
A co-worker of mine, Mahangu, posted about male privilege in the context of a conversation the company was having. He used a quote from here that I found really interesting, and I’ll borrow it for this:
[T]rue gender equality is actually perceived as inequality. A group that is made up of 50% women is perceived as being mostly women. A situation that is perfectly equal between men and women is perceived as being biased in favor of women.
He further went on to say this, which I thought was a fantastic way of looking at the whole situation:
The truth is, men-only groups meet all the time … for activities / meals / photos. But thanks to millennia of patriarchy, these gatherings do not need to self identify as ‘men-only’ – they are the norm, especially in tech, where men still vastly outnumber women.
Finally (finally) I will leave you with this John Oliver video, which everyone has seen already, but which we should all watch again.