Good thing I saved my writing for after dinner because I had the most appalling non-conversation with the 15 year old Russian boy living here for the next week or so. We were sitting at the dinner table, eating a lovely meal that Zaza prepared, his mother helped set, and I helped plate. Then Zaza asked if he liked yogurt or cheese and he said something strange in French about him having tried yogurt but that he couldn’t say he didn’t like it. So she pushed him, asking if his mom bought yogurt for the house, and his mother laughed, having understood the question in chopped up English phrases. “My sons and husband like meat and potatoes, that is all.” And then came gold, slow and steady in French: “Je pense que je mange pas de yaout parce que le yaout est…” he struggled, and I knew what was coming, “une chose pour les femmes.”
I do not eat yogurt because it is a thing for women. I had had a glass of wine by this point and exploded, along with Zaza about the ridiculous nature of the statement. And then the meal ended, he retreated to his phone and what he defined as Russian social media, and left us women to do the dishes, clean, and clean up after him. This is how sexism goes, taught young, institutionalized, and which exhibits itself most of all in the daily interactions we, but mostly they, find mundane, funny, and mostly unimportant.
The problem is that I have been susceptible to it too. Most of us recall the ad about “throwing like a girl” by Nike, but this entire week with the boy I have been watching him squirm at the sight of bugs, sit down when it gets hot, rest in the shade after lifting a spadeful of dirt, while I chugged along, lugging heavier things faster without gloves and full of cobwebs. The first day or so, I thought, “God, he’s even worse than a girl.” But I had to stop myself, each and every time. I have never been weak, I am stronger than most boys my age or otherwise, and I am very much a girl, and I eat a shit ton of yogurt and so what?Before the boy arrived we had gone shopping because she felt boys would eat more but he eats much less than I do and no yogurt at that. This entire week Zaza has watched me eat firsts, seconds, and thirds at every meal and she comments each time, “c’est incroyable, ce que tu peux manger!” (it’s incredible, what you can eat!) and the first time I felt ashamed, but the next I grinned, and the next I got another helping for the heck of it. I intend to continue doing this regardless of how may pasty white boys comment on my food, or yogurt, consumption, however woman I am.