Last week, my family and I were walking in downtown Asheville to have dinner. My husband and I have six children. A man walked by me and said very clearly and condescendingly, “What, one wasn’t enough?” Unfortunately, this is a common insult when we are in public. What I find most appalling is that in a society in which we’re expected to be sensitive to others, a man can still say this to a woman and expect it to be acceptable.
In a time when we’re expected to challenge assumptions and teach cultural sensitivity, I want to take a moment to express my frustrations as a woman and a mother and to take this opportunity to address only a few of those stereotypes that I hear from strangers on a weekly basis.
Yes, they are “all mine.” No, my children were not accidents, and, yes, I have “figured out what’s causing it.” Yes, I have a job. I am a full-time university instructor, and so is my husband. Yes, I am educated. We have four graduate degrees between the two of us. No, I do not belong to any organized religion. No, I do not home-school. Will I have more? I don’t know, but what I do with my uterus is none of your business. Yes, I sleep. Yes, my “hands are full.” Yes, I am aware of our carbon impact. Do I care? No, I’m too busy raising children so that they don’t grow up to be jerks who get amusement by insulting strangers minding their own business.
If I am in public, don’t assume that I need your help. The last thing my toddler needs is a stranger picking her up. And, to the woman who stood next to me in line at the bakery while I was getting coffee, I am not a “baby factory.” Forget what’s trending and stick to this rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated, Asheville, and be a little kinder.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been made to wait for a table with the expectation that after waiting for a half-hour that we’ll leave while we watch those who arrive after us seated immediately. Or, when we do finally get a table and people request not to be seated next to us. Consider this: Replace our experiences with others historically marginalized because of their gender, race, and ethnicity and ask yourself if it’s acceptable to be treated in such a way, especially in a town that prides itself as being progressive or open-minded.
And if, by the end of this, you’re wondering: Did I say anything to the stranger? I did. I asked him to repeat what he said to me just a little louder so my husband could hear, which he refused.
— Stephany Davis