HEY WHAT ABOUT ME?!
Exploring the Mind of a Man Who Didn’t Give Me His Card
FROM THE WOMEN’S ISSUES ARCHIVE
I recently went to a conference with my fiancé – one of those social affairs where everyone is given a name tag and you’re expected to mix and mingle with the crowd. An awkward moment with a stranger got me thinking…
For a brief couple of minutes during the conference coffee break I was left alone. Next to me, I observed a quiet, bashful middle-aged man fumbling through his conference materials and we caught each other’s eye for a moment. I smiled, being polite. He returned the smile and extended his hand to introduce himself.
We went through the usual ice-breaking questions of what we do, why we were there. The banter was friendly and a connection was made. Moments later my fiancé rejoined me. Seeing that I had made a new acquaintance, I introduced him to Mr Bashful and they went on to talk about themselves, dutifully going through similar introductory questions. Mr Bashful at one point reached out for his business cards and gave one to my fiancé, then proceeded to store his business cards back into this pocket.
I was taken aback and thought to myself, “Wait, what about me?!“
So I said to Mr Bashful, teasingly, to remind him of the etiquette faux pas he just committed, “Oh, how come I don’t get a card?“
Alarmed at his own mistake, he immediately made a comeback. “Oh I am so very sorry!“ quickly fumbled through his pockets to get his stack of business cards, and embarrassingly passed one to me with the usual two hands as a gesture of respect.
It was a small incident, but one which demonstrated how we each may have prejudices against certain people. These prejudices are mostly hidden, but occasionally let themselves out the bag through accidental gestures.
I don’t know why Mr Bashful didn’t give me a card and practically ignored me the moment my fiancé stepped in. It could have been a myriad of reasons: his nervousness in front of women, his thoughts that guy to guy conversations are more appropriate, seeing more value in building a relationship with my fiancé instead of me. I don’t know, I can only guess. My guess is that he has certain views about women which inadvertently influenced his behaviour – a small gesture of neglecting to give me his name card, despite me having been the one who first struck up a conversation with him.
I felt a bit brushed off, but forgave the small mistake. It’s not the first time this happened. Not long ago at a wedding an older surgeon similarly extended his business card to my fiancé but not me, despite having spoken to both of us.
I’m not timid and shy – no – that wouldn’t have been the reason why Mr Bashful passed me by. Our conversation before my fiancé arrived was cordial, witty, and appropriate. We had made contact but the conversation quickly shifted to “men only” the moment my fiancé arrived, and I was ceremonially excluded at the business card round. The next time, I should conduct a social experiment: if I presented myself as an independent woman, and was by myself during a similar occasion, speaking to a similar man, would he treat me differently? My hypothesis is I would be given a business card if I were alone!*
In summary, my hunch is that the forgetting to hand me a business card (I was standing right there!) had to do with the following reasons:
- Mr Bashful perceived me to be taken, someone else’s – he saw my fiancé and I as a single unit, and to give my fiancé a business card would suffice. I was covered.
- Mr Bashful subconsciously believes that business cards are a male matter.
- Although he ordinarily tries to be “equal” in giving both men and women his cards, this time he had a slip of the mind and forgot his manners.The fact that he was genuinely embarrassed when he was called out revealed that he too thought the omission was inappropriate.
It could have been both reasons above. Or Mr Bashful could have simply forgotten – an honest mistake. I can only hypothesize at this point.
Or, I could just email Mr Bashful and ask, since I now have his name card…!
What about you? Have there been instances where you were brushed off, forgotten or neglected because of your sex, gender, race, age, or any other reason?
Have you forgotten to give your business cards to certain persons in a social setting? Or worse, was the omission purposeful?
*it would be hard to come up with scientific conclusions, since it’s hard to control the main variable, i.e. the male subject: Mr Bashful could have been a unique case; another man in the same social situation may have given me a card
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5 thoughts on “HEY WHAT ABOUT ME?! | A Relating to Humans Women’s Issue”
Sadly I feel women still have to contend with unconscious perceptions regarding our status with regard to men. Something as ‘simple’ as sharing business cards brings this to the forefront. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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I don’t experience it so much anymore, but back when my husband was first starting in his profession and we would attend a function or conference, it would usually play out like this: I’d be in a conversation with a colleague of his and they’d be asking me about my husband’s schooling, where he works, etc. Then they’d ask, “And what do you do to keep busy?”
Always phrased exactly like that.
It would have been easier to overlook, except it was only men who said it that way. Women would ask me where I work, what my field was, what were my interests. But to men, I “kept busy.”
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“We had made contact but the conversation quickly shifted to “men only” the moment my fiancé arrived, and I was ceremonially excluded at the business card round.”
So her fiance was complicit in the situation. It wasn’t just Mr. Bashful. I think what happened is that both men, for whatever and all kinds of reasons, clicked more than Mr. Bashful did with Pixie and when it was time to leave, that conversation being the last one it seemed more appropriate to give the business card to the fiance.
I do wonder what the fiance had to say about? She doesn’t say.
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As a male, I am accustomed to being brushed aside rather more harshly. All sorts of reasons dictate the run of acquaintanceship, and they’re certainly not defined by gender. However, I hear what you say. I do not believe in sexism, and I welcome equality in all its forms, but you must allow me this. I grew up in a supposedly male-dominated world, just as I was raised in a society that did not accept homosexuality, and was uneasy around issues of race. Many things have changed, and they have changed very quickly, so, although I reject my father’s values, I am left with the residue. Empathy with today’s values is strong, and I revel in the fellowship (note the masculine connotation of that word) of either sex. I try very hard not to allow any form of discriminatory behaviour to slip by me, no matter how unintentional it may be. The shadow of previous generations still hangs, and the stronger the discipline to which we ‘olds’ were subjected in our upbringing, the more likely it is to show through. So I plead for tolerance, and maybe I plead for ‘Mr. Bashful’ too. He is dogged by his shadows, and – I was not there – probably meant no offence.
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I usually leave it to the author of guest posts to respond, or not, to comments to their work; however, I just want to say how important and fundamental to many of the issues surrounding diversity and equality I believe your particular response is, frederick.
Regardless our life choices and adult perspectives, we can never underestimate the power and sway the indelible socialization process during our formative years has over us throughout our entire existence.
Thank you for sharing this with us, frederick.
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