Disrespect, then call “babe”

I was sitting in the passenger seat of a friend’s car today while she ran a quick errand. Suddenly, bang – the driver in the car next to me opened his door into my friend’s car. (I know, I know – I had a similar incident recently. That’s life in L.A.) There is a reason I’m posting about this, but first, here is a picture of the fart and his car:

Rude man in parking logI opened my door and said, “Did you just ding this car?”

“I don’t think so,” he said with a big condescending grin.

I couldn’t tell. My friend’s car already has a number of dings because it’s been in L.A. for more than five minutes, so it was impossible to tell. I glared at him, flipped him off, slammed my door shut and went back to what I’d been doing on my phone before the bang.

He just stood there for a moment while I gave no sign I knew he was still there. Finally he shouted, “What a strange babe you are!”

Babe? Babe? I don’t have a problem with the word, myself. It’s generally a way of indicating someone is attractive, and it’s no longer just applied to women: “That Tom is such a babe!” But in this context, coming from a stranger who’s already shown he lacks respect for other people and their property, it was so not okay. Why not? Because I have to ask myself, what was his motive in using it? [ETA: see discussion for other offensive uses of the word “babe.”]

Did he hope to flatter me into submission? Did he expect me to giggle and blush and say, “Never you mind, you darling man, you”? Or maybe “babe” was supposed to remind me of my relatively inferior social status. Or maybe this was his way of saying it was such a pity that a pretty woman like me didn’t take his crap lying down – like a good girl. A nice girl wouldn’t use that middle finger, I suppose?

Or was he – bear with me – unconsciously invoking rape culture? Reminding me of not only my lesser status, but my status as a potential sexual victim of men, so I would be subtly frightened into submission? I’m not convinced of this, but read on, because he gets worse.

I just opened my car door again and said, very calmly, “You could show a little respect for other people’s property by just trying not to hit it when you open your door. It’s not that difficult.” I closed my door again, and that was it for me. He stood there a while longer, and finally walked away.

He came back right as my friend was returning. He said something as she was getting in, so I told her what had happened. He kept grinning and saying things along the line of “Have a nice day!” I don’t know if this is common all over, but at least in SoCal, a lot of people seem to think they can blow up your house, but if you get Not Nice ™ about it, that’s a much worse crime than what they did to you, and they remind you of this by taking the Moral High Ground ™ and wishing you a nice day even though you are clearly the most vile beast in the world for calling them on their shit.

Entitlement, much? Privilege, much? It strikes me that this story is missing something. Like, the simple word “sorry.”

I rolled down my window and said to him, “What a fucking asshole.” He then belied his moral high ground stance and showed his true colors by hitting the hood of my friend’s car with his fist as she was backing out. So then we sat there for a minute, blocking him while I took that pic.

To be clear, this post is not about how assholish some men are – if you haven’t encountered a woman behaving just as badly, you’re fortunate. The point, rather, is his use of the word “babe.” I have no doubt it was intended to demean me in some gender-specific way. That he eventually resorted to intentional violence on the car suggests he’s no stranger to the power dynamics of fear, and how to invoke them against people with less social status. There’s a lot of male privilege going on here.

Comments

  1. Megan says

    …Wow.

    On a completely unrelated note, is carrying pepper spray in your glove compartment legal in CA? If he’d gone batshit on you while you were trapped in the car (I’m assuming without keys, but even with keys you’re still in the passenger seat), you could have been in very real danger.

    My husband says that I always think of the worst that could happen in any given situation. I tell him I’m a product of my culture and since he’s so damn optimistic about the world, between the two of us we create one wholly pragmatic individual.

  2. The Other Anne says

    I HATE the word “babe” or “baby”. They sound infantilizing in every way I’ve heard them said. (I haven’t ever heard someone call a hot man a “babe,” though I am not sure I’ve heard a woman called one either.) It’s always some guy coming on to me, thinking I’ll swoon or something if he calls me babe or baby, because, you know, being compared to an infant is soooo flattering. (Yes, I am a literal person. I have a very hard time not being a literal person.)

    In this specific instance, there is no way to think he meant it as anything but patronizing and infantilizing. What a jerk. No respect for other’s property, no respect for others, no respect for women (by use of the word “babe” as, presumably, a synonym for woman the same way “chick” is used as a synonym for woman…and don’t get me started on the insistence people have on comparing women to infants that aren’t even human.)

    This guy just has nothing going for him. I hope someday I have the ability to speak my mind the way you did, here. I’m working on it. Reading this website is a constant source of confidence.

  3. SherryH says

    “He kept grinning and saying things along the line of “Have a nice day!” I don’t know if this is common all over, but at least in SoCal, a lot of people seem to think they can blow up your house, but if you get Not Nice ™ about it, that’s a much worse crime than what they did to you, and they remind you of this by taking the Moral High Ground ™ and wishing you a nice day even though you are clearly the most vile beast in the world for calling them on their shit.”

    Why? Why do people do this? A couple of months ago, I took a shower in the middle of the day. As I opened the bathroom door, I heard indistinct voices. I thought my son was watching videos on his computer – but no, he had his headphones on, and when he paused what he was watching, the voice continued. I realized it must be someone at the door, so I asked my son (he’s 16) to go answer it. I trailed behind him and peered around the corner from the kitchen, still wrapped only in a towel.

    The voice was not someone at the door. It was a man I’d never seen before, standing IN MY LIVING ROOM.

    He announced that he was from a local flower shop and had a delivery for me. He was holding a potted plant, so I asked my son to take it for me. Then, from my position mostly behind the kitchen wall, I asked the stranger, “Do you always just walk into someone’s house?”

    He puffed himself up. “I do when I’m making a delivery,” he said, as if that made perfect sense and I was batshit crazy for minding at all, let alone not thanking him profusely. Then, as he headed out the door, he turned back and said, in a really snotty tone, “Happy Birthday.” As if to say, “Here I am being nice to you and delivering you a plant on your special day, but you just have to be a crazy bitch and get upset with me, but I’m going to take the High Road and wish you a happy birthday because that’s just the kind of Upstanding Person I am.”

    Ugh.

  4. says

    Megan,

    It is legal to carry pepper spray here. As for your thinking of the worst thing, I always felt pressured to think that way, since the whole culture is so victim-blamey. How can we attempt the impossible task of preventing ourselves from being targeted by criminals unless we assume the worst of everybody and plan accordingly? ;)

    The Other Anne,

    Hmm, I haven’t heard “babe” used that way in years, so I edited the post to call attention to the fact that it can be offensive in other contexts. Because when the context is clearly infantilizing or simply unknown (i.e., total stranger calling you “babe”), I agree that’s pretty offensive.

    SherryH,

    THAT is really scary. Gotta wonder if this guy was using the flower job to get into homes and steal stuff. And as for your question of “why”, my guess is: either they are soooo entitled that they really don’t see why you aren’t applauding what they’ve done, or they’re using their You Wound Me, Madam schtick to distract you from the wrong they’ve done.

  5. Megan says

    Jennifer Kesler:

    It is legal to carry pepper spray here. As for your thinking of the worst thing, I always felt pressured to think that way, since the whole culture is so victim-blamey. How can we attempt the impossible task of preventing ourselves from being targeted by criminals unless we assume the worst of everybody and plan accordingly?

    I learned it by being raised by a mother who would exceed any average person’s expectations for shittiness. I learned that the worse I could ever expect still wasn’t as bad as she would then come up with. But it was a far cry closer to reality than, “Maybe everything will be great!”

    But, that is neither here nor there.

    SHERRY H:

    Do you remember the florist he came from? I would call and complain. That is CREEPY AS SHIT. The last place I lived, I walked downstairs in my robe to discover a man in my living room claiming to be “the landlord,” even though I knew precisely who my landlord was. He left before I could get more information. The only reason I didn’t flip out completely was because he was 10 feet away from me and I was 2 feet away from the butcher knife hidden under a dishrag on the counter. (Me? Expecting the worst? Maybe this is why my husband won’t let me have a BB gun. It’s just for target practice. Honest).

    Anyway, I asked the ground staff about him and they didn’t know who I was talking about. When I asked the office staff, they were just like. “Oh, that’s the maintenance guy, he does that.”

    I said, “Yeah. from now on if I don’t get 24 hours phone notice, you don’t get my rent.”

    It astounds me how many people think they can just saunter into someone’s house. I can’t wait to have a dog again. A big, loud, protective Bull Mastiff who will growl while my husband stands idly by thinking everything will turn out peachy because the world is just a lovely place, ain’t it?

  6. Red says

    Being called ‘babe’, I have no problem with. In the right context, it can be flattering, even affectionate.

    But THIS… was NEITHER.

    I don’t know what i would have done, but I doubt it would have been as ‘nice’ as your reaction. In fact, the instant he slammed his fist into the hood of my car, I probably would have gotten out and have to ‘remind him’ of his manners. Because I am liable to forget mine.

    Yeah, it wouldn’t have been pretty.

  7. AegisWinx says

    SherryH:

    If I were you I would have complained to his employers! NO ONE should enter your house without YOUR ok! Scratch That, I would have punched him in the balls! And Im a guy!

  8. Daydreamer says

    I met a woman who told me a similar story to SherryH’s. One evening on the college campus, she went into her car and heard a voice from her back seat say, “Hey.” It was a strange man, who apparently met her recently, because right then and there he ASKED HER OUT. He then seemed genuinely surprised when she freaked out and told him to get the hell away from her (which he did, somewhat abashed).

    Want to know where I met this woman? At a self-defense class taught by an ex-Green Beret. She now carries OC spray on her keys, which in the above situation she would have been justified in using.

  9. Justin Manning says

    I’ll go ahead and generalize my gender by saying even the best of us are assholes. Examples of how this “gentleman” goes above and beyond our already soured role are easily seen. Saying a word like “sorry”, seems to be outside of most people’s understanding and / or language ability. I’d say sorry and that most people aren’t like this person. It seems that most people are like this person, just plain old assholes (with several isms included).

    The word babe, is only a word I use with my wife. It’s a very personal word and without intimacy between people, I believe it to be demeaning.

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