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:
I 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.