About eleven years ago, I had a rather unpleasant encounter in The Disney Store that still leaves my mind wandering and wondering – why did it happen? What could I have done differently to get a better reaction? Let me set up the stage for you:


I was working at the Disney Store at the time. Just to make it clear, our wages were based solely on how long we had been there and had nothing to do with our sales records. In other words, we were not driven by the promise of a commission.

Whenever I would walk around the store and talk to people about the products in the store it was because I was genuinely interested in the product and loved to meet other people with a similar passion, or to inspire it in others.

A woman who could not have been over thirty was walking around the store in a curious sort of manner. She seemed like she wasn’t sure what she was trying to find, so I naturally approached her and in my most ordinary voice (extremely friendly, that is) I asked her if there was something I could help her find.

Her response could not have been more terse or hostile. “No!” she snapped. She then added, as if for good measure, “If I wanted help, I certainly wouldn’t be getting it from A MAN!”

I could not fathom what use it was to tell me she would have possibly accepted help from a non-man. There were many people who worked in the store who earned the same salary as me and who would have been equally happy to help her and have their time preoccupied by her. She left soon after making this hostile statement and left no opportunity for a woman to offer her any assistance, or a person that otherwise was not a man.

In retrospect, I wish that I had said something along those lines — “I’ll see if I can find a person who isn’t a man to help you, then!” but my mind was too shocked by her seemingly unreasonable statement to go there.

What might you have said in those circumstances? Might it have been all about the commission?

7 Comments

  1. Gordon –
    This is an interesting topic for discussion of gender devaluing in the marketplace and to ask if there if there is a schism between male and female role modeling for profit.
    I think the woman didn’t think you — A MAN! — would understand the needs of a child or her wishes as a woman. That is unkind and narrow-minded.
    TLC has a new show called “The Littlest Couple” and the woman is under 36 inches tall and she is an MD at a children’s hospital in Texas.
    http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/little-couple/puzzles/puzzles.html
    In at least three episodes, she has said on several occasions to her husband, “I’ll ask a woman.” She was seeking his feedback on her outfits, which shoes to buy and what sort of Hawaiian hat might look best on her. Each time she put him down — BY GENDER ALONE — by devaluing his opinion simply because he was a man and not a woman. She’s certainly book smart, but humanly dumb.
    As well, last night on Kathy Griffin’s D-List show, Rosie O’Donnell showed her man hating ways by refusing to eat flan at Gloria Estefan’s restaurant. Rosie said, repeatedly, that she “doesn’t eat mucus” and after Gloria repeatedly tried to get Rosie to “take a taste” — O’Donnell finally revealed herself by saying something like, “I’m a hardcore lesbian and the one thing I don’t do is swallow mucus.” Oh, my! What a revealing and degrading and bigoted statement against flan and semen the world over!
    If those phrases in my examples were reversed — and a man said them about a woman — there would be OUTRAGE in the feminist community! Today, you can tell a joke against a man and he’s expected to laugh and take it and play along and “be a man” and I don’t think that meets the standard of a fair, human, equality.

  2. That’s it, Gordon!
    We need to be equally fair — or equally insulting — if we truly want to see each other on the same level as us. Put downs — joking or not — are one sly way of drawing bright, but diminishing, lines against each other for false reasons.

  3. Gordon —
    I would’ve found her a woman immediately. She obviously had something to discuss or purchase that made her uncomfortable dealing with a man. It wouldn’t have been a big issue for me simply because I had nothing at stake and I couldn’t change my gender to please her.

  4. Guilty as charged Gordon – sorry.
    I myself didn’t showcase any such gender-bias but we have a very high-end home decor section in some of our stores – Pan India. We always prefer to hire “girls” for that particular section as a customer service associate; this applies for the toddler toys section too – with the idea in mind – may be they would connect better with the customers.