Today, I found out I had a flat tire.
It wasn't just that it had gone flat, but that I probably drove about 20 miles on it last night. I was too tired to question why my car drove funny, and there wasn't the usual grinding, flapping noises. The tire wasn't completely flat, but it was flat enough.
Keep Calm and Just Do It
I freaked out. My first impulse was to ask my roommate what to do. I texted him, saying I needed him to call ASAP. After a moment went by waiting, I realized something.
I could do this myself.
I had a spare and the equipment, and I've changed flat tires before. In my youth, I seemed to run over every nail in the neighborhood. I was no stranger to the beast that was changing a tire. Why was I so helpless?
Wearing a Skirt Attracts Helpers...
So I got to work, pulling out the tire and everything. I had never used any of these specific tools before, but I had used tools just like them so I knew I could figure it out. Empowered by my decision not to be a helpless woman, I set to work.
And like clockwork, a man came to rescue me in my "time of need."
Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the help. But he asked if I needed help, and I told him no. As I said no, he bent down and started helping anyway.
I thought, 'Alright, I guess help isn't a bad thing. I don't need it, but that's fine.'
Help That Isn't Help
The guy couldn't figure out how to work the jack. It was stuck somehow, so we assumed it was rusted. I tried it out for a moment, but I just took his word for it that he was twisting it the right way. In retrospect, I think he was doing it wrong.
So naturally, when another guy came to ask if we needed help, the first guy said, 'You got another jack?' The second guy asked what was wrong with the jack, and tried it and had no problems. So of course he was now invested in the project of changing my tire. He got the jack under the car and told the other guy to loosen the bolts... which I had already done.
He didn't even address me. In fact, the only time he even spoke to me during the whole thing was to make sure I didn't drive around on the spare like it was a regular tire. As if I had no idea what damage could be done to the alignment and frame to do so.
Sexism Isn't Anti-Help or Anti-Man
I really am happy they helped. I didn't want to change the tire, so the fact that they were willing to do so (knowing they probably didn't want to, either) was very kind of them.
However, I felt very much minimized by their actions and assumptions. Yes, I was wearing a skirt. Yes, I am a woman. But it was just assumed the men would do the job while I stood around and did nothing, helplessly. As if they were required by some unspoken law to help me see it through to the end.
Had I been a man myself, I wonder if they would have still asked if I needed help? And if they had asked, would they have assumed that they needed to take over the job for me and let me just stand there lazily doing nothing? I doubt it. I'm fairly sure they would have done whatever specific thing I asked for and then expected me to do the rest on my own.
Which was exactly what I had been expecting them to do that entire time.
What's The Point Of This?
Nothing. Not a damn thing. I just found it to be an interesting event that inspires a line of inquiry I had never really thought of before. They didn't just change my tire for me, they changed the way I view myself. I'm not helpless. I can do anything you can do, sometimes even better.
But I'm expected to be. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that expectation was why I freaked out in the first place. And I'm not sure how I feel about how I've expected MYSELF to be helpless as a result.