By Mir
February 7, 2013

So I think I mentioned that I’m doing The Vagina Monologues again, this year. (Do you live in northeast Georgia? You should totally come see it next week!) I love everything about being in this show. EVERYTHING. I love being in a show, period. I love being surrounded by a group of kick-ass women. I love raising money for a worthy cause. I love knowing we’re raising awareness. I love the way Monkey’s face contorts when he references, “That… SHOW… you’re in.” (One day I started reciting my lines in the car and he said, “What the HECK, Mom? YOU ARE INAPPROPRIATE.”)

Basically, it’s all good. I think Otto particularly enjoys that for a couple of months I am leaving the house and interacting with other people on a regular basis. I’m not saying that I’m not completely adorable just as I am when I interact with just my computer and my child’s school for weeks on end, I’m just saying that he has an easier time peeling me off his leg when he gets home when I have to leave for rehearsal.

And of course I consider myself a feminist year-round, but it’s OH SO EASY to forget about all of the things out there that are Not Okay when you kind of don’t spent a lot of time out in the world. Then I start with the play and get all GRRRR! RESPECT THE VAGINA! all over again while these issues are front and center in my brain.

Now, mind you, this is SO SO MINOR compared to what’s happening to women worldwide, I feel a little silly even bringing it up. In the Atrocities Against Women category, I’m not sure this even rates. But I bring it up because 1) Y’know, the play, and 2) my darling husband—whom I would consider a feminist, too—and I had a looooong conversation about Audi’s Super Bowl commercial because he kept coming back to “but I thought it was a funny commercial.” And I would say things like, “But it made it seem like just walking up and grabbing a girl and kissing her is brave rather than over the line.” And Otto, good-hearted man that he is, kept constructing scenarios where it wasn’t SO bad (“Maybe they’re dating and had a fight and he wants her back!”), and I kept saying “THIS IS EXACTLY HOW THAT COMMERCIAL HAPPENED. Because white middle-class men in America think it’s okay, or not so bad, because you do not understand how engrained this message is in your psyche that women are objects who exist for men’s pleasure.”

To be clear, Otto doesn’t think that. I mean, he doesn’t THINK he thinks that. I believe that most men really have no idea how much they’ve internalized this societal belief that sure, men and women are equal, mostly, except for all of the subtle ways in which they’ve been taught that we’re not.

So that brings us to the other day. I picked Monkey up from Hippie School and then we swung by the eyeglasses place, because my new computer glasses had arrived, and I needed to pick them up. Monkey and I walked in, waited our turn, and then the nice guy who works there went and retrieved my specs.

As I sat there at the little table, trying them on, looking in the mirror, and getting them adjusted, I said, “Oh, hey. Can you tell me how much it is for just lenses?” The optician seemed a little confused so I added, “Remember I got new sunglasses here a couple of years ago? But now I’ve just gotten the new prescription, and the new distance glasses and computer glasses, and I’d kind of like to update my sunglasses but I don’t need new frames.”

He nodded and poked a few keys at his computer and told me new lenses for my sunglasses would be $220. [Side note: JUST THE LENSES. $220. Apparently “polarized” at this place means “platinum-coated.”]

I laughed—OH HOW I LAUGHED—and said, “Well hey, this prescription is pretty close! Nevermind! I think I’ll just buy some new $10 sunglasses off the Internet!”

He finished adjusting my glasses and handed them back and smiled. “Just tell your husband you need them,” he said, with a conspiratorial grin.

I blinked. Rapidly. This is what I do in lieu of punching people when I think they’re being unbelievable. And then because I’m smooth, I said, “… what?”

He smiled even wider, said, “Tell your husband you really NEED new lenses. He’ll take care of it.”

I blinked some more. Then I turned to Monkey, who was standing behind my chair, and smiled at him as sweetly as I could manage. “Honey, are you listening to this?” He nodded. “This is why feminism exists and is still necessary in 2013, son. Because this nice gentleman right here just suggested that I need my husband’s permission to spend money.”

“Well that’s not true,” said Monkey, clearly offended on my behalf.

The optician reddened. “No!” he said. “That’s not what I meant!” Monkey and I turned to him, eager for his explanation. I continued smiling. (I’ve learned from living in the south that killing someone with kindness can be VERY satisfying.) “I just… I meant… that if you told him you WANTED them, he’d probably buy them for you!”

Monkey and I exchanged a look. I thought about telling the optician that I actually work for a living (imagine!) and actually—incredible, I know!—many women make more money than their spouses. Also, lots of women aren’t married. Or are (GASP!) married to other women. I just had no idea where to even start, particularly because I’ve been to this place for years and have always thought this guy was nice. Also, I happen to know he has daughters. Ugh.

In the end, I settled for leaning across the table and saying, “If I was going to con my husband into spending $220 on me for some reason, it wouldn’t be for lenses. But thanks for the suggestion.”

My new glasses are fabulous (know how you don’t realize exactly how much trouble you were having seeing until you get your updated prescription and are all “Hey, I CAN SEE!”?), but I remain bugged by my experience there. The part that bugs me the most is that a huge part of my brain insists that it was “no big deal.” And it isn’t. Except that it is.

So I will get up on stage and talk about my vagina. I will make my son listen to lines from the show and when he squirms I will tell him that it is NOT gross or inappropriate and that until women are truly equal these are important things to talk about. And I will point out to him that as uncomfortable as that interaction at the eye place made me, it’s still small potatoes compared to what women are subjected to daily in other countries, or even here in America when, say, a group of high schoolers convince themselves that rape isn’t really rape if the girl is drunk or a slut.

I will also laugh at rehearsal until I cry because it’s not all BAH! MEN ARE JERKS! RISE UP! but it’s a lot about women being themselves and joyful and damn if we aren’t a fun bunch. Last night in the middle of something rather serious someone whispered, “ERMAGHERD!” and I promised to make her a picture. And I did:

So boo, patriarchy, but yay for women knowing how to laugh, too.


  1. Susie

    $220? I’m thinking dinner, movie, babysitter, new shoes… Much better conning ;-) This is why I’m weirded out to be moving back South…

  2. jodifur

    Huh. That was my favorite super bowl commercial. I totally didn’t take it that way.

  3. mandy

    I love you, Mir. You are utterly awesome and a kick-ass role model.

  4. bonuela

    this might be the 12 year old boy in me, but you wrote an blog about vaginas and the ad that popped up? “hiscox”. tee hee.

  5. Karen R.

    Totally ignoring everything else in your thoughtful post, but there are wonderful sunglasses that fit over your prescription lenses. Much easier than switching glasses because the regular ones stay on. With the additional advantage of totally embarrassing any teenage offspring who happen to be around because you will look like a dork. Look up Cocoons and/or Fitovers.

  6. diane

    Mandy took my comment. You’re amazing, woman.
    On a side note, I got glasses recently (for the first time! at age 38! ridic!) and I about fell over when they told me the price just for the lenses. What a racket. :p

  7. Kate

    Hey … I heard about a great online place from Want Not! It’s called Zenni Optical! You should try it!!

  8. deva

    wow. I have been asked if I need my man’s permission to spend money. 90% of the time, when I go shopping, we discuss my budget because it is OUR money I am spending, and my ability to pay all of my bills can impact OUR finances and HIM. I just point out that we have agreed to discuss all purchases greater than a PS3 game unless it’s with “free” money (IE: birthday/christmas/easter money).

    I think we need a picture of the computer glasses. You talked about the hipster-ish frames a while back, are these them? :-)

  9. Brenda

    That pictures is amazing. Also, I’m impressed how you handled the eye guy. Sounds like you found a middle ground between letting it slide and blowing up at him. I can never think of anything to say in the moment because it takes me a bit to process and form a reply. So I always think of amazing things to say about 10 minutes too late. Way to set a great example for Monkey, even when he’s uncomfortable with some of the conversations (I’d be uncomfortable myself).

  10. Anna

    I hadn’t seen that one. I think people are so “live-in-the-box” now- as in, the TV box- that they forget this is SCRIPTED and it wouldn’t work out that way in real life. Kindergartners get suspended for this stuff, you know?
    The one that was most offensive to me was the Go Daddy commercial with the hot chick kissing the nerd. More than a few stereotypes there, too.

  11. JennyA

    *terrorist fist bump*

  12. Korinthia

    Good luck with the show! Didn’t like the car ad that used a woman as an object for the taking either. Not cool.

  13. Denise

    damn the #patriarchy

  14. CuriousCat

    Now, little lady, don’t you go getting all riled up. You just meet Big Daddy at the door tonight when he gets home from work, maybe have a nice dress and some pearls on, spray a little of that deelishous perfume on and you snuggle right up to Big Daddy and why, I bet he’ll get you anything your little heart desires.

    You’re a better woman than me, Mir. The words “Are you fucking kidding me?” would have come flying out of my mouth.

    I can’t believe we’ve let men “run” this world this long. Time to take it back and move on. It ain’t 1965 anymore, Gents. Some of you are slow learners, I know. But you WILL learn eventually…or you’ll die off. Either way, it’s about to get all WOMANLY up in heah.

    BTW, the day I spend $220 on just the lenses for any type of eyewear is the day after I win a $100 million Powerball. Which is, like, never.

  15. Alice

    Awesome. The eye store is just wonderful, since you hit that elusive balance of assertive and convivial, but I also love the interaction with Otto. (I can totally understand loving the ‘kid gets his confidence’ storyline, but it doesn’t remove the blech from the ‘girl stands there and has NO say in anything’ part of it. Makes me remember the end of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You fondly…)

  16. sonia

    I detested most of the Super Bowl commercials this year. The one that I can’t get out of mind was the disgusting “go Daddy” commercial which basically sent the message to my three young daughters (and son for that matter) watching that women can’t possibly be both beautiful/attractive/sexy AND smart. That commercial was so off base on so many levels. I actually didn’t get as offended by the one you referenced because I still wasn’t over the “go daddy” one. I see what you’re saying, though. I personally took the Audi one with a backstory of mutual attraction, she’s dating a loser but pines after him, he finally gets enough courage to do something about it…. It may be possible I did a bit too much inferencing! Thanks for this post. Great reminder to teach valuable lessons to our children.

  17. MomQueenBee

    I told my optometrist flat-out that I planned to order sunglasses from the internet, because I can’t afford to leave another $400 pair under my seat at the football game, and she looked most disapproving and said, “You know, I can’t guarantee they’ll fit.” And because she calls herself DOCTOR, I refrained from doing the math for her and letting her know I could buy 10 pairs from Dr. Internet before we approach her prices. Hrmph.

  18. Arnebya

    I had a split second wayminit moment with that commercial. The initial response of UNDERDOG GETS BOLD then immediate hold up wait oh noooooooooo no no no no no (and then I still kinda liked it even though I was still shaking my head disliking it. Damn you marketers!) Next time, get real southern woman on them and give a sweet, “Bless your heart.”

  19. Laura

    Hmmm…. I didn’t take the commercial that way at all. From what I remember, she didn’t pull away (and I think she even kissed back), so it was a sweet moment. If she’d struggled or something, then it would have been different.

    I can’t really get riled up about the optometrist comment because it is so far from reality that it is funny rather than offensive. Women needing “permission” to buy something is just so outdated. In fact, I would wager that it is the OPPOSITE now. I think wives control the checkbook and spending MUCH more than husbands do these days. BUT, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be pointed out to people who make stupid comments or that it continues to be made very clear to our children and society that “permission” (beyond general household agreement on management of finances) is not something women have to get from their husbands before a purchase.


  20. Katie in MA

    My 8yo was scandalized when she realized the boy had a black eye because he kissed someone else’s girlfriend. Maybe I should have told her the girl punched him for kissing her without permission. Good on you for not only saying something, but making sure your son was paying attention. THAT is how we stop the cycle.

  21. Michele

    Well honestly I cannot judge that man because I did not have the interaction. But I guess I don’t think it is that big of a deal. This is coming from a forever single 46 year old. I just can’t help but wonder how that is any different then when a guy wants some new expensive item and the attitude is: think the wife will let you get it? It is just a silly remark.

  22. KSM

    That’s funny, I didn’t have any problem with that Super Bowl commercial. I just looked at it as a guy being bold and going after a girl that he was interested in… then again, I wouldn’t have found it weird if the girl was going up and kissing the guy either. I never thought it was him dominating her. I also thought the Go Daddy commercial was funny too, though. I mean, yeah, it is a stereotype, but it isn’t wrong. I never thought the Go Daddy one meant that Bar Rafaeli was stupid either.

  23. Lucinda

    I get your point, but…Hmmm…you know I love you. However, I do think that the man at the glasses shop can be unaware and still a nice man who doesn’t see the issue because he’s not a woman. I run into that too even in the liberal Pacific Northwest by men my own age who clearly were raised in an age where they should know better, but they don’t. It’s our job to inform them in a respectful manner so hopefully they will take it to heart instead of getting defensive because more than anything, men (in their hearts) need to be respected. (Women need to be cherished but that’s a whole other conversation). Respect earns respect and we are still earning it, like it or not.

    These careless jokes are not a big deal, except they are. I’m not saying we should pick our battles but we should pick patience instead of anger. Even my husband frequently misses the point and I have no doubt he respects women a great deal. He teaches our daughter every day that she should expect the same respect as any man.

    Okay, enough of my assvice opinion. You know I love you and adore you and think you are marvelous.

  24. Mir

    Lucinda, never any need to apologize for a difference in opinion. I love you, too. ;)

    I guess I was trying to defuse the situation with humor, and my concern was more towards making sure it was a teachable moment for my child than for the optician. But I can see where that certainly wasn’t the kindest way to handle it, so point taken.

    The thing about even the “good ones” missing the point is kind of MY point, though. When the men who are the ones who we definitely see as allies are missing all of the ways in which subtle, demeaning messages are embedded in our society, isn’t that scary? It is to me.

    And I would argue that everyone wants to be both cherished and respected. But if we need to agree to disagree I’m okay with that.

  25. addy

    Ok I get the message from the commercial. The car is going to spur some sort of bravery . Total load of hooey – but I get it. The reality of that situation is he violated her and is proud of himself for it. And we the consumers are not supposed to notice that it was wrong because she was smiling or was pleased with the outcome. Still a total load of hooey.

  26. Aimee

    I love the way you handled the moment with the optometrist. The thing is that if you let it slide, you’re letting Monkey think it’s okay to do that. I don’t know this man, in all probability he thought he was just making a silly joke, but it’s a subtle and pernicious form of sexism that does, in my opinion, feed into less subtle and much more dangerous assumptions about treatment of women. You go on with your bad self!

  27. Heather

    Great post about feminism but the ads I saw while reading it were all for Asian dating sites with sexily posing girls. Weird juxtaposition.

  28. Liza

    I love you. You are awesome.

    Also, I’m getting ads for 23andMe (genetic testing), not dating sites, so Heather, I don’t think it’s about this site, I think they’re doing that breadcrumb-following across ad-networks. Do you share a computer?

  29. Elizabeth

    I halfway wonder if he was clumsily TRYING to say that you look so good in those particular frames that Otto would jump to buy them for you to preserve the hotness. Nonetheless, his actual comment was inappropriate– and if he is as nice as you say, he won’t be using that line again!

  30. Heather

    It’s a weird place to be, isn’t it? I hate when I see something and I WANT to say something but don’t feel like I SHOULD because whoever it was “didn’t mean anything by it” etc etc. It’s so hard to tell when to say something, and when everyone is going to think you’re overreacting. (And heaven forbid someone thinks we’re BITCHY. Oy.)
    Also, the ads I’m seeing are for rugs. Juxtaposing THAT with vaginas is definitely giving me a good dose of the giggles :P

  31. Dorothy

    You own your perscription so take it anywhere you like. And as bad as I hate to admit it, Walmart has done a great job for me, including using old frames.

  32. Another Dawn

    I had a similar thing happen when picking up a replacement leg for my couch. They didn’t have one the right size, so the salesman gave my one that was too long and told me to get my husband to cut it to the right size. I told him I was divorced. He said okay ask your father. Said he was dead. Guy looked totally flummoxed. I told him that I’d go home to MY house and use MY crosscut saw to trim the leg for MY couch. “That oughta work, doncha think?” Eejit never for one minute considered I might be capable of handling it myself.

  33. lisa

    I was so sad about that Audi commercial – now I can’t bring myself to think about buying an audi… and I love them and their VW cousins.

  34. Reb

    The thing that disturbed me about that commercial was the whole I’m-a-boy-so-my-courage-and-identity-comes-from-cars-and-girls thing. Sigh.

    I’m impressed with your response to the optician too. Don’t think I’d have thought so fast. I agree with you that the subtle subconscious things add up to discrimination and they’re so hard to fight.

    There’s a theory that humour developed as a social construct designed to reinforce societal norms. It’s amazing what people can get away with by claiming it’s just a joke. And amazing how easily someone can shut someone up by accusing them of having no sense of humour.

  35. Ruta M

    I had laser surgery on my eyes a couple of years ago and it was wonderful to go from living in a blurry world (when not wearing glasses) to crystal clear vision. I accepted that the surgery would not affect my ‘old age’ long sight but the surgeon, who is a consultant in the most respected eye hospital in the UK told me that the cheap store glasses would be fine. So I have any number of $2 – $4 glasses about the place and I don’t worry when I break or lose a pair.

  36. Brigitte

    Some women are perpetrators too . . or maybe it was just me, back in the “how to take care of your new baby” class at the hospital. The nurse kept nattering at the husbands about how that had to buy us expensive jewelry gew-gaws for having their children.
    All *I* could think was”Hey, that’s MY money too, and we have waaaay more important things to spend it on!”

    And watching the old outdated TV shows always make me cringe; they all seem to have an episode where wifey scratches/dents the car, then is afraid of hubby’s dire punishment, like she’s some little kid. Heck, my own hubby still acts like that, when he’s damaged our vehicles (and edges of the garage doors) way more than me.

    I could go on – like you said, there are lots of far worse things happening, but these little ones stick in my craw too.

  37. JennyA

    I’ve been thinking more and more about this, probably because I seem to be “getting into it” more and more these days with people I know “mean well” but I’m finding myself less and less willing to let it slide just because there wasn’t any malicious intent. It pisses me off that me speaking up, even in a light-hearted (which, gah, but anyway) way, automatically slaps me with the “humorless bitch” label in some situations. I think most people I actually care about don’t think this since they know I’m typically fairly self-deprecating and have a pretty raunchy and irreverent sense of humor, but it still rankles that the default setting for so many people is “oh, lighten up, it was just a joke.” Well, yeah, sure. And chances are, I chuckled too. But unless we at least *acknowledge* what’s going on, how are we ever going to get to a point where it’s not a subliminal, ingrained assumption that those sorts of jokes and assumptions don’t at least contribute to some pretty awful stuff? Arrgh.

  38. JennyA

    OH, and one

  39. Celeste

    Hubby and I stumbled into a certain movie last weekend that was horrifically inappropriate. We were even warned at the box office (probably because we’re obviously OLD and therefore have no sense of humor) that many people found it offensive, and yet we went to see it anyway. Yeah, we’re stupid. I won’t name the movie because it was so awful, but we stayed to see the whole thing because we’re.. .stubborn?

    So anyway, the movie showed women in full frontal nudity. A male scrotum attached to a man’s neck. Women being used as if they were inanimate objects. A certain big-name female movie star using her own breast as the pestle, in a mortar & pestle. But, oddly, no penises whatsoever. Not that I’m complaining about not seeing penises, but the double standard is somewhat surprising. Penises are too dirty to show, when full frontal female nudity is ok? I don’t get it.

  40. JennyA

    Whoops, sorry about that. I was just going to add that I certainly have nothing against “traditional” roles and I know it works that way for a lot of people and I’m not suggesting all women rise up and refuse to be supported if that’s what works.

    But I’ve put in the work to get where I am and take care of myself and my house and car and the dog (especially now that I’m divorced), and it certainly isn’t always easy. So maybe that’s why I’m more sensitive these days to even well-meaning language that somehow implies I’m incapable of making my own decisions or that I likely need someone else’s permission to spend money or wield a power tool. I guess I just want even the “good guys” to understand how that kind of thinking is inevitably a knock against my life and my capabilities, even if it’s just a teeny scratch. The scratches add up.

  41. nicole

    wow, just wow. I would have been offended but I’m not sure I would have handled that situation as gracefully as you had.

  42. JMH

    That thought never crossed my mind when I saw the Audi commercial. I just felt bad for the boy who was going to prom alone. I DO see your point though. I also agree with Lucinda’s comment.

    Personally, I thought most of the Superbowl commercials were bad…the Go Daddy one was the worst of all

  43. Michelle

    Dear Mir. May I move next door? I spent most of my growing-up years in Kentucky and so miss the Southern way of doing things. You can teach me all sorts of ways to handle turds in a genteel way. I’m practicing blinking my eyes really fast right now. My luck someone at work will think I have something in my eye rather than getting the hint to get out of my way NOW.

  44. BethRD

    That ad really bothered me too. I’ve definitely gotten sensitized over the last few years through various things to ‘romantic’ situations in which really one person is forcing their will on another.

  45. Heather

    But Mir, you are the patron saint of bargains. Why no for the sunglasses? You don’t have to con anyone for $20, amiright?

  46. Allison

    I had a well meaning family friend ask me once if I “worked outside the home.” I am our primary breadwinner and I work oh about 80 hours a week. I had to really swallow any kind of emotional reaction to it because in truth it was an older person who I don’t think was pushing an agenda. Its hard though.

    I also had our day care workers essentially accuse my son of lying because he was walking around saying “daddy cooks”. They were flabbergasted when I explained that yes daddy does cook most of the time because he’s home (and then I muttered to myself about what year was it all the way to the car). Not sure how I was as polite as I managed to be when leaving the daycare because I really didn’t want my son to absorb that reaction and begin to think our family life is weird!

    And by the way as a feminist raising boys I have decided that my goal is to raise Hugh Jackmon- the most feminine masculine man (a broadway star AND Wolverine:) my parents worked hard not to limit my choices while I was growing up so I figure I owe it to my son not to limit his!

  47. bonuela


    i saw that same horrid nameless movie. you give it too much credit. a parade of penises (peni?) could not have redeemed it. i applaud the fact that you were still able to form a coherent thought afterwards. i KNOW i lost brain cells. :-(

  48. Kim

    Once, way, way back in the 80’s when I worked at the circ desk at my university library. I grew up in the Bay Area, which was multicultural before multiculti was cool, and am myself bicultural. I had a habit of telling the patrons to “be a good little girl or boy and return these books on time.” Until a black student, my own age, used a very neutral voice to tell me off and set me straight.
    Now, to be fair, I said it to everyone, almost every time – it was riff on my very young self and the librarian stereotypes and it was usually good for a chuckle. But I had not considered the context for everyone, and I was a little more circumspect after that. So yes, the optician needs to be set straight, too, even if it made him uncomfortable. We all have our blind spots.
    I do still have mixed feelings about the Audi commercial, because it was so clearly a fantasy, and I do think there’s room for the fantastically romantic gesture in the world. I’m more with Otto, there – I supplied the back story in my head. But then, I like “baby, It’s Cold Outside”, too – I see as seduction, not coercion. I’m definitely a feminist – these are just not battles I’m picking. Fair dues to those who do.
    Break a leg in your show, Mir!

  49. L

    Warby Parker. Prescription polarized sunglasses in cute (okay, hipster) frames. About half the price for the lenses he quoted you. Plus, they have a FREE 5-frame at home try on kit.

  50. Daisy

    Audi – they never really made it clear. Maybe the girl socked him. That would show the guys that they can’t just walk in and take what they want, no matter what car they drive.

    Husbands and money – I’ve been the primary breadwinner in the family for a long time. Father-in-Law still doesn’t accept that. Poor guy – both his sons married strong women, and he’s still going “Wha Happ?”

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