Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Gender and... Coins?
As someone who's been mis-gendered my whole life, I pay careful attention to gender rules. It's surprising how deeply social edicts penetrate. Even areas where you don't expect gender rules to apply often have them -- with unspoken praise or criticism for meeting or violating the prescriptions.
Among a long list of experiences I could cite, let me relate one that happened last week. I was at Target buying a product and the cash-register rang up $12.02. I pulled a $10 bill and two singles out of my wallet; I announced to the cashier I have two cents and fished for pennies in the handful of coins in my front pocket.
What role could gender play in this scenario? None, I expected. But the cashier, a woman in her forties, was visibly taken aback. She looked at me and said, "I'm surprised you have coins. Men never carry change."
I tried to process her words. Men don't carry coins? What do they do with their change? When shopping, I always have a handful of coins in my pocket and use them for precisely this situation. Yes, I know women frequently have little coin-purses in their bags and helpfully pull them out to make purchases easier but I wasn't carrying a handbag, I wasn't using a coin-purse; I was merely doing what I thought all humans did in commerce regardless of gender. But to the cashier -- who interacts with customers all day long -- I am an outlier. A gender-bending pioneer with pennies. She didn't say her remark with condemnation; rather, she was simply expressing surprise.
Does my habit of carrying coins deserve comment? Is that how far gender has taken us?