Do women stereotype moms? Are we gender profiling ourselves?

Moms, how stereotyped have we become? Is it just assumed that because we have children with us that we stay at home? I know we’ve all heard the “stay home and eat bonbons” line, but is that still something people just assume to be true? I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this, you’ll agree that it’s not.

Have I been gender profiled?

While enjoying a gorgeous day this weekend, I took Big and Little to the local Restaurant Festival in our town. Filling over 5 city blocks, this annual event is packed full of every snack, lunch, dinner and drink entree available. A few tastes and my kids were parched, crowded and antsy for some kid fun.

We made it down a side street where local non-food booths were set for local businesses and organizations. While I chatted with a neighbor, they happily found cups of Lemonade from Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Neighborly, I grabbed a few dollars to donate and dropped them into the collection.

While the kids drank their lemonade, I waited, quietly.

A man came over, dropped a dollar donation, took a lemonade, and was asked for a business card.

“A business card?” he questioned.

“Well, sure,” one of the ladies hosting the booth responded. “We’re collecting business cards to enter you to win an ipad from our sponsor. Do you have one? If not, we can take your office contact information on our form.”

I stood, watching as this gentleman pulled out his business card and dropped it into the bowl for the sponsor: a printing service. I shifted, feeling my brand new clutch under my arm. Packed with only four items: wallet, lipstick, iPhone and business card case.

I moved the clutch from one hand to the other. I fumbled with the fastener. I read and re-read the signage.

Glancing behind the booth, I considered an inquiry. There were 3 women behind the booth. Three women, one of whom had her teenage son with her.

As my children finished their drinks, the man walked away. I stared at the fishbowl collection, wondering the ratio of women’s business cards to men’s. 

And we walked away.

Over the past 30 hours, I’ve replayed the scene in my head. I’ve shared it on twitter. And I’ve become more and more upset. I’m a mom, yes. Most certainly. But I’m also a business woman. I have a need for print services. I have an interest in winning an iPad.

Is it because I was with my children that it was assumed I wouldn’t have a business card? Was I excluded from participating because I’m a woman or a mom? If the man had children with him, would he have been asked for a card?

Should I have said anything?

I’m thinking, yes. A calm “oh, I have a business card” would have been fine.

But, as usual, I remained quiet. I let the world affect me.

Now? I’m angry. I’m angry that I didn’t say anything. I’m angry that it seemed assumed that a mom wouldn’t have a business card, but a man would. I’m angry that there were three women in the booth and at least one of these women were moms. And I’m angry at myself for not speaking up in front of my children; not letting them see how proud I am that I do carry business cards.

But more than anything, I’m angry that I let them know how very wrong they were, in sugary-sweet way that made them think.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2011, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. says

    You’re right, Julie, they should have asked you for a card (you could have been anyone). They probably weren’t thinking. And I think if the man had been with his kids, they may have not asked him. Why were they collecting cards? Were they going to contact the businesses after for donations? They should have asked everyone if they were going a giveaway like that. I probably would have been silent too — but thought the exact same thing.

    I hate that sometimes people think I do nothing as a stay at home mom (they never think that we may be up writing posts til midnight…etc).

  2. says

    I’m tempted to scream “Of course you should have said something!” But I admit it’s not always easy in the moment. Especially when it’s something so ridiculous you shouldn’t have to say a thing in the first place.

    I think you should contact them and explain how bad that attitude is for business. That’s the part they’ll care about.

  3. says

    That’s incredibly offensive. Don’t blame you at all for being upset. What’s hysterical is you probably have a far wider reach than that “businessman” does!

  4. says

    I think that we do assume that we aren’t accepted. I bet if you had put your card in, it might have opened up a dialogue about what you do. But, I probably would have had the same thoughts running through my head and I am notorious for not speaking up. I’m bad at networking (working on it!) and even worse at bringing it up in conversation. Whenever I do, it seems like I get the “eye roll”. But I know the dialogue is important. It’s what changes those subconscious thoughts that affect our behavior…like not asking you for your card.

  5. says

    I hate when people make assumptions like that. The women behind the lemonade stand should feel silly for making that assumption. I would have been angered by their stereotyping, but I probably would have also been too shocked to say anything. This kind of incident makes me angry, though.

    • says

      Me, too, obviously. And more and more so as time went on. I *wish* I had said something. And, yes, she should have felt silly, but I really doubt she even knew she did anything wrong. thanks for commenting!

  6. says

    I don’t know that I would assume that anyone who is at a fair with their children would have a business card with them, but it would be nice if they offered to everyone. I desperately wish you had said something, not out of defense, but because every time we pull out our business cards, we have an impact on a mindset. A simple, “Oh, I have my business card with me and I’d love to drop it in, too” would have been one more step to changing attitudes about women and mothers. We can’t expect that the world will change unless we change it.

  7. says

    Hi Julie, so glad you wrote this article! It really underscores how we allow our impressions of “what others think about us” rule our emotions. As a life coach, my suggestion would be to acknowledge how you were feeling (I’m guessing inferior) and then take yourself to a higher feeling place by guiding your thoughts. Example: Maybe because these women aren’t business minded, they simply assumed I had no business interests. I’m sure they didn’t mean to stereotype me. If I had of spoken up, they would have been more than happy to receive my business card. The most important thing is not to beat yourself up for not acting when you had a chance. Next time, remember this experience and feel confident to speak up! I’m sure it will benefit you as well as the person/woman standing behind the table!

    • says

      Thanks for your comment, very good advice. Though I’m laughing at the “inferior” part. I walked away annoyed, but felt the exact opposite of inferior. I’m a confident person and thought more about “poor them” than I did me. I know who I am. I know they missed out. I felt angry, but I actually felt a feeling of pride, knowing that I did have my b-card under my arm because I’m strong enough to “do it all.”

  8. says

    Julie,

    You were indeed profiled by three of your own. I’m not sure my reaction would have been any different from yours – even the stewing part long after the incident. Incidents like these help us to respond on the fly if they’re ever repeated, so consider yourself prepared. :-)

    In previous employment, I was in contact with the general public all day and the practice of saying the same thing to each customer was drilled into my head by management. So whether I was greeting someone at a restaurant or showing someone a model home, my basic greeting and introdution were the same. My responses to their questions were also very similar. This cut down on “profiling”. If I mentioned the tot lot to a young couple with children, I had to mention it to an elderly couple as well.

    These experiences still help me today even though I don’t deal with external customers.

    BTW, I agree with a previous poster that it is likely you would have had far more reach than the businessman whose card they requested. Silly them!

  9. says

    Of course they would have asked him for a business card if he had or didn’t have children with him. A man having children with him is sweet and cute and “Oh what a great father you are” and the assumption that he works fulltime as well. A woman having children with her is just a fact of life and probably doesn’t work. Or if she does, she loves money and ambition more than she does her kids. At least, those are the attitudes I’ve come across since having children.

    While I think you should have said something, I understand how hard it is. We are taught to be a bit meek, not to come across as b****y. And yet to celebrate being a b****. It’s hard. I understand.

    Did you get the name of their business? Perhaps you could contact them and tell them how negatively it came across, etc.?

  10. says

    It could have been worse. They could have asked you if you had one of your husband’s business cards to put in the bowl. lol

    You’re right. They made a big assumption about you because you are a woman and were there with your children.

    This is an eye-opening post. Thank for you for sharing.

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