Photo credit: Jennifer Rice

Misogyny. [mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-]
1. hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.

I’ve always been a watcher of people. As long as I can remember, observing people — especially those who are unaware of the observation — has held great fascination for me. Now let’s be clear. I’m not talking about overly voyeuristic peeping Tom (Thomasina?) kind of stuff. I’m talking about being in a place, generally a very public place, finding a perch where I can unobtrusively observe.

In the nearly five years that I now have been fully committed to the observation and understanding of canine behavior, I’ve found that my sensitivity around humans has become even more acute. Call it a fine-tuning of the bullshit meter. The result: people watching is an Olympic sport for me.

Today I found myself with an hour or so to kill between appointments. I had the day’s New York Times, my journal and a Starbucks card, so off I went. After finding the closest location (inside a Target), and securing my Grande Smoked Butterscotch Latte (deeeeelish), I hunkered down for a little good old fashioned dead wood news reading and coffee.

Then it happened.

A triad of fellows were clustered near the doorway talking. They had badges on lanyards. Well, one had a lanyard, the other two had those clip on retractable thingies that attach to your belt. In any case, the point is that they appeared to work at the store. What they were talking about, I had no idea. Wasn’t really paying attention, frankly. It was when one of them flinched that movement caught my eye. Apparently the appearance of a stunning young woman walking through the door gave him a start. He appeared to know her.

She wandered by, smiled and said good morning and kept walking. This is when the scene shifted.

“Good morning? That’s all I get?” One of the older guys said. His tone was decidedly patronizing. She stopped in her tracks, froze for a second, and for a moment I could see she was deciding how to play it. I felt my hackles raise, and folded my paper, wanting to see where this went.

In that split second she paused, gathered herself and turned back to him with a smile — the man whose comment stopped her seemed clueless. The other two guys saw her smile and very clearly understood that it was not necessarily a happy smile. It had too much teeth. And her jaw, it was set … just … so.

Taking a few steps back towards him she went on to say that she wasn’t sure what exactly he was looking for … and by the way, she wanted to give him the money for lunch. He then tried to interrupt her saying that he had asked her to lunch, she didn’t need to give him the money. She stopped him cold with a smile and calmly said, “Well, then I guess I will just take you to lunch some time. Either that or I’ll pay you back. I don’t want to ‘owe’ you anything.” And she smiled. Then she walked away.

The guy was flummoxed. His friends were laughing and one of them said, “Man, she’s not interested in you, and besides, she’s way too young for you.” A few minutes later the guys walked away.

About 15 minutes later, that same young woman came walking my way. Having got what she needed in the store was heading out. She tossed something in the trash can next to me and when I looked up, our eyes met. I stood up and approached. It’s amazing to see people’s reactions to being approached by a stranger, especially when their space already has been solidly invaded. Briefly I thought about what her entire shopping experience must have been like. No matter how much poise she was showing, she was still on guard from that encounter. Inappropriate behavior that invades one’s space leaves a mark. I’m not talking about the physical marks of overt invasion. I’m talking about the mark that people can’t see, the one that goes deeper, the one that feels very much like a bruise. That tenderness triggers quickly when it’s pushed — even by a simple hello.

I smiled and said that I was sorry to bother her, but that I had witnessed the entire exchange earlier and was very impressed with her poise, her confidence and the way she stood her ground with calm and strength. I’m glad I said something, because I watched that guard in her eyes drop away. I watched her shoulders pull back and square off. I watched her straighten up. Then she grinned.

She said that she truly appreciated my saying something. Then she said, “I hope you have a blessed day,” and she strode with confidence out the door.

Now I don’t know the back story. I don’t know the full context, but here’s what my gut tells me:

Lecherous male chauvinist asks hot young girl to lunch, thinking he will charm her. As he’s old enough to be her father and she’s not interested she just thinks he’s being nice, and says yes. After lunch he starts getting a bit overly friendly, expecting her to be grateful and sweet … After all, he took her to lunch. Right? When she cools off to try and get some distance not wanting to tell him to back off, that she’s not interested, he starts getting more aggressive. And by that I don’t mean he gets physical but he just gets in her space. Then young woman stands her ground, pushes back and claims her strength.

Here’s the thing, from what I saw, this guy clearly didn’t get it — either because his emotional intelligence is at or below zero, or he’s just that much of a misogynist.

If you were to ask him — he’d would likely decry any claim that he doesn’t like women or that he has prejudice against them. I bet he would crow to anyone who’d listen how much he just loves women, respects them, is their greatest supporter.

Here’s the thing about misogynists, rarely do they admit that they are. Most probably don’t even know what it means. After all, it’s how things always have been right?

Maybe up to now.

Guess what? Time’s up.

Photo credit: Jennifer Rice

Raconteur and Silicon Valley expat who’s gone to the dogs … literally. Read more here