WTF, Conservative Men?
In a car repair shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn, misogyny and racism, untethered and emboldened
Perhaps you, too, did not sleep well last night, worrying about how Americans with uteri have become, thanks to a cabal of conservative white men, chattel with fewer rights than a corpse. A quick reminder how we’ve reached this point, aside from the specific brick-by-brick logistics of stacking the court with Federalist Society endorsed conservatives: the dismantling of Roe v. Wade was never about religion or heartbeats or babies or life.
It was, is, and has always been about misogyny. And racism. And now poor Black women will bear the greater brunt of these draconian policies.
Insofar as several small, seemingly unrelated stories can serve to demonstrate broader issues, I had a couple of recent interactions at an auto body repair shop I’d like to share.
I live in Red Hook, Brooklyn, home of multiple car body shops, two of which are within blocks of my apartment, on opposite sides of the street. When the trunk of my Honda Accord decided it no longer wanted to stay shut, I did a quick google search, saw that both repair shops had decent enough reviews, then chose the one on the right side as I was driving home, purely out the lazy ease of not having to turn left. (Never again.)
The handoff of the car was unremarkable. I told the mechanic my trunk wouldn’t shut. He said he could fix it. So far, so inconsequential.
It wasn’t until I returned the following day that I noticed the American flag on the wall of the body shop. It was the thin blue line kind, once a sign of police support, now a symbol not only of opposition to racial justice but also of white nationalism. Shit, I thought. Nazis fixed my car! And because the Venn diagram overlap between racism and sexism is often a full circle, they were probably misogynist as well.
No, I thought, don’t leap to conclusions. Give them the benefit of the doubt. (Never again.)
When I walked into the shop to retrieve my keys and pay for the repair, the entrance area in front of the cash register was packed full of men: the intimidating kind of social circle we women can feel the minute we sense, smell, and see it, though I’d be hard pressed to define how or why we know we’re unwelcome. It’s just…evident. From the moment we encounter the group.
The men in the shop, I should note, were not there to pick up their cars. They were all clearly friends of the owner, shooting the shit with him. Eating sandwiches. Day drinking.
“Hi,” I said, not knowing to whom to address my request. “I’m here to pick up the gray Honda Accord?”
“You?” said the owner. “You? An Accord?” All the men laughed, as if this were the funniest thing they’d ever heard.
“Uh…yes?” I said.
“Huh,” said the owner, smirking. More mocking sniggers from the peanut gallery. “I would have pegged you more as the Subaru type.”
Uproariously laughter now erupted in the body shop, all at my expense. It felt like this happened in slow motion, unmasked spittle flying out of the mocking men’s mouths at 60 frames per second. Not knowing much about cars—the Accord is my first, leased three years ago because I’d heard it was a relatively inexpensive workhorse—I wasn’t sure why pegging me as a Subaru owner was so funny. Were Subarus more expensive than Hondas? What would a Subaru say about me that a Honda did not1?
The only thing I understood about this entire interaction, in fact, was why they were laughing. Like all bullies, they were re-establishing hierarchy, with them at the top, and everyone else at the bottom.
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