I moved to Baltimore one month ago, and want to unpack some feelings that have been bothering me lately about my new roommate.
It’s my first time living with male roommates. I decided to take the leap and experiment with a co-ed living situation because my past experiences with female roommates were such a dumpster fire.
However, my most recent female roommate was a 'diamond in the ruff' find. She was relaxed, funny, empathetic, caring and we became best friends over the year we lived together.
She had lived with men in New York before and had an awesome time! She encouraged me to try it if I like a drama free home. Last night during dinner, I was ranting to her about how one of them pisses me the hell off. No irony there :)
First off, she was right! There is no drama whatsoever. My new roommates and I hangout, discuss home decor, do the dishes, keep the house clean, and keep to ourselves without any chat slamming or immature, overt displays of passive aggression.
What I wasn’t prepared for was my roommate Tom disrespecting women. He acts like a closeted sexist who is unaware of the effect that his words have on women, especially me.
Tom is a short, stocky dude in his mid-20s from Towson University who works in sales and has an adorable black and white cat named Kodak. He smokes weed twice a day, likes classic rock and movies, and has a large video game stash in the living room.
His low slurred voice makes him sound like a frat boy, despite how much he insists he never wanted to be in a frat in college. I mentally brace myself for the cringe-worthy “wassuuup bruh” every time we cross paths in the kitchen. Half the time, all I’m thinking is who even talks like that? I think whatever frat he chased wouldn’t let him in.
He confuses me a lot. He talks like like a stereotypical doped up dog who only smokes because he thinks it’s “cool” but then has nerdy thoughts on film. He smokes weed during work hours but then buys candles for the bathroom. He’s nicer than any frat guy I’ve ever met yet more predictable than the wanna-be geek. So which is it?
Now that I’m thinking about it, my brain is struggling to categorize him into one of the types of people I’m familiar with.
While dangerous, the social categorization of people into groups is a natural psychological response. We stereotype because that’s how our brains are wired. I’m optimistic about people. With Tom, I’m in an awkward position where I want to believe he’s a cool guy, but my brain is trying to categorize him into a social group that I have a negative association with: shallow fraternity types.
There’s not just two groups. People have complex personalities and could fall into many social groups that other people place them in based on their knowledge of social groups. It’s a spectrum. As a young moderate liberal, that is becoming my motto these days: It’s a spectrum.
There’s lots of evidence to place Tom in multiple social groups that I’ve mentally constructed, some good some bad. Lately, he said two things that stopped me dead in my tracks.
- He called our roommate a player
One day, my roommate Kyle had a pretty girl over. I didn’t see her face. I was working in my room when I heard a female’s excitable voice echo from his room, “Oh, this is your room.. it looks awesome! So how long have you been in Baltimore now?” I smiled. I knew he had ended a relationship recently and was proud of him if she was a date.
Later in the kitchen, Tom came down to join me and commented on the girl that had left the house with Kyle. I was quite happy to discuss how she seemed pretty and neat, right up the point where he said, smirking, “I think she was a Tinder girl. Good for him! Player…” that last part trailed off as he went back up the stairs, leaving me standing there.
I was appalled. My first thought was A Tinder girl? She probably has a name, you dick. He had called my roommate a player, praising the stereotype, perpetuating the frat-like mentality that women were status symbols to collect to gain peer approval.
Players are emotionally manipulative people who prey on the vulnerability and loneliness of their partners and use deceit to conduct multiple relationships simultaneously. Was he aware of what he just condoned? Did he do that in college and thought it was fine? Was he just an idiot? I hadn’t been privy to much ‘locker room talk’ in college, but I sure as hell never thought I’d be hearing it in my own house.
His comment was so disrespectful to women on so many levels. How could he say that? With me standing there?
2. He asked if a woman he didn’t know was sleeping with her boss
Another night, I was having a lovely time hanging out and chatting with my roommate and his coworker, Tamara. Tom joined us a little later on in the night, towards 9pm and wasn’t there for 10 minutes before letting another sexist comment drop.
Tamara was talking about how business-like and aggressive her female boss was, with sky-high expectations. I had a manager like that in my first job after graduating college, so we were relating hard. During a story about this boss and how she became so successful despite her attitude, Tom piped in and said “Oh, what’d she do? Was she sleeping with her boss?” Excuse me? I stared at him in disbelief.
A woman should not have to deal with people assuming she slept her way to success, like she couldn’t be successful otherwise! Most progressive and career-oriented women got where they are… because they’re intelligent and talented, and kick ass at their job. Insinuating otherwise is anti-feminist, sexist, and none of his damn business. What year is he living in?
How was that his first thought? Had he been brainwashed? We should be supporting women not tearing them apart.
This is 2020. All my friends are feminist, respect women, are pro-minority women in politics, and would never say anything even close to what my roommate did. It’s possible that he has never had male friends who called him out on that type of bullshit.
I wish I had said something but I didn’t want to sabotage my living situation by being confrontational. I’m choosing to be civil for now and will speak up if it happens again, but what we really need is for men to encourage other men to respect the women in their lives. Men who are unaware of their blatant disrespect of women need that peer advice to come from people they have solid relationships with.
In other words, I can let Tom know how that makes me feel but another man would stand a better chance of changing his mind.
I’ll leave you with this.