Saturday, May 03, 2008

Getting surly about name-calling

[NOTE: Names have been changed for reasons that will become obvious.]

I belong to an online group of women who share an interest in the arts and are involved with local arts activities. Discussion is allowed to go off-topic, and it's not uncommon for people to share tips on insurance agents, contractors, and such.

Recently a woman asked for a recommendation for a shoe repair person, and one of the replies referred to a local craftsman as "Surly Bob." The writer went on to vent her unhappiness with his "vibe" and his "shoddy" craftsmanship, which she did not describe in any detail. Several messages later, another woman chimed in describing "Surly Bob's" refusal to take on a repair job that involved a creative idea she'd dreamed up. A third woman later mailed the list to ask for the address of "Surly Bob" so she could "be sure to avoid" him—as if he were roaming the streets, snatching women's shoes off and repairing them ungraciously.

This really pissed me off.

I know the shoe repair person in question, am a highly satisfied repeat customer, and am also aware of the many contributions he has made to the neighboring business community. He does have a somewhat ironic sense of humor, but he'd pretty much have to. I've seen women (sorry, it's always women) rush into his shop, stand in line impatiently rolling their eyes and exhaling like yaks on a cold morning, and then ask him to do things like take off the three-inch skinny high heels from one pair of shoes and attach them onto a pair of flat sandals. To which he is likely to respond "You're kidding, right?"

Oh, and they want it done like this afternoon.

I think what truly discouraged me about the "Surly Bob" discussion on the online list was that the woman who started the name calling is herself a businessperson. One who did a less-than-impressive piece of work for me several years ago.

Now if the gals in the online group had been discussing local artists, or local fine woodworkers, and they didn't like someone, they might have made some negative remarks about the person's pricing, or workmanship, or attitude. But they wouldn't have labeled someone who makes $5,000 buffets "Cranky Joe."

The labeling and name calling reveal a pathetic lady-of-the-manor attitude on the part of these college-educated women toward a working class man—even though the working class business person may have a far higher-grossing, more profitable, and more demanding business than anything they've ever run.

I'm disgusted. I'm disappointed. I'm not posting my views to the list because I have never once seen any of these women disagree with each other on the list. Either it's simply not done, or perhaps the moderator just vaporizes any posts that might make someone reach for their smelling salts.

Meanwhile, my shoe repair person has a highly successful business with a wait list of work nearly one month out. Somehow, I don't think the mesdames in the list will have any trouble "avoiding" him. Though they may want to avoid me.

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