It feels really good to stop explaining yourself.

17 Jan

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the compulsion a lot of women (it sounds like) feel to explain their thoughts, feelings, rationale, etc, often preemptively.  I know I’ve certainly done it, and been doing it for a long time. It’s an automatic response. Or sometimes, I’ll augment an explanation with something that borders on an apology, for no fucking reason at all that I can really articulate. Or I might use diction that’s friendlier/softer/more mealymouthed in an effort to…avoid offending someone? I don’t even know why.

Why is this a default mode of communication for so many women? We all know women are socialized to be polite, unassertive, and deferential, while men are socialized to be assertive, unapologetic, and, to a degree, entitled. When your culture is telling you that you have an innate right to be assertive, there’s no need to explain yourself. And when your culture tells you there are things to which you are entitled, there’s no reason not to be assertive. The other side of this stupid coin is that the socialization of women as polite, unassertive, and deferential means that when a woman does have to speak up about something, the need to explain often follows closely behind, perhaps as an apology for having to say/insist/do x/y/z.  A third side to this coin is that Western culture tells women they need to second-guess themselves all the time – this is not a message as thoroughly entrenched and manifested for men. When I was 18, I went into a Schuck’s to get a fuel pump. A kindly, plump, approaching-elderly white guy was the employee who looked up which kind I’d need. After he’d figured it out, he said, ‘So, you just want one?’ Confused, I said yes. He chuckled and then said, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t have sold you two.’ As though I were so unknowledgeable about my own car, I might believe it required two fuel pumps. This is what I mean. There’s an assumption propagated in our culture and the patriarchy that women are ripe to be taken for a ride, presumably so blithely ignorant of nearly everything that one must wonder how they managed to survive so long without falling  into an open manhole (how’s that for symbolism?), absent the steady, omniscient male guidance required to keep them safe. The patriarchy tells us (and, indeed, is founded upon this very notion) that men know best. About everything.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to not automatically explain myself so much.

It came to light that my auto insurance provider, Amica, had been joyously fucking me over for a while. I was getting an unwarranted shitty rate for my super safe Honda sedan and spotless driving record, and then the premium went up $30 more dollars per month than I was told it would come the new year. I’d been with Amica for three years, and had not once received any additional discounts – the only thing I got were rate increases and a card of gratitude. You want to show me gratitude? Cover a month’s premium. I mean, come on. I know you’re thankful for my money, you sure as shit don’t have to kill the environment by mailing out a card to tell me that. So I used their online chat feature, which, as an introvert who hates phones, I have to admit I love, to be like ‘wtf?’ After some derping, the representative told me there was a ‘statewide increase,’ and then offered to take off collision coverage, which would save me ~$500 a year. Fuck that. That sounds more beneficial to Amica than to me, given the ACV of my car. So I declined and decided to start looking around for different insurance.

When my jiu jitsu friend and smart numbers guy hooked me up with his agent at State Farm’s info, I learned that for coverage that was not only the equivalent of Amica’s, but a little better, I could save $730 per year. Upon this discovery, I was PISSED. So I took again to the chat feature to cancel my policy. And I was so pissed I had absolutely no inclination to be wooed by any attempts to retain my business.

It was really gratifying to say what was on my mind without having to reformulate the diction to be less assertive/potentially offensive. As you’ll see, I wasn’t being an asshole to the rep. That’s not ‘not automatically explaining myself so much,’ that’s being an asshole to the rep. I don’t advocate being an asshole unless someone has demonstrated they don’t have any regard for the boundaries you’ve set, demanding a more forceful conveyance of your message, until they get the picture. So, what I said is in green. My commentary/what I might’ve said if compelled to explain myself will be in blue. I’ve taken out some boring/inconsequential parts.

Rachel N.: Welcome to Amica Chat!  How may I assist you today?
Sydnie : Hi Rachel, I want to cancel my auto policy (“Hi Rachel, I need to cancel my auto policy.” No, I don’t need to, in the strictest sense; I want to because Amica’s being terrible.)
Rachel N.: Sure we would be happy to assist you with that and discuss that with you further.  We do have reps available now on the phone that could assist you.  800-242-6422 (<— bullshit tactic to try to retain my business, I know this because….)
Sydnie : I was talking to a rep named Anne earlier today and was under the impression I could do it via the chat feature (“If possible, I would prefer to do it via chat.” Also, there’s no discussion to be had. There’s just cancelling. I don’t need your tricky corporate doublespeak!)
Rachel N.: What is your reason for wanting to cancel your policy?
Sydnie : absurd and ever increasing premiums (“The rates have just risen too much for me.” Notice how I’d be taking the regrettable onus of cancellation upon myself because it’s too much for ME. Not because Amica is being fucking outrageous.)
Rachel N.: I see. What company did you switch to? (At this point, I know her questions are an attempt to keep me on, but I’m more interested in expressing that I’m pissed than not answering these questions.)
Sydnie : State Farm
Rachel N.: Do you know what coverage they are providing you?> (Are you fucking kidding me? Of course I know. I just got it.)
Sydnie : yes, it’s the same as what I have at Amica, plus a little more (“Yes, it’s [here I’d probably list the bare bones of my coverage. Why should I feel like I should do that? Fuck her questions].”)
Rachel N.: Ok, so that was with state minimum liability and $500 deductibles?
Sydnie : yes
Rachel N.: Did you do a 1 year or 6 month policy with them?
Sydnie : Why do you need this information to cancel my policy? (“Hmm, I think it’s a six month policy.” What the fuck? I know it’s a six month policy. But my instinct is to sound apologetic and a little unsure of myself.)
Rachel N.: We want to make sure that you are really getting a better deal and are being taken care of. (lol) We also like to see who we are losing our business to, etc. 
Sydnie : It’s a six month policy. It would have been nice to see this concern when I initially asked about the increase in premiums last month. Instead, I was offered the option to remove the collision coverage.
Rachel N.: I understand, I am sorry that it wasn’t discussed at that time.  How much are you going to be saving with them?
Sydnie : saving slightly less than half . (“Well the monthly premium is $xx and they go year round, not ten months like Amica, so that’s $YYY.” Why am I explaining my math?!)
Rachel N.: Ok.  So about $500 savings a year.
Rachel N.: And when does your new policy start with State Farm?
Sydnie : I’ll be saving ~$700 a year, since my premium with Amica is $YYYY. (“I think I’ll be saving around $700 a year, since my premium with Amica is $YYYY?” I don’t think, I know, and why am I asking for her affirmation?! She was hella off the first time!)
Sydnie : It’s already started, so canceling can take effect right away. (“I just started it, so we can cancel it as of today, if possible.” Like it’s a joint enterprise?)
Rachel N.: Oops, was looking at the wrong policy, yes that is correct. Ok, we would like to regain your business in the future, is it ok if we contact you next year to see if we can give you a better rate at that time?
Sydnie : Honestly I’m surprised the difference is so great, given that State Farm is one of the brick and mortar types with customers assigned to agents. (I probably wouldn’t have said this at all. I was curious if she’d provide any further info about why the difference was so great.)
Sydnie : sure
Rachel N.: Right.  Well we hate to lose your business.  I understand that price is a big factor.
Sydnie : I appreciate the sentiment but if there had been any good will efforts in the past, especially given my spotless driving record, I might’ve been more amenable to staying. But a difference this big? It’s hard not to feel like one might be getting fleeced. (“Yeah, price is a big factor. :-/”)

She ignored that entirely, and the rest of the conversation was about the minutia of refunds, etc. It was, for once, a satisfying conversation where I didn’t come away feeling a little compromised.

Anybody else have this type of default response? Or used to?


3 Responses to “It feels really good to stop explaining yourself.”

  1. Leeron January 18, 2014 at 3:47 am #

    Yes!! I know what exactly what you mean! I find myself apologizing all the time when I don’t need to! I really feel like its very ingrained in women to be apologetic as our default. I wrote about a similar experience on my blog.
    Let me know what you think 🙂

    • syd1138mma January 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      Dead on! I really liked the quotes you used, very thoughtful. I don’t frequently feel compelled to apologize for nothing/things that aren’t my fault, but it does happen on occasion. My friend and I were also talking about the tendency women often have to brush off or negate compliments – as though it would be conceited to just accept them? Or that one should be apologetic about something complimentary? That’s definitely something I have to be conscious of. Thank you for reading and your thoughts!

  2. Aaron Lee March 5, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Well said, all around. I HATE that in 2014 I feel i must accompany my mom or my partner to do business in typically male dominated industries (like auto repair shops). Not because i’m inconvenienced, but because i’ve come to expect that our culture as a whole doesn’t acknowledge that most women are smarter than most men. Maddening. I gave up blogging about the outdoor, shooting, tactical industry in part, out of related frustration pertaining to the often good ol boy mentality in the knife industry. It’s cute to buy your wife a pink gun, on the assumption that if she thought she needed one, she’d see it as a novelty somehow. Exhausting as well as a fairly masculine 6’4″ 350lb guy, people have expected me to adhere to these fucked up “norms”. I look forward to reading more. This is brainstorm-inducing momen-of-clarity level writing.

Come at me, bro!

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