I am proud to publish here a piece my 17 year old daughter, Claire Thomson, wrote in response to an experience of everyday sexism.
Last week, I was at a party in a rural community hall. Around fifty alcohol soaked under twenties bounced off walls plastered with posters advertising salsa for the over 60s, French for the fearful and Christmas fayres.
The night was drawing to a close and I, clinging to my boyfriend, was awaiting my carriage home. As we argued about the quality of The Hobbit and its arguably soul destroying length, a friend of his approached. He staggered over, dressed as Santa, laden with premature Christmas gifts of beer.
“Beer?” He offered my boyfriend. Upon his refusal of said beverage, I stood patiently, awaiting what, to me at least, seemed to be the only polite progression this exchange could make. But, no. I must have behaved appallingly all year as Santa stumbled past me, and then my best friend without so much as a smile. Santa proceeded to offer the same beer to my best friend’s boyfriend.
“Beer?” My best friend and I exchanged glances. Did we not exist? Were we too little to even be seen by Old St Nic? On this occasion, I allowed my principles to override my perhaps unwarranted height complex, and all 5”6 of me, challenged Santa.
“But you didn’t offer me a beer.” I protested.
Santa appeared shocked and confused: I can’t be expecting presents if I speak to him like that. To make my point clearer and aid the poor man’s confusion, I elaborated.
“You offered the guys one, but not the girls. Is that a coincidence, or do I see a pattern?”
“Well, erm, I just don’t think it looks right for a girl to drink beer.” At this, my boyfriend winced, half because of his own principles, and half of his awareness of the imminent onslaught.
This disturbed me hugely. Santa, in such a position of power as to decide who is placed on the naughty and nice lists, is now including choice of alcoholic beverage with gender as a criteria. It was common knowledge that breast size, heel height, skirt length, intellect, ambition and the audacity to speak one’s mind were already taken into consideration, but this too?
Santa and I conversed for a few minutes. I asked some questions and Santa responded rather monosyllabically.
“Do you want a beer?” he eventually asked.
“No, thank you. I don’t like it.”
My carriage arrived and my friends and I piled in. On the way home, I had a hard think about what it was I really wanted from Santa this year. Not Budweiser, nor Kronenbourg, not Tennents, nor Guinness, not even gin, nor wine, nor raspberry bellini. What I’d really love this year, is equality. For as long as what I drink is assumed to be determined by my sex, that’s still a long way off.