Do you do this? Enlisting a male voice to help.

I remember many years ago a woman philosopher friend phoned me to say she felt so ashamed.   She had had someone out to her house to discuss repairs and he was putting her under some perssure to sign up.  She couldn’t get rid of him, she said.  So  eventually she just said, “I’m sorry but I must discuss it with my husband before I can agree to anything.”   She wasn’t married.

Now, I don’t think that strategy had ever occurred to me before then, and I have to say that my spouse is not keen on coming on as the decider and/or in other contexts the heavy.  But recently I have been trying to negotiate my way through a very complex hierarchical buracracy, when the behavior can unhelpful to the point of being bizarre.  And incomprehensible.  E.g., I finally got this very major giant of an organization to phone.  And in fact they phoned three times.  Each time I picked up the phone and said “Hello”.  There was a three second pause (timed by my phones) and then a click as the call was ended.

Of course, having called, they felt they had discharged their obligation to contact me.  So enter the spouse, who does get short-tempered.  Cleverly, they said they could not discuss the situation with him, because I had not given them permission to do so.  However, he was undeterred.

The thing is, it works.  Problem solved.  This has happened twice in the last two weeks. 

Does one get corrupted by brining on one’s spouse, whether fake or real?  I’m afraid so.  But, on the other hand, I had spent 3 days and 10 phone calls trying to do it on my own, and gotten only these ghostly phone calls..

Would you ever do this?

13 thoughts on “Do you do this? Enlisting a male voice to help.

  1. whenever I’m feeling pressured to spend cash on something, I say that I have to talk about it with my wife first.

  2. My girlfriend is the Chief of Staff. I don’t handle bills or anything else. I just do philosophy.

  3. Having an absent partner who you have to clear things with is a stock negotiation tactic. It’s even in “Getting Past No”. I understand that there are gender implications in the way the original poster used it, but I’ve used it myself to good effect in a car price negotiation. (“Sorry, it’s more than my wife and I had agreed on, I’m going to have to go home and talk to her.”)

  4. reminds me of the movie “the associate”.
    and since i am THE “manager of everything” i usually “kick people who misbehave like this” to the curb. terrible.

  5. She could have said, ” I need to go over it with my lawyer first.” No gender necessarily implied.

    Another good one to get somebody off the phone is to say, “Wait a minute. I smell smoke.” And then just lay the phone down for a few minutes.

  6. Yes I’ve done this many times. In many situations. Getting rid of doorstep salespeople, bartering in the manner of J-Bro’s suggestion, getting rid of drunken men in pubs, etc. etc. I’m not sure one gets corrupted – it seems like a practical necessity.

    Actually, not quite true – it feels wrong when used for deterring drunken men in pubs.

  7. Yes, I’ve done it, and when a woman has to do it to discourage the aggression of a man who believes he can do it BECAUSE he’s dealing with a woman, well, then I believe this is a way of bowing to practices that are oppressive to women, and that we perpetuate because in an oppressive context, it’s often the best of our shitty options. This is not to say there aren’t other, related contexts, such as men with men in a hard sell for a car. But context matters.

    I memorably did so on one occasion to deter a physically aggressive drunk in a not-entirely-safe social situation. I feel like a tool, but I also get that I am not going to get out of this sexist fucking context, in which a man will only accord an imagined man with any say over him, by being free of the stains of oppression and showing myself as a shining angel of upright dignity. The oppressive bullshit has already robbed me of my dignity, and I’m trading on a pathetic ‘privilege’ — this guy thinks I’m straight and ‘taken’! — to get out of it.

    I think of Claudia Card’s analyses of gray zones, and her gentler description of less severe ‘gray areas.’ Oppressive sexism creates gray areas in which one is not doing something good, in which, indeed, one may be faced with options that include making the world worse for others. I believe that by degrading myself a little, I actually made the world a little bit worse for other women, with respect to this particular bozo, anyway, affirming this bozo’s view of who has rights to refuse his aggression.

    I’ve tried to work much harder on not fearing conflict, not fearing being seen as a bitch, not fearing being a total pain in the ass if it gets e.g. my accountant to talk to me. That’s hard, because I fear the anger of others. My own anger is so frustrating it reduces me to tears. But I’m getting better at it. And all this, jj, is a bunch of general observation; I don’t know what the hell I’d do if I couldn’t even raise the frustrating folks on the phone!

  8. p.s. @jj – i do feel/empathize for your friend. a male/potential contractor who is using “pushing tactics” on a woman/alone/in her home even is just a huge red flag.
    and having to deal with a hierarchical, multi-bla corporation is a nightmare-come-true for me. truly food-for-thoughts and i have no guarantee how i would fare if i had to tackle that on my own.

    @profbigk – it took me manymany years to become aware of these boundary-issues and to be able to recognize them and deal with them (without using an imaginary “male protector”).
    and in my life it is something because again and again situations can happen that i could potentially feel overwhelmed with as well.

    @pragmatic realist : actually i had to hand over vital issues to a lawyer/attorney since my condo-administration has been mobbing me for 3 years now.

  9. I’ve done this before for negotiating purposes as well. I considered getting my significant other involved recently when I needed to get my car repaired. I asked a mechanic for an approximate estimate for replacing my brake pads because I was fairly certain that, or my brake fluid, was the issue- he refused to even give me a ball park range, and told me he needed to have one of his “guys” who “actually know something about cars” look at it, because I was “probably wrong” about what the issue was. The second mechanic I called asked if he could speak with my husband. I ended up going to a far more friendly mechanic in the end, who I found on the third try.

  10. Ok – so profbigK’s comment nicely explains why it feels wrong when I’m deterring drunken men in pubs, but not the other situations. In the other situations I mentioned, it’s just a way of closing down dialogue, and doesn’t seem to be particularly gendered – it works just as well for males saying they have to talk it through with their female partners. But in the pub situation, it’s reaffirming the idea that men own women. So if you have no owner, you’re up for grabs – literally.

  11. Hm….Body language is key, I suppose. I stand as tall as possible, feet apart, look them squarely in the eye and say “I’ll let you know.” Then I smile and shut the door.

    I guess it helps that I have a big dog. :) The worst he’d do is lick them to death, but they don’t know that.

  12. ProfBK, I do think one is risking reinforcing some of what oppresses us. At least one is presenting yet another picture of “the little lady.” At the same time, one may not have an effective alternative, as you point out. So perhaps a calculus would allow bringing in the male support if the importance of the outcome goes quite high.

    Monkey, I wonder if appealing to a spouse isn’t almost a conventional way of dealing with drunk men in pubs. It might be like having someone say that you are not at home when you are. That’s suppose not to count as a lie, at least according to what seem to me reasonable accounts. It also provides him with an excuse for backing off without seeming too weak.

    I suspect it is quite different for men. I actually expected the first replies might me “Shame, jj!” instead of men allowing that they can use the same excuse.

  13. This one time in Hyderabad… My wife (who I guess would be J-Sis-In-Law) and I went into a souvenir shop. The very friendly Kashmiri proprietors wanted to show us all kinds of stuff, but when one of them tried to lead me into the carpet room, I told him “Oh no. We went to Morocco a couple years ago, and everyone tried to sell us carpets. If I let you show us carpets, my wife will divorce me.”

    I was kidding (and this would have been obvious to another American or European), but he reacted with intense shock. He was horrified. He said “Oh no, oh no, no carpets then” and proceeded to show me some other stuff. He wasn’t joking either, it had way more effect than I expected.

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