Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

A senior editor at Mother Jones, Kiera covers health, food, and the environment. She is the author of the new book Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids—and How Its Lessons Could Change Food and Farming Forever (University of California Press).

 

Get my RSS |

An Open Letter to My Sexist Dentist

| Fri Apr. 25, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Dear Dr. B.,

I'm writing to tell you why I'm taking my business to different dental office. Let me explain:

The last time I had my teeth cleaned at your office, your hygienist told me that the bonding on two of my teeth was coming off, and that I should come back so that you could fix it.

"You have bunny teeth," you said. "It's distracting."

So I made an appointment to do just that. I asked you to take a look at the bonding, and you did. Then you took off your glasses and said, "Forget the bonding for a minute. Let's have some fun."

You asked me if I ever felt like no one was paying attention to me when I was in a group, or if I was shy about talking to people.

"No," I replied. "I'm a journalist. I love talking to people."

You said that you suspected that my colleagues were ignoring me—and that maybe I should try to observe this behavior over the next few weeks. If I did feel ignored, you said, you knew why: my smile.

"You have bunny teeth," you said. "It's distracting."

You took out your camera and asked me to smile. Then you took a few photos.

You applied some plastic goop called composite to my teeth, which you then dried with what looked like a UV light. When you were done, you asked me to smile again and took more photos. Then you showed me both sets of pictures, and led me over to a mirror where you asked me to admire my fixed smile. You had closed two small gaps and made my teeth more evenly sized.

Even though I could barely see a difference (and honestly didn’t care enough to look that closely) I told you that I liked how it looked, because it seemed like the easiest thing to do.

You told me that the composite made me look more "refined." Then you told me about two women patients whose smiles you had fixed. One of them had been out of work, and the very afternoon that she left your office, she went on a job interview and got an offer. The other woman’s boss asked her to manage "a team of 36 people" right after you worked on her teeth.

"Does the same thing happen to men?" I asked.

You told me that you wouldn’t know, because men are not as chatty with you as women.

I told you that I had to get back to work, so you removed the composite from my teeth. While I was lying down in the chair with my mouth open, you told me that if you fixed my smile, you firmly believed that I would start "dressing better." I would also wear more make-up, you predicted. You told me that I was a beautiful woman, but that my smile was distracting.

While I was lying down in the chair with my mouth open, you told me that if you fixed my smile, you firmly believed that I would start "dressing better."

On my way out, as I was saying goodbye, you told me that I was smiling with my mouth closed, and that you guessed it was because I was feeling self-conscious about my smile. "We can fix that right up," you said. "Sorry I made you nervous!"

"You couldn't make me nervous," I said. I wanted to say more, but that would have meant that I had to stand there and keep talking to you. And I never wanted to talk to you again.

But it wasn’t because you had made me nervous about my smile. It was because I was offended by your use of the tired and sexist old sales technique of making a female customer feel bad about her appearance so that she will buy something.

As sexual harassment goes, it could have been so much worse. You didn't grab my butt, or even give me the "ol' elevator eyes" that they talk about in sexual harassment training videos. But it is shit like this—behavior and comments that just barely stay on the right side of the harassment line—that we let slide. And that makes the people who do this kind of thing believe that they can get away with it. And that's a problem.

Can I stop you from behaving unethically with the rest of your patients? No. But I can certainly stop giving you my business. And that is exactly what I will do.

And about those "bunny teeth?" I think I'll keep them, thanks.

Sincerely,

Kiera Butler

This post originally appeared on Feministing.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

How Do San Franciscans Really Feel About Google Buses?

| Thu Mar. 27, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
A tech shuttle protest in San Francisco, December 9, 2013.

Earlier this month, the Bay Area Council, a coalition of Bay Area businesses, commissioned EMC Research to ask 500 likely voters in San Francisco how they felt about the much discussed commuter shuttles that take people from The City, Oakland, and Berkeley to tech-company campuses in Silicon Valley. The EMC researchers wrote in the ensuing report (PDF), released this week, "Despite what it might look like from recent media coverage, a majority of voters have a positive opinion of the shuttle buses and support allowing buses to use MUNI stops." (MUNI is San Francisco's municipal transportation agency.)

The survey found an awful lot of shuttle riders to poll.

But I'm not so sure that rosy conclusion is warranted. For starters, Bauer's Intelligent Transportation, which contracts with several tech companies to provide bus service, is a member of the Bay Area Council. So are Google, Facebook, and Apple. There's also the fact that the survey found an awful lot of shuttle riders to poll. Six percent of respondents said that they rode one of the shuttle buses. Now, estimates of shuttle bus ridership vary wildly, but San Francisco's total population is only about 836,000—six percent of which is about 50,000. A spokeswoman from the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency recently told me that an estimated 4,125 San Franciscans ride the tech buses. That's closer to 0.5 percent of city residents. The San Francisco Examiner points out that the survey excluded Spanish speakers.

And then there's the delicate phrasing of the survey questions. Last week, Pacific Standard had a great little post explaining why surveys are not always accurate measures of public opinion. The post looks at a recent survey conducted about the movie Noah. The group Faith Driven Consumer asked respondents: "As a Faith Driven Consumer, are you satisfied with a Biblically themed movie—designed to appeal to you—which replaces the Bible's core message with one created by Hollywood?" Unsurprisingly, 98 percent said they were not satisfied. Variety reported the survey's findings in a story titled "Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied With Noah, Hollywood Religious Pics."

I thought of the Noah survey as I read the the tech-shuttle survey's script. Here are two examples of the questions, plus the percentage of respondents who strongly agreed with the given statements.

Please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statements:

Image courtesy of Bay Area Council

Now, thinking specifically about employee shuttle buses in San Francisco, please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with each of the following statements:

To be fair, the survey did include a few questions that allowed respondents to express negative opinions about the buses. But those questions tended to include loaded language. For example:

Now, thinking specifically about shuttle buses in San Francisco, please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statements:

I'm guessing that if the word "causing" had been replaced with "contributing to," more people would have agreed with the statement. Same if the word "ruining" had been replaced with "changing."

Rufus Jeffris, the vice president for communications and major events at the Bay Area Council, wrote to me in an email that the Council stands by the survey. "The poll was intended to provide some broader context and perspective on some of the wrenching and painful issues we're dealing with," he wrote. "We feel strongly that scapegoating a single type of worker and single industry is not productive and does not move us forward to solutions."

Thu Dec. 3, 2009 8:07 PM EST
Mon Nov. 23, 2009 6:59 AM EST
Mon Nov. 16, 2009 6:55 AM EST
Tue Nov. 10, 2009 7:02 PM EST
Tue Nov. 10, 2009 4:12 PM EST
Mon Nov. 9, 2009 6:30 AM EST
Mon Nov. 2, 2009 6:00 AM EST
Tue Oct. 27, 2009 8:24 PM EDT
Tue Oct. 27, 2009 3:44 PM EDT
Sun Oct. 25, 2009 8:00 PM EDT
Fri Oct. 23, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Mon Oct. 19, 2009 6:00 AM EDT
Fri Oct. 16, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Oct. 13, 2009 1:26 PM EDT
Mon Oct. 12, 2009 6:00 AM EDT
Fri Oct. 9, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Oct. 6, 2009 7:00 PM EDT
Mon Oct. 5, 2009 6:00 AM EDT
Fri Oct. 2, 2009 1:14 PM EDT
Tue Sep. 29, 2009 2:55 PM EDT
Tue Sep. 29, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Mon Sep. 28, 2009 6:00 AM EDT
Tue Sep. 22, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Mon Sep. 21, 2009 6:00 AM EDT
Fri Sep. 18, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Sep. 15, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Sep. 15, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Mon Sep. 14, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Mon Sep. 14, 2009 6:00 AM EDT
Fri Sep. 11, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Wed Sep. 9, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Sep. 8, 2009 4:34 PM EDT
Fri Sep. 4, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Thu Sep. 3, 2009 2:01 PM EDT
Tue Sep. 1, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Sep. 1, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Mon Aug. 31, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Fri Aug. 28, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Wed Aug. 26, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Aug. 25, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Aug. 25, 2009 6:00 AM EDT
Thu Aug. 20, 2009 12:00 PM EDT
Wed Aug. 19, 2009 3:55 PM EDT
Wed Aug. 19, 2009 3:00 PM EDT
Wed Aug. 19, 2009 1:30 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 18, 2009 6:22 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 18, 2009 1:31 PM EDT
Tue Aug. 18, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Tue Aug. 18, 2009 7:00 AM EDT
Mon Aug. 17, 2009 12:17 PM EDT