It isn’t often that I have glum thoughts while walking in the park. How could I? There I am, walking with my dog, her tail wagging, the birds singing, fecund nature thriving: how could I not be happy?
Today I was not and nature matched my mood: clouds lowering overhead – slate grey – the kind of clouds that portend rain, which never comes. They just hover, turning darker with the afternoon and fading eventually into a heavy, brooding night.
And so I pondered. It all began yesterday when I bumped into a man I see sometimes on my walks. He’s a big, beefy, red-faced, brash kind of guy. Retired I believe. And now and then he takes a walk in the park. For a few minutes we kept each other company. His opening conversational gambit was all about the most recent news and “white male privilege.” He declared himself very much on the side of women’s equality but was also quick to say, “I am so grateful I’m a man!” Why? He cited the fact that he never had to work twice as hard for half the pay and that he always had an easy time getting a job and moving up the ladder. He didn’t mention anything about sexual harassment but didn’t deny its presence in his workplace it when I casually slipped it into the conversation.
Again, he stressed that he was definitely all about equal rights. Then he told me that when he was the manager of a large company and hired young people every summer, He always tried to hire “girls.” Why? Because they would work harder and keep the lazy young men in line. He said that he used to tell them that they had all the power and they should use it wisely and not abuse it. In other words, those young men are going to be attracted to you so whatever happens because of that, it’s all your doing (fault).
Just one more privileged white male who is a complete misogynist without even being aware of it.
We parted ways. Today I thought about that conversation for a long time and I fear it opened a huge Pandora’s box called “my past.” And that is what made me glum. I am so sad that so much of my life has been about the unhappy accident of having been born a woman. I have been raped and believed it was my fault because I should not have been in that room alone with that man and even though I said no over and over and even though I tried to push him away (he weighed well over 200 pounds to my 110) maybe I didn’t fight hard enough.
When I was young I allowed men liberties I didn’t want them to have because I was more afraid of being rejected and spurned than I was of losing my self-respect.
I worked much harder than the men around me in an industry that was only just beginning to open to women – the film industry. And that was a liberal area – in banking it would have been even worse.
Still, I have stories to tell, like the time I was working hard late at night in the editing room, putting film through the Moviola – and suddenly two beefy hands came from behind and grabbed my breasts. I froze – turned – it was the client. I squirmed to free myself and said not a word. It was absolutely understood that you didn’t kick the client in the groin.
And I was so ashamed. Surely I must have provoked him.
I was fired once because I was dating a man a female producer had her eye on. She asked my boss to get rid of me: he did. (He hired me back less than a year later because, as he said, he couldn’t find anyone who worked harder than me. I wish I had had the guts to flip him the bird – I suspect I would have, had I been a man.)
Stories? I have a list a mile long. My gender has affected my life in ways a man could never understand. Part of me wants to tell a raft of my stores to stress how bad it was. But I don’t want to dwell on this sadness – not now anyway.
The really sad thing is that it continues to this day unabated. How could every single Republican senator in Washington vote against equal pay for women? It’s beyond imagining. There can be no justification – none.
Misogyny is so subtle at times. I believe there are men in the world who are misogynistic and don’t even know it – they are so used to the privilege they have been born into. I am grateful for the male friends I have who are true feminists – who either “get it” or are trying very hard to understand.
Too many men are obsessed with being patriarchs: they know what is best for us and why don’t we just listen? Women should not have the right to decide about their own bodies and whether or not they want to reproduce: men know better about that – so why won’t women just listen? And, while we’re at it, if they’re going to be pregnant anyway, they may as well be barefoot and stay in the kitchen.
We still have a very long way to go. And the kicker, for me, is that I look at all of this, and know that it’s no mystery that I have two failed marriages and a whole lot of dead realtionships. I’m single. I am happiest when I am single. I shall likely be alone the rest of my life. This is not sad. As I said, I am happy. But, sometiems, I do wonder what turns my life would have taken if…..