porcelainandporcupines

Posts Tagged ‘female troubles

Listen, don’t tell anyone I said this, but sometimes the worst part of my job is talking to faculty members. Not all of them, of course, but some of them, the ones who’ve spent their entire lives working in academia, the ones who view the entire world as their classroom, the ones who think everyone else spends their time just waiting to hear them speak.

If you can’t read between the lines there, I’m talking about the white guys.

I spoke with one of these guys earlier today, a guy with a theory about what happened last night, a theory that explains why Trump won. I observed that a lot of people have theories today, and he responded smoothly that, as a History professor, his theory was maybe worth a little bit more.

To tell you the truth, I was both looking forward to and dreading talking to this guy today. We’ve spoken many times about the election over the past year, and he, as a History professor, does indeed have some keen insights about political doings, even if his tendency is to express them in a way that I’m could generously describe as muddled, or ungenerously describe as designed to demonstrate his own intelligence rather than actually communicate. Interesting, to a point, but more interested in a receptive audience than in what someone else – maybe not everyone else, but probably me – thinks.

We spoke yesterday about the election, agreeing that Hillary winning was the only possible outcome. When I awoke this morning to the impossible, I thought back to a conversation we’d had over the summer, in July, about barbecues. Whose barbecue would I rather attend, he asked, one organized by Hillary Clinton? Or one organized by Donald Trump? Without hesitation, I responded “Hillary Clinton.”

This, it turns out, was the wrong answer. Trump would be the better barbecue, you see, because “you don’t know what he’s going to do.”

But Hillary, I argued, would be prepared for the barbecue. Hillary would make sure there would be adequate utensils, and napkins, and a crudites platter for nibbling while things cook on the grill. Hillary would have veggie burgers available, knowing some of her guests don’t eat meat. Hillary Clinton’s barbecue would definitely include watermelon, and beer, and games for the kids.

That Hillary Clinton would plan a barbecue that actually feeds her guests – including me – wasn’t a strong enough argument to overcome the  Trump-led spectacle, before the topic changed entirely to the racial aspects of watermelon, a conversation so reasonable for two white people to be having that I engineered an reason to excuse myself post-haste and returned to the desk. But I thought about the Trump-led barbecue for a while, because there was a flaw in the ‘spectacle’ argument, and as not a History professor, it took me a while to put my finger on it.

Eventually, I realized the flaw is that, actually, we did know what Trump would do. By that point, in July, Trump was entirely predictable. He would be his own true turd self, and while we may not be able to predict exactly how that would manifest, we knew it would be rude and vulgar and cruel, it would be entirely self-serving, and it would be filled with lies.

Of the many things I thought this morning, one of them was “Well, I guess [you] got [your] barbecue.” Followed by the realization that he would be in at some point today and we would try to dissect what had gone so wrong. Well, he would offer his dissection, and I would offer mine.

So after his theory, I offered to share one of my own. One of the strange things about the results was that so many women – white women – had turned out for Trump, rather than Hillary. How could this have happened?

Well, he interrupted, that was a problem he’d always had with Bill Clinton, the accusations from women.

I did not point out that Bill Clinton was not running in this election. Also, it should be noted that at no point did I ever ask for whom he’d voted. Instead, I pointed out that many women had accused Trump.

They had?

Yes, I insisted, a touch incredulous. I couldn’t tell if his disbelief was genuine or a misplaced pedagogical device.

It was genuine. He didn’t know that.

But you heard the Access Hollywood recording?

Yes, of course he’d heard that.

Afterwards, many women came forward to detail his assaults. I believe the last count was 14.

He hadn’t heard that.

It was in the news.

Question mark?

All over the news.

That, see, was the problem. He doesn’t get the news in the way you or I do, as a passive consumer. He has to seek it out, search for it, effortfully follow up on stories. This one, he missed.

He did not seem concerned about this. It seemed unfortunate, but, obviously, unavoidable.

MAYBE, I did not scream in his face, but MAYBE PART OF THE REASON TRUMP WON IS BECAUSE YOU, AN EDUCATED WHITE MAN, DID NOT THINK HIS ASSAULTING 14 WOMEN WAS A STORY WORTH FOLLOWING UP ON.

And this is the problem I’ve had with today. It’s not the students in the Trump tee shirts that I have grudgingly held doors for, or the people with whom I strongly disagree. It is discovering that people – because it’s not just him; he came in to the library at the end of my long day of seething at the meme from the Bernie Bros – still in a snit they didn’t get the revolution that conveniently popped up right in front of them and that they’d fought so hard for for all of 5 months and so clearly deserved; the meme stating that had Hillary not rigged the primary, Bernie could have won last night,  tone deaf to the implication that women can only win by cheating, but also, somehow believing that this woman, who’s so clearly guilty of something that she’s been investigated non-stop for nearly 2 decades, and yet so wily that the charges never stick; that this grasping, devious woman would rig a primary and then somehow leave the general election to chance? Somehow, her long streak of underhanded wizardry fails just when she needs it the most, all so they can absolve themselves from the results that we all are responsible for, that we all have to live with, except them less than everyone else. This, from people I know, people I assumed were on my side, they have sold me out, don’t care at all that I might now starve at a barbecue – while others face so much worse – while they sit back, having been right all along, and enjoy the spectacle. The hardest part of today is coming to terms with the fact that it is not just the other side that lacks compassion; it is our team, too.

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We had a tiny television on the table in the kitchen in my house in Pennsylvania. There was a special shelf we built into the wall, close enough to the ceiling that you had to stand on a chair to reach it, where the tv was placed when everyone was home for dinner, or if you wanted to see it more easily while you were at the sink, washing the dishes. But mostly the tv, which was actually a combination tv/am/fm radio, lived on the table; it was in front of this tv that I would sit and watch G.I. Joe and The Transformers while doing my homework, and it was on this tv, several years later (although fewer than I would want to detail), that my mother and I watched the 2nd to last episode ever of Twin Peaks, featuring the long-mentioned Miss Twin Peaks pageant (winner gets a free trip to the Black Lodge!), for which the contestants had been rehearsing for weeks, and which, once it finally arrived, moved my mother to proclaim boy, that David Lynch must really hate women.

I doubt there was any follow-up to this comment. In part because, as a senior in high school who had already been accepted to college, this fell squarely into the time frame where everything your parents say is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened. Particularly in a situation like this, where there exists the horrifying possibility that the ensuing conversation might be tangentially related to sex. But also all the time, and particularly in a situation like this, because it’s just so awful how they’re always wrong.

The error in this case was not that there might have been anything hateful about the Miss Twin Peaks pageant; obviously, a show that used the murder of the prom queen as the jumping off point to explore the secrets kept in a small town – including that said prom queen was a prostitute, and, in the immortal words of the lovely Audrey Horne, “had a sweet tooth for nose candy” – is not going to have a problem with women. The error was in thinking that, in that day and age – 1991, Saturdays, 9pm, suburban Pennsylvania – anyone might hate women.

Because that sort of thing didn’t happen; not anymore. Certainly, it had been a problem in the past, but so had polio. Feminism & Women’s Lib had been a powerful vaccine, spreading equality and understanding throughout society. My mother was a doctor, for pete’s sake; if, when she went to buy a new car accompanied by her husband, the salesman referred to the lighted mirror on the passenger-side visor as a “standard feature for the lady of the house,” well, that one salesman was an antiquated buffoon,  a decomposing carp buried in silt, occasionally giving off gas that would bubble up to momentarily disturb the still pond of sisters are doin’ it for themselves, and nothing more; certainly, it was no indication of a continuing societal norm to belittle and condescend to women. No.

And it didn’t change the fact that, over on the #1 show on television (which Twin Peaks, sadly, was not), charming as Cliff was, it was still Claire Huxtable who wore the pants in that relationship. And if I occasionally found her to be a bit strident, it wasn’t because she was overreacting to things or overly emotional, but because there was no need to yell; you’re a woman, Claire Huxtable : you have a right to be heard. It wasn’t until later that I discovered how much my right to be heard depended on who was doing the listening.

Recently, I received an email from a male coworker in which he stated that I was definitely “the superstar” of a group assigned to work on a particular project. This group – which consisted of myself and two other people, both male – had, even before that email, sparked unpleasant flashbacks to group projects in library school : meetings were difficult to schedule and constantly postponed; people didn’t have ideas, and most of the meetings that were held were spent silently marveling and how people were not using any of their time to work on this project. It was amazingly frustrating to see a fairly straightforward project, which, generously, should have taken no more than 3.5 hours, stretch over 5 months.

However, eventually, as it had to, work on the project concluded. And, even though I was not the lead, I can tell you confidently and completely without boasting that 98% of our conclusions had been entirely my idea. The proposal that we submitted was written entirely by me, even though at one point another of the other group members, stating that he felt like he wasn’t doing anything (which, I refrained from pointing out, might have been because he wasn’t), offered to take a pass at it; but, after a week it remained unchanged, so I finished it up. To be fair, he did create the images for the document, although he wasn’t able to go so far as to insert them into the document, so I took care of that. And the presentation that we did was a word-for-word recitation of the document I had written detailing my ideas.

I understand that being part of a group means that credit goes to the whole, regardless of how much might have been done by each individual person. And, I don’t even necessarily mind being the only person in the group doing any work; I do love to get my own way, after all, so if no one else is doing anything, then there’s a pretty good chance I’ll get what I want.

But the ‘superstar’ email made me angry. Because my first thought on reading it was boy, I bet he never would have said that to me if I were a man. I mean, yes, it’s unlikely that one man would call another a superstar in most professional settings. But even apart from that, had I been a man, the sender would probably not have felt the need to obscure the fact that he hadn’t done shit on the project behind a feeble compliment, or to charmingly suggest that I might not have noticed that I was the only one doing anything.

It made me angry too because, after all these years, I know there’s no way to respond to a comment meant to appease the little lady. If I point out that the bar for superstardom is exceedingly low, then I’m ungrateful and kind of a bitch. Or, worse, I’m reacting emotionally rather than rationally. If I suggest that other members of the group might contribute a little more, I get either excuses for why they’re busy, or some Eddie Haskell-grade faux-feminist nonsense about how I was doing such a good job they didn’t think I needed their help. Yet, if I accept the compliment, I reinforce the idea that, as long as you tell a woman she’s pretty, you can get away with anything.

But mostly it made me angry because it reminded me of the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. Because if I go back and watch Twin Peaks and discover that David Lynch hates women after all? I am going to be pissed.


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