Aghast. That’s the only word for it
Let’s be clear: I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, so I have not been bombarded with news morning till night as I can be at home. Frankly, I’ve found that life is so much more fun without a steady stream of politics, violence and natural and manmade disasters that I rarely indulge beyond my beloved daily newspaper. Which has a crossword puzzle, I might add.
And yet, even in Central Europe, the onslaught of stories of men caught doing what seems to be very natural — abusing, harassing and otherwise misbehaving toward women — has woken me from my nap. That makes me very cranky.
Fox News — a mutually exclusive pairing of words if ever there was one — seems to be leading the parade. I just watched a montage of comments male hosts have made, on air, to their female counterparts. Apparently these guys were raised by wolves who had been cut from the pack. I’ve seen more respect toward women among street people. To think that any self-respecting journalist would tell a co-anchor on a news show that she was “hot in leather” is something I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it.
Then there’s the wannabe 4-star general who just got outed by a pissed off girlfriend after an 11-year affair. And no one knew? That’s surely a fiction someone’s promoting to cover his ass (I am making a statistical assumption that it’s a he). Someone knew; someone always knows. Other than the principals, of course.
Can I add these most recent examples to the ongoing list that includes David Petraeus, Roger Ailes (or should I just add him to the rest of the Fox troglodytes?), Bill Cosby, John Edwards, yes, even our beloved Bill Clinton? These instances are simply easy to reach off the top of my head; the specific list is so long, I don’t even know where to start. Oh, how about the Stanford swimmer who thought it was just fine to rape an unconscious woman? Or the judge who saw nothing wrong with slapping his wrists? Or whoever thought to let him out early? Really?
What is it that gives these, and apparently most, men the idea that women are simply to be played with, fawned over, debased, casually ignored and, in cases too numerous to count, treated as chattel, violated, beaten and killed? I single out for special inclusion on this list those men who believe that women’s reproductive systems are public property, to be regulated and treated as someone’s religious battlefield.
You’d think there was some kind of conspiracy against women. Oh right, there is. It’s called the patriarchal culture. The one that has kept men in charge of everything. Particularly women. For nearly all of human history. (See my July 31 blog, “It’s About Damn Time.”) But the grip that men, particularly white men in this culture, have on things is slipping, and it’s scaring them to death. What will happen if they can’t control everything? We’re about to find out.
If I were certain white men, I’d be scared shitless someone would slit my throat in the middle of the night. Not that I’m advocating violence of any kind. Hardly; violence never solves anything, even though guys think it does. I understand, and often experience, the rage that comes with being seen and treated as property, as a toy, as a being whose only real function is sexual, either as an avenue to male pleasure or as a womb.
That’s the only way I can wrap my head around the abominable behavior too many men exhibit toward women, even — especially — in public. Were little boys taught that because they were boys, they could behave essentially without boundaries, that the world would think it just fine as long as they got rich, won the game, earned the trophy — succeeded? I know I was taught from day one that I had to be very conscious of my actions, that my job was to make sure I didn’t make a fool of myself or discomfort anyone else. Clearly, the men in my examples were not given the same operating manual as I.
I know it’s at least part of the reason that, even though men and women can behave the same, the world judges that behavior very differently. In men, ambition is good; in women it’s “uppity.” In men, leadership is expected; in women it’s being aggressive. Men without makeup are just guys; women are ugly (tired, washed out, plain = look bad). Again, I could go on.
Frankly, I’m sick of it. Of the whole gender farce. Of pretending that men really do know more, can do more, are better at. . . name anything but feats of physical strength. And watching women’s weightlifters and wrestlers, that is about to be added to the list. It’s ridiculous. My experience is that women are at worst the equals of men. In my experience, most women are really much stronger, smarter, more adept, more flexible, funnier and wiser than most men. We have to be, because we do almost everything. As the saying goes, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did, but backward and in heels.
Male CEOs have one job, being CEO. They have vice presidents and assistants doing everything else. Female CEOs, unless they are single and without living family, have several jobs. Sure, they have the same cadre of minions to take care of the business that male CEOs have, but who handles their personal lives? They have to run the company, satisfying the board and shareholders. And still they have to take care of family and the myriad other things that women just do because that’s their job. Men are not expected, as a function of their gender, to fret about day care or meal planning or where their parents are going to spend their final years. Men can — and usually do — have hobbies. But life and death, quality of life issues are rarely if ever, on their to-do lists.
Men in the military can be soldiers, or sailors or Marines or whatever. They don’t also (often) have to protect themselves from their fellow soldiers. Female soldiers do, all the time. In combat women have not one enemy, but two. There’s the bad guy, and then there’s the guy in the next foxhole who “just needs a little relief” from the stress. Hello, GI Jane.
And yet women succeed as CEOs despite the double workload. They do it because women have always had to do it. No matter their level of success in the world, no matter what they make (or most often don’t), women have managed because that is what they do. Excellently in most cases. If a woman were to fail, the board would be perfectly justified in never hiring a female CEO again, right? Funny, men fail all the time but the boards just keep hiring men all the time. What’s up with that?
Frankly, to my view, if survival of the human race had been left up to men, we’d be extinct. We’re heading there now. Yet men have the gall to treat women so abysmally my mouth drops open at their chutzpah.
No more. I won’t put up with being treated badly, and I intend to challenge any male I see treating another woman badly. We have to start making a stink. Being nice has not had the intended results.
I need to enlist men who agree me. I know you’re out there, I’ve met many of you and you have friends. I need you to challenge these cavemen. Even if every confrontation I have results in permanently changed male behavior (when pigs fly), the problem is just too big and the behavior too entrenched to change how things are very quickly. Men who are inclined to bad behavior will pay attention to another man before he’d listen to a woman telling him he needs to shape up.
Good men have to challenge this endemic behavior in their fellows. I suggest we start with the wannabe Troglodyte in Chief.
We can’t afford to give these assholes a pass any longer. To let them off leads them to believe their behavior is in any way acceptable. They need to made pariahs until they learn to behave as human beings.
We can’t afford to meet the challenges of the future hamstrung because half the people we need to solve our problem are tied and gagged and kept in the basement, barefoot and pregnant.
It’s time. No more Ms. Nice Guy