It’s a chilly start today. I don’t like it. I sat up and put a blanket over me to block out the cold and the light, and wished the rest of the world would respect my decision to alter my observance of time and let me go back to bed for an hour. I was like a blankie mountain. It freaked the cat out. I have no idea why, but she got all hiccupy. When my cat is scared or concerned, her meows have a hiccup at the end. So she sounded like a sputtering engine trying to turn over until she burrowed under the blanket and saw that it was simply me sitting there stubbornly refusing to face the day. You know, like a two year old.
“Don’t wanna,” I said to the cat. She looked at me like I lost my damned mind and stalked off to resume sleeping in her current favorite place. If cats could talk, she would have said, “Oh for god’s sake. Grow up.” I swear she rolled her eyes.
Awful haughty for someone who sleeps in a bathtub, if you ask me.
I think about all the naps I fought when I was a child. I was one of those who loved to get one over on the man by only pretending to nap. If I hadn’t done that, if I had actually just taken my naps like a good girl and slept, would I be less tired today? Would I have a cache of “nap” to fall back on in these weary adult times? If I kept my birthday money through the years, I’d have a savings account. If I actually put the damn Speak-N-Spell down and took my freakin’ nap so my father didn’t have to hear about it when he got home, would I have some reserves in my vault today?
Like the age old Tootsie Roll Pop question, the world may never know. I haven’t had a kid yet who would be a willing test subject. They all fought naps with the fervor and devotion one would expect from progeny with their lineage. They would not let me oppress them, and I must admit, there was always just a touch of clan pride, even if I was “the man”.
Ah well. I’m up now and I’ve got enough coffee in me that I don’t hate the world. Guess that’s something. Let’s see what we can talk about today.
So sexism sucks, huh?
Hang on. Sit back down, don’t click that suddenly enticing red X up in the corner.
“Bethie, I didn’t come here for a debate.”
Then just agree with me and there won’t have to BE a debate. *hopeful grin*
Okay, look. I get that this is a topic that’s been hammered by all sides for decades. I understand that there are many people out there who are so sick of hearing the propaganda that they really have given up on listening to any of it. I know it’s an issue that’s been in the spotlight for so long that the bulk of people out there, men AND women, brush it off and consider it old news.
Folks, just because you are bored with a problem does not mean it’s been solved. You being sick of listening to the debate does not mean the debate is over.
“But here, Bethie?”
Relax. I saw something that got me all het up (no, not just the blinking red numbers on my alarm clock) and I want to vent. That does not mean I’m turning this blog into a the front lines of feminism. Something happened yesterday that made me feel very good about things I’ve done to break a gender stigma. And then I logged onto the internet this morning and that positive vibe was dashed. That’s all. Same as any other issue I talk about.
Come on. You know me. I can’t devote myself to one topic. How boring would that be? I’m like a monkey. Bright lights and shiny objects distract me. I have the attention span of a tsetse fly. I’m like an intellectual nomad, wandering through an endless plane of…SQUIRREL!
“Your cat was right. You really are a child.”
So, now that I have given a pre-apology for a subject we should not actually be sick of hearing about, let’s dive in.
Feminism. “Feminism,” is really how it should be written and said. From now on, any time you find yourself saying that word, do the air quotes. I know it’s douchey, but the word itself has become douchey. It’s not the word’s fault. Like many other words in our lexicon, time and the opposing side have stripped the meaning and replaced it with a negative image. The dictionary defines “feminism” as: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
A noble cause. However, over time, the word has been morphed. When you picture a “feminist”, you most likely picture a militant woman, an angry “earth biscuit” who’ll get up in your face if you’re a man and scream about how little she needs you. You picture a ‘roid raging hippie with no bra and braided armpit hair.
Truth be told, there are some “feminists” out there who really fit that description. And the reason you can picture them so clearly is that the news, the media, and the opposition put the pictures of those women out there and labeled these extremists as the “face” of the movement. The opposition forced upon you an ignoble ideal of a noble cause. And you accepted it.
Don’t worry, I’m all for fairness, so let’s flip the switch. Picture an anti-feminist now. What do you see? A fat, balding old white man sitting on a stack of money pinching the asses of the secretaries that pass by. Again, you picture this because the aforementioned extremist hippies want you to picture this. They want to put a face you can hate on their opposition.
These images represent real sides, even if they so poorly skew and blur the problem. Are there angry hippies with stinky hair running amok under the “feminism” activist banner? Sure. Are there fat old misogynists playing grabass while they laugh from atop their gilded thrones? Probably. But like every other issue ever debated by human kind, these extremists that we picture as our mental representation of the problem actually make up less than 1% of those affected.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and addressed the outer edges of the problem, let’s settle in for a discussion that resides in the middle, where we actually live. The modern “feminist” just wants equality. That’s it. And the bulk of misogynists do not, in fact, think they’re even being misogynistic. The extremists have so screwed up the issue that people don’t even realize they continue to feed the problem.
Sexism happens, in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. I’m of course taking this from the standpoint of a woman. I have to. The parts I was born with clearly indicate that I’m going to sway in that direction. However, from here out, I’m going to use the word “sexism”, because we really do still have bizarre social confines for both sexes, and I am not trying to say there aren’t also unfair slants against men.
Yesterday I was in the grocery store picking up some spuds and cauliflower when a local handyman came up to me. He does repairs for our landlord around the house every 8 years or so, like lopping off the top foot of the crumbling chimney so that it looks like it’s still structurally sound and stacking a bulkhead door up on a pile of sort of similarly sized rocks so it appears to be stable. You know, my kind of kludger. Well, he saw me pull into the parking lot of the store and followed because he had another issue with his old BMW and he wanted to get my advice about it.
Think about that. A country handyman actually made a point to seek me out to ask for MY advice on his old car. And not only did he listen, he asked if he could bring it by to give it a look myself if he had no luck with the things I suggested.
People, do you even know how damn good that felt?
I am a car “guy”. I drive old diesels that require a whole lot of love and labor (and a hefty amount of tear-ladened begging) to keep them working. I do not leave that up to my guy, because doing that and waiting around for anyone (man or woman) to help when I’ve got two hands and a brain that functions is just stupid. Plus, I seem to have a mind for it. I’m not bragging, just saying that I am most definitely a product of an engineer-minded lineage. My dad was an engineer, his dad was as well, my granddad on my mum’s side is an electrical genius… I honestly do believe there is a genetic disposition towards tinkering. I’m a tinkerer.
Yet, even in this modern time of the gender equality push, I still get weird looks. I still get, “Are you sure that’s the part you need? Have you asked a real mechanic first?” from some parts stores. Don’t worry, if I get any of that at all, I shop elsewhere. I still get, “Oh that’s cool that you like to help your husband do repairs.” I don’t “help”, bitch, I “do”. I still get, “You looked cute with those tools.” Yeah? Let’s see how cute I look when I shove this tool up your…
Wanna know the real pisser? Every single one of those remarks above was said to me by a woman.
Bet you didn’t expect that twist, eh?
And why not? Why didn’t you expect it? I was absolutely riding the high of having what some would consider at first glance to be a “good ol’ boy” actually seek me out to get MY advice. I got up to write this blog entirely about that, too. And then I looked at the news before I started typing. Front page was “Great gifts for Her under $50”. Fluff. Why not? Why not just look at a bit of fluff while I’m trying to warm up and shake off the condescension of a cat?
What gifts were recommended, you might ask? Makeup, perfume, high heels, jewelry, and kitchen appliances. Home and beauty, and that was it.
At the end of the appalling list was a link for “Great gifts for Him under $50.” While women get fru fru lipsticks in twenty shades that ALL LOOK THE FRIGGIN SAME, the men get things in a wide range of categories. There’s a cocoa mug with a built in basketball hoop for some mini-marshmallow slam dunking, a shower radio, bathrobes, car accessories, sporting goods, kitchen accessories, gourmet food products, board games, books, classy ties and pocket squares, video games, and a desk organizer (okay, admittedly boring as hell for either gender, but at least it was something in a unique category!).
Women just want things to help them cook and be pretty while doing it, while men want literally everything the world has to offer.
Not only are the ideas themselves lame, the little blurbs at the beginning of the articles are ridiculous in their slant. The one under the men’s says, “Whether it’s a heroic hubby, a favorite friend or a proud papa, you want to treat your deserving dude to a fantastic holiday gift. But electronics, sports-themed presents and other guy-friendly buys can put a big dent in your wallet. Not these! Plus, they’ll remind your man why you’re a great gal and why he may want to show his appreciation for you, too.”
[author’s note: I totally fixed the grammar and punctuation issues. All the words are the same. I just tamed them.]
That was the guy’s. Now, this is the one under the women’s article. “Stumped on what to get the ladies on your list this December? From great gifts for the home to must-have accessories, these picks are sure to please. Plus, at less than $50, it’ll be a happy holiday for your wallet, too.”
Let’s look at the two opening paragraphs. The one for the guy touts him as deserving and strong. Heroic, even. You should want to get the men in your life killer gifts because, hey, aren’t they worth it? Damn straight they are! And who knows? If you spend enough and get him a good gift, he might actually see a bit of worth in you, too. The one for the woman, however, basically says that buying her a gift is something you’ve got to suck up and do, but don’t worry, because she’ll like anything that makes her pretty and domestically industrious. Besides, it’s not like you’re spending a lot, so what the hell are you complaining about? Get your lady a damn lipstick and it’ll buy you some peace and quiet for the year.
Okay, okay. That last bit was a read-in on my part. But come on. Be honest now and compare them side to side, and you’ve got to see the blatant difference in the two. The message is abundantly clear. In 2014, a popular magazine ran these articles saying that men have EARNED their Christmas gifts, while women get gifts simply out of obligation. And the real disappointment is that these articles were from Woman’s Day magazine.
“Bethie, it’s only two stupid articles in a magazine no one cares about anymore.”
Oh contraire. That was just one. Red Book ran an article on “75 Best gifts for your BFF” that was no better. The most creative items on the list still fell in the tight confines of home and beauty. Where are the video game suggestions? Gadgets? Tech stuff and silly stuff and books and “smart” presents? I don’t want a wine cozy or a leopard print compact.
Harper’s Bazaar, Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, etc…almost all of the women’s magazines have buying guides for gifts right now. And almost all of them exclusively contain gift suggestions in the home and beauty categories. One article would not be a big deal. However, when girls are looking through these magazines and see almost nothing but the blatant differences, don’t you think that’s got to have an impact?
Yes, there are some magazines with “Cool gadgets she’ll love” articles. Yes, there are a handful that DO include things from wrenches to feather boas, and all the cool and weird stuff in between. What I’m saying is THAT should be the norm, and it’s not. The norm is STILL a 50’s outlook on what women want.
The women who write and edit these magazines under the guise of being a powerful voice for their gender are doing nothing but perpetuating the stereotypes and keeping sexism alive. The real face of the modern anti-feminist isn’t a fat, rich, bald white guy. It’s a smirking editor of a woman’s magazine, sitting on her own gilded throne and shaking her head at the poor dumb schmucks who are still eating up this 1950’s bullshit.
Now, I’m not trying to say all the gender issues can be resolved with stupid Woman’s Day articles. Please don’t think I am. It would be a good start, though. All they need to do is make it fair, and it’s a lot easier than people think. Instead of saying that women are hard to shop for but still expect gifts, set the same tone that was set in the men’s article. Use the same gushing exuberance for the women in the readers’ lives as well. “You know that best friend, amazing Mom, or hard working aunt you have? Why not tell them you care with a thoughtful gift this Christmas?” Tell the women they matter, that even if they don’t have a dick, they, too, deserve respect.
Then make small changes to the list to include the interests of ALL women. Add in some gifts that cover the spectrum. Are there women who would love to get make up for Christmas? Absolutely! There are also women who would rather get tools. Look at the mens’ list again. It includes things for guys who like a wide variety of things, including beauty and home goods. Why can’t the same be done for the women’s list? Have the beauty and home goods, and then add in some books, or tools, or gadgets, or games or…SOMEthing that says to the reader that women are more than pretty housekeepers.
Seriously. It’s that easy.
One little drop. One little change. One little step and then maybe it’ll just be status quo when guys ask knowledgeable women for car advice. Maybe it’ll feel like a regular day instead of a victory.
Thus concludes a hot button Muse for Friday, December 5, 2014. I usually feel better after venting. Today, I do not. It is a frustrating topic, simply because there are so many people who write it off without listening, without considering that maybe we’re doing a lot of it to ourselves. And that makes me sad.