As a woman, I have been told various things by various factions in the feminist movement. One claims that gender is a social construction. This faction, in my opinion, falls into the category of denying reality. In fiercely and falsely asserting that women and men are the same, we open ourselves up to what I call the “Oh, Shit!” moment.
The “Oh, Shit!” moment is that pause before a woman realizes she is outnumbered by men who can do her physical or professional harm, and that there’s no way to fight them on equal ground. It’s that feeling when the cortisol rushes to your brain, your heart takes an express train to the bottom of your stomach, and the “fight or flight” instinct takes over. And what can you do at that point? You must flee, or be overwhelmed. And you understand that the myth of female/male equality has been nothing but a well-intentioned lie.
Let me share my own “Oh, Shit!” moment with you. When I was 17, I worked at Wendy’s in the summer to make some extra money. I had done the same the year before, and had enjoyed it. A lot of kids my age were working with me, and I like the service aspect of the work. (One woman told me, when I took her order at the drive-thru window, that mine was the first friendly voice she had heard all day.) However, this year, things were different.
This year, Wendy’s had decided to participate in an “Inside Out” program. This meant that convicts who were eligible for working outside the prison were invited to work at Wendy’s, to make their transition back to civilian life a little easier. It might have been a good idea for them, but for me, it was a nightmare.
As soon as they arrived, the male convicts started hitting on me. And not just with words, but physically. One man could not keep his hands off my ass. (Yes, he was at least twice my age.) I complained repeatedly to him, and he eventually stopped touching me, but would still whisper sweet nothings in my ear, like “I’m thinking of you in my bunk.”
There was only one woman on my shift, and she was a convict as well. Let’s just say the concept of sisterhood eluded her. She took over the register one day, and promptly stole hundreds of dollars from it. Of course, I was working during that time, so who was accused of theft and searched? Me, while she looked on smugly. Was she in jail for theft? Why, yes. What did that have to do with anything?
The atmosphere got to be too much, so I sat down with a long heart-to-heart with my supervisor. He said I should just put up with it, then licked my face and asked me on a date.
I realized that these men all thought I was fair game because of my gender, and that “Oh, Shit!”, there was nothing I could do to make the situation better. The misogyny of that workplace was a wall that could not be broken down by any other method except superior force, which I did not possess. I needed the money, and no other places were hiring, but I quit anyway.
In my “Oh, Shit!” moment, I chose flight, because women are NOT equal to men. We do not have the physical power, or the strength in numbers, to resist the actions of men who want to take advantage of us, personally or professionally.
This year, Hillary Clinton experienced her own “Oh, Shit!” moment. As she mounted her historic quest for the White House, she saw woman after woman deserting her. Elected female Democrats were silent as a group (with some notable exceptions, such as the lovely and much-missed Stephanie Tubbs-Jones) as the media (corporate and fauxgressive), the DNC and Barack Obama systematically tore her apart. Some famous feminists came out in support of Hillary, but soon experienced their own “Oh, Shit!” moments as they realized that other famous feminists had joined ObamaNation. And we female Democrats experienced our “Oh, Shit!” moments as all the places we thought were friendly to our viewpoints banned us, deleted us, and heaped us with mountains of abuse for daring to support the first viable female Presidential candidate ever.
American women failed Hillary, and yes, I count myself among that group. We did not band together as a team and say, “You are on notice – do not fuck with our sister.” Perhaps we believed the myth that a woman doesn’t need other women to advance in a society that is still, for the most part, inimical to that advancement. But my sistren and supportive brethren (whom I thank and love), I do not point this out in order to blame us, but rather to show that we must learn from Hillary’s experience. The ONLY WAY to prevent it from recurring is to realize that only in vast numbers are we strong enough to resist the ingrained hatred and fear of women that are endemic in our society as a whole.
We must elect more women. If we disagree with a woman who is running for office, we must be sure to temper our disagreement with a certain amount of solidarity, so that she knows that attacks on her gender will not be tolerated. Republican female elected officials did this quite effectively with Sarah Palin, and so did Hillary, in her congratulatory statement on Governor Palin’s being selected as McCain’s Vice Presidential nominee.
“We should all be proud of Governor Sarah Palin’s historic nomination, and I congratulate her and Senator McCain. While their policies would take America in the wrong direction, Governor Palin will add an important new voice to the debate.”
Compare this statement with the first one released by Barack Obama, which was quickly amended after Hillary showed them how it was supposed to be done.
“Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” said Obama spox Bill Burton. “Gov. Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil, and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies — that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same.”
Yes, that’s the person who is supposed to respect and advance women more than John McCain, who, you know, actually chose to advance a woman for Vice President.
No more. No more “Oh, Shit!” moments for this woman. From now on, I pledge the following:
to speak out against political sexism, no matter where it originates or whom it targets;
to vote for every woman that I possibly can; and
to help as many women as possible in their professional lives.
To the women and like-minded men who have been doing this all along, I salute you and send you my undying appreciation and respect.
As for me, better late than never.