Today I am dark. It’s September, my favorite month in Oregon and here I sit, dark. I am dark even on this pleasant morning, when the weather is warm but cool, and even though today is predicted to hit the triple digits, I can anticipate that in a few weeks the sideways light won’t erupt into an early autumnal scorcher. Of course, it’s not quite yet fall. It’s still summer, just the end of it, so the season has a right to be as hot as it wants. By the calendar we can’t even call it “Indian summer”, a ridiculous term anyway, because Indians didn’t make it hot and they bear no responsibility for heat waves.
I am dark about women, and how willing we still are to be oppressed, raped, dismissed, and told we have no or lesser talent. The New York times doesn’t help. I read the article about how a taxi driver in El Salvador tells his fare about his expectant wife and how he doesn’t want a girl . “They are trouble” because they get raped and killed in El Salvador. Now, my friend, how is it that the girl is trouble when that happens? Why isn’t it “I don’t want a boy, they go out and rape and kill people, they’re such trouble?”
Now I know you have a son, and you love him very much, and I am certain he would never do such things. I do not have a son, but I have met my daughters’ male friends and they seem honest, kind, unlikely to assault people, and basically good people. (for the most part). One of them pulled a drowning boy from a lake, just last week. Well done, lad!
Just because most men and boys are basically good people doesn’t answer my fundamental question, though. Why is it that women are blamed for their own assaults, abuses mostly inflicted by men, and the misbehavior of their husbands,sons, fathers, and so on? I knew women who complained bitterly about Hillary and clearly believed that she was “in on it” and didn’t stop Bill because she wanted it that way. Like you can stop someone from sexual adventures. Like you can stop anyone. On the other hand, I’ve never once have a heard of a woman’s husband being blamed for her “wanton ways”. Have you ever heard “well, he didn’t keep her happy, so …who can blame her?” Nope. Never once.
She’s a whore and a home wrecker. ..but…He was unhappy. People get mad at him for wandering, sure, but underneath (is it just me? tell the truth) we know it’s the wife’s fault. Sort of. She’s a the victim, the sad Madonna, but ..what did she do? Must have been something. Maybe something she failed to do.
Now here’s the next corollary on this topic, and I’m sad to report it. Last week my (female) boss and one of my colleagues at work, also female, apologized for their math. One of them feigned ignorance and asserted her own incompetence to get a better explanation, something along the lines of “well, I’m not that bright, so maybe if you’d explain it to me”. The other apologized for PERFECTLY ACCURATE MATH so as not to offend our (now get this) FEMALE boss in chief. No men involved! Not a one! I say this with the aforementioned darkened heart…they have internalized this myth about “it must be my fault”. What the hell?
I yelled at both of them. Not real loud, but I did insist that neither of them would apologize like that again. Did you really think you didn’t understand the MATH? I told my boss. That’s correct..you read that right. I told my direct supervisor to stop fake apologizing immediately. What, I ask you, is wrong with saying, wow, I see that differently. My numbers don’t add up that way. I wonder how we’re coming to conflicting conclusions. Do you have to imply that you are somehow not that bright?
I ask you my friend, what are we to do? There are entire countries where women are forbidden an education, young girls are forced into marriages with dried up old prunes, and many adjust their style of clothing so as not to provoke, upset, stimulate, worry, embarrass, or otherwise impinge on male sensibilities and self control. What’s worse, I fear that they believe this is for their OWN GOOD and of course, if men are told they just can’t control themselves, in some ways it is for their own good, because who knows what can happen. The US is no bastion of equality either. One of my friends at work explained to me that she was the only girl in a family of boys, and was the only one who had to clean up the house, and of course, to clean up after her brothers. She is younger than I am. She’s from one of the fine neighborhoods depicted in Hillbilly Elegy, which, by the way, isn’t that great of a book.
I don’t even want to guess what it’s like where you live.
I think we’ve lost ground since the 1980s, I’m dismayed to say. I don’t want to wait for this to get better. We each have two daughters. I do not doubt their intelligence and capability. I was blinded in some ways by my adventurous mother who told me I could do anything I wanted. I thought there was nothing wrong. I can see more clearly now, so I am more in the dark. I do not blame my mother; she created the confidence I have and not being fully aware of the obstacles, I was able to flourish with less self doubt. Others are not so lucky.
Here’s a start. For now, I’m going to insist, each and every time I see it, that women do not apologize for the crimes and misdemeanors of others or imply that they are not capable. Got any other ideas?