The State of Things
I have never considered myself a feminist. Of course, I am all for women’s equality. Of course. But, in my own day-to-day, coastal-living American existence, I didn’t really see what the big issue was. After all, I am a woman, and I’ve been able to achieve everything I have set my mind to. I perceived feminism as a rising up for the privilege of achieving what one wanted to in life, regardless of gender. The argument that this might be a battleground just didn’t resonate with me or my experience. (Although, admittedly, in creative fields this is likely not the issue it is in other arenas.)
Plus, I just didn’t like the word “feminist.” It seemed somehow militant or man-hating. And, good lord knows, I love men.
In the past few years, though, I have begun to have the niggling suspicion that there was a bigger picture I wasn’t seeing, beginning with the election of the disgusting, tantrum-throwing, irrational misogynist we now call president. I fall under that category of people who didn’t see his victory coming. It just didn’t make sense that someone like Trump could be voted into office. And then he was. I was in utter, horrified disbelief as I watched the numbers roll in, sure that any minute now things would turn around. Clearly, they did not.
Around that same period Our Cheeto in Chief was elected into office, I was fried in my own life. I was the one working relentless hours to make pretty much all of the money in our household in order to pay for our existence. And I was also the one doing everything else, too. Cleaning, taking care of logistics, making sure everyone and everything was okay—95 percent of that was on me 97 percent of the time. Worse than that, in the moments when I stood up for myself when my partner went on a tirade, he would sometimes respond by sneering, “Oh, you’re such a strong woman. Women’s power!” Actually, I’m just a human being who would like to be treated with common respect.
My situation was extreme, but I see some version of it in many of my friends’ lives too. And, I have to say, most of these friends are married to good guys. Guys that I love. But, still, the weight of most things falls on my girlfriends—they work their asses off (many as the primary bread-winner), take care of the lion’s share of parenting, maintain the house, manage all of the minutia that accounts for any amount of spare time, and are also the source of emotional support and logistical planning for everyone. I should also add, these are not meek women. They are women who expect a lot out of life and out of the man they’re with. The problem is, I’m not sure any of us are expecting enough.
How did we get here? When was the agreement made that, sure, women could go to work—but only under the condition that they could still manage all of the “other responsibilities that are rightfully theirs?” I’m going to call bullshit on that.
But this whole issue is far more insidious than that. It’s so easy to accept status quo without stopping to look at what’s actually broken. Just like pretty much every other female I know, I have, more than once, been in sexual situations that are ambiguous at best. I have been congenial to guys who certainly didn’t deserve it for any number of reasons, because it’s good to be polite and I don’t want to rock the boat or hurt anyone’s feelings. I have been “mansplained” to more times than I could ever begin to count. In fact, just this week, a guy who is no more than an acquaintance—and one I haven’t spoken to in years, at that—felt that it was okay to tell me about my relationships and decisions I’ve made. When I told him what I thought about his input, I was brushed aside like I “didn’t understand.” Generally speaking, whenever a sentence starts with “You don’t understand,” either overtly or implicitly, it’s problematic. I am a 40-year-old woman who graduated from an Ivy League school, has seen a lot of different facets of life, and makes a living out of pulling out and piecing together ideas and information from powerful people and industry leaders. I assure you, I understand.
This is all to say that all of these circumstances and events are so commonplace, I never even stopped to question them. Now that I have, I’m pretty horrified—least of all because of the fact that I live in a society where this behavior been so normalized I didn’t even consciously realize it was happening or that something is very wrong. Just because this is how things are, doesn’t mean it’s how things should be. When I see all of this reflected on the political stage right now, it makes me almost literally sick.
I do not want this for my daughter. In fact, I cannot stomach the idea of this for my daughter. Just thinking about it sets me on edge. (Although, in all fairness, if she stays the way she is right now, I expect anyone who tried to mansplain or in any way mess with her would get a swift punch in the face.)
With this, I will say that I imagine it has to be a tough time to be a man. Growing up, you are told you are going to be one way—that the world is going to be one way—and then it doesn’t work out like that. So where does that leave you? Confused, I would imagine, and probably lost. My greatest hope at this point is that we are an in-between generation and that our children will know a much different, more equal, kinder and more compassionate world.
I don’t have an answer. I don’t think anyone does right now. But, as each day goes by, it becomes more and more clear that things have to change. We have to change. Our daughters deserve more—and so do our sons. Sometimes, the world feels like it’s falling apart these days. I can only hope it’s happening so that we can piece it together into a better place than it is today.