A PERSONAL VAGINA MONOLOGUE
I was still in my teens during the beginning of the second wave of the Women's Movement, and a young wife and mother when I attended my first consciousness-raising groups. I was politically active and aware, and had been on the receiving end of typical misogynist nonsense in the workplace - scored highest of any applicant ever on pre-employment tests, but not able to move out of secretary status because the Underwriter jobs were reserved for men who would be or were supporting families.
They never told me that when they hired me, held it out as a carrot when I agreed to start as a file clerk. I left them suddenly. That was my first real job, not an auspicious beginning. I've actually never made it long-term in the corporate world. My bullshit meter starts screaming at some point in the process and I generally leave on bad terms.
I'm serious as hell about my role models. Women of my generation were on the cusp. We had clearly defined expectations to meet, and most of them were wifely and motherly. A career woman was rare and exceptional, admirable but generally out of my league. Then there was the hippie thing, which I had embraced with passion and a fair amount of drug use. Janis Joplin was tough, talented and didn't take shit from anyone. She was also vilified, disrespected, and ended up dead. Powerful messages.
When I married I embraced June, learned to be a gourmet cook, gave wonderful dinner parties, tore up carpets and polished up hardwood floors, stripped wallpaper and hung more, stripped woodwork, and essentially restored a couple of lovely old Craftsman homes while keeping a home, giving birth to, nursing (yea La Leche League), and raising 2 kids.
It wasn't wonderful, by any means. We had money, a position in the community, interesting friends and and an interesting life heavy on the arts. We used to drink wine with Robert Bly and his wife if they were porch sitting when we walked by. I met and partied with some of the best actors in the country. I was also a raging alcoholic married to a raging alcoholic, and the Janis part of me kept busting out at the most inconvenient moments.
The key thought: I've been too good for too long!
Those were my choices. Be an excellent wife and mother (much fail there) or be a powerful creative woman who dies a tragic death. Nothing in between seemed likely.
I stayed involved in the women's movement until the day I wondered why I had to wear a pin-striped suit to be a woman in business. It wasn't that I had to be a guy with a vagina, it was a step worse: to succeed I had to learn to be a guy without a penis. But nice. Attractive. Not too sexy. Never angry. Never loud. Never pushy.
We were co-opted. We were fighting about abortion rights, refighting a done deal, and we were trying desperately hard to become man-like, because only men succeed in business. The notion of bringing a female sensibility to a male-dominated culture was too radical.
I didn't want to be a man, I wanted to be a woman who was valued for what made me different from men. I wanted my slant on things to count, my femaleness to be acknowledged as worthy of attention. I wanted a President who could cry when talking about the deaths of soldiers, or innocent civilians. I wanted a President who understood the value of every human life because she was the progenitor of human life. I want women on the Supreme Court because they have a different attitude toward the world, an attitude that includes the impact of law on ordinary human beings. We tend to think about that once we understand how fragile and precious life is.
Men conquer, women negotiate. We needed and still need a whole lot more of the female perspective before our country and our culture are worth fighting for. There needs to be a balance, not an inequity in either direction.
Why are Michigan's (Texas's, South Carolina's....) legislators so damn scared of women? We're scary people. We see through their bluster and recognize it as weakness and fear. We've had to learn to read men since birth, to protect ourselves and to be able to manipulate them into doing what we need them to do. Since they won't listen to our input it has to be on the sly. They resent that (who could blame them) but they also bring it on themselves, so the pity I feel lasts for a nanosecond.
There's a whole other factor to the culture we live in that's never discussed. Mega-Corporations took root in a society run by men obsessed with dick size. Money equals inches in this country. My guess is our overpaid CEO's would work for a lot less just to be associated with the biggest whatever in the world. The money is only necessary to add inches to their penises once they've trashed their latest company and found it necessary to move on before the shit hits the fan.
(Who the hell would marry Donald Trump if he was a plumber? Not any young, smart, gorgeous sexy female I know. He's too dumb, too controlling, and too proud of being a bully.)
Penis size is also a component of racism. The common wisdom of my young womanhood was "Once you go black you never go back" (not true, but compelling), and that black men had huge dicks. Also not necessarily true, but equally compelling, and extremely threatening for Northern European men in particular. The amazing telescoping penis looks extremely small when pulled into the body, a necessary adaptation to keep sperm active and healthy in cold climates. If you ever wonder why it's so necessary to paint young black males as dangerous, violent, and threatening, add that issue to the mix.
Barack Obama is an attractive, sexy man. And he's black. How many of his most virulent attackers are really worrying about "never go"ing back? Add competence and intelligence to the mix, and you've got a man who is supposed to be inferior based on his skin color, who is breaking every damn meme we use to define black maleness as threatening and worthless. How can ordinary white guys compete?
Angry white men are simply men who fear (or know) that they can't compete on a level playing field. Without white privilege on their team they can't automatically get the job, win the election, attend the first choice college. They have to work as hard as women and non-white men do to attain that plum.
After centuries of being allowed, even encouraged, to think the plum is automatically theirs it's incredibly hard to be forced to excel. Tough shit. Once you've had about 20,000 years of being on the short end of the stick I'll see if I can work up a little compassion for you. Until then, bust your ass to get what I want, too. If you're better than I am, more power to you. If I'm better than you are suck it up and be gracious.
Janis is running the show most of the time these days. June is embarrassed by my language, my anger, my comfort with living alone, my pleasure in having a life that belongs to me and doesn't require that I be conciliatory or expend effort on caretaking. I'm 62. I've done those things, and well, but never again.
I actually suspect that June's getting a kick out of this. I think she likes it when I take on internet bullies, and when I tell people they're really showing their ignorance when they spout birther BS. I think she might have cheered a bit when I asked why Catholic religious freedomz counted more than non-Catholic religious freedom does. I think she agrees that my Jewish, Buddhist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, pagan friends have a "religious", moral and legal right not to be injured by legislation that endangers their lives. (Atheists don't have to add religious to the mix.)
I think she's chanting "vagina" in a whisper, and wondering if she'll ever shout it out. I suspect if she'd been in the crowd at the Michigan Capitol she'd have yelled at the top of her lungs.
Maybe I'll reach old age without the inner battle!