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It matters what we name things

Back in the 90’s, I worked in a department that contained 40 women and 0 men. Most of those women had worked in that company, in that very same job, for over 20 years — I was the youngest in the department and the next youngest was 10 years older than me (and not super happy about no longer being “the baby” although how one can feel like “the baby” when one is over 30 years old is beyond me). The women who sat in the farm-like stanchion desks (all facing inward in long rows, butts hanging out into the aisles, not even actual cubicles, but literally just tables in a row with walls that stopped six inches beyond the desk, like a library study carrel) around me were all over 40. I was privy to their discussions, the things they valued and the piques when something didn’t go their way. Which was, quite frankly, often.

I was really struck by how much they cared about things. Little slights were turned into big affairs. Tiny mistakes were Big Deals (TM). Things that happened twice were Trends. I often turned my chair back to my stanchion to roll my eyes at them… probably doing an insufficient job of hiding my exasperation. I had just turned 26 — I took entirely different things seriously. Bigger scale things. Grander things. Things that I felt mattered.

I decided that there was something about perimenopause that made women lose their minds. Their voices raised. They stopped caring about makeup and their figures. They lived on their little Soap Box, stumping for this or that inconsequential little thing like it was their role on this earth.

I’m their age now. And I get it.

I am tired. I am pissed. I am now being treated like an invisible person. I am discounted because I’m past the age of mattering, of being beguiling. I realize now that the only reason women have power in their 20s and 30s is because men want to have sex with them. This truth sinks in my belly like a stone, a weight that I can feel with every step, every movement. I no longer care what people think because they don’t. They don’t care what I think. I have nothing to lose because I lost it already.

Those bigger scale things are important, but you can’t change the big stuff until you attack the little stuff.  The numbers of slights, the discounted discussions, the times that I said something and then a man repeated it as though I hadn’t said it and everyone suddenly hears it now and tells him he had a great idea. The tallies are scratched in columns in my brain. Two things that happen ARE a trend because it’s not two things, it’s twenty, thirty, eight hundred things that I have seen happen and I know that shit is going to go down in exactly that same way. I have seen what’s lost. Little things ARE big things. Little things are in fact the ONLY thing.

The election told me that people.. that women… would look at a woman who has literally been training her entire life to run the country, a woman who has been in government for a lifetime, who held the third highest position in the entire nation for eight years, quite possibly literally the most qualified person in the entire world to be the next U.S. President and instead give that job to an uneducated, untested, narcissistic self-entitled manchild.

That’s how much we hate women. That we can take 20 victims of sexual assault and say “Well, maybe they’re in it for the money.” That a self-confident woman who is passionate about her career and tries to get ahead will be inevitably called “abrasive” in their performance reviews and that people will literally tell you that in order to avoid the label of “bitch” at work, you need to agree with people even when you don’t.

I mentioned taking back Resting Bitch Face a few posts ago and called it “The face that won’t automatically say yes” but let’s think about that for a minute. The culture is binary — you’re either happy/going to say yes or you’re a bitch. Those are the options! Not a strong woman. Not a woman who thinks for herself. Not a woman who has confidence. A BITCH. By not being a yes girl, your default status is bitch.

It matters what we name things. It matters because it’s a subtle cultural correction, telling women that they need to front as approachable, friendly, someone who would be pleasant to be around. It matters because it is telling women that what they think is less important than how they look. In fact, I think more people need to have Resting Bitch Face. In fact, this phrase itself is just one of the reasons we should all be pissed as hell.

Remember back right after the inauguration? Millions of women marched on the first day of the new administration to show how mad we were. It was a good moment. We felt the energy. We felt invincible. We felt like we mattered.

But consider this: Have you ever trained a new puppy? They want to chew on everything. They NEED to chew. Plus, it tires them out. So when they start chewing on things that matter, like your Manolo Blahniks or your midcentury modern bookcase, you hand them a chew toy. They focus on the acceptable thing — the thing you don’t care if they ruin — so they won’t damage the stuff you care about. They put all of that energy into their jaws and it pulls out all of the stress out of their bodies and then they go take a nap because they’re exhausted and they no longer want to chew on your shoes.

We remember being whipped to a lather last summer on social media. We now understand that forces were using social media to manipulate us through very strategic behavioral response mechanisms. This is something that SOUNDS like a conspiracy theory, except it actually happened. This is a fact. Even the Russians agreed that they did it. So, we know that Jared Kushnier’s big data team knows more about how we make decisions than we do — and unfortunately, there’s a playbook for how to take over a government and we now understand that it was followed to the letter.

Or… is being followed.

So — what if #metoo is a chew toy?  What if the strategic masterminds looked at all of the women who were pissed off, looked at their own chimp bragging about serial sexual assault, and orchestrated a movement to provide us with dozens and dozens of chew toys? What if Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken (ESPECIALLY Al Franken) is the thing they don’t care if we destroy? What if the same social media tides are still churning, what if our profile likes and follows are broadcasting loud and clear exactly which levers to pull, exactly which dog whistle we’ll hear?

Let me ask you this: Do you still feel energized? Do you feel invincible? Do you feel like you matter? Do you feel like you have hope?

What if this isn’t actually a dozen little things but really One Big Giant Fucking Terrible Thing?

No matter where you fall on the argument of “witch hunt” versus “speak your truth”, you have to admit that something is happening culturally really fucking fast right now. The #metoo hashtag started trending on Sunday, October 14th. How are we already here now? The week the Weinstein scandal broke, the executive branch was dismantling Obamacare, had taken serious flack for ignoring Puerto Rico’s rising death toll from the hurricane and the previous week, we were all still reeling from the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history while the man refused to acknowledge gun control and said that the attack was “in some ways a miracle.”

Maybe you’re not studied up on how governments are overthrown, so maybe the best analogy to what’s happening right now is that the election was like Harry Potter book four: Voldemort is back except no one who matters believes it. They say that anyone who claims he is back is just looking for attention. And a few people know that dark things are happening, but officials aren’t taking action, and the damned Death Eaters all got organized and put on their Dockers and grabbed tiki torches to show a public rallying cry to ignite their forces (ala the Quidditch World Cup and attack on the muggles).  So what did the good guys in the Harry Potter series do? They organized small groups of dedicated individuals. They strategized. They put extra protection around vulnerable targets that might have been strategic to the Death Eaters and their propaganda. They refused to get so swept up in the small stuff and kept themselves on track for what really mattered.

The longest books are still to come. We’re going to lose people. We’ve still got to find six fucking horcruxes and destroy them (I suspect the snake is maybe the pedophile running for Senate).

Time to train in Dumbledore’s Army. Rise up, eyes up.

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Sheri wrote:

    I am very conflicted about Al Franken. All but the first of his accusers have been anonymous, am I correct? We are eating our own over what may possibly be (dare I say) fake accounts, while the Alabama monster will probably be elected with several on the record very credible accusers. I’m less concerned with Matt Lauer and Weinstein, since they have been removed by corporate/business interests, and really have helped to raise the conversation about something that has been under the rug for generations.

    But I just want someone to tell me what I can actually do, other than complain on social media! I live in a blue state in a blue district. Both my senators are women, my congressman is extremely progressive (I’ve not had a single issue to disagree with him on since he was elected, and I follow his actions carefully). We progressives are so often segregated politically so our voices can be easily discounted, and our votes are foregone conclusions.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
  2. Suzy wrote:

    This was an amazing entry and I’m so fucking with you.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  3. goingloopy wrote:

    Dogs can be trained. Dogs can be distracted. But try distracting a fucking cat. The dog will chew on the toy. The cat will look at the toy, look at you, and then continue destroying what it wants to destroy. You can squirt water at it, make loud noises, say no, and the cat will wait till your back is turned and continue to climb on the fridge/lay on the stove/take a nap on your keyboard/knock your coffee cup on the floor. Maybe we all need to act more like (pussy)cats. Fuck their chew toys. Let’s shred the goddamn couch. (The trick, of course, will be convincing everyone to stop reacting and develop a long-range strategy. I think your HP analogy is right on in this sense.)

    Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  4. Jennifer wrote:

    The one big thing is that (some) men hate all women. And I have no idea how to stop that.

    Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

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