“Still, a great deal of light falls on everything.” — Vincent van Gogh, in a letter
Annals of Everyday Sexism, No. 1,204
I told him some about my new job and what I would be doing and how I was so excited about it, about the work itself and about all of the new challenges and opportunities it would bring.
“It sounds like Guion and I would be better at that job than you would be,” he said as soon as I finished.
I blinked. “No,” I said. “I don’t think so.”
“Yes,” I said, and then with uncharacteristic firmness, “I am going to be great at this job.” My blood was feeling hot in my face.
He furrowed his brows, implying he didn’t believe me. But for once, I had a retort ready.
“Just because I’m not constantly talking about myself and how great I am all the time doesn’t mean I don’t have any skills,” I said, turning away.
“Oh, you’re adorable,” he said, in the purest of patronizing tones. And all this despite the fact that he is several years younger than me.
(You are not surprised when it happens, this kind of thing, because it has been happening all your life, but you are now almost 30 and ready to say something about it when it does. To name a thing, to call it what it is, to not hedge anymore.)
That said, I just finished the first week at my new job, and I am feeling all of the good feels: happy, grateful, fortunate, enlightened, challenged, hopeful, thrilled, capable, eager.
“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened, and its deepest mystery probed?” — Annie Dillard
I just finished The Abundance, which I thought was a new collection of Annie Dillard essays because I didn’t read the subtitle carefully. It isn’t; it’s almost entirely old stuff, repackaged. But her old stuff is still beautiful and challenging and mind-expanding, and I was happy to re-read it. If I ever were to aspire to nonfiction in this way, Dillard is all that I could ever hope to be. Her boundless curiosity, her lyricism, her patience, her directness. It will always be difficult to convince me than any other American essayist can surpass her.
Up next on the reading docket: A big haul from the library book sale (somewhat thick, heady European novels that have been on my list for a long time + James Baldwin + John McPhee + Simone de Beauvoir’s short stories) and the Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector (I’m scared).
Women have very little idea of how much men hate them. — Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (1970)
After this week, however, I’d posit that women have at least a subtle, perhaps subconscious idea of how much men hate them. Over the past few days, I’ve been surrounded by these astonishing examples of self-directed misogyny, or, women who hate women.
Exhibit 1: Editing an article at work about the effect of hormones on traders’ decisions, on how research indicates that testosterone spikes influence traders to make riskier decisions about their portfolios. The article suggests, without the slightest hint of sarcasm, that it would be a good idea if firms chose to hire “unattractive women” or put “pretty women behind screens” on the trading floor, to prevent men from experiencing testosterone spikes. (Behind screens! That was the actual advice.) The piece went on to say that “married men and men over the age of 30” probably wouldn’t be affected by having women on the floor, though. What bold sexism! What idiocy on so many levels! The article was written by a woman.
Exhibit 2: Editing another article at work, a summary of an Economist blog post, which argues that women don’t get promotions at work because women are too nice and care too much about their families (not showing themselves to be as devoted to their work), unlike men (who are apparently heartless robots). Summary was written by a woman.
Exhibit 3: Let’s call this person an acquaintance. I recently stumbled on her Twitter tagline, which read: “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, and Work like a Boss!” Just, wow. Make yourself appear like a girl, like an infantilized version of yourself; heaven forbid you present yourself as a woman, what you actually are. And think like a man! Because EVERYONE knows that women can’t think! Twitter account of a woman.
Sadly, I see this phenomenon all the time; this week it just seems to be more apparent than normal. You probably do, too. Women love to denigrate their entire sex, particularly if they are in the company of men. We all know women who like to brag that they “just don’t like other women,” that all of their best friends are guys.
Why Does This Happen?
So, where is this coming from? Why would women deliberately present themselves as misogynistic? I think it goes back to the oft-quoted line from Greer. Women sense how much men hate them.
We want men to like us. We have this blinding desire to be validated by men, because we’ve been taught all our lives that we aren’t worth anything unless a man tells us we are.
And so we pander to them. We tell them that we’re not good at anything, really. We tell them that we can think and act like they do. We tell them that we too, like them, mistrust women; women are sneaky bitches; we stay away from them, too.
If you think this isn’t really a phenomenon, I’d encourage you to look around a little bit. You’ll find it; it’s not hard. Misogyny is very alive and well, and women, in many ways, are helping feed that destructive fire. Sexism, primarily hatred against women, runs virtually unchecked in our culture. (Just spend a few minutes reading the mountain of posts on the Twitter feed Everyday Sexism. Or flipping through a magazine. Or watching TV. Or trying to cross the Belmont bridge.)
Women, let’s quit abusing ourselves to appeal to men. We’re only fueling their hatred.
There is the pervasive assumption that “men are just animals” and they can’t change, so women need to hide themselves behind screens and never walk alone anywhere, ever. Men are ruled by testosterone and rage and virility! Men cannot control themselves!
But here’s the thing. The men I know and love CAN control themselves. They don’t run around on their lunch breaks verbally harassing women on the streets. They don’t make lewd comments to their female coworkers. They have never (and will never) beat or raped women. It’s equally offensive to men to assume that they are purely lustful beasts, devoid of human reason. Stop shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Well, that’s just the way men are.” It’s not.
Let’s raise our expectations for men in this culture. Let’s believe that they have the potential, the reason, and the souls to be more than just testosterone-crazed fiends who see all women as sex objects to dominate. Let’s educate our sons to view and treat girls and women with full and deserved respect. And women, let’s stop abusing ourselves to pander to our misogynistic culture. I am SICK of it. Just sick.