Friday, April 12, 2013

A false kind of liberation: 10 one-sentence stories

Screen shot via Jezebel

"How do the best writers convey grief without alienating the reader or lapsing into melodrama?" - Emily Rapp

"A Clear View of Raw Emotion," (Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2013) by Emily Rapp is about the experience of losing her son to a terrible disease. 

Rapp's way of dealing with the grief was to write. But she had the writer's dilemma of not being able to distance herself from the subject she most needed to talk about. 

Sexism completely infuriates me. So maybe I can't really write about it. But I can share just a few stories, assorted, heard over the years:
  1. The one about the man who breaks up with the woman, then calls her to ask for relationship advice, but they weren't married, so it "didn't count."
  2. The one about growing up poor and having to join the military or take a minimum-wage job. Then, in the army, sexually harassed.
  3. The one about the husband who cheats because he feels neglected, even though the woman is working to pay the family bills.
  4. The one about going out for drinks with the crew from work because you have to in order to "fit in," then one of the men giving her a ride home, because "it's not safe." Then this person forces his way into the apartment and nearly rapes her, before G-d saves her as somebody knocks on the door.
  5. The one about someone being out with her boyfriend, then another man tries to buy her from  him. (Yes, literally.)
  6. The one about the young man from a good family who tormented his wife as soon as the wedding was over, until she had to leave him with only the clothes on her back.
  7. The one about going to play in the playground in elementary school, and being lured somewhere isolated, and then sexually assaulted. The girl had to leave school.
  8. The one about the girl who committed suicide rather than admit to the religious community that she was a lesbian.
  9. The one about attending work meetings only to have the men shout her opinions down, until she finally walked in dressed as a man and said "Now will you listen to what I have to say?"
  10. The one about the female boss who insisted she leave her son for three months and stay in a hotel for a work assignment, even though the work could have been done at home.
Is copying men the best response to sexism? Jezebel (April 5, 2013) quotes from a Vulture magazine interview of actress Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olson from Mad Men, in "A Different Kind of Feminist." 

Olson's character seems to think so. She is at the bottom of the advertising food chain but determined to reach the top. She doesn't want to talk, she wants to do, says Moss:

"She's the one who works really hard, and concentrates on her job, and wants to move up in the world of her business." 

But part of her career path is about emulating the dark side: 

"She, I think, is trying her hand at being Don. I think that's all she knows. That has been her image of leadership."

The hopeful part of the interview, and of the character, is where Moss speculates that Olson will turn about better than her sexist boss:

"Her journey is about discovering how to be her own style of leadership, her own style of management. And I think that she as herself, as Peggy, if she can find that, she will be a much better boss than Don. Because she has a positivity, she has a sensitivity; she’s a woman, and I think that that makes a difference."

Is Moss right? I don't know. Gender difference is an elusive thing. Generally people struggle to survive. Often we mistreat each other, regardless of what category we are or the other person falls into.

One thing I do know is that women's voices are not heard enough. The issues we face are not figured out yet. The home responsibilities, that really are valuable work and are a full-time job on their own, are not treated as such. The inequities are not talked about because it makes us look bad to talk about them. 

Until we can have a real dialogue about the persistent and subtle forms of sexism that exist even today, women aren't really free. It's just an illusion.