Thursday, June 26, 2014

And one day, the women all vanished . . . .

Today it was  "mansplained" to me (and not just by one man)  that feminist theory  was no longer relevant, and  "so 1995."  Meaning that we've moved on, of course, and that "way back in the Dark Ages of 1995, we might have needed it, but we're post-feminist now.   And no one's doing Feminist theory any more, with a capital F or a small f." Meaning that searching for a feminist theorist to hire  would be "like going after a needle in a haystack." (That's a quote.) After I pressed down my hackles and pushed my canine teeth back into place, a familiar sense of heartsickness overcame me.  I left the meeting thinking---a lot about my lifetime as a female human being.  When and how had I myself  become a feminist? 

I might start with  a particular moment at age 4 when it dawned on me just how good my musician father had it, working and traveling out in the world, while my mother (willingly) stayed home and raised children, and took care of all the household details (repairs, bills, grocery shopping, laundry) so he wouldn't be troubled.  During this time  my younger brother discovered his amazing penis, which my mother was always describing as "so cute when he runs," and I started having a recurring dream that lasted well into my teens. The interior of a church with an altar, a woman in a white bridal dress, a silhouette of a man dressed all in black, and blinding light pouring through a window from on high, revealing that the man had no face.  Many permutations later, it occurred to me the dream had something to do with (thanks, Dr. Freud) my early ambivalences about marriage. But, no, I turned into a wild tomboy who swore and fought more than the boys I hung out with, and I thought girls were "stupid."  So when my non-nonsense Uncle Joe told me  that one day I was going to grow up and discover boys, I was so utterly grossed out that all my pre-pubescent fury was rekindled. Then the visions returned. Only these were real life. Girlfriends of mine abused by boyfriends.  My concerned mother telling me I couldn't play tackle football with the boys any more because I was getting *breasts.* My well-meaning mother telling me I looked l like a whore at 14 the day I came home from school after some girlfriends of mine insisted on putting blue eyeshadow on my eyelids.  And so it goes . . . .

The male biology teacher in 9th grade (it was a 10th grade biology class) who informed me, after I got one of the highest grades in the class and told him exuberantly after class how much I wanted to be a veterinarian, that girls didn't make good science students and I'd be better off majoring in English and being a teacher.  Since that's what ultimately happened, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  This was offset somewhat by having a woman chemistry teacher in 11th grade and though I was terrible at it, my friend Jackie aced the stuff, and so I came to love it, and went from a D to a B, with Jackie tutoring me in Chem and me tutoring Jackie in English.  Perhaps something of an irony: the chemistry teacher wore a lot of blue eyeshadow on her eyelids. She also told us when her sister got married no one had told the poor woman about sex, so on the night of her honeymoon the sister calls the mother screaming that her new husband is crazy. When the mother asked for information, the sister wept the details into the phone, whereupon the mother assured her that this was "normal," and this is what "men wanted."

Cut to: sexual revolution. I'm 16 and suddenly everything is up for grabs. All my friends are having sex, I'm sneaking off to make out with guys a decade my senior, and we all think we're being so liberated, until it eventually  . 

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