Thursday, April 28, 2016

The perils of paying attention.

You know how they say if you're not angry, then you're not paying attention? Is there an end to that statement that warns you that if you start paying attention, you're likely to become so enraged that you won't be able to sleep, and you won't be able to talk without crying, and there is nothing else you think about except the glaring injustices you are now finally seeing? 

I don't remember reading that part. 

I have been quiet here. I have been too angry to write. I've been too full of despair, felt too isolated. This started back when Hillary lost Michigan. The things that people were saying about her enraged me, and in that moment I could see the presidency slipping from her, and I couldn't help but wonder what would be different if she were a man. (Please note: I'm not arguing that she lost MI because she's a woman.)

Right after that, we watched American Crime Story, and it was the Marcia Clark episode. I haven't stopped thinking about it. It wrecked me, and I don't know if I'll ever actually find the words to talk about it here.

Then, I heard a fact about how Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has two Oscars all to himself but only one woman in the history of the Academy has ever won an Oscar for directing. Let's just say the population is split 50/50, men and women. Shouldn't the Oscars reflect that, just a little? And then I had a dream where I won an Academy Award for directing, but the Oscar itself was modified to look like a cartoonish woman, and it wasn't made of solid gold like the real Oscar - it was plastic. Winning the award was considered just as prestigious, but I was being given the Lady Oscar, not the real Oscar. And in my dream, I tried to reason with myself that I still won an Oscar and I should be happy, and this shouldn't be a big deal.

And then I was driving Maddie to school one day and a thought popped into my head that unless abortion is legal, women have no choice in parenthood but men do. Once a woman is pregnant and denied access to abortion, she is saddled with a child. A man can just bolt. I've always been pro-choice, but I'd never thought about it this way. It filled me with rage.

And then I read this article about how if Bernie were a woman, he'd never have gotten this far, and if Hillary, as a woman, were as "revolutionary" as Bernie, she would've never gotten this far, and the only way she DID get this far was to play the game the way it's supposed to be played, and that Bernie has been able to play the game differently because he's a man.

And then I saw this. In case you don't feel like clicking, it's a link to a Bernie Sanders event called "Bern the Witch."

And then all of these injustices started popping up in my head. When you're a fat teenage girl, you're mocked and teased and made to feel like you're supposed to be something else, something better. When you're a fat teenage boy, you're encouraged to play football. Unless you're an effeminate fat teenage boy - and then you're mocked and teased and made to feel like you're supposed to be something else, something better. When you're a guy and you don't shave, you look rugged and manly. When you're a woman and you don't shave, you're a man-hating hippie.

When you're a woman running for president, you have to show up with makeup on and hair done. You have to pick an outfit strategically - it's not just a necktie you have to worry about. You have to be careful to not raise your voice, lest you sound "shrill." People talk about your fat thighs and your small breasts. Forget your experience - you are reduced to your parts, and to an idea of what a woman should be.

Generally speaking, I have been lucky. My mom raised me to not depend on men, ever. She raised me to not depend on anyone, so I never have (although I have eased in quite comfortably to the role of silent partner when it comes to bill-paying in our household). I was a theatre kid/band geek in high school, so my male friends were mostly gay, or super intelligent, or both. I have worked for the past 10 years for a company run by two women, full of more women than men.

Still: I have suffered on account of being a woman. I have been told to smile by men I don't know. I have been whistled at. I have received unwanted sexual comments. I have been afraid. I have felt less-than, because I don't look the way I think I'm supposed to look, the way men want me to look. In the field as a director, I've been surrounded by men, sometimes men who don't respect me because I'm a woman, men who will question my authority or knowledge, but who would never do the same to a man. I've been treated poorly by men who do not find me sexually desirable - men I've WORKED with.

I have never been raped. I am one of the lucky ones. Years ago, I had this notion that I would never be raped because men didn't want me enough. That is a seriously messed up way of thinking on so many levels, borne of decades of not feeling attractive, of seeing what is considered beautiful and noticing that I don't fit into that.

Somehow, for most of my life, I have ignored most of this, or I just haven't let it bother me. I've just accepted it as part of my life. But lately, the egregiousness of it is consuming me. I don't know if it's in such stark relief now because there is a woman running for president, and it's clear to me how differently she is judged than her male opponents, or if because there is at least one male running for president who openly despises women. Maybe it's because I now have two young girls I'm raising, who look to me to learn how to live in this world, who already have their own ideas of what is feminine and what isn't, who will only learn more as they get older how unfairly women are treated. Or maybe it's because finally, at 37 years old, I know for certain that I am worth the space I take up, that I have just as much to offer as any man does, that if the boys get to play, then I get to play too. Maybe it's because I finally understand that there is no wrong way to be a woman, so the kind of woman I am is the right kind of woman, because there is no other option. I guess it's never too late to learn.