Not Alone

Mitch and I went to Bristol Brewery in Colorado Springs over break. (We had Winter Warlock and Compass IPA on nitro.) (Rachel was supposed to meet us there but ditched us.) I was telling him how growing up, by which I really mean my whole life but especially when I was younger, being a woman was regarded as being a bit silly. Silly and unreliable. Sometimes someone would say something directly along those lines, but for the most part it was just part of the atmosphere. Watery sexism for the masses.

I was telling him over my second beer how, in the past couple years, there's been some budging away from that in my life. My strategy used to be that if I could show no signs of woman-ness or girl-ness, then I could maybe do something cool with my life, be taken seriously. Frustration at other girls who would do things that confirmed that girls were emotional, attached -- or when they made mistakes -- compressed a kind of rage within me. All these girls, where was their self-respect?

But I've been reading Alice Munro this year, and she turns girl-stuff -- role expectations, the pressures of desire, the duplicity of one's mind -- into first-rate, suspenseful human drama. She can have a character make an apple pie without dragging in rolled-up puffy sleeves and a red-checkered napkin. Munro does fiction always real and always with semi-paralyzing gravity.

And then there was WILD FLAG at Pitchfork and Carrie Brownstein playing her guitar -- and I mean, not like I'm used to, not self-conscious, not to look pretty or sexy or to look anyhow to anyone (even though she is a performer up on a stage). She played to the music -- and I mean, she also played the actual music, but she played to it in that the way she played it made the music more awesome, like she was lifting it up and giving it to everyone. (Janet Weiss was amazing on drums.)

Julia Gillard breaks into this speech in the Australian parliament. You can feel the rage coming off her as she methodically, perfectly butchers the leader of the opposition on his sexism and the sexism that has been tolerated in Australian politics.

I won't even mention GIRLS from this year, even though it's very worth mentioning. But there's this comment on an AV Club article written by the author of the article (Todd VanDerWerff) in response to someone's remark (presumably a snarky one that says something disparaging about Lena Dunham based on how she looks - the actual comment isn't really the point); it makes me tear up a little reading it. It's well-written, well-considered and makes me feel stuck-up-for and, moreover, he seems right! He's seemingly done a stand-up-against-sexism-and-general-poor-dialogue thing without losing his credibility.

(Talking to Mitch about all these things would require more than two beers. The actual conversation cut some corners and was more like "Mitch, there have been some things (!) this year, and I think women might actually be cool.")

And most recently there's been an article by A.O. Scott in the New York Times about heroine movies in Hollywood. It's, again, extremely well-thought out and written, and it contains the paragraph:

"The stated desire for more, better or different kinds of movie representation, like other forms of feminist advocacy, is often met with defensiveness, or heard as special pleading. Girls like action movies, too, so what’s the problem? Women talk about men all the time, don’t they? Lighten up! I promise I will, but not before noting a deep and ancient bias that underlies the way we talk about movies, and what we see in them — namely the assumption that stories about men are large, important and universal, while stories about women are particular, local and trivial."*

There are people out there saying and doing these things; I could have spent my adolescence being myself and it would have been possible, after all, to matter to people.

We drove home to my parents's house. We played cards with my brothers. I was feeling a little tipsy. One of my brothers taunted the other one by comparing him to a girl, and the rest of that discussion is a bit fuzzy to me. I do know that I left the room saying, "I'm fucking serious," (with tears).

See, because unlike these other things, these other people that I've mentioned, my standing up for women and feminism and All That is not measured, is not well-spoken. (I have this thing where I yell at people.) It's a crush of that rage I've been compressing and the frustration of convincing people that I know what I'm talking about and that what I'm saying matters.

My brother told me I was being irrational and that it was just a joke. My mother looked at me from across the room with a face that said -- how dare you scold my precious sons!

I went downstairs to my old room and sat on the floor between my bed and the wall. I saw it as an unfortunate end to what had been a nice evening with my family... who I don't get to see often. (Shit.) (And the other thing with my walk away line: my mom and brothers really don't like swearing. It's a whole other debate we have.) I figured I'd just go to bed, then. Too mad, anyway.

And if you have made it this far, I hope it pays off like I want it to because my mom walked downstairs to me without turning on the hallway light. She told me she remembered one time when she went home to her parents's house, and her brother said something that made her so mad she started arguing with him. "And everybody was looking at me like, 'What's her deal?'" She gave me a hug, and I felt a lot less mad.

Not so alone after all.

*I found those last two bits thanks to the NPR blog "Monkey See," which is also great.

1 comment:

  1. I'm pleased with the PM of Australia and I also felt some really positive emotion when I read that AV Club dude's comment on the Girls article. I think you have a really strong voice to join along with other strong women in our culture (e.g. Carrie Brownstein, Tina Fey, etc. (interesting that they're entertainers)).

    There are so many changes I hope to see become reality in the next decade or so, not the least of which is that more women are brought to tears by the behavior of men (and even other women) around them because they really, truly care about equality and about being strong and not ruled over. Once more women can admit (like you Amy) how imbalanced this world still is, and can really feel strongly about it, then, and only then, can there be full scale change (I think). Men can't do it. Not through legislation; not through stepping down from positions of power; not even from just failing out of high school or not pursuing higher education. Women need to take it, insurrection style, in a way.

    I do think, however, that men can help women take the power they deserve. Through empathy, a keener perspective, and a swallowing of pride, men have to be an asset to women becoming more equal and doing badass things.

    Anyway, I think I'm saying this because I want to empathize and want more women in power and doing awesome things. Sexuality won't get out of the way--it will always be a determining issue--but it can become less overblown and sensationalized in and by the media. The women who are taking power and creating great things and making the world awesome are not always going to look like Allison Williams (as per the AV Club dude's comment), and that is and needs to be more than okay. It's ridiculous to think otherwise.