When I was a child, girls wore dresses and knee socks in blizzards. Since we lived in the sticks, we had to wait for a bus to pick us up for school, and had to wait 30 minutes before we were allowed to give it up and go home. We didn’t get curb service either. We had to walk to the bus stop at the end of the street where there wasn’t any shelter so we could fully appreciate the various stages of frost bite. I resented and envied boys’ sensible shoes and pants, but I wasn’t supposed to talk about that. This is the way life is. Be quiet. Quit asking questions about why that’s the way life is.
If I raised my hand in Sunday school, the teacher barely contained her exasperation, but “that’s the way it is” and “be quiet” didn’t answer my spiritual questions, the same way those kinds of answers in regular school didn’t advance my education. My evil, skinny grandmother punished me for beating my cousin in checkers. I suppose it didn’t help that he was several years older than me, or that it was 5 or 6 games in a row, but why shouldn’t I win the game if I could? “Let boys win!” “But why?” “That’s the way it is!”
I could come up with more moments of suppression, but I think you get the point. I’ll skip over the lingering resentments about being the oh-damn-it’s-another-girl in the family, just before the golden penis was born. Besides, most girls my age or older know the story anyway. A lot of women didn’t drive, work, or have the ability to do anything without the permission of men. If we really wanted some independence, we could be a teacher, secretary, or nurse. Otherwise, plan on getting married and using your body as a baby factory. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a good husband who won’t hit you and gives you trinkets every now and then.
The world changed as I was growing up. People started getting divorced. Women started working. People quit wearing hats to church. Life got psychedelic, then punk. Girls were now supposed to get a job, but some things hadn’t changed much. Some men felt threatened and took out their insecurities on women in their domain. I was told to “be quiet” by my female coworkers when I was upset a man kept sneaking behind me and grabbing me. “He’ll get tired of harassing you and start picking on someone else eventually.” The big boss wouldn’t reprimand the guy and I ended up threatening the offender with an X-Acto knife because I couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore. I felt betrayed by the women. Where was the solidarity? But women are often the hardest on other women. Get in line because that’s the way life is. Why? It just is.
Now, the world expects me to forget all of that stuff as ancient history. “Be quiet” isn’t acceptable anymore. “Get out there and sell yourself!” But sometimes that’s hard to do with decades of “be quiet” and “let boys win” programming, and the really annoying part of that piece of advice is that the boys didn’t even know we were letting them win. They actually thought they were better than the girls, which gave men the right to pay us less and pass us over for promotions, and since we were passed over, they can use our previous lowly positions as justification to pass us over again.
Don’t get me wrong, I like men, at least a lot of them. I just don’t like the chauvinism in society and sometimes struggle with my place in it. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my voice because I was told “be quiet” once, or maybe a thousand times too often. Besides, a lot of the people telling me to shut up were women: teachers, grandma, co-workers, etc. I felt furious with myself when I debated about whether or not to take a dive in Trivial Pursuits with a boyfriend. I was winning, but worried about his ego. He finally won fair and square, but I thought, what about my ego? I told him about my internal struggle, and he was upset I’d considered losing on purpose. Even though we’re the same age, by gender, we’ve lived in very separate universes. I compensated for my mental lapse by beating him at checkers. He didn’t like that either, but the world didn’t collapse. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have a right to my own voice and it’s okay to win.
BTW, I really like looking at other artists’ layouts and works in progress, but I thought I’d show why I don’t show too many of them myself. Yeah, that’s fine art on a paper plate :) I thought about Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” idea first, which might’ve been a happier post? In any case, you can listen to it here. I think it’s interesting that he remade the song as the father. You can see that here.