Okay, you’re a woman, and you’re being driven mad by the news every day, is it not so? Is it not that you read about all these white guys blithely talking about what you can and can’t do with your own body, and you start feeling the burqua being lowered over your head, while everyone around you pretends to notice nothing, while they chant, “we are the most advanced and tolerant civilzation ever. We are free, we base our culture on freedom!” And meanwhile, you can feel those invisble fetters appearing and chasing you around, and you watch a lot of young women put on fetters thinking they’re just silly little ornaments to attract the boys. And you get very very frustrated and angry, and you want to rip someone’s throat out, but you feel, quite rightly, that not only is that counter productive, but a big waste of your time. But it’s so damn hot out, that doesn’t help things, yet you feel you want to do something constructive about the whole ghastly situation.
So what do you do?
Well, this is how I feel. And this is the question I put to myself: “So what do I do?” And I think about this time I was working on a film as the writer, a script that originally had a heroine who falls in love with the hero who has raped her. The men involved in this project (there were no women) vaguely understood that something was wrong, but for the life of them, they couldn’t figure out what. So they asked my then writing partner (who, three years later, became my life partner, and then, eight years after that, my husband), and he said that they needed a woman. He volunteered that he knew a woman. And so I came on board.
I was married to someone else at the time, one of the many undiscovered white guy geniuses that one finds all over (especially in certain metropolitan areas, where you can’t throw a bagel without hitting one of them), and so naturally, the Undiscovered Genius spent the days I was working watching television. In this particular case, at this particular time, the Anita Hill hearings. Anita Hill, you may remember (and you do remember if you have the kind of feelings I mention in paragraph one), had accused Clarence Thomas of harassing her at work. He memorably was supposed to have asked her if she noticed a pubic hair on a can of Coke
So I would be at work all day, with all these guys, who were well meaning but largely clueless about half of humanity. And let me tell you, there is nothing like being the only woman in a group of middle aged, clueless white guys for having to suck up offensive jokes at the rate of a cartload a day. Pubic hair on the Coke can? Hah! Practically a nursery rhyme. I recall one producer who would hug me hello, and run his hand up my back to see if I was wearing a bra. Suck that one up, too.
I had not the slightest doubt that Mr. Thomas said all that to Ms. Hill, and a lot more.
But I’d get home from work on this film, and the Undiscovered Genius who was my first husband would make scornful remarks about Anita Hill, how she was probably lying, how impossible it was that anything like that could happen.
Yes. Well. That’s why he’s my first, not my present, husband. Thank goodness we didn’t live in a theocracy when I got my divorce. We may yet, though. If certain people get their way.
So what do I, we, do?
Here is my most recent solution, not the end of all solutions, but the one I have to work with today. I grit my teeth. I question ridiculous assumptions with as much courtesy as I can muster, never forgetting to question, and never forgetting to be courteous. I use my power when I can. And I get on with it.
In other words, what I think we can do best, aside from defending our own positions and voting and donating where it will most protect women everywhere, is to get on with understanding what being a woman really means, and acting accordingly.
First of all, it does not mean being an imitation man. Hell with that. Anymore than I think it right for a guy to be an imitation chick.
It means being a full person, and bringing to the party what we can to be that and act like that in the polity. Developing ourselves as women, and speaking up from that place.
It means taking pleasure in every day things, and supporting people in every day walks of life, and not dreaming of things and people ‘beyond our reach’…in other words, it means not being conned by the Big Con that says Rich and Famous people who don’t have to take out their own garbage are somehow different from us, and worthy of more respect than the people who do take out their garbage. Because who needs who the most, I ask you? And everyone deserves the same respect, everyone.
So, it means for me that I should concentrate on my work here, now, do the best I can, and keep going.
And to do that (especially in hot weather), I find cooking to be just about the perfect aid to this kind of meditation. I think about what I want to eat. I think about what I have. I think about what my Dear Husband would like to eat. And, these days, I think about how hot it is. Then I start meditatively chopping and slicing and dicing, and if, in my fantasies, as I think about more nation-wide matters, an image occurs of chopping, slicing, and dicing the organs of certain politicians, well, that’s my right to be amused as I get on with it, don’t you think?
Here is an idea for a chopping, slicing and dicing meal during the dog days of having to listen to idiot politicians, ignorant pundits, and malevolent churchmen:
A Calm and Nourishing Pasta Salad.
First off, what do you have in your larder? This is what you should have:
Some kind of onion (scallion, shallot, yellow, red, or white).
Some kind of green fresh herb (parsley or basil or even cilantro if you like it).
At least two kinds of vegetables (celery, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, what do you have in the fridge? even frozen peas work well here).
Fixings for your favorite salad dressing.(Let me suggest a garlicky viniagrette.)
Some dried pasta, any shape, in the amount of your choice.
Cook the veggies that need it. (Although none of the ones I named above, with the exception of the frozen peas, do, come to think of it. It must be too hot for me to even contemplate that today.) Cool.
Make a salad dressing. Okay, I always seek to encourage personal autonomy, but I can still give you my suggestions here, right? I suggest a good strong viniagrette. For half a pound of pasta and a load of veggies, 1 1/2 tablespoons of a good wine vinegar, or 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, followed by 3 tablespoons of olive oil (with the wine vinegar) or walnut oil (good with the sherry vinegar). Mash a garlic clove into it. Salt and pepper.
Marinate the chopped, diced, or sliced onion in the dressing while you make the rest of it.
Cook the pasta (anywhere from a handful, if you have lots and lots of veggies, to half a pound).
Chop the raw veggies. Or, in the case of the carrot, grate it. Mix all the raw veggies, with the exception of the diced tomato (hold that back for a bit) with the salad dressing. Leave to marinate while the rest of happens.
Let the pasta cool off. I just dump it in a colander, run some cold water on it, tossing it about with my fingers, and then leaving it to drain.
When drained, toss the pasta with the marinated veggies and the dressing. Now add the diced tomatoes. Then chop up as much fresh green herb as you like, and toss THAT. Taste. Need more oil? More vinegar? More salt or pepper? Add judiciously at will.
Then check your teeth. Ungritted? I hope so. Have a glass of wine. Contemplate a world where women don’t have to continually battle against idiocy to make their position clear.
And have a good evening. Turn off the news. Sit with your loved ones. And be happy. Because Living Well is not only the Best Revenge, it’s the Best Example, too.