So between twenty and forty years ago we tried out this social protocol that never made any sense; it said, if a female got all p*ssed off at you in the office, for any reason whatsoever, you were gone. Yeah yeah, supposedly if she was a nutcase and just made up lies about you, the system would offer you some superficial construct of something that resembled due process, and if you were innocent you’d be exonerated. But everyone with a brain knew then, and knows now, that it worked out like that about as often as the cops busted the guy who took the radio out of your car. So when the rubber hit the road, any ol’ psychotic b*tch could spin any tale she wanted and it would work. Doubly so if you were highly placed and had real authority over people. The archives are not exactly brimming over with stories of such men successfully finding employment elsewhere, so this had a definite career-limiting effect, on the basis of what in who-knows-how-many cases amounted to nothing at all.
Now we’ve got this tiresome mantra being recited ad nauseum, “stick a fork in him, he’s done!” about a promising presidential candidate, because a bunch of nameless virtually-existent women say that back in the 1990′s he did…well…they don’t say what. One of them has revealed herself, after having been delicately walked to the podium by none other than reptilian litigator Gloria Allred, and now we’re supposed to pretend they’ve all done that. So the people with the loudest voices who hand out these rules by which the rest of us are supposed to be living, seem to think we’re still back in the 1990′s. The whole Anita Hill “Woemyn don’t lie about this stuff” thing.
Margot is all p*ssed off at me, doesn’t want me commenting at her blog anymore and has probably blocked me. I’m thinking I’ll go ahead and accommodate that. I’m on her side with regard to some things, since we’re both parents who object to the media messages being given to our children. But I’ve been victimizing and oppressing her lately, which is to say I have been disagreeing with her. Chapstick put up an ad prominently displaying a woman from an angle Margot did not appreciate, and she protested this; then, someone promoted a Christmas movie with artwork that did not prominently display a woman and she objected to that. I pointed out the obvious dichotomy and was given just some limited number of chances to reform and recant, either to pretend I was in complete agreement or shut my over-privileged male mouth. Well, I just don’t live in that kind of a world. To me, if you’re protesting one thing, and then two weeks later you’re protesting its opposite, that means the point of your protests is to protest. And if someone points it out and your response is “Hey, don’t point that out,” that just proves it all the more. But either way, this is not constructive. It doesn’t empower women. It doesn’t send the message out “Portray women in a dignified way or else not at all”; it sends out the message “Don’t portray women, in any way, because it just isn’t worth the grief and it isn’t worth the trouble.”
Unstable women filing frivolous complaints against the director of the National Restaurant Association, and being given hush money after proving absolutely nothing, then emerging from the woodwork fourteen years later to alter the outcome of a presidential election even when their stories don’t make any sense — that doesn’t empower women either. It certainly doesn’t make life easier for women who are looking for jobs. The message that says is: Keep the b*tches at arms’ length if you can’t afford a big payout. Actually, several big payouts.
Wonder Woman in long pants doesn’t empower women. Arguing about Wonder Woman’s costume, while the movie or other creative effort is in development stages, doesn’t empower women. What that does is make it likely the movie will be canceled. It leads to Green Lantern, Batman, Thor, Iron Man, Superman et al making it to the big screen, raking in the bucks, while the Champion of Themyscira gathers dust and languishes. Which means it leads to feminists complaining about the male superheroes getting more attention. Which makes feminists feel satisfied and happy, maybe even a little bit more churlish and full of themselves than usual, but it does not empower women.
Making a commercial, and adhering to a hard-and-fast rule that the wife has to use the right brand of oven cleaner or pain reliever, and the husband has to use Brand X, does not empower women. Making “family comedy” movies in which the dad is the bad guy, who spends way too much time at the office and is missing out on his kids’ soccer games and school plays, and the happy ending is realized only when dad realizes what a colossal doofus and dolt he’s been and resolves to do better — this does not empower women. It makes the real dad wish the family had gone out to do something else, or picked a different movie, it makes the kids feel smug and smarmy and maybe it has the same effect on some of the moms. It causes an exquisite pain in the wallet, once it’s realized that the household shelled out more than a hundred bucks on a medium of entertainment that lasted less than two hours on a weekend. But it isn’t empowering. For anybody. What it is, is boring. Expensive, unfunny and boring.
California sending a great big termagant delegation of frumpy pantsuit-wearing female senators, congresswomen, et al to Washington, to peel off with silly, irrational paranoid things with their big fat mouths, does not empower women. Rationalizing and legitimizing every single snotty, dismissive insult possible against beautiful women running for office, does not empower women. A late night comedian making jokes about Sarah Palin’s daughter getting molested, does not empower women. Denying justice to Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey, just because Bill Clinton is influential in keeping abortion legal, does not empower women. Normalizing gay marriage does not empower women.
Marlene yelling “Get It Yourself, Bob!” does not empower women.
Showing men that women can decide things, does not necessarily empower women. Showing us that women can do it unilaterally, and that the man’s opinion is ineffectual and irrelevant, does not empower women. Denying men due process does not empower women, and driving them from promising careers on the basis of hearsay does not empower women.
I’ll make it real simple. If it’s something that would give a reasonable man some incentive to say “Yeah, I can live with this” — then it empowers women. If it’s something that would motivate that same reasonable man to shut his mouth, and quietly daydream about going someplace far, far away…maybe daydream about fly-fishing in a mountain stream a mile above sea level…then it does not empower women. Simple as can be. Sure, it would be politically correct to leave it up to the women to say “Yeah, this is good, someone else can co-exist with us when it works this way” — but that wouldn’t make any sense. Who among us can decide whether others can live with us? If you want to see how the Earth looks from the Moon, you’re in a better position to determine this when you’re on the Moon, right? If there’s an open question on the can-live-with and some testing needs to be done, you leave it up to the ones who have to do that living. Leave it up to the dudes.
You may say, “Freeberg, that makes no sense! Going by your rule, female empowerment depends on whether men and women can live together! You’re allowing female empowerment to be decided by the men!”
Or “Freeberg, that’s just wrong! Your rule would say women are not empowered when they refuse to bring their husband a beer! And are empowered if they go ahead and do that!”
Or “Freeberg, you’re whacked in the head! Your rule would say women are not empowering themselves if they boycott a Hooters restaurant opening in their neighborhood, but are empowering themselves if they let it open!”
Or “Freeberg, you silly goose you! What you’re saying is that women can’t acquire power, until & unless they first give some up!”
Or “Freeberg, you’re not living in the real world! You’re saying women cannot be empowered unless men can exist in proximity to them, and still do the things they want to do!”
And……..yup. Yup and yup and yup and yup. Exactly. Women are empowered in such a way that women and men can co-exist with some reasonable expectation of peace and harmony…or else…they aren’t empowered at all.
And no, I’m not saying men should own women, or treat them like pets or playthings or sex slaves. I said reasonable men.
Women are approachable and therefore empowered, or unapproachable and therefore de-powered. Like I said. Simple. This is a bigger issue than females and feminism. Real power has something to do with the desires of people who are outside of the power-pursuit. Real power involves incentives; positive-enforcement. It involves relationships. You aren’t more powerful, in the position you occupy in any social gathering, if the consensus desire is that you should disappear. You can’t decide for yourself “I am powerful” any more than you can decide for yourself “I make a good friend.”
My fiance brought me a beer without my asking when I was halfway through writing this post. Choke on it.