Why is it okay for women to talk smack about men, but it is considered vile and sexist for men to talk smack about women? If a man says to you, "I just want to slap the bitch," you assume he's a wife-beating idiot. But if a woman says, "Sometimes I want to kick his ass!" somehow that's okay. I think it's not okay. I think if we want respect, we should give respect.
First wave feminism was women saying, "We deserve the right to vote." Second wave feminism was women saying, "We deserve the right to control our own bodies." Third wave feminism is, "We can say and do what we want to in and out of the bedroom. We control our own private and public lives. We will define what it means to be queer/straight, feminist, female." But that does not give us the right to be a bitch.
I'm at a party and a woman comes up to me and starts telling me how stupid her husband is. "He's an idiot," she says. "He has no idea what the kids are up to; I don't know how he keeps his job. He's a walking moron." I keep listening. While she goes on about her golf playing idiot husband, I think, "This would not work the other way around."
Storm Large sang at the Lake Oswego Country Club on August 15th, 2013, the love song that Olivia Newton John sang, "Hopelessly Devoted to You." She prefaced the song by saying that she wanted everyone to picture a different sort of scene from the one in the movie. In the scene she described, John Travolta was taped to the toilet in a public bathroom and she had her heeled boot in the small of his back. She left that image with the audience, and then she sang. I continue to be haunted by that image and that song.
Let's imagine for a moment that the song were reversed. Let's imagine that Bruce Springsteen sings a song in which he imagines duct taping Gwyneth Paltrow to the toilet in a public bathroom. Then he imagines putting his boot in the small of her back. Would that be funny? Would that be cute? Would anyone cheer? That's a big no.
None of the women who I am friends with are stupid. None of them like to be called stupid. We don't like to be talked down to. We don't like it when men talk and talk and we are supposed to smile up at them, those chipper smiles our mothers used to wear at parties. Feminism freed us from that. We get to decide when to smile, who we want to stand and listen to.
We don't like it when men call us stupid, in fact, we won't tolerate it. But it's become okay to diss men especially white men. White men have had the upper hand for a long time in Western civilization. The British used to call it the great chain of being: God, white British men, other white men, white women, white children, men of color, women and children of color, animals, trees and vegetation, rocks and earth. I always like to think that as a woman of Jewish descent, the great chain of being left me closer to earth than to God.
In this country, white men still hold the power to make the major decisions in politics and in business. They make the money. They make the decisions. Many American households are controlled by men. We live in a post colonial world and a post racial world, but White men still hold the cards. Because of that, they are fair game. It's fair game to call them stupid. Fair game to imagine them taped up against a toilet with a foot in the small of their back. Fair game to talk about them as if they were animals, closer to earth than God.
A sense of humor is what helps us understand ourselves and each other. It helps us understand race, culture, and class. We understand rich people, we understand not to take ourselves seriously. There's joking about your husband needing to write himself a note to remind himself to get gas Or throwing his wallet in the washer. Or him laughing at her problems with technology or losing her car in parking lots. But laughing at something quirky about your spouse isn't fantasizing about taping a man you've never met to a public toilet and humiliating him.
My friend Barbara and I were talking about our many friends in their thirties who somehow cannot find the right man. Nobody is quite right for them. We agreed that neither of us had ever had any trouble finding a guy and she said something that I keep remembering. She said, "I like men and that comes across to them. I like them." That's how I feel too. I do like men.
I'm just returning from New York where I got a lot of smiles from guys on the street as I walked around New York in my grey boots and short skirts. I like those smiles, and I smiled back. I don't like men who are overbearing and talk all the time and think they're smarter than women. But there are a lot of great men out there. I like how they smile; I like when they respect women and realize we're just as smart as they are, and I like it when they want to make you happy. I like it when men listen. It used to be so rare, and even now, it surprises me. I'm used to having conversations with women. I'm used to listening to men. But there are exceptions. Exceptional men. I'm married to one. But somehow Third Wave feminism has left us with women thinking it's okay to hate half the people on this planet and yet somehow want to have one of those stupid vain hairy creatures adore us.
We cannot have it both ways. If we want to be respected and loved, we have to respect and love. It's not okay for men to make sexist remarks. It's not okay for men to joke about taping us to the toilet, about putting their boots on our back. It isn't okay for men to boast about sexist behavior toward women. I want men to feel loved and I want them to be loved, just as I want women to feel loved and to be loved. We need more love in the world. It is never okay to put your foot on someone's back. Love is missing from the scenario in the bathroom. Love and kissing. Two of my favorite things.