Everyday woman-hating

So this morning I’m driving to work, and I’m stopped, as usual, in a line of bumper-to-bumper traffic that’s trying to perform like an 8-way merge to get onto the highway. And when my turn comes to creep forward another few inches, a guy in a giant pickup truck starts trying to force his way in ahead of me. And because I’m petty and I hate line-cutters with a fiery intensity, I take advantage of the fact that my car is miniscule—a two-door Yaris—to scoot around his front bumper, up to the back of the car ahead of me, blocking him from entering my lane and making him probably 4.2 seconds later for work.

As I continue to make my slow way to the on-ramp—a process that takes several minutes—I hear someone shouting. Through my closed windows. Over my not-very-quiet radio. And what he is shouting is “Stupid whore!” Over and over. Dozens of times.

It is, of course, the man in the giant pickup. Who then tailgates me onto the highway, cutting off someone else in a merge so that another car doesn’t come between us.

He follows me, never more than a car length behind, for a mile, onto the interchange with another highway.

He follows me onto this second highway, still never more than a car length away. He swerves in and out of lanes without signaling so that he can stay behind me. He waits behind me at toll booths, even when I pull up to the longer lines. He follows me, ultimately, for over 20 miles, over the course of half an hour. Never more than a car length behind, even when traffic begins moving at 80 miles an hour.

He does not honk. He does not flash his lights. He does not make rude or intimidating gestures in my rearview mirror, when I dare to look in it. He just follows me, very closely, for a very long time.

Finally, I approach my exit from the highway. I move to the right-hand lane, trying frantically to think of a place where I can pull over that isn’t my office parking lot (I don’t want him to know where he can find me again), where people would come immediately to help if, dead set on an in-person confrontation, he tracks me until I stop and screams at me, vandalizes my car, hits me with his fists, hits me with his car, pulls out a gun. I’m coming up blank. There’s a mall, but it’s probably not open yet. The post office is small and the workers inside are unlikely to hear anything happening the parking lot. The register attendant at the gas station may not want to get involved, and who knows whether there’ll be anyone at the pumps. If there’s a police station nearby, I don’t know how to get there. I am low on gas. I am very afraid.

Thankfully, although he follows me until the very last second, he does not get off the highway with me. I make it to work only somewhat shaken and a few minutes late. I am unharmed, but I don’t feel safe.

Which is the point, of course. To make sure I don’t feel safe.

I very much doubt that the man in the giant pickup would have been so angry if it had been a man who had refused to let him into the line of traffic. I doubt even more that he would have followed a man for 20 miles in what can only be taken as an implied threat of physical violence. It probably wouldn’t have scared a man, only annoyed him. Because the message wasn’t, “I am superior to you in every way,” which is the normal way to show up a man, and would have been better accomplished by speeding past me, flipping the bird.

No, the message was, “I see you, bitch. And I can hurt you any time.”

Ladies and jerks

An internet age ago (Timeliness is a lot to ask of me—my lunch breaks are only so long!) Senator Arlen Specter said this to Representative Michelle Bachmann when the two were talking over each other during a radio interview:

Now wait a minute! Don’t interrupt me, I didn’t interrupt you. Act like a lady.

Yeah, gross, obviously. And over at Broadsheet, Tracy Clark-Flory makes this perfectly valid point:

Many women interpret “act like a lady” to mean “know your place, little girl.” This comes from spending a lifetime being instructed in various ways to sit back politely, speak up only when called upon and defer to the male ego.

But “act like a lady” is more pernicious than that. It sets up a dichotomy between the “right way” and “wrong ways” to be a woman. The concept is ridiculous on its face—all women are real women—and it’s intensely limiting and therefore misogynist without further elaboration, but all that much more so when you realize there’s no similar proscription for men—”Act like a gentleman” is only ever said to toddler boys being told to let a girl go ahead of them on the slide. Good men are… well, they’re just called “good men,” but almost never gentlemen. Bad men are assholes, jerks, bastards, and lowlifes, but never not men. No one ever tells them they’re doing manhood wrong; no one ever threatens to revoke the status of “gentleman” from a man who annoys them.

And that’s exactly what this is: a threat. Ladies are treated as nearly human, and ladies are afforded special protection from all those dirtbags, creeps, cads, and sons-of-bitches out there, as well as from swearing, raised voices, and the burdens of intellectual endeavor. All those not-ladies? Those women? Well, without a man to protect them, without the deference accorded to ladies, they’re vulnerable to all kinds of repellent exploitations, and no man would sully his reputation by being seen to intercede with a reprobate, malefactor, thug, or weasel on behalf of some dirty, amoral, impertinent bitch.

Specter is threatening to revoke Bachmann’s status as a lady, leaving her open to attack—from him and from others—with the strong implication that she will deserve whatever she gets. And I’m not just talking about having her political views mocked in the press. Ladyhood is set up as a status vital to the survival of women, that is granted, very rarely, by men of power, and can be revoked by any man for any reason at any time.

To tell a woman to act like a lady is not merely patronizing and dismissive, it is an overt reminder of women’s lower status in society and the fact that women require men’s assent to achieve anything and for men to behave in a “gentlemanly” manner at all times to avoid everything from social rejection to physical violence.

Attention, print media: Content has always been free

I ran across this sentence in a New York Times article today about the expected Apple tablet.

Almost all media companies have run aground in the Internet Age as they gave away their print and video content on the Web and watched paying customers drift away as a result.

This makes that vein in my eyelid throb. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that these writers seem to think that readers only want content if it costs them money, but if it’s free they’re suddenly not interested. This sentence is emblematic of the intensely stupid way reporters write about the collapse of print media. They think that their content generates revenue—that readers pay their salaries, basically. In fact, content has always been free. What subscribers and newsstand buyers pay for issues doesn’t even cover the costs of printing and delivery. Content attracts eyeballs; print media makes money by charging advertisers to put their messages in front of those eyeballs. Producing content costs publishers money; ads pay the bills. It’s the exact same model as television, which everyone understands, but suddenly when we’re talking about pieces of paper instead of moving images, everyone gets confused. Or rather, reporters, who tend to have grand and romantic ideas about who they are and what they do, sell their reporter-centric version of the universe to readers, who are apparently tricked into believing that it’s true because it’s so often repeated.

But lisa over at Sociological Images put it so succinctly that I’m going to let her have the last word, with a few keywords swapped to make it about print media:

The real purpose of print media isn’t to inform you, but to collect a predictable audience that publishers can then sell to companies. Ads. Ads are the reason that journalism exists.

MOTHER. FUCK.

All the local stations are calling it. Coakley conceded. Somehow Massachusetts elected a forced-birth advocating, birth-certificate denying, Kennedy-hating teabagger.

I am deeply ashamed of my state right now. Congratulations, fellow voters. If you’re a wealthy, straight, white, able-bodied, Christian man between 35 and 60 who has a recession-proof job, high-quality, low-cost health insurance, and a small enough heart to only care about people just like you, Scott Brown might not be that bad for you.

Anyone know of any expatriate newspapers looking for a good editor?

The Senate race is giving me heart palpitations

Wish I had a moment to say something more in-depth, but since I’m using my lunch break to both eat and post this, I’ll have to settle for a few thoughts.

1. The weather here is shitty—wet, sloppy snow—and that probably helps Brown. Low turnouts are generally good for challengers because their voters tend to be more motivated. They’ll turn out in muck to change the system, whereas supporters of incumbents (or members of entrenched incumbent parties, in this case) feel their candidate is safe without their votes and are more easily convinced to stay home.

2. However, turnout has been surprisingly strong so far, which I think is a good sign for Coakley. It could be that every last member of Brown’s base is at the polls and they alone are enough to make turnout look high for an off-year special election, but I doubt it. What I think is happening is that all the national coverage of Brown’s surge has led a lot of complacent Massachusetts liberals to realize that, for once, the primaries were not the only vote that matters. The same goes for people who were going to stay home because because, you know, Coakley sucks, who’re now realizing that it’s important to hold their noses and vote the ticket if they don’t want zombie Ted Kennedy on their doorsteps tomorrow.

3. It’s important to note that the Globe article is referring to strong turnout in Boston, which is usually very strongly Democratic and always the source of the lion’s share of the state’s votes. In Boston, most people can walk to their polling places. This may make a difference, because the largest Republican enclaves are on the Cape and along the I-495 loop that skirts the city, where all those people who have office jobs in Boston but don’t want to see a person of color in their neighborhood live. If it snows hard enough, especially if the roads get bad, those people might decide to go straight home after work. A girl can dream.

4. If Scott Motherfucking Brown wins this election, I’m moving to France, where I can vote Socialist, spend a month on the Riviera every summer, and drink red wine by the gallon. À bientôt, mes amis.

Reason #5092 Mel Gibson offends my every sensibility

I saw the 30-second TV cut of this trailer probably 3 or 4 times before I realized that the reason Mel Gibson sounded like he was wearing someone else’s dentures was that he was trying to effect a Boston accent. Even then, it only clicked because I recognized a quarter-second shot of the I-93 tunnel.

Which is really to say, Hi, I’m not dead. Just busy with new-job stuff. Please continue to bear with me while I adjust.

Major announcement!!11!!eleventy-one!

Hello, my dear readers! My darling, lovely, unfathomably patient readers! I am very happy and more than a little surprised to see both of you still here.

You may wonder where I have gotten myself off to, lo, these many months I allowed this blog to gather virtual dust, and I have an answer for you! The answer is: I was job-hunting.

I mean, I’ve been job-hunting since before I graduated almost a year ago, in a sort of my-this-is-unpleasant-maybe-I-should-just-go-play-some-Rock-Band kind of way, but right around the time my student loan payments started coming due, I decided to really buckle down. And after several months of aggressive, soul-sucking, mind-numbing, exuberance-repressing, swear-swallowing job-searching, I am very pleased to announce that I am employed! Or I will be, come early January. I’ll be copy editing and writing for a couple of specialty magazines that I will decline to name for the sake of both my own anonymity and their ability to not be associated with that crazy ball-buster lady on the internet.

Which brings me to what I really want to talk about: navigating the job market as a big ol’ scary feminist. I remain pseudonymous here primarily to preserve my hireability—not because anything I write here is so outrageous that it should cost me a job, by any reasonable measure, but because employers, especially media employers, can get skittish about people maintaining non-work-related blogs. And I’m just not willing to give this up, despite my occasional prolonged and unannounced absences. I need a place to vent, where I can say, “Just hearing the name ‘Stupak’ makes me want to emigrate,” or, “Has anyone else noticed that most of the ads scheduled to run on that Funniest Ads of 2009 special on TBS aren’t so much ‘very funny’ as ‘over-the-top sexist‘?” without apology or qualification. While I am perfectly happy to accept that the office is not the place for these conversations, I’m not willing to stop having them, or to stop having them with the widest audience I can reach. The easiest way to prevent a company from seeing a personal blog as conflicting with its corporate image is to simply never connect your blogging and professional identities.

But keeping the two separate on job interviews made me feel like I was in the feminism closet, like I was hiding myself and failing to perform the kind of quotidian activism that is often both the hardest and most immediately effective. Not that anyone said anything blatantly sexist in an interview and I let it slide, of course, just that, well, I could have put my blog on my resume. Maintaining a website, writing coherently, commenting incisively—these are skills media employers find useful. But I worried—what if they think I can’t play nice at the office? What if the blog helps get me the job, but then they monitor it and later tell me, you can’t say that, please delete this, would you consider not swearing so damn much? So I left it off.

And at interviews I asked questions like, “Can you describe your ideal employee for this position?” and “What’s a typical day here like?” instead of things I really wanted to know, like, Can I take a half day to go to a rally? Who is That Guy here—the one who will always treat me like a child, because every office has one—and how closely will I have to work with him? Will people take suggestions about changing sexist, racist, ableist, heteronormative, etc. langauge in stride, or will it be a huge fight every time? Can I just tell people that I’m an atheist feminist with socialist leanings, too liberal for even Massachusetts’ Democratic party, and expect acceptance, or will those parts of my identity be relegated to the internet and weekends?

I still don’t have the answers to those questions, but I suspect that when I get them, they’ll be ones I can live with. Although the process hasn’t been without compromise, I’ve been extremely lucky, and extremely privileged, in my pursuit of the dream of steady paychecks and decent health benefits. Now that I seem to have attained it, it’s time for Phase II: sneaking activism into the workplace. Oh, and buying office-friendly pants.

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