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.”

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.