On “Mansplaining”

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague forwarded an email to me from a web developer who is building a web site for us. She noted with annoyance, “He is mansplaining through this whole thing. Like I need that.”

I read his message, which was an answer to a question about how photos are cropped for responsive sites. He included a graphic with various photo dimensions for different screen sizes. To me, it read like a tech person explaining to a non tech person how the site crops large photos.

How do you explain something without explaining it? Was he supposed to assume that customers who hired him to build a web site already knew the answer to a question they asked?

It’s 2018, and we think ourselves sophisticated and progressive. And yet, women are talking about men in dismissive and derogatory ways that remind me of anti-suffrage propaganda.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t demand respect and not give it. We can’t expect to be treated like princesses while we dole out criticism for nothing. No one is impressed with someone this tedious. No one thinks, “Wow, she is a strong, confident woman.”

If a man asked a female tech the same question, can you imagine the outrage if he made a snide remark about womansplaining?

Last year, my partner and I went to an agricultural fair. We saw a bald eagle flying overhead, and we stopped to watch it. An older man, around 70, looked at me and said, “What are you staring at? It’s an eagle, not a seagull.” He didn’t even look at my very male spouse, but we both kind of laughed and told him that we were watching it because it was a bald eagle. (Besides, we were at least two hours away from the coast.) After the older man walked away, we broke out laughing. Could we call that “mansplaining”? I guess, if I was looking for a way to be offended.

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On the Madness of Crowds

I was born in 1969. I’m one of those almost-50s who looks 35. Generation X is the first generation to benefit from sunscreen and better skin care products.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. When I was in elementary school, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” was still getting airplay. Gloria Steinem was still in her prime as an activist. When I was in junior high, I was feeling a bit grown up and had a few conversations with my fellow preteens about FEMINISM. We didn’t even know what it meant, not really, not in a life experience sense. We were peeking at boys and experimenting with horrid green Aziza eyeshadow and our mothers’ lipsticks.

My grandmother was born in 1923. One day, feeling that we were bonding as women, I asked her how she felt about feminism. Now my grandmother is a no-nonsense lady. She is calm, reserved, and secure in her own skin. She looked at me for a few seconds, her smart brown eyes betraying no emotion, and then she said, “I have never felt that I could not do anything that I wanted to do.”

And that was her answer. I never forgot it.

I feel a couple of ways about the #metoo, pussy hat, man hating “feminism” that is dominating our culture at the moment. I think it’s a shrill, bratty and decidedly unempowered mass tantrum that makes women look like jackasses. I also know that it’s not likely to stick around.

Just like gender identity mania, it’s a cultural moment that will probably temper into something more reasonable.

I like men. No, I love men. Who gave me my first job promotion, paying me $1000 per year more than the male in the same position, in 1990? A white man. Who has given me every promotion and raise since? White men. Who has challenged me to learn more, to sell myself better, to go after goals? White men. Who has never used sex or flirting in a leadership position with me? White men.

Have I ever been annoyed or harassed by some dude? Of course. I’ve been stalked, flirted with, propositioned. I’ve been in sketchy situations in which it was me and a guy in a sex standoff. Have I ever been molested or raped or abused? Nope. You know why? Because I said no, and I meant it. If it came down to a battle of the wills, I won. I walked away. I removed myself from the situation.

Before the pussy hats cry, “But see! You were stalked, flirted with, propositioned! Misogyny!”–stop. How many women have I known who stalked, flirted with and propositioned men? An equal number.

It should go without saying that rape is real. Someone like Bill Cosby is a genuine predator. Some men use drugs, physical force and fear, and those predators must be held accountable and prosecuted. Look at the Catholic Church, an organization so corrupt that I can’t believe anyone supports it. I have never experienced sexual assault, and would not insult those who have–male or female–by pretending that I speak for them or about them.

But when I see the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Ashley Judd reciting bad poetry and making absurd speeches, I call bullshit.

Take Asia Argento.

First, we have Asia the beautiful and privileged daughter of a filmmaker, who was able to get into both acting and directing. Asia, who reportedly had some sort of open relationship with Anthony Bourdain. Asia, whose most recent work of any value was in 2014, if her Wikipedia page is accurate.

Harvey Weinstein is a monstrosity. While I have no knowledge of the facts of any of the acts he is accused of, I will not be surprised if investigations reveal that there is truth to at least some of the claims.

But still.

#metoo might mean “yes, it happened to me too”, and it might mean “make sure you get me in the picture too” The #metoo photobomb.

Let’s say a person of vague morals, whose career peaked a decade ago, had a meeting with Harvey Weinstein 20 years ago. Or 10 years ago. Who remembers? Who keeps track? This, my friends, is opportunity.

‘Oh my how terrible!’ you cry. ‘How dare you? Woman hater!’ you cry.

Why must we assume that accusers are angelic? Why must we assume guilt and innocence? I am not a detective. I am not investigating the accusations. Neither are you, probably.

After Anthony’s very tragic death, it comes out that he paid off a male on Asia’s behalf, who accused her of taking advantage of him. Now, that accuser is accused of harassing someone else. Rose McGowan saw her chance and photobombed the situation, until the other shoe dropped. Then she dropped Argento like a limelight-killing potato. Now Argento is threatening to sue her.

Do you see how fucked up this is? Don’t get swept up in this, for the love of God.

Celebrities have power. Male or female, when an actor and producer meet, this isn’t a meeting of a shoeless orphan and a king. Unknown actresses have power, because they are beautiful and have gotten someone’s attention. Models have power. Cocktail waitresses have power, for crying out loud. The complication comes when people, in the pursuit of more power or fame or a chance to do something big, fly too close to the sun.

The point is not that I don’t believe Asia Argento. I have no idea if she is telling the truth or not. She might very well be. But doesn’t it seem timely, all of these not-so-current actresses coming forward with great emotion and gnashing of teeth?

If you want to be respected, don’t sleep with someone in order to get something. Don’t linger, don’t flirt, don’t drop hints, don’t send pictures of your boobs or your dick.

If you want the freedom to do those things, then do them. But don’t wait 10 years and then cry foul. Don’t try to convince me that you were scared or intimidated.

Feminism today is not about equality. It’s about rising up by pushing men down. That’s not okay. It is not okay to demonize half of the population by virtue of birth. That is bullshit. Real feminists want nothing to do with this slow motion train wreck.

How often do we see stories about teachers sleeping with students? If you read the Daily Mail, you see them at least once a week. Almost all of them are female teachers sleeping with underage male students. Pay attention. You’ll start to notice. Where are the pussy hats on that one?

Crickets.