July 29th, 2013

crossed heart

any time you limit someone else’s horizons, you’re being an asshole

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

There. Let me just sum it all up in the title of this post.

I’ve been in a funk lately, stressed out from all the house stuff and getting page proofs and not writing enough to keep my pace up, etc. And society at large isn’t helping anything out. I keep up on news and popular culture and read several sites during the brief downtime of my days, in line at the grocery store, while waiting for my gas to pump — and so much of what’s out there right now is frustratingly bad news.

I keep feeling like we’ve fought this fight so many times we ought to have won it by now, but no, not yet.

And what set off this post — and what sums it up so neatly — is this picture that I took of a wall hanging at a restaurant tonight:

timepieceFeel free to click to enlarge — or let me type what it says out to you, the lady-folk. “The fourth avenue of bliss travels the meadows of cookery. A burned supper has ruined many a marriage for a man regards a woman who can cook as he regards a fine timepiece.”

You know, you’re not worth anything unless you can cook. But hey, if you cook well, your husband might value you just as much as he values AN INANIMATE OBJECT.

The cards appear olden-timey, but they’re actually inserts from Virginia Slims cigarettes from…drumroll…1978. The internet claims they were meant to be ironic marketing that fell very, very flat.

As a writer, I know that for irony to work, part of what you say has to be true, and then the flip side has to be a jarring disconnect. Unfortunately for this card (and there were a set of 12 of them, and they were all misogynist) they weren’t funny because everything written on them actually was considered to be entirely true, for a long damn time. And still might be today if certain politicians have their way.

It’s been a rollercoaster these past few weeks watching people try to write laws to limit women’s access to reproductive health services, repeal the Affordable Care Act, raise the interest rates on student loans, and disenfranchise voters. Every time I see another one of those laws come up — I’m looking at you, home state of Texas — I feel sick in the pit of my stomach. It will come as a surprise to no one who reads my books that I’m heavily interested in social justice and in health care for EVERYONE. And as someone who was raised as a Christian and who during the course of that actually, you know, read the effing Bible, I am continually amazed at efforts by people who claim to be Christian who seem only interested in screwing other people over.

I do not get how you can reconcile modern Christianity (as largely represented by Republican assholes) without wanting to provide universal health care. I have an awfully hard time imagining Jesus standing at the hospital’s door saying, “No, I’m sorry, you can’t come in here. Sucks to be poor, don’t it?” And also, “Hey, you know how you were trying to better yourself by getting an education? Go fuck yourself.” And also, also, “Nope, you can’t vote early anymore. You don’t get a voice.”

But! Back to the misogyny — (unless you missed some depressing links elsewhere, like how McDonalds expects you to have two jobs, and that 80% of all US adults will face poverty at some point in their lifetime)  –because there’s so much of that rampant underneath all of this disenfranchisement.

I was raised in the South. And at one point in time I completely bought into aiming for being someone special’s timepiece. You know, aspirationally. Because the underlying theme back when I was growing up was that, “Well, you’re very smart for a girl, but you’re just not a boy.” Not by my parents, but by the entire freaking world. I didn’t know how to broaden my horizons back then because I didn’t know there was any other way to be.

Being a woman is a subtle bridle. It’s a little like having an alcoholic parent (been there, got the t-shirt.) When you’re growing up with it, you don’t know any differently. It takes a long ass time to realize, “Wait a second. This, what I am going through right now this very moment — how I am being treated, and what is happening to me — this — is Not Right.”

I sometimes wonder when I’m down what different things I would have accomplished if I’d had broader horizons growing up. If I’d believed in myself more and been properly supported in a society that was interested in everyone getting an equal chance. I’ve spent so long deprogramming myself and teaching myself new ways to think — how much easier it would have been if I hadn’t had to go through all of that. The different paths I could have taken, and who else I would be.

Don’t get me wrong — I like who I am now. I save freaking lives and write bad ass fiction. It’s pretty awesome being me. But I can’t help but think what greater things I could have done if I hadn’t had to divert so much energy into freeing myself along the way. And I can’t help but notice that we’re still fighting these fights — and that more than half of the world has things way fucking harder than me. I know I’ve been playing life on a comparatively easy setting.

I read sites where flamewars erupt in the comments quite often and see the seething hatred for women that so much of the internet feels free to put on display. I think a lot of those men are honestly surprised to discover that women don’t want to be timepieces anymore, and are horribly confused by this turn of events. They feel betrayed by the system because it has, in its own perverse way, crippled many of them too by reinforcing ideals that don’t reflect current realities. I almost feel badly for them — I know how disconcerting it is to realize that things that you Knew To Be True really aren’t. It’s confusing, and it makes you angry and sad. And if you can’t place a finger on why you’re having those emotions and dig deeper to find out what’s causing them, then yeah, you’re in for a world of repeated disappointment — unless of course you change all the laws to shore up your outdated and frankly horrific beliefs.

Which is why every time I hear about people perverting the law to satisfy their own ideological ends while simultaneously FUCKING THINGS UP FOR THE REST OF US — everyone else who is not a rich ass white male — I cannot stand it.

Words are the only way I know how to fight the system and make positive changes. It’s exhausting and somedays I wish I could stop, but I can’t. Because there’s still people out there who want to put bridles on other people and tell them they don’t deserve a voice or a vote or education or good health care. I cannot in good conscience let those people win.

I’m gonna close out with a Rousseau quote that my lawyer-husband (who also fights the good fight, in law ways) keeps over his desk at home. Pretty much the instant I read it I knew that I would marry him. And he doesn’t care that I hate to cook.

I open the books of law and ethics
I listen to the learned and
to the public law specialists.
Filled with their provocative sayings,
I deplore the wretchedness of nature;
admire the peace and justice
established by civic order;
I bless the wisdom of public institutions;
and, seeing myself as a citizen,
I am consoled at being a man.

Well instructed in my duties,
I close the book, leave the class,
and cast my eyes around.

I see disadvantaged people
groaning beneath an iron yoke;
the human race crushed
by a handful of oppressors;
a famished crowd
burdened with pain and hunger,
with the rich complacently
drinking their blood and tears;
and everywhere I see the strong,
armed with the fearful power
of the laws against the weak.