“We have received a lot of complaints that our air hostesses are not pretty enough, too old and unsmiling… The airline has been hiring too many college-educated women. Intelligent women tend not to be good-looking… (Stewardesses will now be hired) in the way beauty pageant-judging panels select contestants.”—Air Chief Marshal Kaset Rojananil of Thailand (AP report in Chicago Tribune, 9/8/91).
“Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”—Donald J. Trump talks about women in a 2005 recording.
“In the words of her detractors during the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton was abrasive and shrill. She was aloof. She was unlikable. It’s not a coincidence that some of these adjectives are now bubbling up in discussions of Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris as they campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.”—Maggie Astor for New York Times, 11 February, 2019
It’s been a tough week. The kind where you just want to go back to bed. In a black hole. (Not the kind of black where there’s a power failure and nine months later New York City has a population explosion. And not the Star Trek kind of black hole that spits you out on the other side of the galaxy in the right space and time only with maybe your hair needing a bit of combing. No, more the black hole that disassembles your atoms and doesn’t spit out anything because really… that’s that…)
I don’t understand how it happened. When did we women blow it? When my sisters and I grew up in the ‘70s, they told us we were now men’s equals in everything except whapping large bugs, resetting the digital clocks after power failures, and playing football. All this while retaining our natural superiority in the areas of childbearing, putting new rolls of toilet paper on the spindle, and choosing wallpaper. And we bought it.
I think back in the ‘70s, we women missed some differences between the sexes that go a little deeper than bug-whapping and wallpaper expertise. Take, for example, our neighborhood’s annual party. In 95+ degree heat, would a rational person:
_____A) Find some shade and try to conserve all energy for essential life-support activities like lifting beer to lips?
_____B) String a volleyball net across the street and leap around in the sun until it’s time to fire up and stand over a Buick-sized barbecue pit?
If you answered “A,” you are a woman and therefore rational. If you answered “B,” you are a man, and therefore a hopeless victim of testosterone poisoning. (If you are a man who answered “A,” you probably wouldn’t know the first thing to do about a really big bug but might in fact have some useful wallpaper input.)
My friend Esther told me about a positive approach to these fundamental differences. She and her colleagues noticed the only males in their organization were in the top positions of authority. “What do they have that we don’t?” they asked themselves.
The answer was obvious. So they went out and purchased a rubber novelty, which we’ll call “Wilbur.” Instant equality. Soon none of them went to a meeting or made a presentation without her Wilbur. In fact, now all life-decisions begin with one simple question. Would someone with a Wilbur…
- appear in public wearing a mini-skirt?
- Go back to using hair rollers EVERY DAY before work?
- Sit around selling each other Tupperware® for 5-percent commission?
- Become a stewardess on Thai Airlines?
- Run for president?
I’m lost in Wilbur-envy for such independent thinkers. They’re the kind of people who remove mattress labels despite warnings like: “PERSONS REMOVING THIS LABEL WILL BE BOUND AND GAGGED AND FORCED TO WATCH NONSTOP TAPES OF RUSH LIMBAUGH AND SEAN HANNITY INTERVIEWING EACH OTHER.”
I suspect that even as children these people knew they could safely step on cracks without considering maternal spinal trauma, look their teacher in the eye and confidently assert their homework was captured by UFOs, or keep a straight face while assuring each of their college professors that only an improved grade in their class stood between them and Harvard Medical School.
I was not those people. If I’d been in Boston on December 16, 1773, I feel sure I would have gone out on that dark and stormy night (I always wanted to write that) and cravenly paid my tea taxes. Then I would have paid the parking ticket stapled to my horse’s saddle when I got back.
I was surprised to discover that many others out there have a lot more Wilbur. Take for example, residents of Des Moines, Iowa. Why do they get to sit on their de-labelled mattresses, folding, spindling, and otherwise ignoring $1.8 million in unpaid parking tickets and fees? [NOTE: according to KCCI.com, that’s roughly $8.85 for every man, woman, and child in metropolitan Des Moines] Why do Yellow Vest Protestors in France get to destroy over 60% of the country’s speed cameras, while I stand in front of a parking meter digging lint encrusted meter-fodder from the depths of my purse?
Why? Because the world is made up of three groups of people:
- People like me who follow rules.
- People who know rules are only for people like me to follow. For others** they remain mere suggestions. **[Wilbur-owners elected President of the United States]
- Dan Quayle**. **[“Certainly I know what to do, and when I am vice-president, and I will be—there will be contingency plans under different sets of situations and I tell you what, I‘m not going to go out and hold a news conference about it. I’m going to put it in a safe and keep it there. —News Conference, 1991
Our problem in Group 1 is every time we learn the rules, Group 2 changes the game or moves you into Group 3. [cough…Congress…cough…] As far as I can tell, that’s left us with a Wilbur-wielding POTUS who thinks it’s fine to hold the country economic hostage, then declare a State of Emergency when he doesn’t get his way.
So I wonder if it’s time for a new talisman to replace Wilbur. I’d like to propose Sheela-na-gig, medieval carvings whose exaggerated female attributes were carved protectively over in churches and buildings across Europe.
Do you need a Sheela? Just ask yourself:
- Were I from Brooklyn, would I instinctively know this year’s politically correct hemlines, endangered species, and gourmet ice cream?
- Were I a Thai, would I be a stewardess or an Air Marshal?
- Were I Blondie Bumstead, a 91-year-old woman whose husband hasn’t gotten a raise in 70 years, would I start my own business?
- Were I running for President, would I…
Not without my