Monday, May 21, 2018

Monstering the normal

Maybe it is my predilection for reading the weekend broadsheet that’s brought this on. Maybe it’s history. Maybe I buy this paper purely with the intention of ratchetting up my lefty anger against the sad old men who run the rag. Anyway, I return to it every week like a bruised lover: battered, angry; and with a whole new resolve to quit this reiteration of the status quo.

When I worked at the service station, the old blokes stopped in every morning to buy the only state-wide newspaper. Occasionally a 30-something would buy said newspaper and put his coin on the counter. I would say, ‘What the hell are you doing? You’re supposed to be scrolling through your phone, young man!’
He would reply, ‘I like reading the newspaper.’

But I too still love the newspaper. I love the local rag in our town of five hundred residents, for its regular rants against litter, the heartfelt funeral notices, pictures of my mum at a morning tea and the butcher’s ads. Gold.

In the national broadsheet, I’ve been reading about the world’s troubles. The #MeToo hashtag seems to have moved from outrage to solid ground now. Well, how long did that take? Fifty, sixty, a thousand years? So of course, it has to have a backlash because any movement that took so long must have an instant backlash.

What we are seeing is nothing new or interesting by the mainstream media: powerful men are still paying subordinate women to write about why subordinate women shouldn’t speak out against powerful men abusing subordinate women. Some of the opinion pieces run along lines as godawful as ‘I’m not a feminist because boys still run the shop and I really want them to like me.’ The men who write against #MeToo tend to position themselves first as conscientious house husbands who set up the straw man that they are ‘pacifists in the war of the sexes’, before firing volleys against women who name their abusers.

Women are going to suffer a backlash for the #MeToo movement. That’s the word. Men (in positions of male power) will hesitate before hiring a woman now. Men are apparently so scared of the consequences of asking an attractive subordinate woman out for headjobs or dinner, that they won’t hire a woman.   

It’s easy. Here are some things that may help those menfolk hiring and firing.
If you are a man hiring a woman whom you may find attractive:
1.Treat her as your employee/peer.
2. Don’t show her your penis/ expect sex/ expect flattery/ expect that your marriage proposal will be perceived as flattery, especially if you are thirty years older and already married.
3. Treat her as your employee/peer.

See? Easy. It’s that easy.

I’ve always enjoyed working and hanging around with men because they do interesting stuff that I like to do too. Mucking about in boats, going bush with vague plans and a random sense of direction etc. But hanging around with men has always held a certain level of frisson too, because since I was about ten or eleven, I was perceived as the species female.

Most men are not predators but most women have encountered the men who are. Good men don’t always understand the circumstances that have hardwired women like me. They don’t get why we behave like those horses who shy at plastic bags. They don’t always understand the source of our anger. That we are constantly alert for the predator is how we are shaped. If we have not experienced it first hand, then we are cautioned from toddlerhood by our mothers, who have. Fellow men, please ask your mothers if you don’t believe me.

One of my small and most constant tantrums is this: I shouldn’t have to deal with this if I were a man! Recently I worked on a job (and I’m not going to detail my job here because I’m maintaining the status fucking quo in honour of his wife). The owners lived in the city and they’d come down, lavish me with praise. They were great employers and I was their pet ‘doctorate lady’ worker. They often bought me lunch and were generous and warm with their company. They loaned me interesting books. One day he returned from the city on his own, gave me more than I’d invoiced him for and then, as he handed over the money, told me he was in love with me. Oh, I thought as I pocketed the cash, here is another man willing to deny me personhood in order to keep me as his dirty little secret. I was fresh out of a ‘relationship’ with a man who’d kept me secret for years, so I know well how this feels. It’s like a lime bath to the soul.

I know that this is the low end of the boss-harasses-female-subordinate scenario but get this. When I tell that story to my female cohort, they groan and say, ‘Oh for crying out loud! Well that job’s finished.’ Like it’s completely normal that you have to leave your job when the boss hits on you.

Because it is normal. My choice was either giving house to his fantasy of making me his dirty little secret or shutting down the entire show. I cannot go back to this job because he stands too close and I feel ogled. It’s a silly little job anyway. It’s not my career. I teach at university and I’ve written a couple of books. I’m stronger and smarter than him and thankfully my career does not depend on my accommodating him any further.

But what if my career was dependant on this person? In the Australian Angela Shanahan wrote a column titled ‘#MeToo for the virtue signallers, not those most in need’ (Weekend Australian, 6-7/1/18, p. 16), writing that ‘Only in the age of social media and the moral vacuum of Twitter and Facebook could a campaign of intimidation and vengeful finger-pointing reach such bizarre heights of hysteria.’ She does this line a lot.

And yep, she actually used the word hysteria, when referring to women accusing powerful men of sexual abuse. This is what happens to women who kick against the pricks. They are called hysterical. Have a goggle at the history of hysteria and the women who lost their children, livelihoods, income and physical freedom to the word hysteria. (When the root word for hysteria is connected to the womb, it is problematic to bring in the MRA right now. Just saying.) Next, she claims that the women in the campaign to clean up sexual harassment in the film industry are behaving like ‘vituperative Vestal Virgins’ and of course that other V word occurs again, Victims.

Leaving that 'silly little job' made me realise how women can be impacted upon financially by this kind of behaviour, I’ve had a few nasty encounters in the woodshed over the years and despite being a broad of shoulder woman nearly six-foot-tall who hails from a black powder family, I’ve rarely thought of myself as a vituperative, virginal and/or hysterical victim. 

But I still listened seething, when my former male bosses at the service station talked about how they rate women customers coming into the store according to what time he is knocking off. 
‘What time you finishing up tonight Bill?’ ‘Oh, about eight, I reckon, Steve.’ 
Or, ‘I’m heading off at three to feed the chooks.’
When I snorted and muttered something kinda vaguely feministy, like 'it's nice to know how you rate us women,' all three of them rated me favourably to placate me.
‘Eleven o’clock.’
Me *giggles*
Really. This was last year. I’m just too old for this shit.

Yes, #MeToo is messy, sprawling and sometimes damaging all round. What did we expect? Some how I don’t think it is as harmful as the years of silent, furtive abuses of power dealt out to women trying to get somewhere in their lives. #MeToo is like watching the critical mass of peasants finally rise against land owners in the feudal era. I’m thinking, bring it on. The pithy newspaper op eds from the antiquity are losing to this operatic beast playing out, live, to monster the norms. It's great viewing.


  1. Late to this?
    Nah. Just been thinking about it for a while.

  2. It's hard to know where to start commenting - as you know I wrote a couple of blog posts on the topic myself entitled 'why women are angry' out of frustration. Maybe I'll do another about the #metoo movement but in all truth - I'm so deathly tired of this issue. You are right 'that we (women) are constantly alert for the predator....' and just as that seems to be an innate/learned behaviour, so too is the predator mentality. I pointed out as much to my own lovely partner of 17 years when the #metoo movement started ramping up. I told him that on many, many occasions I have seen him - who loves and respects women, considers them equals and absolutely supports me in everything I do - acting in a predatory way towards women. It was a difficult conversation to have but I think he went away and thought about it. It's a cultural/biological thing and I suspect you and I are not the norm when it comes to 'femininity' Sarah. We are warrior-women. Many of our sisters have played the game and got a lot out of it. I never did. Now, at nearly 58 and staring down the barrel of an impoverished 'retirement'/dotage I wonder if marrying that older rich guy my mother set me up with at dinner one night (with the advice: 'he's very wealthy and you could do a lot worse for yourself') wasn't such a bad idea.

  3. Replies
    1. Haha yeh - done that a few hundred times myself. I reckon you are shaking your fist in the right direction because I've come to the conclusion that the Christians were correct after all - God is a man. I base that on 2 observations:
      1. The historical and continuing gender inequity in the world (favouring the male of the species of course)
      2. God is a f*****g c**t.

      PS: I've given up qualifying my feminist rants with: 'of course it's not personal/about ALL men blah, blah.... Get over it guys - if you can't see what's going on and man up how are we ever going to have a proper conversation about it? FFS.

      PPS: The silence was telling when I commented today in the staff lunch room that I was really happy to note that Meghan Markle is an avowed feminist (yes they ever dared to use that filthy word) and will campaign for womens' rights accordingly. Woop, woop!

  4. I really agree with your PS and PPS Michelle. Being an apologist for feminism so so 1950s.

  5. Fantastic Sarah. And this paragraph of yours, below, just explained so well, so succinctly, exactly what it's like, and WHY it's the way it is. I've so often been at a loss to explain what THAT is like to blokes who simply can't fathom it, even to the beautiful man I've been with for 30 odd years, and as we have two beautiful daughters, he needs to understand. If it's ok, I'd like to post your paragraph (with all due credit) on my Facebook page, because I have male friends who still don't get it. But only if you reply to say it's definitely ok. Cheers.

    "Most men are not predators but most women have encountered the men who are. Good men don’t always understand the circumstances that have hardwired women like me. They don’t get why we behave like those horses who shy at plastic bags. They don’t always understand the source of our anger. That we are constantly alert for the predator is how we are shaped. If we have not experienced it first hand, then we are cautioned from toddlerhood by our mothers, who have."