30 October 2005

riding the second wave

so moving every year, buying two houses (and an embarrassing number of cars), being partnered and then, due to the outrageous expense of our principles, married, and having job and then not having job: these experiences have made something abundantly clear to me recently, something that is coming to whack dear friends in the face. We live in an utterly sexist world. still. perhaps this will inspire me to actually write the book I've been threatening to write for a couple of years (Wife! if you must know...) and just get this all out there. But, as my friend getting face-whacked wrote me:
have been feeling like i have just been being a women's studies teaching feminist freak, but now i realize, no, i am totally totally right. stupid capitalist patriarchy.

This is also how I've been feeling recently. Some questions to flesh this out a bit:
  • why must they always put the man's name first on every bill, from phone to city tax? even, I might add, in supposedly progressive southern California? (not that Virginia should get away with this treatment simply because they are supposedly "red state," mind you)
  • why do I need to provide proof of my degree in order to get my title changed from "Miss" to "Dr" when my partner does not?
  • why can't both names of partnered or married couples go onto a lease or mortgage? Why must it be the man's? Even when the woman has done all of the communicating to find said property, such that the estate agents don't even know the man's name and must ask for it???
  • why do they ask me for the "groom's name" when I go in to ask for a copy of my marriage certificate?
and of course this is more complex than just these simple questions, which individually can be dismissed by post-feminists (those that think, erroneously, that we're over this whole inequality thing) as "no big deal" but together become this mass of "why are you treating me this way? is it the boobs? what?"
the complexity stems from the systematic secondary status of women over time. so that women get paid less and are seen as secondary in the whole arrangement of who's bringing home the bacon, such that even though I was in fact getting paid substantially more than Sam for the year we were in Redlands, we had to fight to get my name first on the mortgage, sending the papers back for correction several times.
All of this is convincing me that while the tactics of the second wave don't continue to be helpful, and thus I find third wave feminism much more convincing, the questions and issues of second wave feminism are by no means resolved and in fact we have slid quite a bit backwards.
I suppose the bottom line is this: folks need to stop telling me these little things are no big deal. Certainly, if one assumes that one's relationship will last forever in MB (marital bliss—shout out to José) then it's no big deal that only one person technically leases your place or owns your home. And one assumes that in my friend's case and my case, that will be the case. But it doesn't make it right or okay that we live in this world that privileges a certain group of people because they can grow facial hair, fail (usually) to grow bumps on their chests, and have something between their legs. And it is a big deal.


Liz said...

I don't know how to deal with all this. That is, I have, over the last three months had to coninuosly "behave like a man." By that I mean that I get int he car after work and think, "Liz, you can't assume you're wrong when someone questions you. You can't assume you're overpaid or underqualified. Act like a man, they get more respect, even if they are not right." I know that's a sweeping generalization, but as I talk to more professional women, I hear it more and more often. Things like, "I need to step up," "I know my work is good enough, but I can't get it out because xxx is taking up the whole staff meeting," and, "Maybe if I was less cheerful in the office people would treat me with more respect."

Growing up WASP, I understand the value in modifying my behavoir for my own benefit in any given situation, but do I really have to put on an act at the office just to be heard?

I think another thing that makes it complicated is that it isn't all the time. I can go weeks without feeling like my gender is an issue, and then it comes screaming in (generally in a meeting with a group of people, even more odd, I think). The reason for that, I hypothesize, is that people don't realize what they are doing. That is, in my last job, the person who took my place was a man, and he (without the masters and experience I had) was paid more because he "was trying to get settled." I actually had a relationship with my boss where I could say something (and I had quit), so I said, "And I'm trying to do what?"

It was crappy, but that's how it works. It is a big deal, but what to do? It is not my job to educate the people around me on gender equality, it's my job to incorporate renewable energy into our daily lives. Also, it's condescending to assume that my values are the only ones that should be excersized as norm -- someone asked me once, "How come I have to tolerate your belief that there should be no prayer in public schools, and you don't have to tolerate my belief that there should be? How come I'm the bad guy when we're really just talking about all our beliefs?" I think they were right (although I believe I said, "um, the constitution,").

I don't know what to do.

dan said...

My reaction to the Bush getting re-elected was to get excited about Hillary Clinton running for president in 2008. I want a female president! I want Hillary! Then a coworker (who, incidentally, was born and raised in Mississippi, where he was a bit of an outsider only in that his family was Catholic and most others in his community were Baptist. Needless to say, he comes from a fairly conservative background.) asked me, in all seriousness, did I really think people were ready to elect a woman for president? I said "hell yes!" He said "you'd be surprised -- I think a lot more people than you think would absolutely not elect a female president simply because she is a woman." I said "What is a woman?" (No, kidding). But he's right, I probably would be surprised. Many people have deeply ingrained judgments about the competency of a woman as compared to a man when it comes to things like business, leadership, property ownership, intellectual rigor, etc. It's frustrating when some are quick to write off feminism as outdated: "aren't we past all that?" Somehow I get the feeling that people don't necessarily think that we've fully reached and exceeded the goals set forth by feminist movements, (as you might expect when they react so impatiently to any discussion o f the oppression of women). One senses, instead, that these people feel that feminists should stop trying to ruin “everyone's fun” by insisting on acknowledging institutionalize patriarchy, femaphobia, and everyday misogyny, both subtle and overt.

Does anyone else want to see Hillary in ‘08?