The daily to-do: Monday August 1

*insert freakout that it’s already August*

Lots of things on my mind today. First, this song is absolutely driving me crazy (in a good way). One of those lightning-strike songs that I instantly love upon the first listen, before the obsession sets in, and set in it has. It’s basically been on repeat for a week now. At home on the speakers, in the car, and in the ears when I run. I cannot get enough…it speaks to my soul. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about women in culture lately, which is actually very common, since I am very feminist-oriented anyway, but what set these particular musings off was my experience on Saturday. It’s actually been quite awhile since I was forced to endure the company of people who actively objectify women, but when we went to Seattle this past weekend to meet up with our friend who lives in SF (L), and another friend of Bear’s whom he hasn’t seen since high school (S) (all three of whom went to high school together), the long-lost friend had brought along one of his friends who lives in Seattle (J), whom he had met when they were both living in Chicago, apparently (though this guy was from Long Island). So instantly upon meeting him, I disliked him. It’s been a long time since I’ve hung out with one of “those guys,” and my immunity to them has been weakened. Basically, without getting into the whole thing, he’s one of these super-privileged guys who had a cushy beginning in one of the richer (“upper middle-class”) areas of LI (an extremely expensive area to live, so if you’re living comfortably there, you’d be living lavishly just about anywhere else), whose parents paved the way for him to go to college and beyond, who got into “finance,” who’s always traveled internationally and visited cities and who feels superior and cosmopolitan but is unable to recognize that his cosmopolitanism is both a privilege in and of itself, and is also of a particularly privileged type (having been exposed to only the glamorous side of the many places he’s visited). So, some things about this guy:

  • he condescended to invite us to “tag along” while he took L and S on his tour of the Seattle area, though we drove in to Seattle that day specifically to hang out with L and S, and thought we had planned our day with them, and we didn’t even know this J guy was going to be there
  • he wasted a lot of time dragging us all along to his friend’s apartment, and “showing” L and S some stores that they really didn’t seem interested in seeing. He was entirely concerned with showing off Seattle to them, despite the fact that the three of them (L, S, and Bear) were more interested in just catching up and talking (and S was the only person present who hadn’t visited Seattle on numerous occasions or lived there before, and L and S were also going to be in Seattle on Sunday, so Saturday was the only chance they’d have to socialize with me and Bear)
  • he constantly tried to show off his knowledge of Seattle through these tours, and through his tour narrative (I’m not talking that he just gave information, which would have been fine, but he had to classify everything through his lens of experience, and so everyone was instructed on not just what things were, but how to feel about them. And of course this is a douche-bag financial consultant rich-kid party-guy’s impressions of the world. And plenty of sexism thrown in, though that probably goes without saying.)
  • despite all his opinions, he actually didn’t know plenty of basic things, which Bear and I quietly and matter-of-factly corrected him on (like what the EMP museum is, and where the entrance of the monorail is). After all, though he instantly denigrated our cosmopolitanism since we don’t live IN Seattle proper, he has only lived here a year, though we have lived here for over three years
  • of course he lives in a fancy high-rise (but a pesky building is blocking *his rightful* view of the bay, wahhh)
  • when we drove to Ballard for dinner (I drove us all), he tried to tell me where and how to park. Like, he could not accept that I was going to do it how I wanted and not how he wanted.
  • at the restaurant especially, the objectification of women came out. This guy (J), but also S, were really awful to the wait staff and the hostess. There was this pervading attitude toward “the help” that I used to see a lot in New York, which always disgusts me and makes me embarrassed and uncomfortable. But on top of that, I can’t even really describe it: this feeling like they’re being truly kind and nice by showing “courtesy” to the staff. Though their impatience was clearly on display. And S’s outright and disgusting flirting with the waitress absolutely turned my stomach. This is a woman who is just trying to do her job, and like, sure, I get that waiters have to be charismatic and friendly and possibly (gag) flirty, which is a system that I strongly object to anyway, but it can be argued that this woman knew what she was getting into when she took a job as a waitress, and even that it was partially her good looks that got her the job, and that she knowingly used that to her advantage. Sure. We can acknowledge those things, but the very fact that that’s the way things are SUCKS. It sucks. That it’s just part of her job to have to endure the flirting and gross come-ons, sincere or not (and she, as a hired server, can’t really know if they are sincere, which kind of renders sincere attempts useless, since flirting with the waitress is just seen as a game or sport to these types of guys). That’s really the thing that gets me. The sport of it. The placement of hot women servers as a sort of prize, an object and not a person, a goal to be shot at where the rules and scoring are all controlled by the  male guests, and her job is just to be whatever they want her to be. So that’s the system, and I know it happens, but I usually avoid being in situations where I’m forced to see it first-hand. People I choose to hang out with treat all people as people, and refuse to participate in these gross games. On top of that all, dinner subjects included how they had invited some “hot but naive girls” from a club up to their apartment the night before, but “nothing came of it.” Though there were only two girls and three guys (one of whom has a girlfriend, btw), so “the math didn’t really work out anyway.” And much discussion of Tindr and “swiping right” and hook-ups.
  • which gets me to my related point about how it made me feel: like a lesser-class citizen as a woman. Bear and I were talking about this afterward, on the way home and on Sunday, because we both felt it and were disgusted by it, but he didn’t feel it as I did as a woman. I honestly felt during that dinner that I couldn’t speak. Couldn’t voice my opinions or be myself. Of course, it’s true that there really wasn’t much actual conversation: these people talked constantly but said nothing. But even so, I was extremely disinclined to participate: I felt silenced because I knew that the kinds of things I would say would not be considered “interesting.” I cannot be the type of woman that is acceptable to them, and so it was like I didn’t exist. It’s like, if you’re not hot and available, and willing to be an object, then you don’t have a place as a woman. It reminded me of high school, how I used to think I was boring and had no strong opinions or interests (even though I did!), because I would just try to change myself to be pleasing to my boyfriends. If I were hanging out with girlfriends (or boys I had no interest in), I certainly had lots of thoughts and opinions, but all those things seemed “not interesting” and just insignificant compared to the thoughts and subjects of interest of boys, and so I suppressed them. (Which of course made me a boring sort of blank slate, but at the time I didn’t know how to just be myself with a guy). It wasn’t until college, I think, that I came to the realization that I don’t want to be with a guy who doesn’t want to be with the real me. When I found friends who were like me, who I could be real with, when I learned that nerdy = all kinds of really awesome things, that the most interesting people aren’t “normal.” I’ve spent the last 17+ years being comfortable with myself; despite my personal issues with self-worth, I know, because years of positive interactions with like-minded and truly amazing people have reinforced it, that I have worthwhile thoughts, interests, pursuits, and perspectives. And yet one evening with these guys was enough to silence me, put me back in that high-school mentality that I don’t have anything interesting to contribute, that the only acceptable type of woman is the type of woman who will shut up, flirt, be hot, and play along with whatever game is happening. I talked this over with Bear later, and I was just so fucking glad that I never got caught in the trap of playing that game. There are women out there who might not have many options outside of that system. Like, sure, a woman (such as this waitress) might know her own worth, have her own opinions, etc., and she might be in control of her sex-life, but I think this culture that these guys participate in, the clubbing, the flirting, the hook-ups, is still the dominant single-person scene. And though individual women can game that system, the fact remains that it is still a very male-centric, male-controlled scene. (There’s more to say here: a lot more evidence that I could present to support this fact, but I want to stick to my personal recent experiences and thoughts, so I will move on instead.) This made me really happy and grateful that I am married, that I married such an amazing guy. It made me feel I had escapedbeen rescued. Which itself is problematic. Feeling that a man has rescued me out of a horrible fate by marrying me. But I think at least he feels the same way, so we rescued each other. And yet, this brings me to my last point:
  • This is actually going to seem like a huge digression, and I want to approach it carefully because it might seem like I am going to be claiming “victim,” but that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to sort out the circumstances of my experiences, and compare them to the observable experiences of women generally, and talk about reinforcing social norms. This is the thing: I do often feel like I don’t know what I would be doing, how I would be supporting myself, what my life would be like, what sacrifices to social norms I would have to make, if I hadn’t married Bear. Personally, I have always struggled with knowing what I want to do with my life, what career I wanted, while Bear has been employable, employed, and employed gainfully since he graduated college. He has totally carried us. Even when I was teaching, it was his income that allowed us to get by. When I think about women in the workforce versus men in the work force, when I compare my career trajectory with those of men like my husband, and like these asshole guys who have the world at their feet, when I speculate about the career path of women like Saturday night’s waitress, I can’t help but see them as the result of certain reinforced gendered upbringings. Now, everyone’s experiences are different, but let’s compare Bear’s with this asshole J, for example. Bear grew up in an extremely poor situation where he, as an only child, had to take care of himself and even his mom from a young age. He worked hard and was lucky enough to get a full-ride scholarship to college. He always knew that no one was looking out for him financially, that he had to make his decisions with his own financial security foremost in his mind. He was lucky that his aptitude (computers and programming) aligned with this priority, since programming has the potential to be a fairly lucrative career (as long as you’re good). He did not have the luxury of indecision. But if he had been a girl raised by his mom in that exact situation? Knowing her and judging by her own actions, I would be willing to bet that (she) would have been encouraged to find a man to marry. On the other hand, this guy J, I know very little about him. But I know where he grew up, and I observed his behavior for a day, which was very like the behavior of guys from that area that I have known well, and so I think I can speculate fairly accurately about his upbringing. He had a “masculine” upbringing, where men had the privilege, the power, and the responsibility. While he also never had the luxury of indecision, and has also been raised knowing that he would have to be financially responsible for himself, he also never questioned whether or not he would be successful, since he had money and family support behind him. And neither has he ever questioned that superiority that he believes goes hand-in-hand with that responsibility: it is his role, his job, his responsibility, and his right to take charge, to know, to lead, to direct, and, if necessary, to protect. He probably cannot see the sexism that he perpetuates, because it is a part of his identity. He gets to call the shots. It is his job to call the shots. Then let’s look at me: I was raised in a truly middle-class home, and while my sisters and I were taught outright to have opinions and to speak our minds, that our opinions are as valid as men’s, I have only recently begun to perceive that patriarchal gender norms were nonetheless reinforced in my childhood home. I always saw that my dad worked while my mom raised three girls, but I always told myself, since my mom talked back to my dad and didn’t “lose” arguments with him, that this was only a coincidentally gender-normal state. But I see now that my mom really just fell in line with the non-expectations she had been raised with. I mean, her mom, my grandma, is the absolute most-dependent woman I have ever seen in my life. She never even drove a car, let alone had a job. She had six kids. When she got older, her uterus literally fell out of her body. My grandpa took care of everything. I know my mom did go to college – two years – and I always took that as another sign of her progressivism on gender. Along with the fact that we three girls were “expected,” as much as we were ever “expected” to do anything, to go to college. (Mine was a household where much was never voiced, but much was subtly “expected.”) But the thing is, they never pushed us. And here’s where the blame thing comes in, the possible victim thing. Especially because many would say (and I might cautiously say so myself) that I was privileged to not have the burdensome expectation to be financially self-sufficient. I mean, in theory, I knew I wanted to have a career, and I wanted to be financially independent. But the pressure was never on. Instead, I did many extra-curricular activities, but for no purpose other than my enjoyment. I often heard it said that being “involved” was good for a college application, but that was not my primary concern. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself, and no one ever asked me to think about it seriously. I was guided solely by my own whims: the interests and dreams of a 15-year-old. And so I wanted to be a horse trainer, because I rode and loved horses. I think my parents worried a little about the viability of that as a career, but they never pushed, and I think it’s because deep down they expected that it didn’t really matter: I would marry a guy who would take care of me. As college got closer, I changed my mind: now I wanted to be an opera singer. My parents, again, did not object, or even ask me to explore alternatives. At the time I thought I was super lucky, that my parents were “supportive” of my dreams, not forcing me into a career simply for family pride (like those kids whose parents expect them to become “doctors or lawyers”). But I also have friends whose parents were truly supportive of their artistic dreams, and those parents arranged for them to have endless lessons, and coached them on their applications, and flew them across the country multiple times for various auditions. (Much good it did them: I think most of those friends are either struggling artists, or have changed careers). My parents were simply hands-off. And so, yeah, whose job was it to ensure that I found a financially-viable career and got on the right path toward that career? I was certainly a smart person, capable, perhaps, of figuring it out for myself. But I was surrounded by, lulled by, comforted even, maybe, by the hidden knowledge that I would get married, and my husband would take care of me. Let’s look at my sisters: middle sister graduated summa cum laude from UCLA – with a degree in English lit. What does she do? She’s a full-time mom, and her husband’s job has always supported them all. My oldest sister is a teacher, and I really need to give her credit. She was never particularly career-driven: she went to college undeclared, and just sort of went into teaching as a de-facto option. Not to take credit away from her (she did totally support her asshole ex-husband as he went back to school and cheated on her with their mutual friend who was living with them and who had also gone back to school, and she now supports her current even-more-asshole second husband as he spends all her hard-earned money on his money-vacuum “business”), but teaching is the de-facto women’s job. In fact, pretty much every single one of my high school friends is a teacher now. It is not the result of branching out: schooling is what we have already always known, so it’s a continuation thereof. And it’s totally within the “caregiver” realm. This is not to denigrate teachers: teaching is one of the most valuable and impactful professions out there, and I myself was a teacher: but it’s a typically “womanish” profession (even historically speaking), and it’s soo, soo, soo, sooooo undervalued culturally. Teachers are so culturally disempowered. They are also financially disempowered. Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. My point, then, is that neither I nor my sisters were guided towards powerful careers: we were never taken aside by our parents and told that our choices as teenagers mattered, that we needed to think about supporting ourselves and our families. And without an actual discussion, the culture at large did not encourage us, or frighten us, to take those concerns seriously. We drifted. We did college because it is “expected” of us, as educated people, but we chose fields that interested us personally, but we were not really keyed-in to how our college experiences were meant to prepare us for our roles in the world at large. Without even knowing it, in a way we were like those Smith-attending women of the 50s, there to become “accomplished” future trophy-wives. But what if we had been boys? I cannot help but believe that my parents would have been more hands-on, that they would have pushed us to consider the ultimate consequences of our career choices from when we were teenagers. And what if one of us had been a boy? Would we have noticed the difference? Would we have been “carried along” by the prep of a boy, if the oldest had been male? I can only speculate. Meanwhile, what has become of me? I have always been driven to undertake a career that is personally fulfilling, but not necessarily one that is financially lucrative. And since I met Bear in college, since we were serious and knew we would get married, and since his career trajectory has always promised to support us both, I continued to have the “luxury” of indecision. I had two majors and one minor. I did a master’s that I don’t use. I taught for a few  years but know that I don’t want to do that now. I’m unemployed, and still searching for my place. For the first time, I am realizing the effects of not being pushed, as a teenager, toward fields that were not necessarily “fun,” that seemed then like (men’s) “work.” I am married, and supported by my husband, and fortunately he is progressive and he respects me as a person for my intelligence, he truly values my mind and wants me to be happy and he is truly the best person I have ever known. But what if I hadn’t met him? What if he hadn’t “rescued” me from myself? Would I be that waitress? Would I be forced to work in whatever job I could get, because I don’t have the luxury of being financially taken care of? Would I be forced to play the games of these “culturally-powerful”/ financially-secure assholes? Would I consider subverting my thoughts, ideas, and personality for a shot at being taken care of? After all, it’s not so many years yet since that was a woman’s only option.

 

The list:

  • run dishwasher and wash dishes (carry over)
  • clean kitchen (carry over)
  • figure out what food needs to be eaten and what needs to be frozen (carry over)
  • plan out some meals to make sure we eat up what needs to be eaten (carry over)
  • pick up trashes throughout house
  • do yard work, like weeding, branches, etc. to fill up yard waste bin (crossing it off not really because I did yard work, but because I didn’t do yard work, but I lost my chance and put the bins out)
  • put yard waste and trash to the curb
  • send out email to my precinct
  • vote
  • continue to solidify meet-up plans
  • finish planning activities; buy ferry tickets (carry over)
  • figure out rental car situation (carry over)
  • write up Cadenza care instructions and schedule; give to L and B (carry over)
  • walk Cosmo
  • feed Cadenza
  • run/ work out
  • write a long-ass blog post mmkay?
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