Sunday, April 27, 2014

Standing Around Being Defective 3

My mother and I never were on good terms. She had bought into the myth of female shame and inferiority (I acknowledge the extreme social pressures on her to do so) and did her utmost to transfer that inferior status to me. The gap was too great. There was no place for self-hatred in either my intellectual or emotional life. Besides, my experiences with rejection and bullying outside the family had less to do with my social awkwardness than with a greater crime: the unHoly, unfeminine intelligence that erupted from within me like a fountain, and the audacity I had to use it.

As I moved out and into the world, I quickly discovered that my mother’s negative view of females was not limited to her, but was culturally pervasive. What I had hoped was an aberration, turned out to be open and acceptable discrimination, especially in employment. Within the 1960s - 1970s work place, sexual predation and humiliation were status quo. Accusations of inferior thinking ability, the supposed inability of females to learn skills other than typing, and the intent of seducing males in the office (snaring a husband) had to be born with stoicism or countered with vehement argument. These insults, and the vast invented vocabulary of female biology, which was a legacy of Old Testament misogyny, were counted as perfectly good and legal reasons for not hiring women. The ubiquitous practice of gross underpayment of women employees was a motive to hire ‘girls’ for inferior, servant-like work and was everywhere exploited. Sadly, much of this inequality remains.
The disturbing ‘automatic’ attitude toward women that I saw in my father was also present in many of the men I worked with, and it seemed to drive the lives of the ones who were married. In addition to being regarded as the Alien Invader in a man’s world, I was also cast as a Trusted Confidant, a role I had learned to play for my father, and like him, men young and old shared details about the wife they had committed to and with whom they had children. Home was regarded as a jail. These men were boxed in between a real wife, with whom they played The Husband and males at work with whom they played the misunderstood and trapped victim of a powerful female conspiracy. In essence, they complained about having no one at home with whom they could speak openly and honestly, but didn’t connect this outcome to the practice of being dishonest with their wives.
The use of drugs to 'treat' (mask) depression and anxiety in housewives (happy pills, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and a lot of alcohol) has a long history. The mass application of drugs to individuals who are made ill by toxic social environments has expanded to outrageous levels. 
Much of what I heard was shocking. When speaking to their wives on the telephone, these adult men were pleasant, obedient, contrite, and affectionate. When jousting with each other, the hated clich├ęs came out and were fired back and forth like weapons, as if denigrating one’s spouse was both a competition and entertainment. What I heard in personal disclosures was both sad and repugnant. Men seemed to cling to a little boy fantasy that they were in fact James Bond, but somehow, through no fault of their own, found themselves clinging to women who provided comfort, children, and a home life, which is a normal and healthy state for an adult male, but a union in which they could not fully participate nor enjoy.
On the rare occasion when one of The Wives made an appearance at the office, warnings were given out to be on best behavior, as if the ruling males were soldiers facing a surprise inspection.  Wives naturally required a public display of affection; if it was a peck on the cheek at departure, all was fine, but any more intimacy than this was viewed as a public humiliation for the husband. Some wives furtively examined the physical state of desks, objects on desks, and stray papers as if they were at a crime scene investigation. I was sometimes asked to go powder my nose for the duration of the visit, because I was young and attractive and a prime suspect for shenanigans. These visits were mostly extremely uncomfortable for everyone. I found all of this rather strange and embarrassing but fascinating. 
My parent’s estrangement from each other had appeared to be an extreme case, but the discovery that for many people the person to whom one was intimately bound in marriage was also the person to whom one routinely hid from and lied to shocked me. Where was all the love, love, love in marriage? Fear of the opposite sex seemed to pollute relationships between men and women, voluntary and messed up partnerships that were nevertheless publicly declared to be happy. Women were classed us unequal and inferior at best, as evil and treacherous whenever it suited men, but in their minds a woman had incredible power. She could ruin a man by trapping him in marriage, and deny him true fulfillment as a rogue male. Sex played a huge part in all this. Domestication of the human male had turned out to be a terrible thing according to men.  
Unfortunately, the theme of man as an unbalanced woman-hater, and woman as dirty inferior, as described and prescribed in the Old Testament, has poisoned the relationship between natural partners. In the real world it’s male and female, different and complementary, co-conspirators in the survival of a species. We’ve gone the wrong way, Baby.

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