We all want it over, yesterday

Barbara Kingsolver pulls no punches:

Patriarchy persists because power does not willingly cede its clout; and also, frankly, because women are widely complicit in the assumption that we’re separate and not quite equal. If we’re woke, we inspect ourselves and others for implicit racial bias, while mostly failing to recognise explicit gender bias, which still runs rampant. Religious faiths that subordinate women flourish on every continent. Nearly every American educational institution pours the lion’s share of its athletics budget into the one sport that still excludes women – American football.

Most progressives wouldn’t hesitate to attend a football game, or to praise the enlightened new pope – the one who says he’s sorry, but women still can’t lead his church, or control our reproduction.

[waves madly] I would! I’ve written a lot about what’s wrong with American football (and I wouldn’t go near a game), and even more about how loathsome the pope’s church is.

In heterosexual weddings, religious or secular, the patriarch routinely “gives” his daughter to the groom, after which she’s presented to the audience as “Mrs New Patriarch,” to joyous applause. We have other options, of course: I kept my name in marriage and gave it to my daughters. But most modern brides still embrace the ritual erasure of their identities, taking the legal name of a new male head of household, as enslaved people used to do when they came to a new plantation owner.

I can already hear the outcry against conflating traditional marriage with slavery. Yes, I know, the marital bargain has changed: women are no longer chattels. Tell me this giving-away and name-changing are just vestiges of a cherished tradition. I’ll reply that some of my neighbours here in the south still fly the Confederate flag – not with hate, they insist, but to honour a proud tradition. In either case, a tradition in which people legally control other people doesn’t strike me as worth celebrating, even symbolically.

If any contract between men required the non-white one to adopt the legal identity of his Caucasian companion, would we pop the champagne? If any sport wholly excluded people of colour, would it fill stadiums throughout the land? Would we attend a church whose sacred texts consign Latinos to inferior roles? What about galas where black and Asian participants must wear painful shoes and clothes that reveal lots of titillating, well-toned flesh while white people turn up comfortably covered?

That’s a lot of punches not pulled. [cheers]

Years ago, as a college student, I spent a semester abroad in a beautiful, historic city where the two sentences I heard most in English, usually conjoined, were “You want to go for coffee?” and “You want to have sex with me, baby?” I lived near a huge public garden where I wished I could walk or study, but couldn’t, without being followed, threatened and subjected to jarring revelations of some creep’s penis among the foliages. My experiment in worldliness had me trapped, fuming, in a tiny apartment.

Oh yeah. We were just talking about that the other day.

She solved the problem by pretending to be pregnant, and it worked but of course it was annoying to have to wear a pillow in order to go out unmolested.

Let’s be clear: no woman asks to live in a rape culture: we all want it over, yesterday. Mixed signals about female autonomy won’t help bring it down, and neither will asking nicely. Nothing changes until truly powerful offenders start to fall. Feminine instincts for sweetness and apology have no skin in this game. It’s really not possible to overreact to uncountable, consecutive days of being humiliated by men who say our experience isn’t real, or that we like it actually, or are cute when we’re mad. Anger has to go somewhere – if not out then inward, in a psychic thermodynamics that can turn a nation of women into pressure cookers. Watching the election of a predator-in-chief seems to have popped the lid off the can. We’ve found a voice, and now is a good time to use it, in a tone that will not be mistaken for flirtation.

Beautiful.

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