Okay, so I’ll tell you why the protest felt like something of a failure. It’s because the cause–and it’s a huge assed important cause, don’t get me wrong– it just feels so obvious. I mean, it feels like one of those unspoken societal rules. If I suddenly started running down the street screaming “For sweechrissakesyafuckin’morons DON’T WIPE YOUR ASS IN PUBLIC!” People would think I was not only overreacting, but being sort of silly. Who does that? Who wipes their ass in public? Why would I even SAY such a thing? Right?
Seriously–when I was a kid, and my step-mom was telling me about the women’s rights movement and ERA, all I could think of was, “Well Duh! Nothing to get excited about– of COURSE women should get equal pay! Of COURSE we should have a say on what goes on with our own body! Men can buy rubbers in the grocery store– of COURSE we should have easy access to birth control. OF COURSE!”
When The Handmaid’s Tale came out in college, and all the girls were reading it and FREAKING OUT! because omg, how sick was it that a woman would be subjugated to the role of incubator, I (and remember, I devoured sci-fi and fantasy like it was outlawed. Ironic, actually…) *I* refused to read it. I mean, it was just too implausible. Unicorns shooting rainbows out their asses were literally more believable to me than a world in which a man would stand next to a woman, look at her, and think, “My dog is more valuable AND more intelligent. I must make decisions for this creature and smack her when she’s bad.”
And see, you’d think I’d know better. When I worked at McDonalds in college, I was SHOCKED to learn that my fellow male inmates made more money than I did. Because they were what? Penis endowed? I mean, I was DOING THEIR JOBS, some of them, and they MADE MORE MONEY then I did? Of course it was unfair! Well DUH!
When I worked at Friday’s, it was the same deal–not only that, but the guys got bigger tips! (Of course THAT probably had to do with me being a totally shitty waitress. I’ll admit it now.) But the pretty, competent girls had to knock themselves out–the guys just got bigger tips. It sucked. WELL DUH!
My first job out of college? I lost it–I was incubating when I was hired and they didn’t realize it, and I actually HEARD the secretaries talking about how I was first on the chopping block and the district office was pissed. Was it fair? No. Especially because I’d TOLD the woman hiring me that I was pregnant during the interview. Big T had problems during my second job–I went through childcare like my cat sheds fur. My vice principal said I was an amazing teacher–but a crappy employee because of my kid. Was it fair that being a good mom was the thing that made me a crappy employee? I didn’t think so. WELL DUH!
When working at my last job (oh yes, we remember that last job!) I gave birth twice in the course of my employment, and both times, the principal (two different major prickweenies) fucked with my schedule. My department heads (the good guys at that time) both went in and fought for me and came back puzzled. “We don’t know why he wouldn’t change it–he couldn’t give us a real good answer.” Was it because my uterus was trying to dictate their moves that they became major dicks? WELL DUH!
And let’s talk about that last job, shall we? Should we talk about the staff meetings where a half-an-hour went by and no woman talked, ever, because every time we opened our mouths we got shot down? Should we talk about how, when I mentioned this on the blog I got slapped on the wrist, but the guys who made the women feel like shit got nothing? Should we talk about how before my whole bullshit thing went down, if a woman even LASTED in my department, she ran for the other school as quickly as she could? Let’s talk about getting yelled at in the quad for leaving blood on the seat after a male colleague pounded on the door to get me to hurry up in the bathroom or having my department head do an impression of my vibrator, shall we?
But somehow, standing there with my protest sign didn’t feel like enough. It didn’t. I mean, none of that idiotic, socially retarded (and I mean that in the dictionary sense), dumb-as-fucking-tits-on-a-cthulhu legislation has been passed in my state, and I can talk about prevailing political climate and how that translates to the attitude of those of us here on the sidewalks all I want, but it by no means gives voice to the idea that standing on a lawn and waving a sign did not feel productive enough. Hell–I would have settled for chucking copies of The Handmaid’s Tale at the heads of congresspeople, and if anyone ever makes that a carnival event, believe me, I’ll be the first in line.
See, the way I see it–have always seen it, I guess–is that the way we perceive ourselves is reflected in the stories we tell. I try to tell stories of tolerance and acceptance, of growth and equality–yes, even women’s equality, because once we can no longer deny that gay men are equal, I figure women have a shot too! I know that people have written me and told me that the stories I’ve told have made them realize that homophobia is a bad thing, and that women have the right to be strong. (Thank you, Lady Cory–you WILL have those babies, I swear!) So I did that. I told stories that changed people’s minds. I’m going to have to be happy with that–I am. Because my friend Julianne and I went and stood in the mall at the protest and waved our signs and said, “Uhm, is this all we’re doing?” Then, Julianne laid down an ultimatum. “All right,” she said. “One more person gets up there with a guitar and I’m bailing.”(Apparently years of living in Santa Cruz has given her a low tolerance for folk performances–who knew that was a side-effect?) And then one more person got up on the steps of the capital mall with a guitar, and we were gone by the first chords.
We went to the yarn store. Julianne bought something shiny and green that made her want to take it home (and as you can see from the picture? She was really possessive. It wasn’t going home with anyone but her!) I bought everything else. Maybe I’ll knit a uterus. Maybe I’ll write another story about people treating people with respect. Protests probably do their part to raise public awareness, but I think I’m probably the last person to bring to one. Every time one of the well-meaning and very hard-working people got up at the podium and started stating obvious things that we’re STILL fighting for, not just in the country but in the world–things like real domestic abuse laws and the right to breast feed in public and the right to get paid equally and the right to health care and the right not to have politicians shoving hammy fists up our whazoos, I really wanted to lead the rallying cry with, “WELL DUH!!!!!”