Feminism ha! I’ll take a mower man
It is said the line between love and hate runs thin.
Therefore, I’ve found myself worrying about how fine the line is that runs between feminism and man hating.
I worry not so much for myself, but for my daughters, who have watched me go through situations that have surely shaped them.
Personally, I’m conflicted about the feminist movement and its impact on women.
I have a theory that in the bra-burning frenzy and the ensuing excitement, we (women) forgot to renegotiate our roles.
What man, bless their hearts would turn down an agreement that allowed us to take on another job?
Years ago, while writing a story about rice farming, self-proclaimed male feminist Hatch Sullivan (who had in the ’60s spent time in an Alabama jail for teaching blacks to read), while we rode the harvester, asked me a profound question.
“Karel, who is it now that takes out the garbage?”
“Whoever has time,” I replied.
While that may be true, I’ve wondered about women who have men who actually follow through and take care of the yard they’ve designed because “I’m the mower man.”
I’ve never had one of those (the mower man, I mean; I’ve had the designer).
Now don’t get me wrong. I have benefited from Equal Opportunity, in that six short years after women were (grudgingly) welcomed into fire service, I was working, living, showering, burping right alongside a barracks full of men, complete with porn in every bathroom stall and my pink satin underwear flown up the flagpole at every opportunity.
Before the P.C. Police told us sexual harassment bred a hostile work environment, we (women) fought fire with fire, bringing in our own centerfolds and occasionally pinching a cute little firefighter butt.
My feeling was that, in a man’s world, it was my duty to do just as well or better, without whining. As a member of the Broad Squad (dispatch’s name for the three days each week the engine was staffed only by women), I did.
And I wouldn’t change a single minute.
Of course, there have been less than perfect moments. Years ago I was told by an editor that a recently hired, fresh-from-school journalist would be paid more than every other staff member because “he’s married,” to which I replied, “I have a dog and a sports car to support.”
Another asked me how I planned “to be a mother while being a journalist.” I took that opportunity to tell him that since I’d never done it, I wasn’t sure what he wanted to hear, that him asking was illegal and he was lucky I’d not waste my time suing him because clearly he was the kind of man, I’d not want to work for.
Their thinking has likely changed by now (I hope).
Concern for my girls came when my girlfriend called to share what happened over The Game of Life, where it is mandatory to marry.
This requirement was met with resentment and comments that would make your hair curl.
“Oh no, what have I created?” I asked, while stifling laughter.
“Don’t worry, apparently it’s not just you, because mine’s right in there,” she said.
Will our girls grow to be conflicted about carrying the flag of feminism that’s been placed on them like a mantle, while really just wanting a man to open a door for them? Perhaps they are influenced by more than their mommies. I try to separate one man’s actions from the entire species and don’t want them believing unfair or inaccurate blanket statements.
Emily recently said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking a lot lately and I have decided there is one thing men will always be better at than women.”
“What’s that, Bean?” I asked, naively stepping in the middle of it.
“They will always be more stupid,” she said.
Of course, I was torn between laughing and using this as the perfect moment to adjust her thinking.
Because when faced with that statement, women have a hard time not laughing. Maybe we’re evil or have seen the imbalance and don’t know what to do with it. We are the generation just after the bra-burners; the trailblazers who are to fight for our children; to raise them valuing their thoughts and opinions; themselves.
I think we can do this without believing everything we’ve been told about what a feminist is “supposed” to look like. Start with the basics. Let’s renegotiate who takes out the garbage. I’d settle for three days, possibly four, each week.
But by God, next time I’d put in an order for a “mower man.”
• Contact reporter Karel Ancona-Henry at email@example.com or 246-4000.