Glass Ceilings and Closed Doors
Whatever your politics might be, it is beginning to look like the next President of the United States is going to be taking her oath in a pants suit. However you may feel about it, the smart money right now has to be on Hilary. I’m going to go ahead and say it, folks: This is a monumental moment. Ok, ok, I know that we would actually be the 63rd nation to elect a female leader, but hey, America always has been the drunk dude showing up late to the party. Seems like the perfect time to write a column on the current state of the ever-evolving gender dynamic.
You see, the other day I was walking out of our local public library (yes, I still go to the library- and so should you!), when I noted a smiling, middle-aged lady walking out right behind me. I took an extra step forward, and as I am generally inclined to do, held the door open for her. She lifted her hand in recognition of the deed, nodded her head, and went on her merry way, leaving us both the better for the exchange. It was just a social nicety, but it got me to thinking about the gender implications of this seemingly meaningless act.
We all know that we still have a ways to go in remedying the cultural and vocational gender discrepancies that continue to permeate our society. The pay discrepancy has narrowed in recent years, but anything short of equal pay for equal work is utterly unacceptable. Women remain held to a vastly different moral code when it comes to the independent will of their personal moral choices, and the idea that the autonomy over their own bodies is stripped from them by a bunch of corpulent old men is as appalling and absurd in real life as it is in a metaphor. Steered in the direction of a passive acceptance of the fate handed to them by a Disney princess world that tells them a man will come to save them, they are then berated by a double standard that labels them a “bitch” when they have the balls (and you better believe that pun is intended) to act “assertively” (the word we invoke with a positive connotation when a man does it). I get it- you ladies still have a reason to be pissed.
But c’mon, ladies, could you all please just get together, have a meeting or something, and come together with a consistent guidebook of rules for all of us guys to follow? I mean, could you take a few moments and get some consensus amongst each other as to what you actually want from us? Because I’m going to tell you right now, and I am pretty sure my fellow brothers out there got my back on this one, you ladies are driving us absolutely bat shit crazy trying to guess time and time again exactly what the hell it is you expect in any given moment.
Take my little example back there from the library. That’s what I want to do- open the door for someone- not because I’m a sexist and deem her less able to do so, but because it seemed like a pleasant thing to do, and that’s just how I roll. To be honest, I would have done it for a dude, well probably not for Justin Beiber; he just seems like such a douche. But otherwise, I like to open doors for people.
But we all know that this could have gone horribly wrong. Every guy I know has at least one story of the time they were verbally accosted by a woman who berated him about a gesture he had intended to be polite or chivalrous but they found misogynistic. They likewise have a story of feeling physically threatened by the icy cold stare a partner has given them for not doing so. In both cases, we were told we were asinine for not understanding what a woman wants. If that be the crime, indeed call me guilty.
Can we all come up with some common sense rules about when I should give up my seat on the bus? Can we devise some guidelines regarding when it is proper to ask if someone needs help getting their groceries out to the car? Does it make me a sexist pig if I tell you that you look marvelous today? Because I’ve got to tell you that I’ll eat that compliment up every day of the week.
Which gets us to the root of the issue: There is an awfully fine line between belittling gesture and common decency. Women have reason to be hyper-sensitive about the issue. They have endured a long history of subtle undermining, a pattern of unrelenting questioning of their aptitude and emotional stability. In order to earn the respect from men that they should have had in the first place, they have had to routinely expose the innuendos and hypocrisies that have buttressed an inherently patriarchal structure. But in that unfortunate struggle to procure their rightful due, women have lost something as well: the ability to just be comfortable in who they are and appreciate an act of mutual human kindness.
Doesn’t Hilary look uncomfortable in her own skin at times? She sure looks uncomfortable in those horrific pant suits of hers. To me, she feels like a woman pressed into walking some gender tight rope, a delicate balancing act no man has to perform. People complain they never see the real Hilary because she feels the need to play a role our society wants to project onto her. So ladies, take heed: be yourselves and embrace the embodiment of feminine power you truly are. Let someone open the door for you. Then open the door for someone else. And in doing so, kick the damn thing down.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com