This photo sort of happened by accident, but I certainly know what to do with it: Happy Easter!
Hi, all. I won’t be posting through the early part of next week, as all my final grades are due the day after Easter. I wonder what my students would think if they knew their mild-mannered grammarian was a cat-loving, Skyrim-playing, Trump fighter. (All right. They’d probably guess about the cats.)
In a fit of pique over deadlines, I just told my class to fish or get off the pot.
And then we all collapsed.
Our white cat, Taku, finds a mouse. It’s 6:30 AM. From my bed upstairs, I hear Taku crash into some wine bottles that we’d set beside the kitchen recycle bin. (Maybe it’s a soused mouse.) Taku flumphs up the stairs. He usually galumphs, but he’s moving at half speed. Maybe it’s hard to run with a mouse in your mouth. I sit up in the bed, while James sleeps. Taku talks with his mouth full. He deposits the mouse, whole and blinking, onto the bedroom floor. I pet Taku. I praise him. I shut him in the bathroom. Our stripey cat, Sitka, blinks from his sleep-rumple. He jumps down from his cat condo, saunters right past the mouse, and sniffs at the bathroom door. Taku is silent. The mouse sits. I squint at the dawn. I grab a coffee mug and a piece of junk mail. I figure I can catch the mouse, and release him into the backyard ravine. (Maybe he’ll come back, or maybe an owl will eat him.) The mouse doesn’t like that idea. The mouse scrams—Wait! Stop!—right under the bathroom door. Something in there clatters the garbage can. Then I maybe hear some feline chortling.
After all is accomplished, I do throw what’s left of the mouse into the ravine. But if he does come back, I’m calling a priest.
When I was six, I wanted to be a boy. I, most fruitlessly, directed my parents to call me Scott. I didn’t identify as a boy, but I wanted to be a football player, and my grade-school friends had told me that girls couldn’t do such things. My parents said that although my being male was not an option, that if we accounted for my size, I could probably become a football kicker. That year, my great-grandmother bought me a football uniform for Christmas. And I startled my grandfather by asking if, as I grew up, I would need special shoulder pads to protect my boobies.
I still like football (if not the concussions), but as I grew, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut. And then I wanted to be a scientist, who cracked the dolphin language. And then, as I discovered what I was good at, I wanted to become a novelist. That last role seems the least masculine of the bunch, until you realize that many people thought I meant that I wanted to write children’s books. They certainly didn’t expect me to spend a winter, alone in the woods, writing a theological novel that takes place in another world, where war and politics are both the novel’s inspiration and embodiment, and where the protagonists are bookish, weapon-wielding women who rebel against an oppressive church.
As I’ve not published yet, some in my family still consider me a housewife—or maybe a schoolteacher—as that, functionally, is what I am. “You’ll make a good housewife,” my grandfather—my other grandfather—once said to me. I’ve since taken this as a moral imperative not to clean out the Fridge. And I’ve also taken it as a reminder of what the women before me have had to endure, when “housewife” really was one among the three other options of being a secretary, nurse, or teacher.
I don’t mean the slightest disrespect for any of those positions, as each of them holds tremendous power. And if you don’t believe me, try to run an organization, or a hospital, or a world without one. But I prefer to have more of a career choice. I remember a sociology professor pulling me aside one day and saying that she couldn’t tell if it was good or bad that people my age, and younger, don’t know what the women before us just had to live with. And now, among some high-school students, the word “feminist” is becoming dirty again. It is. It’s dirty elsewhere, too. In fact, it was on Facebook just the other day. “I’m not a feminist, but…”
I’m not sure why the change has occurred. I suppose I could point to the election(ish) of a misogynist, who largely carried the votes of misogynists, including female misogynists—of whom there are legion. We live in an age when a woman was both popularly elected president and denied that office through what was likely a corrupt contest. We live in a time when the president promises to attack Planned Parenthood, while we’ve also grown nauseated from hearing about Harvey Weinstein’s couch, the Olympic assaults, the collective assault that was Congress and Brett Kavanaugh, and of course DeVos’s campus sex-assault policy. We have arrived at a point where women’s progress is facing such pressure, that its momentum could rush either way. And to that I say, for heaven’s sake, please don’t hide that you are feminist. Don’t let the other side take that word from you. Don’t let them say that the opposite of a misogynist is someone who hates men. You are a feminist if you stand for equal pay. You are a feminist, if you stand for equal opportunities at education and vocation; if you stand for equal access to healthcare; if you believe sexual misconduct is a crime; and if you reject such double-standards as Ted Cruz’s campaign manager who said last year that Stormy Daniels shouldn’t be trusted, because she’s a porn star and obviously in it for the money, while (by implication), Trump is more trustworthy because he just committed adultery with her and tried to pay her off.
You are a feminist if you reject that crap. And you will become a stronger feminist, if you do take the time to look at where you came from. So here’s where I came from: My high-school physics teacher was one of the first women to get a Ph.D. from Duke University. That’s a feminist. My mother-in-law stood up to the British government about their dumping nuclear waste into the Irish Sea. Her book is still banned in England. That’s a feminist. My great grandmother—the one who bought me the football duds—she hid her marriage so she could keep teaching. She later became the principal of an entire school. She was a feminist. And I know so many more of you who became physicians, say, when it was unfashionable for women to do so, or who stayed single when that meant you were weird, or who got out of an abusive marriage, or who turned around and entered a marriage with another woman. You are feminists.
I appreciate you for your feminism. I appreciate you every day, and most especially these days. I never dreamed that I would write a feminist book–and I’ve done so, unconsciously, because people like you have made me a feminist. That novel may never see the light of day. (And even if it does, it may not sell so well, because it’s about feminists.) In the more pressing meantime, all of us may reel from global setbacks that our opponents deal because they have both the temporary power and the constant fear to cause such horrible damage. They are a dying caste, and they are desperate. But here’s what I think: In my imagination, at least, my characters will bedevil their patriarchy. And with your and my imaginations combined, we will utterly and irreversibly topple ours. We will. Give it time. Give it a name. It’s feminism.