Life is sure simpler if you avoid conflict. I know how easy it would be to just shrug and say, “well, that’s me, complicated” and just return to my purchased serenity. But the price is the incessant nagging that won’t leave me alone. Conflict must be resolved. It seems, well unseemly to do anything else.
Let me dispel any notion that I was someone of importance in the feminist movement. I was a cipher to put it quite bluntly. I came along at a time when the movement to date meant that I didn’t have to struggle with some things and too late to matter regarding others.
For instance, I showed up right on time when it came to law school, with all universities working hard to bring their women’s numbers up. I benefited no doubt and probably got in when say ten years earlier or maybe even five, I might not have. I was probably too early yet to be an air force pilot, and other occupations like police officer or firefighter were still male bastions. I consider myself lucky that those jobs were not within reach for me at the time.
I recall no march that I participated in, since those were few and far between. I was one of those “fellow travelers” who made their point largely by commenting on doors opened, “I can open my own door thank you,” and ladies first, “I’m fine being in the place in line I arrived at.”
But my heart was surely there. And as with most women of my time (and those who became politically aware) I read the required texts of feminism, listened to the words of feminist spokeswomen, and re-evaluated most of the “advice” I’d been offered by mother and other female family members. I mostly began to rethink the notions of what women want, and what they need to do to get it.
We rejected the casting couch. We demanded a say at the table of decision making on serious issues, not just those pertaining to “women’s issues.”
But old habits die hard.
I know there are women my age who married their childhood sweethearts. And bless them, if that turned out well for them. But most of us did not, and the 60’s and onward provided us opportunities to test out our sexual freedom as well. And with that came the perils. I would bet that not one woman who was sexually experimenting (meaning separating sex from love as men always do) was not subjected to some form of rape. Date rape is what I refer to. It need not have been violent, but it was insistent to the point that we succumbed rather than continue objecting. We told ourselves or were led to believe by an insisting man, that we had encouraged it, or brought it on, and we can hardly blame him now for wanting to “finish.”
So we understand about emotional and physical abuse, whether overt or “benign”.
Over the years the struggle has had its ups and downs and re-orientations. It has focused on poor women, and women in the boardroom. On wage equality, job opportunities, and image. Lately it has focused on abuse.
Many have recognized that until women and especially young girls have better images of themselves regarding power and influence, real progress won’t be made. This is because too many female children are still being raised in traditions that value being quiet and “polite,” and above all knowing “one’s place.” Until we teach our young boys and girls that gender is fairly insignificant to their dreams and responsibilities in life, we cannot effectively marshal the numbers necessary to push old white men off their pedestals of entitlement and take our rightful place alongside.
We must however, not merely preach the message, but we must live it, and therein lies my conflict of the day.
We are a culture that deifies to a great extent anyone in the public eye. Whether they be movie “stars” or singers, or sports professionals, we look upon them as objects to be admired. We seek to act like them, in however that translates to the average life. We dress, eat, drink as they do. We attempt to live in our modest means with trinkets that resemble their splendor.
To a degree we do this with politicians as well. Who doesn’t admire those who have managed to become known to large segments of the world simply by wielding power?
We fantasize these people into very inhuman beings, almost in some cases, as incapable of being anything but the perfection we infuse them with. They are bereft of the failings that we suffer. We tell ourselves that this is not the case, but truly we do so.
And yet, many if not all of them are flawed, as deeply flawed as we.
And of course there is a tabloid press out there ready and willing to make a buck trading on their failures. This is good in one sense of course for it reminds us of their feet of clay. But, to those we worship from afar, we tend to find ways of avoiding what we don’t want to believe.
I and my husband have determined that we cannot bear the ugly underbelly of hate that a Mel Gibson exhibits to the world when he is sufficiently drunk or angry to let his true beliefs come forth. Gibson is nothing but a hateful racist of the worst kind. Yet we recognize his talents in acting and are saddened that we miss the opportunities to enjoy it.
There are others. Many others.
Woody Allen is my nemesis. Such a huge talent, such amazing movie-making, yet an ugly man in his abuse of girls. One can only claim so long that the charges, which he denies, are false. The fact that he married his adopted daughter speaks volumes. Mariel Hemingway was 17 years old when Mr. Allen tried to convince her to come to Europe with him. I cannot ignore the obvious any longer, even though Diane Keaton seems to manage.
We cannot continue with “artists must be allowed their quirks” no matter how inappropriate.
Bill Cosby was easier. The sheer number of accusers is all the evidence needed. This man abused women in a ruthless “because I’m Bill Cosby” sort of ugliness that offends on every level.
Charlie Chaplin abused girls. So did Roman Polanski.
It is said that John Lennon beat his first wife and so did Eric Clapton. Ike Turner beat Tina.
We make allowances because of who they are.
We cannot continue to do so. Lennon, I’m told, publicly confessed his sins. Ike certainly didn’t.
There will be no more Woody Allen movies in my future, much as it pains me to do so. He is a genius of sorts, but a sick bastard as well.
I cannot and will not pick and choose based on how much I admire the work they do. I cannot, because I have a responsibility to girls growing up in this very difficult world. I cannot send mixed signals.
WE cannot send mixed signals. We must stand up for all women everywhere who are subjected to emotional and physical abuse, who are beaten down into believing that they are entitled to no more than they get. We must stand up, or collapse into our suburban retreats being nice grannies while organizing family get-togethers in some refusal to be a part of the reality that confronts our youngsters every day.
That is what it means to be a grown-up. We must leave the world a better, safer place. Damn us if we don’t.