Thursday, March 3, 2016

Women and Children First

71 Weeks

I remember when the song Blurred Lines came out. It was almost exactly three years ago. I had just moved upstate from Brooklyn in a snow storm. I had just started driving again after 13 years. I had just learned I'd have to purchase a lawn mower. I was talking to a feminist friend, who I highly respect and who’s opinions matter greatly to me, especially the ones she has ABOUT me, and I stupidly asked, “What’s the big deal about that Blurred song?” A record-screeching gasp and an hour later, I was convinced I was supposed to hate it and the gorgeous topless model with the perfect bare breasts who appeared to happily cavort her sexualized power all over America’s screens in the uncensored version of the video. I asked the question at a few other cocktail parties, happy hours, after hours, work lunches, and coffee breaks. Each version of my query getting more professorial to avoid revealing my true, flippant feelings. (I still listen and enjoy “BL” behind closed doors.) What I didn’t, and still don’t understand, is why it is considered ignorant and in poor taste to use feminine sexuality as a tool in the arsenal of powerful art and mythology. Not “good” or “quality,” but strong in presence. Why is that bad? The attention to the point itself in Blurred Lines, as a stand-alone event, to me, doesn’t sound or look any worse or different than what women have produced, enjoyed, or even just tolerated for years, and many can argue, still conform to every time they apply lip gloss. As with anything, it is a matter of context, reception, and taste, and frankly, I thought it spoke to the greatness of humans with ovaries, not against it. 

Being a person of modest income, a woman, an actor, a playwright, and an artist whose formal education started with a degree in theatre, I feel I understand the desire for most struggles to start with a simple baseline for all. But “equal pay” means more than just money. Some folks feel in order to quantify self worth, money has to equal self respect. (Worrisome.) I believe in equal pay and transparent salaries. I don’t think that means men and women are the same, however, and I only recently understood why I grew up claiming to be a feminist and sometimes only out of the corner of my mouth. It irritated me that men and women competed for Oscars separately. I hated when someone called me an “actress.” My sex has nothing to do with my storytelling. But… I also always felt that it probably does. And as the world turns towards the very real possibility of a female President of the United States, I think it wise to stop with the irrational rhetoric about this campaign having nothing to do with sex and that feminism means we are all equal. At one of the Republican debates, a candidate was met with great applause after saying his party was more diverse than the Democrats. There were only men on that stage.

It is a part of Barack Obama’s personal narrative that he is black. That he was raised by a single-mother of little means. That his ancestors were oppressed by the ancestors of many of his constituents. His campaign embraced his truths. They are the very definition of the American Dream and I am proud to have been a vote towards both of his presidencies. Why can’t we talk about Hillary's reality? You can say she's overcome the product of the female experience in this country much like Barack overcame the experience of his considered race. Gulp. I went there. I know women got to vote before African Americans, and life in the U.S., in general, is probably better for marginalized women than marginalized African Americans. I'm not going to pretend I have the knowledge required to skillfully compare these civil rights issues except to point out that they are both considerable struggles towards the White House path and in that struggle, women are way behind. We can’t trace country borders and continental lines through our ancestries by way of chromosomes. You can argue a person's race more than you can argue their sex. A woman is actually a more definitive label than the perception of race. I am a defender of aligning oneself with whatever gender he/she/they wish to be called, but it is simply a fact that only one kind of mammal’s body can generate and nourish a baby, and we, as a society, call that a woman. Why is it taboo to talk about women in politics, especially now? It's real. You can draw a direct path from slavery to poverty. We can't ignore that anymore and expect to fix racial relations. And women aren't weak because they bleed and cry. They are when they pretend they don't.

It boils down to this: I am voting for Hillary because she has the most experience in her field, she’s the most aligned with my personal beliefs, and because she’s a mother. Yes. Yes, feminist sisters, I know for some of you I might as well have said it’s because Hillary has pretty eyes, but I can tell you, from the experience of being on this side of womanhood—having multiplied and survived—gave me a perspective that I respect more than I can express in mere words. This is not even remotely a brag. This has nothing to do with who I am. It’s an honor and I’m ever thankful. Every day I make ignorant, fearful, sacrificial bows towards the gods of mothering. I am still grasping at the notion that I had anything to do with it. Nature did this to me and I’m still laying down the tracks just as the train travels on over my tired knuckles. But the truth is, I see things differently now that I literally could not have been capable of understanding had I not birthed a child. My capacity for empathy and compassion has deepened because of chemistry. It’s a fact. They’ve studied this stuff.

In no way whatsoever am I implying these insights are not possible unless you’ve had a child, nor that you’d have to have one to have them. It’s just that having a kid come out of your body is like the microwave of maturity for many women. Labor pain will not be ignored. Kind of like Putin.

I’m actually pretty apathetic about the nature of American politics. I highly doubt much will be deterred from the greed machine we breathe in and out from in our societal roles until our stupidity of priorities gets us killed by lack of gun laws, lack of bees, immunities, or Botox. Our divided nation is more depressing than frightening. Our civil wars are fought with cyber shaming and we will all go down together in a blazing meme. 

Hope itself lies in the creation and nourishment of new life. How about we let a woman give it a go since, according to our definition of her cell structure, creation of life is the reason she is a she? Maybe that’s the adjustment we need in the political equation. Maybe we need some ideas from a person who’s been in on some of the most critical conversations in our world’s strategic planning and also knows what it feels like to have a rib kick-bruised from the inside out.

Politics and placentas. You know you want it.