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June 22, 2011

In The Card Game of Gender Her Admitted Lack of Courage Somehow Left Him with Fleas…

Sexism is an intriguing thing in our current society. You can see this in the way many people responded to ex Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and are now responding to Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. Both of these women are often mocked as intellectual lightweights, as if all men who are seeking forms of higher office are intellectual giants. Somehow Hillary Clinton avoided the complex criticism of her aptitude to do the job that both of her female Republican counterparts couldn’t avoid. It could be related to her ability to answer both complex and simple questions with a level of clarity that the others often appear to struggle with. However, no matter how you see what should not be seen as the phenomenon of women in politics, the evaluation of a female candidate will always require teasing out sexist’s views. But a question that might be quite intriguing for you to consider is exactly to what extent does this work both ways in our society?

For example, New York State has a female politician that appears to be so invested in entering the good-old boys club that she continues to throw a disenfranchised group under the bus in terms of their civil rights to marry the one they love, even though she herself belongs to a group (women) whose civil rights were denied along similar rationale (it’s always been this way). Another example is how some feminists with scars from their interactions with some men (not all) still default to seeing most men (if not all) as overtly oppressive/sexist while they try to convince themselves they can’t be racist, classist, etc. because of their level of sophistication/expertise with one “ism.” Is this just an instance of the pot calling the kettle black? Regardless, the sexism card, like a similarly powerful card—the race card—often is played as a wild card when it serves the purpose.

Some time ago a friend of mine mentioned he was dating a woman who was quite brilliant. Foreign born and reared, she was one of the best communicators he had ever met, actually quite a linguist, having literally mastered five languages (German, French, English, Italian, and Spanish). Seldom was there a joke, quip, conundrum, or display of wit from anyone within her range of hearing that she didn’t totally understand and/or have a response to. This woman was quite the social commentator having a familiarity with so many cultures she could easily juxtapose the best/worst of any culture with another. As a result, her depth was unparalleled relative to the people that he said he had met in his lifetime. But she was still a woman in contemporary society who carried scars that were quite surprising to witness, admittedly, even to her. Case in point, once when he traveled to Quebec to see her they spent an evening together. They had wine at her place, then went out to a very nice dinner and practically closed the restaurant they stayed there so long, chatting one another up in a dark corner. The next morning he left her place early to return home to attend to some time-sensitive family commitments. It turns out that they didn’t talk that day at all, nor the next day, or the next. He said he did however, text her once during that period to wish her well on her son’s first communion. She responded with a thank you, and nothing more. He said he should have recognized her very brief reply as a harbinger of things to come. He said he actually thought about calling her many times, but also thought she could have taken the initiative to contact him just as much as he could her. Up to that point, he had seen her twice and both times he had made the effort of driving to her town. Both times he had picked up the tab. And after the first meeting he claimed he had called her afterwards. So, he said he wanted to see if she would take some initiative to acknowledge their evening. Well, after a few days she finally broke the ice and sent him a text message that had no amicable salutation within it. It simply requested that he return a film to her that she had loaned him. He then responded to her that he was curious about her tone and wondered if the undertone was in response to their lack of conversation after a very romantic evening. She acknowledged that she was perturbed from his lack of contact with her immediately after such a great evening. He then asked her was it not the case that he had driven over an hour to see her including border crossing drama, brought her a bottle of wine as a gift, took her out to an expensive dinner and picked up the entire bill. With that effort, was he still obligated to also be the one to make the “morning after” phone call? If so, why? Her response was that her visceral reaction was inexplicable to her, she actually owned the fact that she didn’t know why. She honestly stated she just felt bad having shared an intimate evening with him and not received a call from him for closure on that evening. After pressing her a bit further, she admitted she was a bit nervous about contacting him afterwards, a bit uncertain about how he would process the romance that had occurred that evening. They eventually laughed it off because they were both cool with the fact that they were finally at least talking, but he later admitted to me that he couldn’t get past the fact that somehow, in her mind when she hadn’t heard from him, he had become a “dog,” the stereotypical designation many men receive when they don’t conform to some women’s expectations. He had become just another typical male whom after the so-called conquest that had taken place in her mind was done with her. At that point I weighed in, saying to him, “So somehow, due to her lack of courage, you had acquired fleas.” We then both pondered what dysfunctional amorphous stereotype could be affixed to women who also don’t acknowledge an exhilarating evening with a man, and then label that man something that they themselves might aptly resemble. We mutually agreed that the wisest course of action was to just leave that thought alone!

At what point will women—claiming to want equality long denied them—put away the “gender card” and step into that equality by moving beyond the hypocrisy of certain realities that continue to undercut their movement. Or is it okay for a woman in today’s society to continue to believe it is okay for her to be the victim when it serves her purpose. While Palin and Bachmann should not be held to a higher standard, they should not be held to a lower one either. Neither should my friend's engaging companion be able to suggest that he's carrying fleas that she isn’t.

Ultimately, or perhaps even more so, ironically, if the deck of cards that represent life is stocked with an array of cards in it that one must play, if we don’t play the ones we are fortunate enough to have been dealt, do we have any chance of winning? After all, how many of us are ever truly in the position to deal, or even cut the cards?