To-Do List for this White Woman, Today
I guess I’m gonna write about women, today. The obvious jumping off point being that this man is up for SCOTUS, and Christine Ford took the stand in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. I listened when I could, like everyone else, and it was excruciating. I also was totally hating on the process of it, on top of the content. It hurts me that there is so much fanfare, so many people, so many rules of conduct, so many committees, so many meetings—and that these people actually put on ties and pantyhose and shit to go into fancy buildings—and literally very little of anything ever comes of it. #thegovernment
Anyway, there’s this sense that something might come of this, and I would be WILDLY surprised if this man actually gets shut down, even though in my belly and in my brain I’m going “shut this man DOWN”, when really I’m visibly only packing lunches, or driving, or saying hey to all the parents in the parking lot. Buckling my seatbelt. Shut. This. Man. Down.
Last night I was with my best girlfriends, and we talked about everything/everything (as opposed to everything/nothing, which is also sometimes nice, and healing), and one of the things that came out was that they worry I don’t advocate for myself enough in my relationship. Interesting. I have wondered the same. I suppose I think I do, or at least I think I get around to it, eventually. And we seemed to agree that this is enough, or what I can do, or whatever. After all, I did get mauled and abandoned, and so I love like a weed most of the time (hey! Hi, yeah I know I’m not supposed to be here, just don’t pluck me out! I’ll just be over here, getting my water and my light and my nitrogen and stuff…)
So I’m thinking about that, and about shut-this-man-down and therefore this question is hanging around my head: do I “get around” to change or do I only get it with the gut punch? Is it all right to gently wait until the dust settles and then say how I feel? Or do I get a better chance next time if, right in the dust cloud I go, HEY. I’m gonna get what’s mine. RIGHT. NOW.
Of course there isn’t one answer to this question. And there’s also the fact that I used to be the dust cloud girl, and it didn’t serve me, so I got gentler. And, of course, it depends on the gravity of the situation. So, clearly the answer is that you have to do both. But there are a couple of camps. There are women busting out of all the sacrifice and all the silence and in all the enzymes of that explosion making demands at every infraction. And then there are women going “hell yes, girl” under their breath but maybe still coddling a husband or a son a little bit, and doing the dishes to keep their heads straight.
Wade Davis said if you call someone “in” – if someone has made a misstep and you want to welcome him into the fact that he is wrong and help him think it through- that you need to be willing to not be in relationship with him anymore. I guess that’s legit, and that’s the work. I see it in the faces and eyes of the women who are doing the racial equity training for us at TLA- we are not your friends nor do we care to be. We are mirrors and you might not like what you see.
I do keep coming back though; to wondering about the ones we aren’t willing to give up. Like husbands and sons. Friends. Business partners. Where’s the handbook for calling them in, for advocating for oneself, and getting everyone through to the other side for the better? Sometimes it is easier to do the dishes and clear your head. I know.
I do not like to fight with my partner. I like to speak with him. The one time I was dust cloud girl was when he was watching YouTube comedy, and it was sexist and subliminally patriarchal, and the 13-year-old daughter was in the room. And in my little cloud of dust and enzymes I was like “THIS IS NOT FUNNY. This is making light of the way it’s OK for guys to cause girls to compare themselves to other girls, and think that being pretty or appealing to guys is even important, and it does not show powerful women. It’s not funny and she should not see it if we aren’t going to talk about it.”
Guess what? He was pissed.
I was pissed too. He was embarrassed, and didn’t understand at first, and I felt guilty and also angry. We were both angry mostly because we were both super surprised. Me at him for not getting it, he at himself for not seeing it, he at me for the gut punch, me at me for the gut punch. We spoke about it later, and he thanked me for calling him “out”, and I thanked him for listening. But it sucked for a minute. A lot. The next day, I walked around thinking I ought to be gentler, as I bring the men in my life into my time and space continuum of beingwoman.
So obviously I go back and forth. My girlfriends last night were reacting to a time in which my partner said he would be with the kids so I could go out, and then conveniently forgot when there was something else he wanted to do. And so my girlfriends came to my house so we could hang, and then when oldest daughter showed up she watched the kids and all the adults went out. And my girlfriends were like “this is bullshit.” Which, it totally was. And they wanted me to be dust cloud girl, but I wasn’t that time. Instead I waited until it was all over and then, much later, explained to my partner how his privilege led to all the events of that particular Wednesday night, and how, in general, he gets what he wants. As the words poured out of my mouth, we were sitting by a fire, and I couldn’t see his face very well and I felt afraid. Not of him, but just of what living in this time right now means for beingwoman and if my relationship will survive it. If I will survive it. It’s A LOT. Not that beingwoman at any other time has been a breeze for relationships or female survival. But that’s maybe what I’m talking about here- that it’s always been a lot, but in different ways. And how do I do this?
The next morning he took me into his arms and he said that he feels things have shifted and that he had a dream the night before of us holding each other while a snake moved in between us. Transformation. I told him I was afraid and he said
Clearly, I have an amazing partner, who is very much trying, and I can afford to be dust cloud girl (only sometimes) and I can almost always afford to be gentle and so far we get through it. But there is a long way to go, in terms of bringing our men in here, and especially bringing our sons in here. One might think that it is easy, after all, the little ones are so young- but do you actually even see yourself, woman? Do you see all the ways you hold that tiny man out safely away from your cloud and how this is you sort of flying for him? I am asking myself, too.
My oldest son one time asked if he could make eggs, and halfway through the process, since I was in the kitchen with him, I realized I was sort of doing it for him. I laughed out loud, and stopped, and I said
Baby, do you know the problem between mamas and boys?
My son said, what??
So I said that the problem with mamas and boys is that mamas will almost always do everything for their boys, because of a whole spider web of crazy reasons, but that we absolutely cannot do all the things for our boys. And I asked him if he knew why.
My son said, SMILING his adorable smile, sort of mischievously: because if you do all the things for us we will grow up and expect our girlfriends and our wives to do it for us.
I was so proud. Still, I had to catch myself…making those damn eggs. See?
I see y’all, doing the dishes. I do them, too, more than I should. I see that not everyone has the space to do the work and not every man is ready or willing. I think we all have to call in and call out as we can, in whatever way we can, and especially not judge each other, woman to woman, about the way we see it happening. That’s probably the most important thing. My girlfriends weren’t judging me, they were rightly calling me in to my own calling-in skills. Thanks, my loves.
The other important thing that helps (while also being crazy-tough) is when I’m trying, simultaneously, to be an ally to other experiences, like beingblack. Or beinggay. Or beingimmigrant or beingtrans. So, here I am, working to bring men into my space, and helping them understand, and I am also working on trying to understand my own privilege that I can’t always see. As a white woman I’ve got to do all that work. I know what it’s like for someone to go all dust cloud on me, to gut punch me with my own bullshit. It hurts like wow. I don’t mean to center whiteness, but I do. I’m still learning how to not center whiteness.
“Welcome to the overwhelm,” the racial equity consultant told me.
Why thank you.
to-do list for this white woman, today:
Do the dishes
Book that flight
Gut punch some dudes
Pick up the kids
Figure out dinner
Invoice those clients
Take a punch to the gut?
At least be ready for it.
Remember to be gentle, too
It’s a busy day over here. Regardless of what #thegovernment is/nt doing. Oh, you too? Well, then: mad props to you, my ladies.