Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm, as It Turns Out, Not Perfect!

The other day I was visiting my brother-in-law's hardware store.  The conversation turned to Brother-in-Law's  very large Toyota Tundra.  I jokingly said that it might even qualify as a compensation mobile.  He simply replied that that's a pretty sexist thing for a self-proclaimed feminist to say.

If anything ever cut me to the quick, that did.  After mumbling some embarrassed syllables of admission, I shuffled back to the car with my head hung low and fought back tears all the way home.  Of course he was right.  If he had intimated that women cursed with undesirably small . . . breasts, say, carry bigger purses so men will still want them, I might have bludgeoned him to death with my extra-large handbag.  And yet I have been making the occasional joke about something equally sexist for years.  I felt like the ultimate hypocrite.  I sometimes get the impression that my (unusually open-minded) extended family thinks I just put on a feminist persona for appearances.  This incident is excellent evidence of exactly that.  How could a true feminist say something so obviously inappropriate?  How could I possibly espouse complete equality if I fight the battle in only one direction?  I felt rather depressed and lethargic for the rest of the day.

And several days later, I am still dwelling on my hideous faux pas.  Am I just doing the "feminist thing" for show?  Do I really want equality, or am I simply using feminism as a reason to feel angry and superior?  If it is all a ruse, what do I do now?  Start deferring to patriarchal authority again, trash my career plans, return to the temple and blithely agree to be less-than for eternity?  Make comments in church about women's superior spirituality and role as gatekeepers of sexuality?  Vilify working moms and stay-at-home dads?

The thought sends shivers down my spine.  At this point, I realize that I'm not faking it.  I actually believe in this stuff.  Maybe I just make mistakes sometimes.  As one of my psychology professors wisely stated, "gender roles are in the air we breathe."  Even the most progressive individuals are going to slip up every now and then, because sexism is inescapable.  We feminists are fighting the good fight from within and without.  In a way, I am grateful that my brother-in-law opened my eyes to a hidden bit of sexism that I needed to root out (and I'm sure there are more yet to be discovered).  I do wish that I could have taken on this traitorous bit privately, without the added element of public shame.  Learning the hard way is never fun, but then again aren't we Mormons always talking about difficulties making us stronger?

So even die-hard feminists make the occasional sexist remark sometimes.  Please forgive us, for clinging to feminism in a gender-polarized world is no mean feat.  And if Brother-in-Law reads this, please accept my apology and realize that this post is, in reality, penance for my transgression.  Now back to the battlefield.

Adventures in Ageism

Apparently it's been five weeks since my last post.  Although this is by far my longest period of silence since the inception of this blog, I do not feel guilty.  Within that time, I have:
  • Written a plethora of excellent papers
  • Aced all of my finals
  • Gotten straight As in all my classes (booya!)
  • Performed in the annual BYU Celebration of Christmas concert
  • Experienced my first Thanksgiving and Christmas sans family
  • Taken the GRE (did tolerably well)
  • Witnessed and participated in the weddings of my dear cousin and brother-in-law
  • Traveled to Orange County, San Francisco/San Jose, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
  • Visited one of my top choice grad schools (and I'm pretty sure they want me)
  • Visited the Smithsonian for the first time (was unimpressed by the Hope Diamond, was baffled that the Star of Bombay was so inconspicuously displayed, and appreciated the human evolution exhibit)
And, most impressive of all:
  • Endured living with multiple small children for almost two weeks.
This time has lent itself to self-discovery.  And, after much introspection, I have realized that I am horribly ageist.  Yes, I harbor serious biases against the old and the young.  Here is a short list of things that have contributed to my prejudice:
  • Driving to San Jose with Husband's loveable, crotchety-old-man of an uncle, during which he inadvertently merged onto the wrong freeway and continued on't for several hours while spouting off a fountain of angry, one-sided political "truths", fumbling with new-fangled devices, and grumbling that the world has gone to pot.
  • Driving to Washington D.C. with the same loveable yet crotchety uncle, when he voiced some exceedingly racist opinions and refused to see them as racist (because it's not racist if it's true, dammit!).
  • Sitting in the splash zone on the way to Muir Woods with my sister-in-law and her two kids.  Yes, there was vomit.  A lot of vomit.
  • Experiencing more vomit with my niece at the airport.
  • Witnessing dozens of logic-free childish meltdowns.
My ageism is particularly strong against the young.  I can excuse the old because they've toiled and endured for a long time and they are often in a lot of pain and have seen more sadness and suffering than I have.  I simultaneously honor and roll my eyes at the elderly on a regular basis.

But children are a different story.  My astute niece even asked me why I don't like children the other day.  I sort of lied and said I just don't have much experience with them.  Well, the experience I've gained over the last few weeks has not helped my opinion of the little imps.  I just can't understand their thought processes.  They can't seem to understand that screaming what you want over and over is not an effective way to solve your problems.  They also fail to grasp that their issues are minute.  I want to widen their viewpoint, to show them the ease and comfort of their lives.  I guess I see it as ungrateful.  How can you be so upset about not getting to go to the toy store when you just got about a hundred shiny new toys for Christmas?  Their parents are always bending over backward to ensure their health, safety, and happiness, and yet they scream and cry and act like the world is going to end because they have to take a nap (and how dare they turn up their noses at the heavenly luxury of napping?!).

I believe my prejudices are fueled by my belief that I was a perfect child.  At least that's how my mother tells the tale.  According to her, I rarely cried as an infant, slept all night long, woke up at nine or ten, weaned easily, potty trained easily, etc.  Of course, I imagine parenting is much easier when there is only one.  My parents never had to listen to squabbles about sharing because I had no one to share with.  I never felt the need to act out for attention because I got all the attention I could ever want.  I rarely fought against my parents' rules because I felt I was just another adult in the house.  And when I did try to manipulate them, they didn't give in and quickly conditioned me to use more appropriate methods.  Perhaps my parents should go into more detail with me about my childhood.  I have heard a few tales involving vomitage, and remember a tantrum or two.  Although my mom admits that the one time I ever yelled at her, she deserved it!

Or perhaps I resent children because I envy them.  I wish I had it so easy.  I wish I didn't have to control my emotions.  I wish I didn't have to work and do hard things and be responsible.  I wish I had someone to wait on me hand and foot.  And if I did, I'd be thankful, you hooligans!  I shall earn the title of crotchety old lady yet!

Look, I know my feelings about children are unfair.  I know that their reasoning abilities are limited.  I know that when they whine and scream and cry they are simply expressing their confusion and frustration at a complex world with complex rules.  I know that their immune systems are still developing, which leads to frequent spewage.  But that knowledge does not keep me from getting annoyed (or from hiding in my room for several hours a day to escape them).  I guess I lack compassion for children.  The true manifestation of my ageism, though, is that I feel no compulsion to remedy this void of charity.  I am making no new year's resolutions to fix my skewed perceptions; I do not feel the need to talk to God or my bishop about it.  And I have no idea why.  At least I'm admitting it, right?  That's supposed to be the first step to . . . something, right?

I do not want any parents reading this to feel as though I am attacking them or their parenting abilities.  I do not blame parents for having annoying children because, as far as I can tell, they all get to me to some degree.  Therefore it is the very nature of children that irks me.  Aren't I terrible?  I'm sure I'll get some angry parent commenting and saying that children are a blessing from God and I am going to hell.  Well, if I'm going to hell, lacking patience for children is the least of my offenses.

Thank you for making it to the end of this very stream-of-consciousness post (which I have written while attempting to tune out the dulcet tones of screaming toddlers).  Feel free to verbally crucify me in the comments.