It’s January 1990 … something, and a black stretch limo is waiting for me in the portico of a luxury hotel in Boston. I run over as the driver opens the back door for me. As a dyed-in-the-wool Californian, of course, I have no winter coat on, even though it’s cold. I quickly slide into the warm vehicle. The other woman already in the car — I’ll call her Evelyn — says a polite “Hello.” My teeth manage to chatter, “Good morning.”
The producers of a large network affiliate had flown me in from California the day before. They told me that I didn’t need to put on makeup in the morning — it would be done for me at the studio. Nevertheless, I’d daubed on some eye makeup and a little bit of lipstick. I was wearing a nice outfit. The producers even apologized when they asked me if I would mind sharing the limo with the other guest, also from out of town. It was the first time that I’d been billed as “The Feminist” for a relatively big regional morning talk show. I was thrilled.
The other guest (Evelyn) and I chatted amiably as the car wound its way through Boston on its way to the affiliate station. She asked, “What will you be doing on the show?”
I said, “I’m the feminist.”
She looked at me like I had just said, “I rip baby’s arms off, roast them for supper, and serve them with fava beans and a nice chianti. Then, I recruit women to become lesbians. Wanna?” She subtly slid a bit farther from me on the slippery black leather bench seat. Then she said, “You’re the feminist? But, but … you’re so nice! And you have makeup on!”
“I also shave my armpits,” I said with a big smile. “And I’m happily married to a man, who is also a feminist. But he doesn’t shave his pits.” The image of feminists that the mainstream white cis-male media has burned into the minds of innocent and often progressive people is formidable and ironclad, even here in 2021.
Compounding the negative image Evelyn already had, the patriarchs in the white evangelical Christian cabal she belonged to amplified those negative images 100-fold through hypocrites like Pat Robertson. You may recall he once famously declared that “Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” No wonder Evelyn was scared of me!
On the other end of the spectrum of demonizing and dehumanizing feminists are the men and women who say, “I can’t believe a woman would do that — they’re supposed to be better!” Talk about lose-lose: We’re either feared as Satan’s bride or placed on a pedestal.
I rarely hear people cast aspersions on all white men for the actions of another white man. All of us being held to account for the actions of just one of us, regardless of color, is exhausting. A classic example is the current “Karen” craze. Another was the time a producer actually asked me, “You’re a blonde; how do blondes feel about this, Ellen?” It’s truly insane.
Have I got news for you — women are merely human! Yep. Women can be as bad to the bone or as saintly as men. Most of us are in the middle somewhere. I assert that it’s sexist and racist to expect women and BIPOC to do or be “good” all the time, then slam an entire group when they aren’t.
We’ve just seen some potent examples of this with the DC insurgency on Jan. 6. Although there were far fewer women involved, the ones participating were just as nuts, violent and misinformed as to the guys. One of the alleged terrorists may even be a trans woman. That surprises me, but why? Can’t a trans woman be just as complicated and flawed as a cis white male?
Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon-embracing female veteran who was shot and killed in the riot, was, according to her loved ones, doing what she believed in when she died. That is sad on many levels.
Sad is one thing; nausea is another. The woman who really turns my stomach is Jenna Ryan, a real piece of work. Jenna is a real estate agent from the Dallas area who took a private jet to answer Drumpf’s call. She recorded herself during the insurrection and practically orgasmed on camera, telling her fans (and potential clients) she would be as fervent in representing them in buying or selling a house as she was in storming the Capitol building. Ewww.
So back to my main point: Women are not one size fits all. Give us a break! We are no better or worse than the dumbest or most brilliant men.
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org