The Online Journal of Writer Kate Sykes
It ain’t easy being a woman in America. We make less money than men do; those of us on active duty in the military are more likely to be raped by a comrade than killed by the enemy, and the majority of us can’t hold our urine on a trampoline.
A doctor once told me that the number of humiliating urogenital problems women endure is all the proof you need that God is a man.
But I didn’t come here today to talk about my womb, or out of it, for that matter. Though that’s what a lot of people think we women do, talk out of our wombs. Like the guy I met today. Witness:
I live across the street from a deli-mart. It’s a small neighborhood place on a quiet side street in a college town. They sell gigantic subs for reasonable prices, carry a great selection of craft beer, offer the best selection of ice cream anywhere and employ super cool laid-back people. Mostly it’s pretty quiet, except around noon, when it turns into Grand Central Sandwich.
Every college student in the immediate vicinity must receive a homing signal when the grill goes on, because in a matter of minutes, the street in front of the store becomes a veritable parking lot. Cars line both sides of the street. Drivers double park, waiting for their friends to run in for them. Cars occupy the spots zoned for deliveries and residents-only. They park in the no-parking zones and, sometimes, in my driveway.
I don’t mean that cars block my driveway. I mean they pull in behind my car and park like they live in my house.
When this happens, as it did today, I’ll step outside on the porch and have a little conversation with the driver.
These conversations rarely go very well. The main reason, I think, is that there’s a certain kind of person who thinks it’s okay to park in someone’s driveway. And that person is a self-entitled jackwagon who doesn’t respect the law, personal property, or other people’s rights as human being on this earth. I’m not rude to them, but since we’ve selected for a certain demographic here, I feel no real obligation to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’
Today, the conversation went worse than usual. The driver, a college-aged, clean cut white dude, told me that he would only be in the store for two minutes and started to walk away. I told him that it didn’t matter how long he was in the store, this was private property, he was trespassing and he needed to move his car. His reply was that if I wanted the car moved, I could have it towed. Then he walked away.
This is a classic instance in which many of my female friends would say that I used the wrong approach, that I should have smiled, or half-begged-laughed and deflected my gaze downward to charm him into doing what I wanted him to do. They would say that I should know you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
I have no desire to catch the fly. Hand me the swatter.
What would your reaction have been? Would you say, ‘Oh well! People can be jerks!’ and go back to writing an article about disability insurance? Would you yell something equally rude to the guy’s back? Would you call the police to have them come out and ticket him for trespassing (knowing they would never get there in time)? Would you let air out of his tires, or smash his windshield with the garden shovel you have in garage? Would you wish you still owned that pump action 12-gauge, because then you could just shoot him and tell the jury you felt threatened by his presence in your yard?
I’ll admit that every single one of those options went through my mind before I settled on what I felt was a very reasonable compromise between ‘take it lying down’ and ‘do something that will land you in prison.’
Since I know the owners of the store (and know they have a vested interest in keeping the neighbors happy) I followed the young man inside. While he was waiting in line to order his sandwich, I told the clerk working the register what had happened. As expected, the clerk told him he needed to move his car. The guy put up an argument and said he wouldn’t, so the clerk refused to serve him.
Problem solved. Or so I thought. As the saying goes, “Every problem was once a solution.”
On the way back to my front door, I was treated to a barrage of insults and accusations from the guy, ranging from “I was only gonna be in there for two minutes!” to “You’re an effing bitch!” and the whopper: “I sure hope you don’t have kids, because you’re crazy.”
I’ve been called crazy before. I think every woman has. I call myself crazy. I bet, if you’re a woman, you do it, too. It’s a go-to word for us. It’s practically a term of endearment. But I’ve never been called crazy and then had my uterus condemned in the same sentence. Needless to say, it really hammered the point home: a crazy woman is a menace to society and shouldn’t be allowed to have children.
What led this kid from “I’m angry and embarrassed about being publicly shamed into moving my car” to “I’m going to take it out on you” is easy to follow. But what led him from “you’re crazy” to “your only function on earth is to breed and I hope you don’t get the chance” is pretty disturbing. And I think it speaks to something very deeply ingrained in the way we see women in our culture.
Because I don’t think he is crazy. I think he’s just like everyone else.
The word “crazy” is used far too loosely in our society. Mental illness is a disease, and sometimes a disability, like being deaf or having to use a wheelchair. When you call someone crazy, you’re not just insulting them, you’re insulting everyone on earth who suffers from mental illness. (I’m not one of them, by the way. I just don’t want you parking in my driveway.)
But more to the point, “crazy” is too often leveled against women, simply for being women. There’s nothing crazy about standing up for yourself. There is nothing crazy about not wanting to make nicey-nicey with a trespasser on your property. There is nothing crazy about having emotions. There is nothing inherently crazy about the female gender.
Would this fellow have hurled the same insults at a man that had done exactly what I did? No. Would he have called him crazy? Invoked his fitness to father children? The idea is absurd.
The uterus may exist as a vestigial organ in the root of the word “hysterical” or “hysteria,” but a woman’s mind and her lady parts are not connected. Treating all women as if we’re a little bit crazy by virtue of our gender is, at best, lazy thinking, and, at worst, misogynistic. And living in that kind of world is enough to make anyone crazy.