Tag Archives: Outrage

Embracing the Cailleach

As I prepared for my hysterectomy, I kept seeing articles about how to cope with sorrow and regret. I can understand young women mourning the loss of their fertility, but at 44, I can’t see grieving for organs that hurt me for decades. If a person treated me the way my reproductive system did, I’d be shopping for hydrofluoric acid and Rubbermaid tubs.

Apparently some women my age are devastated by the notion of reaching menopause a little ahead of schedule. They fear losing their femininity — or worse, their value — along with what’s left of their fertility.

I blame our society. We portray postmenopausal women as feeble, unattractive, or daft figures to be pitied, patronized, or ignored.

I’ve been researching a lot of Celtic folklore lately, and one thing I’ve found striking is its reverence for older women. The youthful goddess Brigid ruled the spring and summer, but the Cailleach — a Gaelic word that translates to “hag” or “crone” — governed the winter months. In the stories I’ve read, the Cailleach is a strong, creative, sexually confident goddess, unfettered by the threat of pregnancy, the discomforts of menstruation, or the demands of motherhood and imbued with the wisdom of experience.

Imagine what would happen to the patriarchy if women took our cues from such a figure. Imagine what would happen if we stopped apologizing for our own longevity, quit measuring our worth by fertility or looks, and embraced the freedom and power that come with age.

There are legitimate reasons to be upset about a hysterectomy. It hurts. It’s tiring. It’s expensive. One in three women will have hysterectomies by age 60 — a number I imagine would plummet if our government could be arsed to spend as much money funding research into fibroids and endometriosis as it spends on security to protect Donald Trump while he farts around in New York and Florida. (Perhaps I’ve read Gloria Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate” essay one too many times, but I can’t help suspecting that if a third of all men had to have reproductive organs removed by age 60, we’d declare a national emergency.)

But while I’m frustrated that it was necessary, I can’t quite bring myself to regret a surgery that ended 30 years of pain and inconvenience and accelerated my entry into the comforts of cronedom.

I am not afraid of aging.

I am not afraid of becoming the Cailleach.

Bring it.

Emily

Par for the course

When I was 12, I was told I couldn’t run track because I was a girl, and we had only a boys’ team.

When I was a teenager …

A classmate attempted to stick his tongue in my mouth without permission on the way home from a school dance.

I got called into the principal’s office for circulating an underground newspaper protesting our school’s sexist homecoming practices.

I had to bite my tongue while a couple of jerks stood at the walk-up window at the restaurant where I worked and loudly discussed my backside the entire time I was making their dinner.

In my 20s …

I was told by someone prepping me for future job interviews that the plain, modestly cut top I was wearing was “too sexual” and might disqualify me in the eyes of a prudish hiring manager.

I walked into a big-box hardware store and watched incredulously as three different employees ignored me while going out of their way to wait on men who’d come in after I did.

I slept with a tonfa under my pillow after a creepy trucker spent an entire day staring at my bustline and making sexual innuendoes while I was volunteering at a fundraiser.

I sat through a job interview where a manager told me if I got the job, I would be supervising a difficult employee who was “like a wild filly that can’t be broke” and “seems to have a problem with men.” I would learn later that Wild Filly’s “problem with men” hinged on her distaste for creepy middle-aged men who enjoyed sexually harassing women half their age.

When I was in my 30s…

I was accused of having an affair with my boss because I got along with him and earned stellar evaluations.

I was passed over for a management position because “you certainly have the resume, but I’m not sure you have the personality for it.” (I’d been a manager at another organization a few years earlier and was universally praised for my performance.) The person who was hired lacked both the experience and the temperament to do the job effectively and drove off several talented employees.

At 41 …

I watched my country pass over a woman who absolutely had the resume for the presidency, because our society is so profoundly misogynistic, it would rather hire someone who appears to lack both the experience and the temperament to do a job effectively than see a bright, outspoken woman in a position of power.

Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I knew this would happen. Forty-one years of living in this country have taught me to expect the worst where its treatment of women is concerned. But the Cubs won the Series this year. Miracles happen. So I dared to hope a little bit.

I expected to be disappointed last night. I just didn’t expect something this predictable to hurt this much.

Emily

The danger in grabbing women

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one completely incapable of mustering anything even vaguely resembling shock at Donald Trump’s boasts about kissing women and grabbing their crotches without permission. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three decades, you know this sort of behavior is entirely consistent with his public persona.

What bothers me is the number of men rushing to his defense, as if the behavior he described were somehow defensible.

Men who can’t or won’t distinguish between dirty jokes and sexual assault are unlikely to be swayed by any arguments involving compassion for women, basic human decency, or a recognition of women as human beings. If they were capable of understanding any of that, they wouldn’t have to be told not to touch strangers’ labia without permission.

I’d like to offer up another angle for those who can’t be bothered to care about sexual-assault victims’ feelings.

According to stats presented by worldwidedojo.com and attributed to a study by Simmons Market Research, 9.4 million American adults reported having participated in martial arts in the past year — 48 percent of them women.

If those numbers are accurate (and I’m not saying they are; I have unanswered questions about the study’s date and methodology, but these were the best numbers I could put my hands on at the moment), that means more than 4.5 million women in this country have at least some idea of what to do if a man approaches us in a sexually aggressive manner.

Not all of us were trained in defensive arts, and not all of us will remember our training well enough or have practiced it sufficiently to be effective against an attacker. But some of us will, and there’s no way to tell by looking which crotch is safe for you to grab and which will get you injured or killed.

I used to train with a black belt who was maybe five feet tall and built like a fireplug. I’ve never seen anybody who could take down an attacker faster than she could.

I knew another girl who looked like a supermodel. She showed up for her first combat karate class with about 15 years of ballet training behind her. Ballerinas, as it turns out, make excellent karatekas. Her first week in class, sensei taught us a move to keep strange men from putting their arms around us in bars. She came back the second week beaming with glee as she recounted how she’d removed a creep from his barstool for getting too fresh. I suspect if Donald Trump had met Ballerina before he met Billy Bush, his campaign would be in much better shape today.

I’m a fairly nondescript, middle-aged woman. I doubt the average man would find me terribly intimidating at first glance. But if you put your hand somewhere I don’t want it, I’ll put you on the ground and convince you to stay there politely until the cops show up.

We are out here. We are legion. And you have absolutely no way of knowing who we are until you tangle with one of us.

For the safety of everyone concerned: Don’t. Unlike Donald Trump, you don’t have the benefit of Secret Service protection.

Emily

You had ONE JOB, Women’s Running.

What's wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong with this picture?

Dear Women’s Running:

On your website, you claim your mission is

to create a high-quality magazine for smart, successful women who use running to balance and enrich their lives.

As a smart, successful woman who uses running to balance and enrich her life, I would seem to be your target audience. Yet when I went to the bookstore yesterday, of the three running magazines available, yours was the only one I elected not to buy.

Let’s talk about how this month’s cover convinced me that your magazine, despite its appealing name, was not for me at all.

WEIGHT-LOSS SPECIAL ISSUE

YOUR FITTEST YEAR EVER!
* Run Off Pounds
* The Best Workouts to Slim Down
* Nutrition Tips From “The Biggest Loser” Trainer

“Run Off Pounds”? Is a magazine called Women’s Running really treating its eponymous sport as nothing more than the means to an end? As a runner, I don’t need the best workout to slim down. I need the best workout to strengthen my core, increase my endurance and reduce my risk of injuries. Slimming down is usually a natural side effect of such workouts, but it is not the reason I train. And to hell with “The Biggest Loser” — I want to know what Joan Benoit and Deena Kastor eat.

A magazine targeting female athletes really ought to know better than to approach its readers with the same tired old “you’re-too-fat” trope Woman’s Day and Family Circle have been pitching to bored housewives for the last 80 years.

Next on your cover, I found this gem:

#NERDALERT: BEST NEW RUNNING WATCHES, FITNESS TRACKERS, HEADPHONES AND MORE

What’s the message here? Female athletes who use electronic training tools designed to help them train better are nerds? If so, then why is Teri Hatcher — whom you dub a “hot momma” — wearing what appears to be an enormous running watch in your badly Photoshopped cover image?

Below that, we have:

PULLUP CHALLENGE — Totally Possible!
THE LEGAL PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUG
HOT TIPS — Make Winter Running (Kinda) Fun

OMG, you guys. Did you know it’s totally possible for women to do pullups? Apparently we can do it if we take enough PEDs. And I’m so glad there’s a way to make a completely voluntary activity I do for my own enjoyment “kinda fun.”

Just to be sure women don’t miss the message that looks are everything, Women’s Running drives the point home with this little coup de grace:

CLAWS OUT! Race-Day Nail Art

Race.
Day.
Nail.
Art.

Is this a tribute to the late Florence Griffith-Joyner? If not, it’s quite possibly the most inappropriate thing I’ve ever seen — and I taught sophomores for five years. I have run two marathons, six half-marathons, and too many shorter races to count, and I can assure you that I have never once given even one-tenth of one percent of a damn about how my nails looked on race day.

Based on your mission statement, I can draw only one of two conclusions: Either you’ve failed miserably, or you’ve got some spectacularly incompetent people making decisions about how to market your content to your target audience, because this smart, successful woman finds your January/February cover to be one of the most unconscionably patronizing messes of misogynistic bullshit she’s ever seen.

Emily