During these unsettled days of the #MeToo saga that continues the ominous roll call of men found to be just as bad as we suspected, it’s a huge relief to chance upon stories that show that there are other men out there. Sweet, funny guys like Tim, a twenty-something Brit, who ventured into the alien territory of women’s leggings because his girlfriend, Taylor-Anne, happened to need a pair. And then ignited a global storm of laughter with tweets like this:
Viral laughter is just as liberating as any other kind, and I think we are in dire need of more. It surely helps that TSG is handsome, and Taylor-Anne gorgeous. They clearly have a sense of humour. Keep that going, guys. I sure do. Last week as I was driving home from the Y with my friend Susan, we were commiserating about the #MeToo thing when she suddenly started to recite in a funny sing-song style, lines from My Fair Lady, in Professor Higgins’ voice:
Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that! Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags! They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!
And then, Why can’t a woman be more like a man? A man is such a reasonable chap…etc etc. Of course, Eliza is no slouch, she gets her own back, in Without You:
Art and music will thrive without you. Somehow Keats will survive without you. And there still will be rain on that plain down in Spain, even that will remain without you. I can do without you!
And then Higgins swears up and down that he, too, can get along just fine without her:
She’s an owl sickened by a few days of my sunshine! Very well, let her go – I can do without her. I can do without anyone! I have my own soul, my own spark of divine fire!
The play, one of the most witty ever written on the subject of the sex wars, ends with Higgins asking, rather plaintively, Eliza, where are my slippers?
The point that the play makes is that men need women perhaps just a tad more than women need them, as Higgins’ mother surely knows when she sides, at last, with the former ‘gutter snipe’, now become a lady who might just tame her son, the old lion. For all his swagger and unconscious cruelty, Higgins turns out to be more vulnerable than Eliza. She gains the upper hand by learning to play his game better than he does. But there is no doubt: men and women do need each other; and if either party loses its sense of the absurdity of it all, we are in trouble. Remember, only fascists are completely without humour. I don’t think anyone really wants to march down that road, no matter how many Republicans want us to.
And female rage is serious stuff. I once felt it, like a bolt of lighting shooting up my spine, after watching that old movie, Thelma and Louise. It’s probably not on the list of required feminist tracts today for the simple reason that they lose, in the end, driving their convertible off a cliff with a posse of armed police, choppers and dogs on their heels. Would the movie have a different ending in today’s world. I wonder about that.
I also can’t get a piece in Harper’s Magazine out of my head, that shows how close we are to losing it and simply upending the power structure without actually improving things. In The Other Whisper Network: how Twitter feminism is bad for women, Katie Roipe, the director of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU’S Arthur L CArter Journalism Institute, opens her article with ‘No one would talk to me for this piece. Or rather, more than twenty women talked to me, sometimes for hours at a time, but only after I promised to leave out their names and give them what I began to call deep anonymity.’
She then proceeds to tell us what those women could not publicly admit to thinking; all of these thoughts revolving around their increasing discomfort with how women were making it impossible to have somewhat divergent opinions on the #MeToo movement. How they feared speaking heretical thoughts or questioning the guilt of all men, or wondering out loud if conflating rape with someone leering at you over dinner was tantamount to betrayal of the movement. https://harpers.org/archive/2018/03/the-other-whisper-network-2/
Roipe is horrified when she finds herself agreeing with a nasty and, as she later discovers, false accusation against Lorin Stein, the former editor of Paris Review. He resigned because he pursued sexual liasions with some of the women he worked with or met, while being one of the best and most supportive editor of female authors the magazine has ever had. She wonders how she, a professor of jounalism, could have been so caught up in what she calls a ‘weird energy’, which also made several of the women she talked to ‘uneasy’.
What is that energy? I think we need to go back, way back, to the Greeks and their myths for the answer. There’s this story about how a virile young man, a hunter, gets a chance to do something fordidden: he watches as the goddess Artemis, who is a virginal huntress herself, bathes nude in a stream. When she discovers his transgression, she turns him into a stag and his own hounds tear him to pieces. That’s female rage, admittedly by a goddess who apparently, has no sense of humour.
And we have just re-discovered its power. Today is a watershed moment in the ancient battle of the sexes. It needs careful handling lest the vengeful energies, stemmed for thousands of years, overwhelm us.What we do with it will determine the future of our entire civilization–nothing less.
Let’s not, for goddess sake, lose our sense of humour while we sort this out.