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observation

I really like it when the big guys at the gym ask me for a spot.

A “spot” is when you stay real close to the lifter as she is attempting a heavy lift (i’m using ‘she’ as the generic pronoun today, ’cause why not).  So, the spotter may stand at the head of the lifter who is attempting a heavy bench press, say. She will keep her hands close to the bar, and offer perhaps a pound or two of pressure at the sticking point to help the lifter complete the lift. When a fella who outweighs me by 100 lbs or more (45 kg+/-) asks me to spot, makes me happy.

Most of the time, women like me are invisible. But lately, I tell ya, i’ve been getting some attention. the other day, one of the big guys asked me to spot for him as he did these crazy heavy front squats, that was fun (he was wired up to his fucking ipod thing, so he did not hear my words of encouragement–tsk). And yesterday another guy, he complimented me on my squats, and asked me a question about technique (!). Men almost NEVER ask women for advice with weightlifting. so that was cool, too. Then just today, one of the women who works at the gym complimented me on my technique.

Now, how ’bout that?

on a totally other note, i wanted to write a bit about my visit with my mom and my auntie. she’s not my auntie, really, she was my godmother, er, is, and is one of Mom’s oldest friends. Anyhow, she has three sons, who are, you know, men. And they’re all divorced and have kids and so on. And one of ’em, his wife wouldn’t let him see the kids for years and years. They’re all grown-up now. Anyhow, they were engaging in some discussion about some cousin of my auntie, who is married to an obnoxious woman. She’s loud and she smokes and she smokes dope and she’s generally abrasive and unpleasant to be around. Apparently. And this cousin dude, he won’t divorce her because “his brother got taken to the cleaners, and look what happened to poor so-and-so, he got taken to the cleaners, too, and–”

i piped up, “wow. that’s weird. everywhere else in Canada, it’s the woman’s income that plummets, and men’s standard of living increases after divorce”.  They didn’t have much to say about that, these women who love me and whom I love so much. Sometimes their conservatism surprises me. My auntie, I guess she thinks she has to protect the interests of her sons, but what is this strange compulsion to blame women, trash women, call out women’s (where does the apostrophe go? dammit…) bad behaviour and when they sniff the air around men, they seem to smell only roses? Sure, women can be assholes, too, but the structure of our society is such that it is men who are protected, promoted, empowered–at the expense of women. we behave badly, and we get shunned and attacked and disparaged. Men behave badly and…well, Don Cherry makes a lot of money, doesn’t he? Kobe Bryant? Charlie Sheen? These guys are obnoxiour and/or downright dangerous, and they are protected.

and it’s not just the famous guys, of course not. My auntie’s son didn’t get to see his kids, but he didn’t have the work and expense of raising them either. I don’t know if he ever contributed money to their care, but I do know that my fiance, in the 80s, while his kids were growing up far away from him, he paid just a little over $100 a month to their mother for their care. Three kids! And at the time, i was enough of a turd to begrudge her that meagre amount–especially when she re-married. what an asshole. See? We protect men, and take care of them, at the expense of our relationships with each other. I did that. anyhow, so my auntie’s son, I guess he’s my sort of cousin, he gets all this comfort and fussing over from his mom (and who knows who else), and then he gets to be off the hook for whatever he did to provoke his ex-wife to keep the children from him. Of course, according to Auntie, the ex-wife is crazy and unreasonable.

Oh, i don’t know. I just know that all the women I know who were married and who are no longer are in some way or another struggling to keep the kids happy, and the man reasonable and everything on an even keel, and the men are just going along, letting the women do all that work.  Even the nice guys. And lots of these women are either called crazy, or really driven mad by the behaviour of their ex-husbands and their apologists. such a tragedy…

Because, of course, it’s not individual men or women who are just being free agents, we all live in this highly structured imperialist capitalist patriarchy that is rigidly hierarchical and we behave the way we’ve been raised (by the system, mind you, not by our individual parents, who god knows did their level best to encourage us–) within the political categories to which we were born (race, sex, class). we all got mushed into this template, and for some of us, it fits just fine, we get lots of stuff, and for others it’s oppressive. capital “o” oppressive. And for some reason, we have to argue for the continuation of that hierarchy, ’cause it’s what we know and we have real trouble imagining what we can’t imagine. that’s the tragedy. All of our humanity is diminished, both the oppressed and the oppressors. and just to clarify, I do NOT mean to say that “men are oppressed by patriarchy, too”–they’re not. they are negatively affected by it, but they get lots and lots of stuff and power and room to move that women do not, because women are oppressed by patriarchy. Men are oppressors. even the nice guys. ’cause that’s how the system works. Similarly, I am not oppressed by imperialism because of my whiteness. I am rewarded materially because of that, even if interpersonal and political relationships are harder to build because of the systemic oppressions of women of colour and aboriginal women (which reward me) getting in the way.

huh. so how to change? What to do?

i gotta go transcribe some more interviews now. then a meeting. those meetings sometimes open up some cracks for the light to come in…to try to make the metaphor work–it’s kind of like having a spotter for a really challenging weight. I get to wrestle with this stuff–how much “free will” do we have? How can we change the world? Where do we start? oh dear, who is with me?  what does freedom look like? What am I doing wrong? Which way? Christ on a cracker, this is hard! and then someone opens their mouth in a meeting and the truth comes out and there’s a glimmer there, for me, a spark of understanding, a little bit of…”this is how. These simple things. One at a time.” then I can rack the weight, take a deep breath, walk home and look at it from another angle. it’s gonna be okay.

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About easilyriled

My mom was Edith, my dad was John. I have a brother, who is Shawn. I have many friends and allies and mentors in my life. I'm white, over-educated, under-employed, messy, funny, smart, lesbian, feminist "Not the fun kind", as Andrea Dworkin said. But I, like the feminists I hang with, ARE fun. I play accordion better than I did, and i'm learning the concertina. Slowly.

8 responses »

  1. Another excellent post, I am too lazy for the gym, plus with my busted ankle at the moment it is tres difficult.

    they are negatively affected by it, but they get lots and lots of stuff and power and room to move that women do not, because women are oppressed by patriarchy. Men are oppressors. even the nice guys. ’cause that’s how the system works. Similarly, I am not oppressed by imperialism because of my whiteness. I am rewarded materially because of that, even if interpersonal and political relationships are harder to build because of the systemic oppressions of women of colour and aboriginal women (which reward me) getting in the way.

    Fuckin’ aye. Also, I fucking hate Charlie Sheen and that so many people I know support his pay-per-rapist, womon-hating, womon-hitting ways by watching that goddess awful television show of his.

    Reply
    • ow. busted ankle. awful. hope you’re healed and booting around soon, Aileen…
      I don’t think you’re lazy. the gym isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, after all…
      re: Charlie Sheen and his ilk,–ah. yea. we’ve a lot of work to do, there are a lot of foreheads begging for forks to be stuck in them….

      Reply
  2. I really liked this post. I totally agree. It’s so hard to unentrench the entrenched, maybe that’s why according to my spellcheck right now unentrench isn’t even a word. Excellent writing, “easilyriled.”

    Reply
    • thanks, Andrea. I loved your last blog post, it kinda spoke of a similar phenomenon, but from a different perspective. Change is hard. We are more likely to leap to defensivenss before we fully understand the threat, and we’re likely to get cooperation if we learn each others’ language, at least a little bit. nice work.
      xo

      Reply
  3. This is brilliant. I am such a fan! of the way you are able to develop analysis through story-telling, and a conversational witty tone, the perfect descriptive details etc… And your analysis is SPOT ON. So yes, I agree completely with every point. This a major topic that needs more and more critique. There are so many factors determining this pathologizing and bureaucratic approach. Professionalism. The medical industry. A certain entrenched ideology that goes “We’re doing enough.” The myth that “starting somewhere” is always the best, no matter what that somewhere is. The illusion of “starting”- now i’m getting too metaphysical. Your descriptions of the experience of being within that context in the shelter.wow. I might have to quote you… Such very DEEP stuff. Much more to discuss. I think I’ll have to print it up to do so. I’m so glad I’ve found you and this blog!

    Reply
  4. i meant to press the button for follow up comments 🙂

    Reply
  5. Did you read this? Glad it worked so well. Not. Legalizing prostitution isn’t to protect women, it’s to protect Johns.

    Reply

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