Hello again from the last frontier!
Girls, women, chicks, broads, dames, ladies, females, bitches, a rose by any other name yadda, yadda, yadda, right? No matter what we do, no matter how often we prove ourselves there will always be a certain segment of the non-female population that will see us as weak, second-class citizens. I’ve said before that I consider myself an “equalist”, not a feminist. (Hey, men don’t call themselves “masculinists” do they?) Men and women are different, and always will be, but that does not mean we are not equal.
At this point you may be thinking, C’mon lady, give us a break, everyone knows that women have all the equality they need now. Ha! Sexism may be down but it is definitely not out. Not by a long shot.
Two recent events have brought this to my attention. The first occurred around a dinner table and the second around a card table.
Not long ago, Jake the Grape and Chef Wendy hosted a truly scrumptious party. The food was divine, the company pleasant, the conversation controversial but fun. At one point I made a half-joke about how I’d like to see Oprah Winfrey as the president of the U.S. and listed my reasons for this. I then said that it would be great to have a president who is black and female. A fellow guest snickered that there was one big problem with that – and it wasn’t the “black” part.
This guest then went on with, “Can you just imagine once a month how crazy the president would be?”
I looked around for the king, the castle, and the peasants in the field, in case I’d somehow been transported back to the dark ages.
I’m the first to admit that my hormones run rampant once a month. For goodness sake, I once caught myself starting to cry over a Hallmark commercial. But I also spent ten years as a professional stunt performer, doing a job that requires extreme physical and mental focus — a job where one little mistake can seriously injure or kill you or someone else. I did my job well and not once did those pesky hormones get in the way of that.
Us stunt chicks had to perform all the same rough and tumble gags that the boys did, except that they got to wear suits, with elbow, knee, shin, and hip pads underneath, while we would fall down the same flight of cement stairs while wearing six inch heels, a tank top, and a mini skirt. Oh yes, and I often had to do this while I was cramping and PMS-ing. So please do not tell me that women are incapable of making rational decisions in positions of authority because they have a menstrual cycle.
Alright, we women can play with the big boys, so why don’t more of us do it? This is a question I asked myself while dealing cards at Posada’s new pastime: Ladies Texas Hold ‘Em poker.
The Prez started running Hold ‘Em tournaments shortly after we arrived in December, and they have been a weekly staple ever since. Of the eleven available spots at the poker table, only three are regularly filled by women — myself, Ruthless Ruthie, and Wendy the Queen of Diamonds. Yet, when Ruthie offered up a chance for women to come out and learn how to play without the men, it was standing room only.
Why this discrepancy? Some of these gals are pretty good, even some of the beginners. Why wouldn’t they come try their hand at the mixed game? Heck, it’s only twenty bucks, and a lot of fun, why not take a shot?
Easy for me to say, I’ve always played with the boys.
At the age of eighteen, I decided to learn martial arts. I was living on my own in the city and wanted to know that I could look after myself. The school and style I signed up for was not some “crouching tiger” kind of thing. The emphasis was on practical, hard moves and lots of fighting. I was one of four of girls in the entire school.
With gritted teeth, I fought my way up the ranks – no easy task. My natural response when a fist was flying toward me was to flinch, close my eyes, back away. As I’ve said before, I’m not a natural athlete but I stuck it out. I stuck it out while the men who trained beside me dropped out one after another, after another, after another, and so on.
After about a year, I started to fight in tournaments, and won quite a few. After a few more years, my Sensei asked me to instruct the beginner classes. That’s when things got really interesting.
As a martial arts instructor in the 90’s, I had to deal with two male prejudices:
- Girls are the weaker sex and so I should not hit them.
- Girls are the weaker sex and so there’s no way I’m going to let this little chicky try and tell me how to fight!
While sparring, the first group would dance around, throwing little rabbit punches at me, apologizing if anything connected. They were tolerable and their attitude would usually change quickly after I landed a few good punches or kicks.
The second group was a little more trouble to spar with. They were out to teach me a lesson and even though this was only supposed to be “practice” they would come in with guns blazing. Laurie was the most memorable of all these bad macho eggs. After the third warning to stop kicking me in the knees, I unloaded a hard right into his gut and sent him to the floor, gasping like a fish out of water. I felt bad for 2.3 nano-seconds.
These days, women have the opportunity to do things that were traditionally male-only, but many don’t. Why? Because of the attitudes they’re likely to run into. I didn’t ask for any special treatment on my way to black belt but I didn’t ask for extra challenges and obstacles either. As it was, I had to do all the same stuff the guys had to do and more; I had to prove myself over, and over, and over in situations where a man would have immediately been shown respect. I’m not complaining, I love the challenge, but I do understand why I don’t see more ladies at the poker table.
It’s easy to forget that in the thousands of years that men and women have been around, it is has only been eighty-six years since women have had the right to vote. Despite all our achievements, we still make less than men for doing the exact same jobs. In 1970, seven years after the Equal Pay Act, women were making an average of 45% less money for doing the same job as a man. We may have come a long way baby but we still have a long way to go.
I must pause here and say, I love men. Men are great. Men, pat yourselves on the back and please don’t mistake my rant for women as a rant against you. I don’t want to be a man. I like being a girl — wearing girl clothes now and then, crying over Hallmark commercials, being able to fold towels properly. It’s true that women, on average, are physically weaker than men but this does not make us unequal, it only makes us different.
Besides, per capita, women hold more IGFA fishing records than men, so there!
Some days I am encouraged. More women are pushing the envelope and pursuing their passions regardless of sexual stereotypes. My old karate school is about 60/40 women over men now. When I first started in stunts, the majority of gags for women were scenes where the woman was getting beaten up or raped. Now, women are actually portrayed as action heroes, sometimes coming to the rescue of the man – hooray for us! But some days it is all I can do to keep myself from grabbing and shaking some little teeny bopper I see on the street, while screaming, “Is this what we fought for? The right to wear pants so low our underwear shows and walk around giggling like some vacant Barbie doll?”
In closing, I’d like to clear up one big lie about women that has gone on for far too long: this whole Adam and Eve thing.
Most of you Nutters know I’m not religious and don’t believe in this Adam and Eve story anyway. Lots of people do believe it, however, and it’s done quite a number on the female reputation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the deal that god told the young couple to have a great time in Eden but whatever they did, they COULD NOT take any of the fruit off the tree of wisdom? Supposedly, Eve was suckered in by the devil in the form of a talking snake (uh huh, that sounds plausible), who convinced her to chow down on the forbidden fruit. She then talked poor, unsuspecting Adam into also taking a bite. This is why we now have to live on this dumpy planet, wearing clothes to hide our disgusting nakedness, instead of sipping pina coladas at the Eden swim-up bar.
Let me ask you something: In any relationship you’ve ever been in, how often is it the woman who breaks the rules and then talks the man into doing something stupid? Something that inevitably gets them both in trouble? I think the Adam and Eve story might have gone more like this…
Eve: Adam what the hell are you eating?
Adam: What? This? It’s an apple. It’s delicious, have a bite!
Eve: Um, didn’t god specifically tell us not to eat the apples?
Adam: He said not to eat the apples off the tree; this one was handed to me. So, technically, it wasn’t “on” the tree.
Eve: Really? Well, we’re the only two people here, so who handed it to you?
Adam: A talking snake, I think his name was Bucifer, or Buford? Yeah, that’s it, Buford. Cool guy. He explained that god just didn’t want us to eat all the apples on the tree. One apple is fine, Scouts honour.
Eve: A talking snake? You’re kidding me right?
Adam: Why do you always have to be such a downer? C’mon have some fun for a change.
Eve: You said the same thing about that stupid Amway sales job.
Adam: But this is different. I PROMISE!
Eve: Okay, just one bite. But I swear if you’re lying I’m going to ask god for the power to never forget any conversation we’ve ever had, even if it took place twenty years ago!
And the rest is history. Sort of.
Yes I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain. Yes I’ve paid the price, but look how much I’ve gained. If I have to, I can face anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman. ~ Helen Reddy
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!