An Argument For Sexism (Just This Once)

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My very first job – dressing as Droopy Dog for a Cartoon Network promotion – happened because I was exactly the right height for the costume (5’3”).

When I was 16, I won then lost the lead in Our Town because the community theatre decided to go literal and cast an actor from their town.

After being denied early acceptance, my eventual admission to Harvard resulted from an unusual dearth of French horn players that year – a hole I could fortunately fill.

In any situation where one candidate is chosen from a pool, said pool inevitably winnows down to a few (or two) evenly qualified finalists, of whom only one gets the prize. The deciding factor – the thing that tips the scales – is often an arbitrary asset no applicant could have anticipated or even controlled. Height. Home address. A musical instrument chosen in grade five.

Heck, I once lost a teaching assistant job via coin toss.

But sometimes, we have an opportunity to make that deciding factor say something important. Like that diversity matters, or that we value female voices. This is the very idea behind affirmative action; every school or hiring business gets more qualified applicants than needed, so if the final selections are going to be based on “other”, why not pick someone because they do NOT reflect what is familiar instead of because they do?

There has been a lot of talk lately from liberals about how Bernie Sanders deserves more serious attention and should be celebrated as the righteous alternative to Hillary. Does this worry me? A little. Does it disappoint me? More than a little. But mostly it pisses me off.

For the record, I love them both. Hillary’s husband was the first President I was old enough to vote for, and due to my super high-school nerdiness I actually got to meet and hear both Clintons speak at the White House. I am also from New Hampshire, and while our states do indulge in occasional sibling rivalry, Bernie has long been a major source of my fervent New England pride.

While it is impossible to directly compare their histories – because being a First Lady and Secretary of State is different than being a long-time Senator, and running for election in large state and national races requires different means than getting elected by 600,000 Vermonters – both unquestionably arrive at this moment as formidable candidates. Both fight for liberal social values and champion the causes of education and economic justice; both are highly intelligent; both are experienced leaders; both are more than qualified to be considered for President.

I probably even agree with Bernie more in places where they differ on policy, but for me there is no hard choice – Hillary should win the party’s nomination, and yes, she should win because she is a woman.

Because it matters. It absolutely matters that given this choice between two great candidates we Democrats jump on the rare opportunity to tip the scales in favor of diversity. To tell our daughters and sisters and wives that we see them as equals and believe they not just can lead but should lead.

Bernie’s voice is important! But he doesn’t need any help to be heard. Sure, we laugh at his accent and hair (we laugh at Donald Trump for the same reasons), but we also respect him because he is intelligent, effective, and dedicated to positive change (The Donald… not so much). We laugh at Joe Biden, too, but still elected him VP. Because Biden and Bernie are men – and a man can have both crazy white hair and our respect (hello, Einstein).

Hillary, on the other hand, has her intelligence and past work downplayed because history has made her wealthy, her successes qualified with references to her “calculated power marriage”, and her eloquent advocacy for women’s (and human) rights diminished by discussion of her awkward wardrobe and demeanor. She belongs to a group repeatedly dismissed over minor transgressions that don’t even raise eyebrows when committed by male counterparts – and you can tell yourself the objections are regardless of gender, but really they aren’t.

No candidate is perfect; it is time for us to finally choose the imperfect woman over the imperfect man.

Is it fair? No. There is no fair – but there is balance. Not long ago, a male relative asked me, “I understand the need for affirmative action, but what do I say to my son who lost a job to a woman just because he is the wrong gender?” My first thought was, “Tough shit? Welcome to the club,” but I like my relatives so I try not to swear at them.

The real answer is that his son didn’t lose the job (it wasn’t “supposed to be” his); he just didn’t win that time. But as a white man in a world where white men make most decisions, he has ten chances to win a job for every one chance she has. As Hillary herself said in her launch speech, “while talent is universal, opportunity is not.” In our current system, the Hillary’s of the world don’t get this far very often. When they do, it is important that we give them the job.

Sure, there is a danger we could overcorrect… but let’s have that conversation when we’ve elected 44 women in a row.

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Fifty Shades of Green Eggs and Sham

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Happy V-Day! Ladies, let’s celebrate this year by wanting more than to have sexual “liberation” forced on us by an older/wiser/richer “savior Prince”. Dr. (Seuss)’s orders.

I am Sham.

Sham I am.

 

That Sham-I-am.

That Sham-I-am!

I do not like that Sham-I-am.

 

Do you like BDSM?

 

I do not like yours, Sham-I-am.

I do not like BDSM.

 

Would you like it in a book?

 

I would not like it in your book.

I would not give it any look.

I do not want BDSM

I do not want it, Sham-I-am

 

Would you like it in the dark?

If it’s just a harmless lark?

 

I do not want it in the dark,

It is not just a harmless lark.

I do not like your F-ed up book,

I will not give it one more look.

I do not like fake S&M,

I do not like it, Sham-I-am.

 

Is it better done with force?

If he beats you like a horse?

 

Not done with force.

Not as a horse.

Not in the dark.

Not as a lark.

I cannot like your violent book,

It should not get a second look.

You do not get BDSM,

You want a master, Sham-I-am.

 

Would you? Could you? If he hit?

Let him! Let him! Just a bit.

 

I would not, will not, go for it!

 

You may like it.

You will see.

Would you like to be set free?

 

I cannot let you set me free,

As I already pleasure me.

I do not need it done by force,

I do not need to be a horse.

I do not need the total dark,

I do not need a messed-up lark.

I do not need your sad bad book,

I do not need a single look.

I do not want warped S&M,

I do not need it, Sham-I-am!

 

The pain! The pain!

Again! Again!

Could you want it with more pain?

 

Not with pain! Not to free!

I say again, Sham, let me be!

I do not want a man to force,

I do not want to scream ‘til hoarse.

Your fantasy is pretty dark,

Abuse and rape are not a lark.

For girls this is an evil book,

And victimhood is a bad look.

I do not like it, Sham-I-am.

 

Say! With a fox?

Look, he’s a fox!

Would you if the guy’s a fox?

 

I would not, even with a fox.

 

Would you if he’s super rich?

 

I would not, could not be his bitch.

Not for a fox. Not if he’s rich.

I do not need to be set free,

I do not need it, Sham, you see!

Not as a lark. Not as a horse.

No need for dark. No need for force.

I will not read submissive books

No matter how risqué it looks.

 

You do not like BDSM?

 

I do not like your savior scam.

 

You do not like it, so you say.

Try it! Try it! And you may

like the nightmare Christian Grey.

 

Sham! I do not need your muck.

I already like to fuck!

 

Yes! I like the sex and stuff.

And my libido is enough!

I like to do it in the dark.

I sometimes do it as a lark.

I’ll also do it in the sun.

I’ll even do it just for fun!

And by my choice. And just for me.

Because it is so good, you see!

 

So I do not need an excuse.

Or else a psycho savior ruse.

And I already have no guilt

For being sexy to the hilt.

And if I want BDSM

I’ll find an equal, unlike them.

 

So take this f-ed up book and scram.

We do not need it, Sham-I-am.

The XX Factor

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My first official writing job on a TV series was brought to me by the letter ‘X’. Specifically, the letter ‘X’ without the letter ‘Y’.

After a friend of mine from my improv days sold a pilot script, he and his writing partner were tasked with putting together a six-man staff to complete a six-episode season. They took those instructions literally, promptly hiring four male friends to join them.

A little later, my buddy randomly spotted me in a hallway after a comedy show and this is how it went down: “Oh, hey!” (Me: Hey.) “I’m writing a series.” (Me: Congratulations.) “We staffed the show already,” (Me: Awesome for you.) “but we’re thinking maybe we should have a girl in the room too, for the perspective. You’re the only girl I know who writes.” (Me in my head: This is not true. I know your friends.) “Send me a sample?” (Me: No problem.) I sent him two screenplays and was immediately hired.

As origin stories go, it makes for a pretty lame graphic novel, but I still like to tell it. Because most people miss the point entirely.

Male writers tend to zero in on the double gender standard, while demonstrating impressive ignorance; “You only got the job because you’re a woman! You’re so lucky to have a guaranteed spot at the table.”

Um, NO. I got the job the same proud way my four male colleagues got it: nepotism. But I was the only staffer with any professional screenwriting experience, and yet I was still hired last, as an afterthought, to fill a gender quota. True, my lack of a Y-chromosome was the difference between being hired last and not being hired at all, but if I had the Y-chromosome I would have been hired first without question – or probably been hiring my own staff for my own show. Hiring me to be “the girl in the room” didn’t end sexism any more than electing Barack Obama ended racism.

Most other people take an optimistic view of the story; “Isn’t it great your friend was wise enough to recognize the value of a female voice? We should celebrate him as a shining example of enlightenment!”

Again, NO. I don’t believe in showering praise on people who “choose” to accept well-established information. Like Kindergarten graduations and participation trophies, it rewards people for doing something that should have been automatic anyway. You acknowledge the universe is billions of years old? Yes, yes, you’re very smart. Now shut up. Virtually any collaborative endeavor is improved when there is an even mix of male and female voices involved. (Notice I said a mix – I may play host to a couple of confused cats, but I am well aware that this is the true goal of feminism.) My friend was right to want “a girl in the room”, but he was the kid who shows up to all the little league games only to pick dandelions in the outfield. Hardly an MVP.

So what is the point of my origin story? The “Most Interesting Man in the World” is Satan.

They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. While I find that statement confusing given the number of people I see on the news screaming about other people burning in hell, the sentiment applies pretty well to sexism. The true tragedy of how I got my first TV job is the part nobody – including me – noticed.

In the heated 2008 debates about which Democratic candidate had it worse – the one facing racism or the one facing sexism – I started to finally comprehend that even though both are horrible, there is one devilish difference between them. While I can’t speak to it personally, I don’t see a lot of minorities out there who are convinced that their genetics make them inferior. None of my Asian friends think they should have less right to a driver’s license, and I don’t know any Nordic folk who believe they deserve skin cancer more than others. Racism is the devil we know, see, and call out as bullshit. Sexism is too often the devil we don’t.

Women commit as many if not more sexist acts against women than the men of this world, and we do it most often to ourselves, without even noticing. The real point of my origin story is that, despite my ability to recognize and roll my eyes at how I got the job, I walked into that writers’ room on day one NOT confident because I knew I was the only one (besides the head writers) with experience, NOT comfortable because I already knew three of the six men and had performed comedy with them as an equal, but INSTEAD thinking, “I hope I can keep up. I hope they think I’m funny. I hope I manage to pull my weight.”

I had more experience and skill than any of my male counterparts (I was the only writer who maintained her credit or was kept on for more work); I had an Ivy League education and a well-honed comedic voice; I had a solid self-respect and an enviable work ethic – both resulting from a lifetime of guidance by ideal parental role models; I was loved and loving, praised and proud, supported and strong. In short: I had every possible advantage when I walked into that writers’ room, with great hair and a cherry outfit on top.

If even I walked in assuming I was the weakest link, what chance does any girl have?