Is it too soon to move from re-act to retro-spect? I have to admit most of my insights occur in a rearview mirror but the optimal distance is usually more than a couple of weeks. It can take years to collect succinct or defensible responses. Nonetheless, I am going to risk it today, show my hand and hope for the best.
If you are a feminist or interested in feminism, Oscar night 2015 was volatile, exciting, best water cooler talk in a long time. That said, it begs the question what did it mean to everyone else?
In the pie chart of American women, I live in the red slice. Most of the people I know live in the red slice. We are cool. We are hot. We are hip. We have read Freire, Alinsky, hooks, Hill Collins, Crenshaw. We tweet and post and follow Laurie Penny, Amanda Levitt, Roxane Gay, Ultraviolet, A is For, and hundreds of peeps or orgs who agree with us. We retweet and use hashtags (though not as effectively as ISIS). We work on checking our isms, our privilege, our ever-widening inclusion and our revulsion over inner circle royalty. We are pro plus sizes, support public breast feeding and fight like hell to come out ~ as queer, having an abortion, in recovery. We do all we can to protest inequality, demand justice and stand in solidarity. It’s a lot but it’s who we are.
Once a week or less I shop at a big neighborhood grocery store. In twelve years, my favorite checker, Sue always asks me the same two questions. “How’s Grace?” She’s fine. “What did you do this weekend?” One weekend I told her about going to Dallas. I hosted an ERA Café Conversation and Gloria Steinem was at the same table. I asked her if she knew who Gloria Steinem was. “No, who is she?” I asked if she had heard of Ms. Magazine. “No.” I asked if she knew what the ERA is. “No, What is it?” But you can be sure my checker knew what fair wages means.
Sue has no idea what is intersectionality or white privilege or why immigration is a family issue. She does not know what the old Jim Crow is about, let alone the new Jim Crow. She knows about a zillion morphing prices for as many products on hundreds of shelves on dozens of aisles. She knows the mad hours she and her husband work to keep their children, grandchildren and dog, Emmie safe and well. She knows her feet hurt and retirement is many years off.
Sue is not in the red section of the pie chart. She doesn’t know that there is a matrix of domination, an inseparable intersection of all oppressions, a few men own dam near everything, black water is coming out of California faucets and abortion rights are the lynchpin of female autonomy. She doesn’t know that I live and love in the red section of the pie chart. She doesn’t know about the chart, the pie or the red slice.
Sue didn’t see Boyhood. She has no idea who the Arquette Family is but she did see the Oscars. She saw a best actress winner say something about her own life; about equal wages. She saw a woman over 40, in a nice, relatively kind of plain dress, wearing glasses, talk about her life. She saw women in the audience leap to their feet in support. I am certain Sue knows they are all rich beyond belief. They have more money than they could ever need and she saw one of them spent her sliver of time to talk about equal wages. And, now she knows that even among well paid Americans, men and women are paid unequally.
Sue doesn’t know what was said backstage, about the call for Gays and Blacks to back the fair wage movement. The phrase, Equal means Equal is all new. It was an outrage to those who live in the red slice. It was a slap in the face for all those who work in the red slice. It set the social justice movement back decades as tweeted and posted by the red slice residents. But that night, someone at the Oscars said, women should be paid equally. And that’s enough for Sue. And I am grateful to Patricia because Sue’s feet hurt and she rings up my groceries and always asks, “How’s Grace?”
I love writing, thinking and living in the red slice. It is home to me. And one of my concerns is full equality for all the pie people. I want fair wages and don’t need everyone to convert to the red slice. Forgive me if I don’t say it well. I know better.