There’s nothing to rouse one’s ire quite like having one’s home insulted. That home can be your country, your team, or your family, and in its worst forms, that ire is what leads to nationalism, gang warfare, and brawls at soccer matches. Most of the time, however, the stakes are more subtle, and the feeling is worth exploring.
As most of you know, I live and work in Wyoming. Ire was my initial reaction to the so-called mudflap girl flap. Fine, I thought, the image may be sexist, but do you have to dump that all on Wyoming? Wyoming, like 49 other states in the nation, has its share of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. It’s sort of weird to see the names of your state library officials next to an exhortation to tell them to pull material from the public eye.
Wyoming has its problems, and I won’t deny them. Most notably, we worst in the nation when it comes to discrepancy in pay between men and women.
I know that for some people these things are all of a piece: sexual image of woman –> objectification of women –> paying women poorly. There are, I am sure, connections. I spend quite a bit of time trying to explain to people that if you say men, you say women, not girls; if you say ladies, you say gentlemen. Only if you say boys do you then say girls. (I’d also kind of like it if we started talking about female doctors and writers and presidents–have you ever head anyone say, “Oh, he’s a man doctor?” No? I thought not. Ever taken a course called American Men Writers? Well, you probably have, but not under that title. Woman writers aren’t special; they are writers who are female, not some rare breed of being that require double nouns.)
Many commentators (including our first lady) have said that the way to create pay equity between men and women in Wyoming is to get more women working in the oil and gas industries. (To give you an idea of how lucrative these fields are during boomtimes, I’ve met high school dropouts who make twice what I do with two masters degrees.) That approach would work statistically, but it’s not a solution. The solution is to value the work that women do and pay people who are teachers and childcare providers and nurses and–yes–librarians in a fashion that is equal to the services they provide. The solution is to make sure that all full-time jobs pay a living wage, so that women are not stuck in minimum wage service jobs.
Those solutions probably also include learning to see women in a variety of ways, not simply as objects adorning mudflaps or library marketing posters. But discussing objectification is the easy part. We can write all the blog entries we want, but I don’t think that any number of blog posts is going to get a living wage bill passed.
I had many far more strident and far more obnoxious things to say about people’s reactions to the campaign, but quite frankly, I’m tired. I appreciate the variety of opinions I’ve seen, many of which have affected the way I think about the issue. But I’m tired. I’m tired of discussions about whether my bumper sticker (a similar mudflap woman from Arches Book Company in Moab, UT) is helping or harming the cause of equal rights. I’m tired of other people having similar arguments. I’m tired of being told what I should or should not think as a feminist. I’m tired of talking about empowerment. I’m tired of defending my state and the people in it.
I’m ready for an actual fight.