First, I have to say that I love Southwest airlines. I find the cheapest flights and a few times a year, free flights, so this is not a story about Southwest. It is a story about men.
Every few months I fly to St. Louis to see my mom. In June I had a terrible flight sitting between two men, neither of whom was huge. But they spread their arms out as I sat in the middle. To them I didn’t exist. Today I flew from Denver to St. Louis and again I was in the middle seat. Both men had spread their arms onto the armrests, not giving me an inch. They didn’t say a word as I got settled in my seat. So much silence yet I felt like screaming through part of the flight.
In the past I might have just found this annoying, but since the Kavanagh hearing, I find myself noticing even the smallest, inconsiderate things that some men do. In the past I think this minor injustice wouldn’t have bothered me, but now I feel so much anger.
I like men, I really do. When I was a child, I always chose to spend time with the male family members; the women in the kitchen bored me. To take a walk with Daddy and Uncle Wilfred after Grandma’s Sunday meal was a treat. To be in the kitchen with the women, cleaning up– that wasn’t for me. Grandpa introduced me to hot tea, which has become a lifelong habit, and the desire to own a pick-up truck. Daddy taught me that outdoor work was not just for boys. Hence I’ve always been one to mow the lawn, split the wood, plow the driveway.
But the men I encountered on Southwest are not like my husband, my son-in-law, or my brother-in-law, the men in my life now. I can’t imagine that those three would ever hog an armrest and make an older woman feel invisible.
I feel angry tonight thinking about those two men sitting in row 14 with me today. Yet I know that my anger has been displaced from Justice Kavanaugh to strangers on an airplane. I’ve been a feminist ever since I knew there was such a term and at the same time a little girl and a woman who likes the company of men. But I feel something is different for me since that hearing and since President Trump’s mocking of Dr. Blasey Ford. And I don’t know what to do with that anger.
If you are a woman, maybe you feel that anger too. However, this morning on
the Today Show I heard a woman say how she and her colleagues felt so badly about how Kavanaugh was treated. I can’t deal with that.
If you’re a man reading this, which may be unlikely, I hope you’ll understand why so many women are angry. Our anger may seem petty or rude or just plain unkind. And you probably don’t deserve that. But let me say: it is a terrible feeling to carry, to think that your words don’t matter. That memories of any kind of abuse don’t matter. That you are a woman who is invisible.
I am not a victim of abuse of any kind. I am, therefore, one of the fortunate ones. Still, I know that today I was treated as if my comfort, my existence, was not equal to that of men. I didn’t assert myself. I was not taught to do that, and perhaps that is the biggest lesson of my flights on Southwest. I can only hope that I have done a better job with my daughter and that she will do an even better job if she has a daughter. To teach our girls to stand up for themselves. To lean in and, when necessary, push those elbows out.
My heart tonight is with Dr. Blasey Ford and all of the girls and women who have been made to feel invisible. Who have been hurt by boys or men who didn’t think of them as equals and today don’t think of them at all.