I began losing power five years ago, when for the first time as an adult I was unable to control the course of my own life. I’m pretty sure the lesson is embedded now, so I wouldn’t mind if the gods let up a little, though I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Apparently there are remnants of privilege that still need to be rooted out.
I was a bright kid. I did well in school and grew up on the right side of the tracks. Teachers nurtured me; colleges competed for me. I was 27 when I was first offered a CEO position in a large non-profit. Though I turned it down, I was confident they made a good decision when they offered it to me. I accepted a CEO position in my 30s. In the world I inhabited, that was right on time.
I had no idea. I mean, seriously, I had no idea.
About 10 days ago I saw powerful white men behave in ways that would have disqualified a woman on the spot. Their privilege was being challenged, and they did not like it.
I do not personally know any women who have a lot of respect for those men. I am sure there are plenty of women who are supportive, but those are not the women who are willing to be friends with me. Hence my rather insular world of incensed females. It’s fine. The women I hang out with are teaching me a lot. I mean, a lot.
One of them wrote last week to, I dunno, tell me what was on her heart, I guess. She expressed a lot of frustration with her lot in life as an alpha female in an evangelical world. Somewhere in the middle of the email she dropped a line about having felt dismissed by me back in the day. I wrote and apologized. I always thought highly of her, though apparently I was dismissive of her, as I am sure I was to a lot of women. Not because I was an asshole, but because, well, uh, nope, maybe I was an asshole, just like the men who threw tantrums.
All these men are clueless about their entitlement, especially the evangelicals and politicians. The evangelicals because God told them they are in charge. They’ve studied the Bible. That’s what it says. Just ask them. And the politicians? The politicians because absolute power corrupts absolutely. But enough about evangelicals and politicians. Back to me. Because hey, I was a man for a lot of decades and I know how to make it all about me.
I have been a female long enough that I am starting to get the truth. Powerful white men are not interested in what I say. As a transgender woman, they really don’t care what I say. Like my two male neighbors who refuse to acknowledge that I exist. It is fascinating to see how hard they work to avoid sharing space with me.
White men throwing tantrums is disturbing. To see them get their way is really disturbing. To see a woman of incredible courage and bravery mocked by the President of the United States is more than disturbing. It is evil.
Which brings me back to my diminished power. Yeah, I have a platform. A few thousand people a week read my blog. And I get to speak about gender inequity to sizeable crowds every month. But in a lot of ways, I’m still not sure I should be the one with a platform. In some ways I’m just another white dude telling women what I know.
It is true that women almost never tell me that. Some of the reason is because they really do want to hear my unique “from both sides” perspective. Some of it is because I am learning a lot and starting to see the ubiquitous nature of misogyny. And some of it is just because women tend to be more generous.
Everything I was scheduled to do this past Sunday cancelled, so I never left the house. I worked out for an hour and listened to music. I booked a trip to London to speak at a conference in March, and worked on a talk I’m giving at a cool place I still can’t tell you about because it hasn’t been announced yet. But for a lot of the day I just sat and wept. You should have seen my eyes Monday morning. I had to take an antihistamine.
I will vote on November 6, but so will a lot of the women who are not friends with me. And they have a different agenda than my friends. I am afraid they may be more motivated to vote. They are not as cynical about our democracy as the rest of us.
But this is a long haul, and I choose to believe what abolitionist Theodore Parker wrote back in 1853, that the arc of the moral universe is long, and that it does bend toward justice. I believe there is a God, and I believe She is crying with us. That’s not just a semi-cute cliché. It is my abiding hope.
16 thoughts on “From The Other Side”
Thank you (as a woman I am always thanking people, of course). When you are a victim of domestic abuse, particularly the really insidious coercive control type of abuse, but even the physical and sexual abuse too, you doubt yourself. You think it can’t have been that bad and you misremembered. And of course you are being given a lot of help to misremember. When you do finally recognise it as abuse (usually identified as such by someone else) and you get out, it is disconcerting to have your inner truth recognised and corroborated by others.
I get the same feeling with your blog. I kind of knew a lot of what you are saying about misogyny and entitlement, but have looked the other way. With you bringing it into the light I am shocked and relieved in equal measure.
I am bummed out too that it takes a really unusual situation to validate our suspicions. But it is good to have it all out in the open, at least in this safe space.
I see an
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“I see an” … an amazing woman using the platform that she DOES have to share the enlightenment she is gaining piece by piece, just as the rest of us are? Yeah, me too 😉 ❤
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I don’t see anything, that was a weird typo!
I’ve said it before and I will continue to do so: thank you for being you.
Paula, you might not feel you “should be the one doing it”, but I think that perhaps you are wrong. You are the perfect person to be doing this. You have enough perspective to know how things work, from both sides of the fence and from smack on top of it.
You have been uniquely shaped by the place you held before, and that place gave you the tools you are using now. Without that place, without that shaping — however painful it may have been and may continue to be — you would not be able to touch people all over the world as you are now able to. You would not be able to speak to our souls the way you are now able to. You would not be a voice for us and with us the way you are now able to be. Your eyes see what we cannot see, because we cannot understand fully the life we have not led. Your voice tells the tales that we cannot tell, because we have not walked that path and cannot know the myriad ways in which it differs from our own. You have. You have walked it and you have seen it and it has brought you here. And I am grateful for it.
I am not christian, nor do I believe in the christian god, but I do believe in the sacredness of life, in doing as little harm as we can to each other and the world around us, and in striving to leave this world better than it was when we came into it. That energy glows in you as well. And you are using what platform you have to do what good you can. It is enough. If it’s ten people, or a hundred, it is enough. Because those are ten people or one hundred people more than would have heard the messages you spread, if you did not do this work. This change we seek is not a thing any of us can accomplish alone. But as our predecessors have fought, so too must we. And while we are sad and grief-stricken by what has just taken place, we are also angry. That rage simmers, burns both hot and ice cold, and we will not forget what has happened. The pendulum swings. And hope is a precious thing. We have not lost it. We will not allow it to be taken away. ❤
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Thank you so much for your encouraging words.
I enjoy everything you write. It resonates with my values and beliefs. Please keep writing and sharing.
All the best! Grace
Thanks for writing! I am also a transgender who was born female and your words here were encouraging and inspiring. Even as I navigate through each transition, progressing through each stage, I’m struggling too and with a path less traveled. Reading your words about being a CEO.. I’ve never been that, though I’m trying to start my own company and struggling when feeling alone there too. Reading this post and your work, I found a lot of parallels in our lives, thanks for sharing an encouraging post I will remember.
Thank you so much for writing Steph.
One word….brilliant. Never stop writing, sharing or putting your words out there. We need them and we need you. Thank you for the large and small brave things you do every day. The world is a better place because of you and because of your voice xo
Thank you so much Lisa.
I always remember what my Father said to my sister and myself. When we were getting married He said remember The Clock Goes Around Once. If you are not happy get out. And I came from a home with wonderful parents. My father was a good man They were his thoughts on life. Best Jeri
Just curious because Paula you and I have basically lived through the same decades. This is asked with all gentleness and much curiosity. Do you remember your thoughts and feelings during Anita Hill’s testimony?
Oh, I do Lynn. And I was nowhere nearly as sensitive as I am now – nowhere near! Not exactly proud of that.
I don’t agree with Trump on discriminating against trans persons in the military who have served their country well!
I, too, value your writing! Sometimes the blog soothes and encourages; sometimes it stirs within me feelings of anxiety and disturbs me. But ALWAYS your writing causes me to continue to re-evaluate my opinions and positions. And I always come out thinking more clearly. And hopefully this whole process is a part of the larger process of maturing me. Thank you and please keep on!!
Thank you so much Jim.