A little over twenty years ago, I got hired to do some grunt work renovating an old Kmart. This job was nobody’s dream, but I was pretty desperate. I was pregnant and trying hard to move out of town, and I needed to make as much money as I could before I got really unwieldy; and I needed to get hired somewhere before I started to show.
The job was awful. Just awful. Nine hours under fluorescent lights on my feet in a windowless cavern, and I had two chief duties: shoving metal shelves over tile, inch after screeching inch, and scrubbing gummy residue off walls where the signs used to be. The smell of the solvent made me sick and dizzy, and I worried constantly that the fumes, and strain of pushing those metal shelves, would kill my baby.
And there was something else. On the day I was hired, the manager’s computer kept freezing up, and he struggled to enter my information in his files. “I’ll have to enter her manually,” he said. My supervisor laughed and said, “I’d like to enter her manually.”
I was sitting right there, three feet away. Ten of my co-workers were sitting right there. All the men laughed. And then we went to work for the day. It did not occur to me to ask any of those men for lighter work, to accommodate me and my unborn child. I was 22 years old. It did not occur to me.
This memory came back to me today, for the first time in years. The question of Biden’s fitness for the presidency came up, and a vocally anti-Trump man told me that, if it comes down to it, I should “choose wisely” and support Biden. He admonished me to remember those who do not share my privilege. Biden, you see, may feel free to put his hands on women, to smell their necks and hair, to come up behind them like a snake, to use his power and wealth and fame and security as a free pass to the body of any women or girl who whets his appetite.
But he’s nowhere near as bad as Trump. And so women like me need to remember our duty and once again roll over for the man who thinks we’re here for his entertainment. Because we are desperate.
The truth is, I am privileged. When I got out of work at Kmart, I would scour the want ads, and pretty soon I found something better: a job making sandwiches at Subway. It was a pay cut, but I leaped at the chance, because I had to get out of that place where I never felt safe. There was another pregnant young woman working on the renovation, and I doubt she even realized she had another choice. She had no one on her side. The father of her child was long gone. Her face was blank and bewildered as she worked, and she didn’t even flinch when the men talked about her and her belly.
When I gave my notice at Kmart and mentioned my fears about the fumes, someone said, “Oh, she just doesn’t want to work.” That was not true. I did want to work. But at my new job, my boss was a woman who expected us to do our jobs . . . and that was all. And it felt like pure, intoxicating freedom to be able to simply put on my apron, wash my hands, and begin my routine without that constant prickle of terror and shame that comes with being vulnerable for nine straight hours every day.
How many anti-Trumpers spent a delicious season thrashing around in the warm, shallow waters of the #metoo movement, preening themselves on their righteous indignation in defense of the vulnerable? But when it comes down to it, if Biden raises enough money and grins his way into enough votes, they’ll give him the nomination and they’ll tell women it’s their duty to be quiet, it’s their duty to be docile, it’s their duty to be forgiving, it’s their duty to take one for the team.
I talked about shame. That’s part of the power of the sexual predator: He knows his victim will feel shame, and that will make her less able to fight. Less willing to fight. More likely to tell herself, “It’s not so bad. I can put up with this. Why am I making a fuss? It could be so much worse . . . ”
Biden is just an old school perv who refuses to take responsibility for his perviness. Is he as bad as Trump? Of course not — not by magnitudes of awfulness. But the real question is, are democrats as bad as republicans?
I long ago abandoned the idea that the political party of family values actually cares for either family or values. The republicans have made it clear, over (Trump) and over (Roy Moore) and over (Kavanaugh) again, that women and their suffering and their alarm and their shame do not matter. What matters is power; and women are expected not only not to fuss, but to take part in their own degradation for the good of the party.
But what about the DNC? Are they any different? Here we are, still months away from the nomination, and democrats are already clearing their throats to make exactly the same point as the GOP made: It’s power that matters, not the vulnerable. Biden isn’t so bad. You can put up with this. Why are you making a fuss? It could be so much worse . . .
Now stay still while we enter you manually.
Pay close attention, women: The democratic party is not your friend. They do not care about your dignity as a person. They care about power, and if the fates invest an old school perv with that power, then that’s who they will nominate. Brace yourself, because another election bus is bearing down on us, and your friends in the DNC will throw you under.
Image by Ancho. via Flickr (public domain)