the stronger sex

I was helping a stranger push a pallet of really heavy shit through a door a while back. He was inside, I was outside, and he couldn’t see me. I wasn’t saying anything, just lifting here and shoving there, but after the two of us managed to wedge the shit all the way through, he caught a glimpse of me and blanched.

And he said, speaking in the all-caps utterances of undiluted shock: OH MY GOD I THOUGHT YOU WERE A MAN.

I replied: Ha ha ha.

He said: NO REALLY I THOUGHT YOU WERE A MAN.

And I said: Well, I do have arms and legs, ha ha ha.

And he said: APPARENTLY.

And I said: Ha ha ha.

And he said: I HONESTLY THOUGHT YOU WERE A MAN. I EVEN THOUGHT YOU WERE TALLER THAN ME.

And I said: Ha ha ha.

I felt a little sorry for the guy. He was kind of adorbs in his astonishment, like a kid at the zoo who sees a giraffe up close for the first time and can’t believe how long its neck is. And it occurred to me that even now, after decades of advances for women and wide-reaching societal changes regarding what we can and can’t accomplish, there is still this inexplicable, old-fashioned and ultimately nonsensical insistence on casting us as the weaker sex. I was reminded of this recently by the noodlehead on Twitter who retweeted that heartbreakingly beautiful Harvey image of a young man carrying a woman holding a baby, along with the comment: “This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says.”

To which my response was: Huuuuuh? Men ought to carry women? Like, all the time? Who says so? What if a strong woman were to stumble across a weak and wounded man in a storm, and she had muscles enough to bear him to safety? She shouldn’t?

Screw that. I’d carry him.

And you know what else? I hate to point out the obvious, but what the hell, it’s worth reminding anyone who might have forgotten that WOMEN ROUTINELY CARRY HUMAN BEINGS INSIDE THEM FOR NINE WHOLE MONTHS AT A STRETCH, then sustain them WITH FOOD FROM THEIR OWN BODIES for months or even years. Yes! It’s true! It happens regularly! I’ve done it myself three times!

Whatever God this guy believes in —  if he does, I’m assuming it’s the same one I do — entrusted one sex in particular with the task of nurturing and hauling around the future of the race, and it wasn’t men. Women carry people. We carry people in our wombs; we carry people after they’re born, juggling a kid in each arm while making meals and tending to our spouses and our jobs; we carry our family, our friends, our dreams, our homes, bustling through life with industry and hope as we muscle past the problems of each day. We do this despite inadequate pay, lingering misogyny, still-endemic sexual aggression and, apparently, the idiotic, insistent machismo of a few men still harboring the misconception that they’re stronger.

They’re not. Sure, most of them have taller frames and bigger muscles, but size isn’t everything. (And do we need to tell them that?)  Mine function nicely, and they’ve served me well over the years. So why is it that Piers Morgan, another noodleheaded Twitter presence, bragged about heading to work with broken ribs and then felt compelled to call this “manning up”? Is there any sillier expression? Dude, I’d love to see you “woman up” sometime. DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT TOUGHNESS UNTIL YOUR JUNK’S BEEN RIPPED ASUNDER BY THE VIOLENCE OF CHILDBIRTH.

Also, I’d like to take this moment to point out that men have nipples. I repeat, MEN HAVE NIPPLES. Which means the woman’s body is the template for the man’s. Think about that. Now think about it some more. Carry on.

Sorry, am I popping off? I am. I think it’s been piling up inside me. I’ve always been rather mulish when it comes to carrying my own shit, but after my husband’s suicide the mulishness became a matter of practicality. I understood from the get-go that I could no longer count on a muscled masculine specimen to help me in my daily shit-carrying, and so I vowed that forever after I would no longer pack a bag that I couldn’t carry alone. I wrote about this in my memoir, and I’ve lived it every day since Chris’s death. I do my best to stay in shape A) because my kids need me to hang around on this planet as long as possible, B) because exercise is a mighty fine mood elevator and C) I want to feel strong.

Who doesn’t, after all? And what’s so strange, after all, about a woman helping a man? That’s not how it ought to be; that’s how it already is, baby. You got a problem with it, you’ll have to take it up with the widow.

5 thoughts on “the stronger sex

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