It was a typical Monday and I was typically commuting from one harried spot on the west side of Los Angeles to my place of work some 30 miles away in the San Fernando Valley, which entailed various freeway on and off ramps, merge lanes, construction detours, side streets, and large vehicles pluming up dust. I found myself getting off one road to detour onto a side road to go under a freeway to get back onto another freeway pointed in the right direction. As I was dutifully waiting at a red light under an overpass, mindfully watching traffic in front, on both sides and behind me like a good little L.A. commuter, my front bumper well behind the crosswalk line and my left side well within the confines of the left turn lane I occupied, a city bus came careening towards me head on, turning hard right under the overpass where I was sitting waiting to turn hard left.
As he turned his wheel, cranking it hard, his body leaning far to one side, the male driver’s eyes glared at me, the huge bus looming over my small car; the bus driver’s mouth was forming extreme, wide open shapes, and it was clear that he was yelling at me. Screaming. At me!! Me, who was sitting there, lawfully minding my own beeswax, right where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I was – quite literally – simply sitting in my own lane.
I do not consider myself especially thin-skinned; sensitive, yes, but not thin-skinned. I am a single mother of a teenaged son who owns my own home and has grappled and worked my way pretty successfully through the entertainment industry for more than two decades, so I am not meek. But still, I was offended by this man’s apparent offence of me when I was doing exactly, precisely, safely, the thing I was supposed to be doing.
And then I remembered – oh yeah – men in general are pissed off right now. This is part of the current Normal. They’re upset, angry; everything seems to be changing so fast, the earth shifting beneath their very feet, the poor dears. These men, primarily privileged white men in the world I occupy, are the ones that have always lived as though it were inherent in their DNA that Taking What They Wanted was their birth right. After all, there has never been anyone or anything to stop them.
And now that things are shifting, they are mad at the world, and they’re especially mad at women. They are mad that, although ever since we climbed up out of the slime and stood on our hind legs, men have been getting the majority of the public credit and social power, not to mention opportunity and wealth, now, for the first time in my lifetime, we women are pushing back, saying we’re tired of your taking advantage of us physically, professionally, socially. We want our fair share. We want our full Freedom. And we want them, the men, to share happily and lose their sourpuss attitude about our finally stepping up to get what is rightfully ours. After all, when women rise, we all rise!
I know that there are plenty of wonderfully evolved males who continue to celebrate all of humanity, women included, and see us as the capable, talented, full human beings that we are. And some are even tuned in enough to see that we women are inherently maybe even the most uber-capable of the sexes as we are literally physiologically designed to change, evolve, morph, and renew, and to find comfort in this constant change. One example of female adaptability is the high number of women who currently seem more able than their male counterparts to navigate today’s ever-changing job market despite still facing unequal opportunity or pay.
But then there are the Mean Bus Driver types, like the man who screamed at me when I happened to cross his path, who are pissed as hell even when we are simply doing everything right and staying in our own lanes but in so doing may have inconvenienced them.
From watching as male co-workers happily bask in the received glow of credit for work I have done, to having to pencil in the “Unmarried woman” box on my mortgage papers, to seeing so-called leaders parading their white male privilege around our country and too many others, I and many other women have had enough. We want credit where credit is due and to be able to move ourselves forward unimpeded. And I certainly think I should be able to turn left while obeying all the traffic rules without being mown down by a manic city bus driver.
But the Mad Men, the men like the enraged bus driver, these men aren’t giving up without a fight. I can’t help but recall that oft maligned Charlton Heston remark – “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” I always found this absurd and laughable but now see that the sentiment he was expressing is real and still omnipresent.
I hope there is a more peaceful, long term solution than the one Heston suggested, and as we continue to see more women in positions of power, be it political, social, economic, personal or otherwise, reaching that solution will become more likely. And as we head in that direction, we women are not going away, and we are not piping down. It is a global necessity that we raise our voices and we are here to stay.
So you know what Mr. Mad Man Bus Driver? Stay in your own damn lane – I’m driving here!!