Whatever Happened to Ladies First?
This isn’t a complaint about contemporary etiquette but rather an observation about choice and chance. I relish having doors thrust open for me, having a chair pulled out in a restaurant, having a man change my tire when stranded—although just for the record I can do that too. But I’d give it all up for equal playing time. The chance to shine (in whatever capacity) without being labeled a bitch. (Often an acronym for female resolve) I think we could agree that male egos have jeopardized this country’s integrity long enough. Why not a new approach? Why not escort the ladies to the front of the political lines. Why not give women writers, philosophers, financiers, the same clout as those who can urinate in a trough.
As of January 2013 there are a (drum roll please) whopping seventeen female world leaders. Clearly there is an enormous discrepancy here. KPFA (my favorite solely listener sponsored radio) airs brilliant women on a regular basis, there are too many to mention here. Highly educated women with innovative answers to complex problems such as our economy, health care, education, and foreign policy. Why are these women not interviewed and aired on the mainstream media stations? If you Google “women in banking” the majority of the posts describe women banking their eggs! Ladies first-- comes with a price. We are first through the doors then quickly marshaled to the back row.
As a writer I feel the pinch of ladies first then sit in the rear. Like J.K. Rowling I contemplated using only my initials to have a more masculine ring. When my first children’s book, Frederick the Forgetful Ratter was picked up by a Los Angeles production company, I met with six males at a round conference table in Newport Beach. Each one of the men asked me to make the book “edgier” as they were going to launch a campaign with a film in mind. When I explained that children don’t need edgier and here’s why, they scoffed. After my two year contract, I took back Frederick—they had done little with him after I’d spent endless hours writing new characters and storylines. During those years three out of the six had asked me out despite that I was in a relationship. They simply did not take me serious. I want the freedom to feel different from a man without having “the little lady syndrome” pasted on my back.
Women writers need to arise from a male dominated craft and expose themselves, not physically of course. As writers we have the ability to write female characters that defy stereotypes. Recently, I was a director in a Readers Play fest here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The plays were all originals and I was handed one of the selected manuscripts. The storyline involved a nurse with a WWII veteran. The woman playing the nurse created a nasty bitchy version of this character, not my choice. When I asked her why she replied, “that is the way nurses are!” Oh Mon dieu—as artists we can alter vicious typecasts and banish bias thinking. In the end, she performed the nurse I envisioned; smart, caring, and insightful.
My walking partner has a sharp business mind and she battles the good old boy attitude while working in the wine industry. She navigates though with a creative sense of marketing and humor. But we discuss this issue often and reiterate (both of us preaching to each other’s choir) that we don’t want to be placated in our personal or professional life. We decided if the ladies first law pertained to more than doors and chairs, the world would be a fairer place to live.
For novels with a strong female presence check out my website www.karendevaney.net.
Causes Karen Devaney Supports
Eve Ensler and any organization that deals with issues supporting women and children and the advancement of their education.