In a piece of administrative bad luck, both the Cute Pansexual Assistant Manager and I took sick days on the Monday that followed that Friday snit. The Store Manager was out again on Tuesday so there was no meeting, no resolution. CPAM had clearly been told not to talk to me about anything that wasn’t work related. Why would this be a solution? Barring me from small-talk could only serve to further separate me, not make me feel safe or included. I shouldn’t have to be ready to, for example, confront a rape apologist in order to rate a slot in the cheery work chitchat.
I was scared when I came in and in fact asked if I should leave, but CPAM became friendly again pretty quick., joking about his unicorn-ness and bonding over the music. I even wondered if Friday (and I guess the whole rest of his microagression-o-rama) had been a fluke, just a snit. I felt sheepish to have been so upset.
But then, while we were working happily together in the back room (that darn back room!) with a recently-back-from-vacation grad student, he asked, apropos of nothing, if she had ever heard of the documentary “The Red Pill.”
I hadn’t heard of the movie, but my hackles went up. I knew that “Red Pill” mentality was one of the Men’s Right’s Activist, deep-Reddit monstrosities that has become the part of the toxic misogynist soup we’ve all been swimming in. In their parlance, “taking the red pill” means realizing that (white) men are actually society’s most oppressed category and that one of the ways to correct this “imbalance” is…rape. I also knew that the Red Pill/ MRA movements are tied intimately with white supremacist movements.
After a few minutes of him summarizing the “documentary” and me saying “that’s TERRIBLE” a lot of times, he continues to double down on men’s vulnerable status. (NOTE: Men ARE vulnerable and harmed, but he wasn’t realizing it’s heteropatriarchy, not rape survivors, who make the rules.)
I asked him to change the subject, but he said “I’m not talking to YOU. This isn’t work related.” And stalked away. I walked right after him.
“I thought we were going to get along,” I said calmly but forcefully, “But you CAN’T be sexist at work. The people you’re talking about are rape apologists.”
“No, they’re not. You’re just saying that because you disagree with them. No matter what I say, you’ll hear what you want to hear. Besides, it isn’t work related.”
“It IS work related because I don’t feel safe at work. This is a microagression, no, a MACROaggression!”
(As if he would know what either word meant.)
I went back to working on the books, but my body didn’t want to be there. After he evoked the Men’s Rights Activists, the trauma of the 2016 election, the “Lock her up” mobs, the way Trump had recently threatened to forcibly take “Pocohontas” Elizabeth Warren’s DNA to test and mocked the #Metoo movement in the same sentence, it felt like all of that was in the room with me, and it was. The store was presided over by a giant photo of the college’s mascot, a white colonizer, rape and murder in his puppet eyes. How does any woman get through a day on that campus, or in America, or anywhere in all of history?
I went home. I called the HR hotline, called my therapist, called (ex-wife, BFF) Sweetie. I felt helpless, scared, worthless, panicked, but more than anything else, I felt angry—for the time theft, the money theft, the ELECTION theft brought about by misogyny in general and the MRAs specifically. I felt like I would never be safe anywhere.
Earlier this week, I watched “To All the Little Girls: The Untold Stories of the Sixty-five Million”, https://www.toallthelittlegirlsdoc.com/watch Rebecca Morgan’s story of her work on the 2016 election and it’s aftermath. After the election, Becca was diagnosed with PTSD, and in some ways, I think the whole country has it. I know I do. It’s hard to shake the idea that I have to fight and scrap for survival, that we all do. I don’t know what healing looks like, but I do know that I’ll call out hate (and call HR) just as freely as I call Congress. My heart aches for whatever genuine friendship was there, for having left another thing I liked. I don’t know where we’re going, but I know whose side I’m on: mine.