All this time, I’ve been writing about being a woman conductor.
“Is that rare?” my psychiatrist asked me, when I suggested to him that this was a source of stress in my life.
“Yes,” I informed this otherwise highly educated man. “Conducting may be the last remaining overwhelmingly male-dominated profession in the music industry. Overwhelmingly white, too.”
I’ve been called “sweetie” by colleagues who barely know me. I’ve regularly been the only woman in the room in meetings with conductors, and almost always in the minority — unless they are children’s choir conductors. I’ve been told, “you were great, we just felt more of a connection with [the male conductor who is half my age, with a third of my education and none of my experience].” And I thought all that was built on people’s subconscious, implicit biases against women in authority.
I didn’t know how deep the problem was until last week. I had no idea how wide. I’ve been so protected. So blind? So innocent? So gullible? How did I not know it was this bad?
It turns out damn near half the country is not only subconsciously biased against women in authority while they would never consciously say or do sexist things, but is also totally comfortable with promoting a man who says outright misogynist things, has a history of treating women as objects, and has been accused of sexual assault.
And now I know more about my country than I did last week. I know how much worse the problem really is.
Now, when I’m in the grocery store, I look at the people around me and my heart fills with worry. “Is that one of the ones who think it’s okay to touch women without their consent? To brag about it? Is he one of the ones who thinks women who speak out are nasty? Is he one of the ones who thinks I’m less than a real person?”
I knew those people existed. But I thought that population was tiny. I thought it was dying. Now all of it has been validated, given credibility. And, yes, I’ve been treated differently in public since then, as have lots of women I know. Because now sexists have permission. The will of the electorate and the constitution have said misogyny is the way things should be.
The racism, homophobia, and religious intolerance worry me deeply, too; but other voices are also addressing those with greater authority. I don’t want to speak on their behalf.
The problems are much bigger than I thought.
What helps me most is that I’m writing a book about how to deal with this. My sister and I have a contract with Simon & Schuster, publisher of her last book, and we have most of a first draft. But, as of last week, we discovered how much bigger the problem is, and how much more this information is going to be needed in the next few years. And how much more we’re going to have to convince people that the premise, “sexism is real,” is actually true.
We’re writing about how sociology interacts with psychology, and how this process is exposed and healed in art. Kinda like this, which Emily wrote Wednesday morning while I was spending two and a half hours digging a trench and shoveling gravel to put a slate walkway in front of my house in an effort to purge some my reaction before I had to go to work and talk about the relationship between art and truth.
I’m hoping reality isn’t saving the shots of the real shark for the end of the movie. I hope we’ve already seen the worst. But even so, they may have survived if they had had a bigger boat, right? So, let’s build one.
Our boat is made of outspoken support for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims, refugees, and anyone else who doesn’t feel as safe now as they did last week.
Outspoken support! Pour it out.