The Alps With Gopher Holes
“The Alps With Gopher Holes,” I said. No I was not describing a gardener’s nightmare or a particularly bad vacation. I was trying to explain to the architect of my dream house how truly un-level the playing field still is for women in pay, occupation selection, and respect for the individual more than sixty years after I sat in a high school social studies class and discussed the obvious inequality in pay and opportunities for women.
He had asked why I thought so much was being said and done so loudly now. “Why all the to do now?” He asked. “These things take time, why are they so impatient now? I don’t think it’s helpful.”
“Women have grown impatient with patience, lots of head nodding and promises and change so slow. I think women feel it is time to make a fuss, past time I think,” I told him.
Being patient about being treated like objects and assumed to have inferior talents whatever the field has not worked. It will be interesting to see if being out loud and in your face about behavior and pay will move us forward any faster but it can’t hurt at this point. As I have written in the past, the movies have not yet really risen to the challenge of presenting the women’s case. I tried to think of a movie in which the strong woman did not have to bend in the end to facilitate the happy ending and came up woefully short.
His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant and The African Queen with Kathrine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart comes closest but honestly I think Hollywood had some growing to do yet. Token roles, the occasional strong female, but they still have us doing it “backward and in high heels,” to quote Ginger Rodgers. We should add “and for less money.”
Decades on we are still hung up on the firsts – the first women this or that, as if it were some great deed the woman had managed at last to do just like all the men who had done it before. They announce it, patting themselves on the back for allowing it to happen. And for as long as they keep it an oddity, a first, it is still something only a rare woman can do and out of the norm.
To widen the conversation neither do I think it should be so celebrated to say the first Black, or Hispanic, or Asian, or Martian either and for all the same reasons. Not until the Oscar winner is simply deemed best this year in the category, the new CEO, the new Administrator, the new garbage truck driver, or the designer of moon habitats a person of value and note, the best one for the award or to do the job who also happens to be female, or who may be any racial, ethnic, gender orientation, who may even be a white male – then the playing field will flatten.
When there is no hierarchy to take advantage, harass, coerce, when all one has to do is do the job well and be rated fairly amongst peers, paid fairly amongst peers for the work done, then the gopher holes will be filled. We need films that pattern a more equal world, an industry that sets an example on and off the screen.
Currently the film industry seems to me to be more often hypocritical and condescending and guilty on both sides. If it is wrong for the powers that be to pat the winner of the best actor in a supporting female role on the head and announce proudly that they are the first Martian to receive the award as if somehow being Martian was part and party to the talent it is also wrong for the Martians to make much of the fact that the winner is Martian. We are not our sex or sexual orientation, we are not our ethnic, religious, age, or political identity – we are a whole, made up of all the parts and pieces and should be valued as a whole, identified as an individual being, not identified nor limited to some categorical group placement.
"Axcypt Seaf" won the Oscar for her great portrayal, not because she is a three armed, pinky blue, transsexual, Martian, Mormon. We will only close the gulf that keeps us separated when we quit identifying ourselves and others by the differences.