Sunday, September 17, 2006

An Old Story: The Planet of the Guys

Explanation: I've been following the inane debate on the appropriateness of women's breasts this weekend, and my reactions were pretty close to those of Majikthise who said that she cried after realizing how very little we have advanced in this respect. So I dug amongst my old writings, the ones that witness my psychological struggles to get to the point of some clarity, and found this one: The Planet of the Guys. Its title is stolen from a feminist writer (still looking for the attribution) who used it as a quip about The Planet of the Apes. The story is not fair at all, but I think it shows some of the emotions we feminists must struggle with and to transform if we are to make a difference on this planet of the guys.

The Planet of the Guys

The Supreme Being had the mailing labels mixed up. I got shipped to the wrong planet. This is the planet of the guys and I'm not a guy. Somewhere in the blue yonder is the planet which I was intended for; the planet where all religions are not about guy-gods and where guy-wars don't take up all the space in the news. They might even miss me on that planet, miss me for the individual talents I have.

Here my individual talents count for little. What matters is how we nonguys, on average, differ from guys, and how these average differences, whether tiny or not, can be used to justify the rank orderings on this planet: guys first. Never mind that many guys don't have the superior guy characteristics or that many nonguys do. This is the planet of the guys so the rank order comes first and stays unchanged. It is only the means that are being used to prop up that rank order which change: tradition, religion and quasi-science. If the old propping stories are discredited new stories are right away created to take their place in the support garments of this planet.

I sit here in the silent night and wait for the mother ship to pick me up. It is not going to come tonight, so I sit and think about being an alien. An alien can always see the underpinnings of a system more clearly. And what I see from my lowly (lovely?) position is that the rank order here doesn't give power to most guys, either. Only a small group sits in the wide wingchairs of entitlement. But all pretend that anyone with the right guy characteristics: aggression, heartlessness, single-mindedness and math skills can climb the ladder by pure willpower.

This is not true, but can be made to look so as long as the nonguys are seen to be held at the bottom, even if they, too, can be aggressive, heartless, singleminded and nimble with mathematics. None of this matters, because certain characteristics are going to be labeled "male" (another name for guys) and if need be, other characteristics will take the place of those that have been discredited by being shown to be merely human ones. This trap catches most of the guys, too. If you are a guy and can't climb the ladder, it must be your fault: you're not a guy enough.

This goes double for nonguys who want to climb the ladder, of course.

The moon is clear tonight, and the waters in the lake by which I sit lie calm as a mirror. It is easier to think in the darkness, easier to throw a thought into the emptiness over the sleeping towns and villages. Here goes a thought like a sleepy nightbird: The reason for the bottom location of us nonguys is simple. We are needed to make more guys, and this ability is of such utmost importance for the guys in power that they will do most anything, anything at all, to guarantee our compliance. For what good are any of the guy ladders if there are no guys to climb them? Look over there! Another group of guys making up ladders to reach the beard of their guy-gods, and there are more little guys climbing! We need to to make our nonguys work harder!

Guys can't make baby guys on their own. But the skill we have as nonguys to achieve this miracle is of no value in climbing up the guy ladders, none at all. This is surprising if you really think about it. If all the nonguys took a space ship and left this planet with a pocketful of sperm, where would the next generation of guys be born? Not on the planet of the guys. Yet this enormous power doesn't mean that we nonguys would sit on the top rungs of the ladders, feted and praised, well paid.

Funny that. The moon has made a golden stairway into the lake, the kind often shown in old oil paintings of nature. I want to climb that stairway, to evaporate, to disappear, to start again. Not all nonguys feel like I do, of course. They may be the ones who were intended to be shipped to this planet in the first place. But I've met others, both guys and nonguys, who feel the same way. Perhaps we are all sitting out in the dark night, waiting for some sign, praying that the initial shipping mistake could be canceled. Perhaps we are unhappy and homesick for a place where we'd be at home. Where we would be accepted.

We are not accepted here on the planet of the guys. There are guys out there who hate us, even the ones among us who never make a noise and meekly submit to every command.

Where does this hatred come from? I ask the moon and its golden bridge and the lake and the universe, but nobody answers. Is this hatred of us nonguys woven deep into the genes of these guys? I don't know, and the evolutionary psychologists are not interested in questions which would help nonguys.

What I do know is that nothing I can do will assuage this hatred, nothing I can sacrifice will feed it enough for it to fall asleep. Some guys just hate us.

A bird sounds a muted protest on the other side of the lake. Is this a sign? An answer? Is it a guilty conscience which makes a guy act like a misogynist? I'd be troubled if I was a guy in power and really looked at this planet, really looked at how it is managed so poorly, to the benefit of very few and to the great detriment of the planet itself, the plants, the animals and the vast masses of guys and almost all nonguys on it. I'd be troubled and it might feel easier if I could believe that all these other creatures deserved their bad luck in being the underpinnings of my power.

I'd certainly want a guy-god to tell that I'm doing the right thing by being in power, and I'd want guy-science, too, to prop up my righteousness. But if none of this suffices, maybe hatred does. - Would I do any of this? I doubt it, but the hatred is so painful. So painful. And I miss my home planet tonight.

The dawn is here. The mothership didn't come, again. I sit here most nights, waiting for my alien spaceship to collect me. It will not come, I know. But what is the alternative?