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Thinking Like A Woman

Imagining the other

By Carl Dow

Image: Portrait of Carl Dow by Lena Wilson Endicott, 1995.
Portrait of the author, by the late Lena Wilson Endicott, 1995.

I’ve told this story fewer times than I have digits on my right hand. I try to avoid trouble.

You’re a man, she said, you can’t think like a woman.

I wrote a novel, called Black Grass, about the Metis defending their territorial rights in 1866. I’m not a Metis, nor was I there in 1866. The novel (forthcoming from the BumblePuppy Press) has been read with great enthusiasm by advance readers.

So if equipped with sufficient imagination, a man can think like a woman, just like a woman similarly blessed, can think like a man.

Leaving all that aside, I’ll get to the point of what happened when I decided to think like a woman.

It was about three in the afternoon on spring day in 1962 when I pushed away from my old (even then) manual Underwood typewriter, and I decided I would watch television like a woman.

I had never done that before. Until then I virtually ignored most everything directed toward women: news, opinions, advice, simply because I couldn’t identify with it all. This time, however, I paid attention.

After three hours of it I was furious. No matter the vehicle: talk show, soap opera, advertising, women were made to look inferior to men.

They were simple minded, ignorant, incompetent, servile, and cheerfully grateful that their problems could be solved by men.

The men were stern, firm, condescendingly patient with their women who were often amusing in their failed attempts to get things right the first time.

On the other hand there were a few women who were portrayed as cruel, ruthless, and deserving of contempt and punishment. Out of step monsters.

Women were at their best as mothers and housewives, or as secretaries. Always, in the final analysis, subservient toward men. In these roles they found true happiness.

This applied especially to women portrayed in advertising: give a woman a new gadget for the kitchen, or for doing the laundry, or cleaning the house, and she would glow with satisfaction.

Well, like I said, after three hours of this I felt abused to the point of intense outrage, thinking of how nice a rolling pin would feel in the palm of my hand.

But ‘we women’ have turned a serious corner. The roles in the commercial propaganda world have flip-flopped.

Now it’s the men who are incompetent and just plain stupid. I’ve got a secure ego so I just suffer mild annoyance.

I felt more outraged on behalf of women way back when than I do now for the current psychological attack on men.

The question begs: why does it work? Do we really need to put someone else down in order for us to feel comfortable.

Unlike Freud and Jung, I don’t think of women as the opposite sex. I think of women and men as being complementary.

That we should express mutual fondness is a given. We’re even made to fit together.

The Old Man’s Last Sauna

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