These Loins Weren't Made for Bearing Fruit
By Kayla MacKenzie
My feminist anger is slow rising and always has been.
I spent a quarter of a century—from birth all the way through my formative years to fledgling adulthood—in the Midwest. Mid-Michigan, to be more precise, emphasis on “mid”. Middle class ruled supreme in my hometown, and all of us lower than that scrambled towards averageness. My brand of feminism was cultivated in that too small world, breeding within me a deep well of internalized misogyny of which I’ve barely been able to scratch the surface.
Internalized misogyny itself is no special thing; it exists everywhere in our society. My surroundings happened to allow mine to not only exist, but to flourish into some odd amalgamation of a promiscuous, slut-shaming, booty-shorts-wearing-girl who favored being “one of the guys”. I wore the “she’s not like other girls” label proudly, like many others who now scoff at the blatant insult against our gender. Being female felt like something I had to shed to earn respect, yet embrace to attract guys. A tightrope walk that shouldn’t exist.
I can look back about a decade now and see the lack of realization in my feminism then. I didn’t have the thoughts, let alone the voice to use them. The words come a little easier now near 30 and after five years in New York, and the battle to overcome my own developed truths chugs on. But I have a bad track record with feminism and the other day was no exception.
At a second interview for a position at a small company in Midtown, I met with the boss—a much-older CIS white male—feeling fairly confident. The first interview had gone very well and was conducted by a young immigrant woman whose presence had felt calming. This guy—let’s call him Chip—only felt more intimidating due to his status within the company. He was incredibly casual, with Bernie Sanders-esque white hair and cowboy boots. I immediately got the impression that the interview would be laid-back and more to scope out my personality than anything else. I sat on a low, worn couch along the wall and Chip sat in his rolling chair, legs crossed at the ankle. He was jovial, Santa-like, even.
We chatted. He asked about my interest in the company, flitted briefly through questions on my work history, and joked often. In response to me saying that my current part-time job is no longer financially sustainable, Chip hmm’ed and said, “You’re what, twenty-six? Twenty-four?”
I shook my head. “Twenty-nine, nearly thirty.” I had been brainstorming birthday ideas earlier that day.
“Oh, well that’s good. That’s great, actually,” Chip said, and I thought it was some discreet way to acknowledge that I may have my shit together at this point in my life. (I don’t, of course.)
Moments later he asked if I have marriage and children in mind. I responded that I have a partner who already has a son and that’s good enough for me.
He pressed me. “But nearly thirty? That’s around the age that, you know, you wanna start thinking about kids. You don’t want to, hmm, bear any fruit yourself?”
I held back instead of saying any of the myriad of reasons my partner and I think we probably won’t have a kid of our own (finances, age difference, the perfection that his own kid already is, surely cementing that ours would be terrible in comparison).
For a moment let’s ignore the legality of this. Let’s forget, briefly, that some women cannot have children at all.
Finally awkward, I said, “I don’t think that’s for me.”
“Well that’s not a yes! That’s a maybe, I think,” Chip said, bulldozing my actual answer with the kind of man-splaining finesse only a man of his age can possess.
And I laughed. “Yeah, a soft maybe.” I laughed again.
“Not that it matters to me,” Chip assured. “Since family leave is law of the land these days.”
We concluded the interview genially, I was told I would hear their decision in a few days, and we shook hands before I left. I didn’t get angry. I walked out of there still desperately wanting that job, needing it, even, and not a single part of me thought that anything wrong had happened.I went so far as to text my partner that the interview went really well and that my impression of Chip was that he was “hilarious and old and gruff.”
It took me until I was on the train home, crossing the Manhattan Bridge, to realize the inappropriateness that had occurred in my interview.
I still wasn’t angry, but my feminist anger is slow rising; it is not a tidal wave. It’s a trickle, wearing down the foundations of what I’ve always known and how I’ve always coped. I’m still learning, and that anger is ever rising; maybe faster now, more a flood, touching the cornerstones of what makes me me. A half hour for realization is better than a decade.