Managing Your Feelings Is Not My Job


“Whistling girls and crowing hens always come to some bad ends,” my grandma used to say, just before she would tell me that while I was a gracious loser (she was right; I am), I was a “very poor winner.”  By that, my grandma meant that I loved winning too much and that, when I did win, I wasn’t good at pretending not to care.  And, she was right; I do and I’m not; it’s made me a hell of a lawyer.  My grandma loved me and she was just trying to prepare me for what she called “the real world.”

One of the almost unconscious (and completely unpaid) jobs that women are doing all the damn time is managing their own behavior in order to manage men’s emotions.  We do it so much that we’re often not even aware that we’re doing it.  While the Jungian projection is that women are “too emotional” and “let their emotions run away with them,” the fact is that, of course, it’s most men who really can’t manage their own emotions.  Margaret Atwood famously said that men are afraid women will laugh at them, while women are afraid that men will kill us.  Women must never dress in ways that make it OK for men, who can’t control themselves, to rape us.  We must never lean in too hard or we will threaten the men.  We must soothe their hurt feelings, let them feel as if they won even when they lost, always be receptive to their desires.  Failure = death.  I do it all day long, the only woman in the room most of the time, figuring out exactly how to manage the mens’ feelings in order to herd us towards a legal strategy that will actually win the case, while letting this guy think it was all his own idea, letting the other guy imagine that he just won a point, gently dealing with the asshole who always interrupts me.

All women do it and we do it all the damn time.   It gets old.

As we’ve edged closer and closer to the moment (sometime within the next 24 hours) when America will, after 240 years, select a woman as the nominee of a major political party, women are being warned not to be, as my grandma would have said, “poor winners.”  On Facebook, Heather Michon, tongue in cheek, provided these helpful suggestions:

As the clock ticks down to Hillary Clinton winning her “presumptive nominee” badge, I thought I’d pass on a few helpful hints to Hillary supporters – the ladies in particular – about how you are expected to comport yourself over the coming days and weeks. These are tips I’ve gleaned from various FB posts, blogs, and opinion pieces over the weekend.

1) Don’t get too excited. There’s nothing notable whatsoever about a woman winning a major party presidential nomination, and most likely the presidency. Just because it’s never happened before doesn’t make it “historic.” History is the domain of men; HERstory is something that’s taught in Women’s Studies departments. One is fact, one is fringe. DO NOT compare one with the other.

2) Remember, the white guy could still save us. Team Sanders has every right to spend the next seven weeks trying to convince DNC superdelegates that YOUR vote counts less than the fact that Bernie reeeeeellllly wants to run for President. No, he’s not going to be able to convince them, but bursting that bubble would be so friggin’ unladylike.

3) Women Clinton Supporters: When talking about the primaries, always keep in the forefront of your mind that all Sanders supporters came to that decision through a rational and dispassionate comparisons of candidate platforms and philosophies. YOU voted with your vagina. Nothing good ever came out of a vagina. Nothing.

4) Don’t smile. Well, smile, for God’s sake – nobody likes a resting bitch face – but don’t smile *too much.* Don’t shout….it scares people! No outbursts! Play it safe: sit quietly, legs crossed at the ankles, hands folded on your lap. Employ a buddy system. If you feel a creeping sense of joy that threatens to spill out onto your face, have your friend elbow you hard, right in the boob. Repeat as needed.

5) If you absolutely must celebrate, go ahead. Everyone knows women are emotional creatures. Just remember, from here on out, everything is either all your fault, or complete luck. If Hillary wins with the 336-202 Electoral College blow-out Princeton’s Sam Wang is predicting at the moment, it’s because Donald Trump is such a weak candidate that a sea otter could have won by a country mile this year. If she loses it’s ALL. YOUR. FAULT. You, and your vagina.

Above all, we’re being told, don’t gloat.  Don’t spike the football, don’t high-five each other, don’t whoop and yell, don’t chest pound, don’t do anything to rub it in.  No!  Hillary and her supporters must wear ashes and do even more, and more, and more to “reach out” to the Bernie Bros.  Otherwise, their delicate feelings will be hurt and they will vote for Trump, or Jill Stein, or just stay home and peruse MRA websites.

Well, you know, I love my grandma.  She was born before women could vote in this country and she spent her days making her husband, her son, her grandson, her doctor, her minister, her landlord, her grocer, and any other man she met feel safe, adored, correct.  She’d have worried about how upset that nice old man, Mr. Sanders, must feel, losing to a woman.  And I love my grandma.

But, you know, fuck that shit.  I am declaring a 72 hour moratorium on women having to worry about men’s delicate feelings.  I’ve waited 60 years.  America has waited 240.  All 44 of America’s presidents — all 44 of them — have been men.  Suffragettes were beaten, spat upon, ridiculed, arrested, imprisoned, hung from their wrists, beaten, force-fed, and terrorized just to win women the right to vote.  I’ve shown up every election of my adult life and sent money to, handed out literature for, walked door-to-door for, and voted for one damn man after another.  I am going to spike the ever-loving hell out of this football, do a dance in the end zone, fall to my knees and call on Columbia, high-five everyone I know, do the wave, show the English my bum, and then I’m going to open the champagne and really get crazy.

I stood, almost 8 years ago to the day, listening to Hillary Clinton give her concession speech and throw her support to then-Senator Obama.  We were crowded in like sardines in the DC building museum, and I was standing next to a woman just a little older than I.  We got to chatting, standing on our swollen ankles there in the stifling heat, and learned that both of our dads had been union organizers and that that was what had led to our own interest in politics.  We wept a little bit together, sad to see that, once more, the cool young guy with no experience was winning out over the woman who’d paid her dues, earned her stripes, done what was expected, and then still failed because, well, reasons.  We held hands for a few seconds, both aware that, things being what they were, it was quite likely we’d die without seeing a woman president.  I took some pictures that I emailed to her afterwards.  I was thinking today that I wish I still had her email address.  I’d like to call her tomorrow and whoop.

We deserve that whoop.  We earned that whoop.  And even if I can’t whoop with her, I am going to go out under the brand new crescent moon and I am going to whoop like a banshee.

And so if you are a man who is going to have his feelings hurt tomorrow, who is going to be offended by women joyously celebrating a victory, maybe tomorrow would be a good day for you to go fishing with the guys.  Read a book.  Pound nails into things.  Watch old Archie Bunker re-runs.

But, you know what?  For a short time, managing your feelings is not my job.  I’m going to be too busy celebrating.  You do it for a change; it’s a tiring job.


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