“I can’t self-promote well,” Owl told Peter on the phone a few days ago. “And it means my career is doomed. Doomed like a leaky houseboat. I’d do better if I were a man.”
“Who says men are better at self-promotion?” Peter asked.
Owl wondered if Peter was illiterate. Or had been living under a rock.
“That’s dumb,” he said. “Don’t say that.”
Now Owl was really pissed. She and Peter had a shouting match where Owl told Peter he was a sexist pig who should fornicate with other sexist pigs. Then she told him he was bloody illiterate because every single article that comes out about women talks about how they are doomed like leaky houseboats. Peter told Owl if there was a sexist pig in the conversation it was her because she kept shitting on women, and yes, shitting on yourself counts.
Owl told Peter she’d like to see how he deals with the weight of opening the newspaper every day to find a new article that says you, yes you, are thoroughly and utterly fucked because of your race and gender.
According to studies women earn 77 cents to the man’s dollar, aren’t seen as leaders, negotiate for lower salaries, and are seen as less authoritative then men. They are a minority in the boardroom, in academia, and in general. The system is stacked against them in every single way. Or so Owl infers from her reading.
Lately, whenever Owl accomplishes something she starts wondering how her white male counter part would have fared. Owl calls him Solomon George. Sure, Owl has a job, but Solomon George would have a better job. And even though Owl has never worked anywhere with a negotiable salary, in the same job Solomon George would probably shake his silky mane of hair and get a higher salary. Would Solomon George be dating more Peters than Owl? Absolutely. Three at the same time. Generally Owl wants to kick Solomon George in the nuts.
Certainly these articles are important. But they also have the unintentional effect of turning into a Greek Chorus that sings, you’re fucked if you’re not a white male. An inferiority complex if you will.
And while Owl is delighted that everyone keeps talking about how the system must change, and will change, she has a question. How does she win against the system in the meanwhile? Because she hasn’t got time to sit around and wait for it to change. She’s got shit to do.
Owl wants to know is how to use everything she’s got to win against a flawed system. Better yet, she wants to know there’s something innate about her that will steer her towards success and glory. She wants to know there’s something powerful about being brown and female, something powerful about being Owl.
When Owl was in high school she told her parents she wanted to join the track team.
They stared blankly. “You’ll die,” they said. “Think about your asthma.”
Owl has severe asthma. This meant as a child she couldn’t run, bounce, jump, laugh too hard or go on long walks. If she zipped around the playground, she’d promptly end up in the nurse’s office. Every year during gym when everyone had to run a mile, Owl would lumber for a few hundred feet, then collapse gasping and have to be taken home and medicated. High school Owl could maybe run two minutes without having an asthma attack. Pumped full of inhalers, Owl could maybe run for three minutes.
But high school Owl still loved the two minutes she ran, where the wind was in her hair and she answered to nothing and no one. She liked the idea of working away slowly at her running until three minutes turned into ten or even…maybe, perhaps, twenty.
Then Owl thought about the sheer effort of joining track and how she was fighting a losing battle anyway. She gave up immediately.
But when Owl got to her first job, she realized she needed to take up exercise or cube-life would sap away her flexibility. After work Owl went home, got on the treadmill and after three minutes, died. She spilled her woes to her work friend Dineda the next day.
“Girl, you gotta mix up walking and running,” Dineda told her. “You can’t just run flat out and expect it to work.”
Owl nodded dubiously.
“Also, you’ve got a runner’s body,” Dineda said. “Look at those skinny shoulders.”
Owl did not have a runner’s body. She has flat feet, flab masquerading as muscle, and um, cripplingly severe asthma.
“I’ve got a runner’s body!” Owl said. She’s gullible like that.
She went home. “Guess what?” she told the treadmill. “I have a runner’s body!”
|Born to run|
The treadmill ignored her and Owl died during her workout. That runner’s body had a key flaw: it couldn’t run. But Owl had a runner’s body! Which meant she could run if she wanted to. Owl looked up some walk-run training plans and starting making workout charts.
She told Dineda all about her progress. Dineda told Owl she was a star. Owl told her boss all about running. Her boss made it a point to ask about workouts. Owl told her mentor about running. Owl’s mentor was a track star who had taken home medals at local races. Owl was lumbering away at a ten-minute mile, but her mentor told her she was a fierce gym warrior and running would cure all her woes.
For the first time in her life Owl ran a mile. Then she ran two.
And so Owl kept running. She ran during lunch breaks, after work, and on weekends, through the sun, wind and rain. She piled on the miles, five, six, seven. She ran as if nothing and no one could stop her.