I looked askance at the whole Academy Awards uproar about the Big Slap because it highlighted one of the people who get canceled every day. In this situation, all the attention went to the two men involved. Over and over again we saw the actor and the comedian, the hitter and the hittee, both men behaving badly.
Who didn’t get any attention? Who didn’t receive an apology? You remember the woman in this situation, don’t you? Chris Rock made an insulting—and very unfunny—crack about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. She suffers from alopecia, a condition in which the immune system destroys the hair follicles, which results in hair loss.
Now, with the exception of The Former Guy, we all know better than to make fun of another person’s medical condition. We also understand that humor does not lie in a fellow human being’s misfortune. It seems obvious that we should laugh with people, not at them.
Clearly, Chris Rock never heard that message. But I have another point to make.
He took a cheap shot at a woman and felt no need to apologize for that. Why? Because, hey, only the men matter here. The men and the media canceled Ms. Pinkett-Smith, as so many women before her were, and rendered invisible.
Canceling The French Chef
Lately, other news items have reinforced the fact that women get cancelled all the time, every day, and it’s nothing new.
Watch the new show “Julia” on HBOMax and you’ll see how renowned cook Julia Child was treated by the arrogant privileged men of the fifties. Ivy-educated white men all, they looked down their patrician noses at a mere woman doing what they considered menial work. They could not imagine anyone being interested in cooking. Or that teaching America to cook better food represented a kind of education — one not taught in Ivy-League classrooms.
They had no qualms about letting her know that. Had Julia Child taken No for an answer, had she lacked chutzpah, the money to fund her own show, and the ability to work for nothing, we would never have seen “The French Chef.”
Realtors Ignoring Women
Yesterday’s Boston Globe featured an article by Kara Baskin on how, “Despite purchasing more homes than single males in Mass., single women face bias — from agents and attorneys to documents still stuck in 1950s America.” For single women, all the bad old stuff still exists. Men can ignore, insult, demean, diminish, and otherwise treat single women badly because the male realtors, bankers, and lawyers who want to close a deal don’t take them seriously.
Ms. Baskin refers us to a recent analysis by online lending marketplace LendingTree. That survey, “found that single women in the United States own 1.5 million-plus more homes than single men in the 50 largest metro areas, Boston included. Yet men can’t manage to use simple good manners? Or even to acknowledge a woman’s presence in the negotiations?
Canceling the Supreme Court Justice
Remember how the Senate Judiciary Committee treated Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Judiciary Committee hearings? GOP Senators attacked her with blatant insults and innuendoes. Being Black and female made her twice vulnerable. Yet Judge Jackson conducted herself with a grace, dignity, and courtesy unknown to Brett Kavanaugh with his beery rant, He had not yet been asked a single question by the committee when he wept and raved.
Judge Jackson made it onto the Supreme Court without giving those critical men any Kavanaugh-like behavior with which to tar her.
For All of History
I never for a moment thought we had evolved beyond canceling women as a matter of course. Men and the societies they run have done this for all of history.
If you think for just a moment about all the ways men have canceled women, you will forget to breathe.
- Education: Men denied women education from basic literacy to university level. The Taliban bars girls from schools after Grade 6 in Afghanistan.
- Professions: Men have kept women from the professions, reserving them for themselves. They made it difficult or impossible for women to become doctors, dentists, artists, sculptors, lawyers, writers, editors, architects, ministers. Professional work pays well enough that women could have obtained independence and a steady income.
- Suffrage: The Founding Fathers did not give women the right to vote. For centuries, men made decisions about women’s health, safety, legal status, financial stability, childbearing, and many other issues. In other parts of the world and, increasingly, in the United States, the states are reverting to this level of barbarism.
- Sports: Men prevented women from participating in sports either by law, by custom, or by underfunding. No woman ran in the Boston Marathon until Katherine Switzer in 1967—and even then a male official tried to shove her off the road. In 1972, women won the only American medals at the Sapporo Olympics.
- Bodily Autonomy: In many states in this regressive era, a woman who is raped cannot get an abortion and her rapist can sue her if she tries. The rapist does not have to pay child support but he does get visitation rights.
In short, whatever women want, need, aspire to, train for, the male establishment can and does deny them or take from them. That includes children. In Victorian England, a woman who sought a divorce, even from an abusive husband, lost her children by law. He had all the rights; she had none.
Women are no strangers to Cancel Culture. Men created it and imposed it on women in every period of history, in countries around the world, in places from village huts to great cities.
Organized religion has provided a particularly effective means of taking power, wealth, land, rights, and autonomy from women. Sometimes, it takes their lives as well — the ultimate cancel culture. I’m not talking about any one religion here; they are almost all guilty.
So, I can’t weep for men who these days complain about cancel culture, as if it’s a brand-new thing. They invented it and they maintain it, even in the face of modernity. But they sure don’t like it when it gets applied to them.