I try to be respectful of other people’s opinions and points of view when they radically differ from mine, although sometimes my big mouth gets me in trouble. And I was totally minding my own business, reading the NY Times magazine next to a group of people whose conversation I was not eavesdropping on. Coincidentally, I was busy deciding whether to continue reading the article on Elena Kagan and the scrutiny she is undergoing for being 50, single, childless and never married. As if any of these considerations should be relevant to her appointment to the Supreme Court. A journalist on a “feminist” website chimed in by writing that nominating a mother, with a mother’s practical sense and compassion, should be the thing to do. I do take the point but can we stick to the legal credentials here? But I am digressing.
My ears perked up when Tori Amos was mentioned by someone in the group next to me. I thought to myself I hadn’t heard that name in years and all I could remember was Ms Amos’ generic kookiness that came through in interviews and her belief in fairies. And that some of her music was truly lovely. It would have been just another passing thought jumbling my brain if not for the same man who continued his diatribe about Ms Amos and how she had her rape coming by being so overtly sexual in her performances. I vaguely remembered stories of rape but that wasn’t exactly the point. I turned around to take in the bald head of the speaker, his youthful appearance and casual clothes and the English woman beside him who, in that infinite and sometimes stoic English politeness, replied that Ms Amos’ performances were public, it’s not as if she displayed sexual behaviour on a one on one encounter. Making matters worse in my view. What if she had? By the same token, Mick Jagger or Jimmy Page or Prince would have had cause to worry, with the difference that they probably welcomed the back stage throngs of women who responded to their public display of sexuality by offering their wares.
Words failed me. In 2010, in the States, in Los Angeles for chrissake, there are still men going around thinking that women have rape coming their way if they insist on putting their sexuality on display. And there are women who cannot scream indignantly at such utterances. In a fit of British politeness I didn’t say anything and those of you who think I am always such a bull in a china shop might have cause to rejoice. But I came home wishing I had given the bald gentleman a piece of my mind (and then let go of my anger…). We still have far to go if we a whole country is opining on the merits of a female judge based on her marital status and sexual orientation and if an artist is not free to be who she is in front of an audience without worrying about what’s coming her way. Apparently that glass ceiling that we so confidently broke through is sometimes bulletproof.