There’s a garden outside my window, and it’s had a weird summer. The cosmos has grown into great hulking brutes of foliage, the dahlias long spindly stems with a few leaves, the begonias tiny hirsute curls close to the ground. The only sign of colour, the brilliantly pink phlox, usually part of the chorus, now the soloist.
Whatever balance is needed to do their job, the plants didn’t get it this year. If you’re a gardener, you may understand what’s happened, but I find it extraordinary. I’ve watched the Butler incessantly water, feed and weed these ingrates, so what more could they want? Their picture on a ten pound note?
Ah yes, that’s where I’m going this week. You see, I really can’t grasp why anyone would bust a gasket over a woman’s picture on the ten pound note. Whose quality of life is worsened by Jane Austen’s face giving them a fleeting glance as she’s pulled from a wallet and handed over the counter? Can you imagine women getting their knickers in a twist every time a man’s face appeared on a banknote?
No. Women don’t often have the luxury of behaving like trolls, although admittedly, trolldom isn’t exclusively male. Not perhaps because we’re a less aggressive gender but because we’re used to not being top dog. Society has long been structured to keep women from getting what they need to bloom on their own. Like the garden in front of me, we have the periodic pink phlox, the anonymously published Jane Austen, the male pen name producing Middlemarch so that the myth of the lesser gender prevails. And when some woman has the audacity to say, let’s honour our pink phlox, all hell breaks loose.
I could turn to gender theories and sociological essays and psychological explanations for trolls getting stuck in early developmental stages, which would give me an intellectual understanding for what’s happened the last few weeks. In its bare bone analysis though, somewhere along the way, someone hasn’t been taught to share. Or learned that it’s wonderful watching someone else open their birthday presents. Or if my face is on the ten pound note, it doesn’t mean your face isn’t worth looking at.
I don’t confine that lack of learning to trolls. Our male politicians don’t blush at the sexist remarks they make to subdue their female counterparts. Our sportscasters openly call women’s games boring. Our children are raised on Legos for boys, princess slippers for girls. Male leisure activities are a sublimation of natural aggression waiting in the wings to keep the species alive. Female leisure activities are well, stupid.
The practical part of my brain imagines a mother overseeing a play date between pre-schoolers. Her child doesn’t want to share, doesn’t want to play the other child’s game, and if things get too equal, may even give the kid a swat. The mother intervenes, tells her child to play nice. Yet every day, that same woman walks through a world that treats her the way she has taught her own child not to behave. Somehow, that immature egocentricity survives preschool and is directed towards women, people of colour, the disabled, the LGBTQ community.
That’s where my confusion comes in. I don’t understand why that behaviour isn’t immediately seen as wrong. Why do advertisers have to be pressured into withdrawing their money from social media sites before rape jokes and bullying are dealt with? How can a thirteen year old sexual abuse victim be considered a predator? Who in their right mind thinks it’s okay to drive the Racist Van through British streets?
I understand that some people are so badly damaged, they’ll grow up to become trolls. What I don’t understand is why the supposed non-trolls sometimes don’t act any differently. What I really don’t understand is why, when the supposed non-trolls don’t act any differently, they aren’t carted offstage to where those of us who know how to share, won’t be swatted by them anymore.
If you’ve got answers for me, I’d love to hear them.