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More on “Awareness” Months

June 5, 2014

Yesterday, I reflected upon Awareness months. Who in tarnation makes these things up? And why? One month was Gender Awareness Month which coincided with Double Standards Awareness Month. The people who decide what we should be  aware of every month cram a lot of awareness into every month as if we don’t already have enough to distract us. Just how many things is the human mind capable of being aware of simultaneously before it becomes too dangerous for one to even tie his own shoes for fear of awareness oversaturation? Someone should run a study of this pressing social problem.  I’ll ask a former student who took a grant writing class this semester to help me write a proposal, and she and I can embark upon this journey together. Maybe we can tie it in with some sort of survey of gender, writing ability, and white privilege.

I think that the whole Awareness Month thing is about bonding with someone different from oneself. That seems like a good thing.

I can see a small connection between being aware of gender and double standards (separately, of course). Women have to contend with glass ceilings in their careers, and a reported dearth of toilets in football stadiums, concert halls, WalMarts,  and other places of mass gathering. (I’ll overlook the fact that this department is overrun with women, and the fact that the last two department chairs were held by women, and that the head maintenance engineer swears that the faculty women’s bathrooms rival the Taj Mahal itself. I take his word for it. His name is Ravi).

I do remember that month of Gender Awareness and Double Standards month (supposedly two different awarenesses). In a memo, faculty was encouraged to undertake a role or engage in a behavior of the opposite sex. In addition, we were encouraged to be aware that “we” (i.e., men) adhere to a code of double standards.

Fine.

At the subsequent faculty meeting, we were all asked to tell what we had done to observe Gender Awareness month. It got off to a bad start.

“I horked up an oyster and spit it on the sidewalk,”  Jane, the new young female lecturer volunteered.

“I’m carrying a prophylactic in my purse, ” a Women and Gender Studies professor said.

There was an admission by one professor that she wrote her husband a love letter forgiving him for being a pig, and that –pig or not— she will always love him. To underscore her awareness of the disparity in their genders, she said, she threw her dirty clothes on the floor too.

Then they turned to the male faculty— all nine of us.

“I changed the baby’s diaper last night,” a young male first-year lecturer said meekly.

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!”

That doesn’t look like much in type, but when you hear twenty-five or thirty women say it in unison, it’s pretty scary. It seemed planned. I wonder if the women faculty have separate meetings.

Then it was my turn. I really wasn’t ready for the meeting, and I couldn’t think of an appropriate answer, but I gave it a shot.

“I’m wearing my wife’s panty hose,” I said. “My wife complains that they’re uncomfortable and inconvenient, and I must admit that both are legitimate complaints.You women should be awarded medals for what you must bear every day. I can’t imagine what a brassiere would do to my psyche.”

Silence. I think I shocked everyone, but not for long.

“I want to see and touch those panty hose you say you’re wearing,” the department chair (a woman) demanded.

I reminded her that it was also Double Standards Awareness month, and that her request indicated a gross double standard. I reminded her that if I asked to see and touch her panty hose, I’d probably be fired. (Sometimes I amaze myself at how fast I can conjure up things).

When the rest of the men were polled, each one falsely admitted to being a panty hose guy too. After the meeting, they thanked me for saving them. They couldn’t think of anything plausible either. I think they were shaken up by the reaction to Mr. Baby Diaper.

I don’t think that meeting accomplished much in the way of bonding, but It surely elevated my self-esteem. I stood up to the department chair, and I struck a blow for maleness, even if we all said that we wore our wives’ panty hose that month. They had to take our word for it. If that isn’t equality, I don’t know what is.

I just checked the Awareness Month list for June. It’s a short list, but June is (among other things) Scleroderma Awareness Month. I have no idea what scleroderma is, but it sounds like it oozes and is highly contagious. I think I’ll get another cup of coffee, walk to my office and lock the door. I may even cancel classes for the rest of the term. The students are all getting C’s whether they learn anything or not.

Besides, they should stay home if they have scleroderma.

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