When Equality Feels Like Oppression

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in Thoughts | 0 comments

I’m just going to talk about one more moment in the Women’s March, and then I’ll be done, I promise.

This moment actually happened before the March, on the drive up. We paused at a rest area on the Delaware border, where apparently everyone decided to pause (or maybe all the rest areas were like that. Probably). I looked longingly at the line for coffee (remember, I’d been up since 4am) but it was far too long. The line for the women’s restroom snaked in circles around the building.

We had ten minutes before our bus would depart. So we decided that, today of all days, we would do what we had always longed to do–we would go pee in the men’s room.

We weren’t the only ones who had that idea. There was a line for the men’s room, too–and it was made up of one guy and about thirty women. That guy stood there patiently, but all the women were grinning. We’d never been more excited to pee in our entire lives.

A man tried to walk past us, stopped, and turned, completely confused. “You know this is the men’s room, right?”

“We know,” we said. “The lines for the women’s room are crazy long.”

“But…” he sputtered. “This is the men’s room.

“You can skip the line and use the urinal,” my friend said.

“I could also just go against a tree,” he snapped.

And he pushed his way past us and stomped off.

The thing is, I get it. There were all these crazy women in pink hats standing in his line! They didn’t belong there! Couldn’t they read the sign? He really had to pee, he’d been driving forever and holding it until he got to a rest stop, and now this?!

But what he’s never had to think about–or at least, never had to experience, which is very different and much more real than just thinking about it–is that this is something women experience all the time. We are jubilant when there’s no line–it’s definitely not something we’re used to, or expect. Men never have to make the kinds of choices we do–do you get up and go to the bathroom during intermission, knowing you will miss the start of the second act? Or stay in your seat and hold it?

And OH MY GOD are those some white people problems! Wow, your big worry is that you might miss the start of the second act at this expensive show that you can afford to go see? I feel so sad for you!

I tell this story because I think it’s kinda funny–but I’m also embarrassed to tell it, because it is my privilege to wait in line at a concert that I could afford tickets to see.

This poor guy that I’m singling out here isn’t really at fault. He’d had his privilege taken away from him for a day–he was equal to women in that moment–and when you’re used to privilege, it really does feel like oppression not to have it anymore. If I had my concert tickets taken away so that other folks could go see concerts too, I would feel like that was super unfair. And then I would have to give myself a good talking to.



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