Checking My Male Privilege at the Door to the Men’s Room – Part 2

Posted March 25th, 2015 by in Sanford Heisler Blog.

Recapitulation: When last we left our narrator, he was engulfed in a line of rowdy males slowly (but not softly) creeping toward the men’s restroom at the Nassau Coliseum during a Ranger-Islander Hockey game. Our hero has spent 35 minutes in queue mode and, at last! The urinals are in sight. But then, a “hulking behemoth” lets loose with, “Jeez, if I gotta wait this long to piss, I might as well be a woman!” And those words change everything. Our story continues.

For one frozen, nightmarish moment, I felt myself about to nod in agreement. Thankfully, I stopped just in time. And then it hit me. In the murkiest depths of my male id, did I not harbor a tiny particle of sympathy for the neanderthal’s sentiments? Did I not feel a tad superior and condescending when I zipped into a public restroom, and there, standing parallel to the men, was a long and winding line of women waiting for their chance? I had to confess, I did.

The admission was devastating, and for a minute, I fought it. “True,” I told myself, “it’s no picnic for women to wait interminably on line to reach the lavatory.” Indeed, I myself had just experienced the pain of stationary, urinationary delay. “But men have it worse,” I thought. My mind drifted back in time to 2009 and another sports venue – Wrigley Field. I remembered, “The Trough” – the ivy-covered washbasin-like apparatus in the Wrigley men’s room. I use the term “washbasin-like apparatus” advisedly because this putative washbasin was not really a washbasin; for one thing, it lacked faucets. Why this faucet-paucity? The answer is too repulsively traumatic for me to recount here.  Whenever I even start thinking about it, Kurtz’s last words pop to mind: “The horror! The horror!”  For the reader intrepid enough to take the plunge, here are several links that explain better than I ever can why sheer dread overcomes me whenever “the trough” flits through my brain.

But then my mind wrenched away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. I was back to 2015 and the dingy, decaying present tense of the Mausoleum. I took stock and stopped fooling myself. Yes, I had a bit of the sexist in me. Then and there, I vowed to extirpate all patriarchal remnants still lodged in my subconscious. Little did I realize there was a price I would have to pay for my newly raised consciousness.

I returned to my seat purified, enveloped in a new sensitivity and sensibility. Suddenly, the crowd roared. An Islander forward had stolen the puck and raced on a breakaway, careening unopposed toward the Ranger’s net. A goal seemed inevitable. But no. My seatmate to the left, a Ranger fanatic, screamed (spittle flying in all directions), “Great save by Cam Talbot!”, the Ranger goalie.

The crowd broke into a frenzied chant: “Talbot! Talbot!” But even though I was a Ranger fan, I couldn’t join in. Inexplicably, a wave of nausea washed over me. Instantly, I realized why; I was suffering a trigger moment. The mantra, “Talbot! Talbot!” echoed the war cries of the English soldiers fighting Joan of Arc in Shakespeare’s, Henry VI, Part I. There, the shout was, “A Talbot! A Talbot!” hailing John Talbot, the First Earl of Shrewsbury, England’s most powerful warrior (2.1.70). As I sat in the Nassau Coliseum swallowed up in “Talbot! Talbot!” I remembered Shakespeare’s sexist treatment of Joan of Arc. He depicted her as a witch, a practiced prevaricator, allied with a troop of demons who were the ones actually responsible for Joan’s martial success.

The hockey crowd’s incantations intensified. This was a macro-aggression cubed. I thought to myself, don’t these fans realize what they’re doing when they scream, “Talbot! Talbot!” Don’t they get the sexist implications?

But then I took a closer look at my fellow fans. I saw the glazed eyes, the avid guzzling of beer, and I knew that Talbot, The Earl of Shrewsbury, was as far from their thoughts as Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England (2d Edition). My trigger moment soon passed, and my nausea as well. And the Rangers earned a well-deserved victory over the slumping Islanders.

I left the Coliseum with a double buzz and a spring in my step: first, because the Rangers had won but second, and more importantly, because I came away with a heightened awareness, a sharper keenness about the reality of sexism in our society.

NB: While Mr. Heisler’s 2-Part entries describe his (highly) subjective experiences at a recent sporting event, the conundrum of long waiting times at women’s restrooms is a very real one.  In a future post, our sagacious scribblers will discuss this actually existing problem, in the detail it deserves.

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