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Women are fed up: Call it a trend, or call it a revolution

`Men are pigs’ has become a rallying cry among women, even those whose partners show no symptoms of swine flu.  

The Globe And Mail
Shannon Rupp

Since greeting cards have to express popular sentiments in order to make a profit, I’ve long thought they were a good indication of the zeitgeist. 

In that case, what are we to make of a Valentine’s Day card I found last year? The card is by the creator of the Cathy comic strip and reads, “It’s Valentine’s Day and once again women all over the country will be shouting those here special little words… On the next page, Cathy yells: MEN ARE PIGS!”

The first time I saw it, I laughed. I did feel faintly guilty about laughing – some of my best friends, as they say, are men – but I bought the card, reasoning that $2.28 is a bargain price for an amusing take on a social trend. 
I intended to send it to a man I love to tease; but ultimately, I couldn’t bring myself to. He had once informed me, in censorious tones, “Men have feelings, too.” 

“Sure,” I replied, “I hear some of them have sore knuckles after they bash women around.” But the sad note in his voice was persuasive.

So instead of mailing the card, I showed it to my women friends – who didn’t just laugh, they whooped – and immediately nominated candidates for this nasty note. My accountant wanted to know where she could buy them by the box. 
Now, keep in mind, these women are kind, thoughtful and responsible. The sort of people who rescue stray cats and get involved in social causes. All are well-educated. Many are mothers; some have sons. Generally speaking, they’re not mean-spirited; but apparently, they are seriously ticked off. 

Still, it’s a little disturbing to think that “Men are pigs” has become a rallying cry. 
As I sat discussing this sad state of affairs with a dear friend’s husband – in their kitchen, while he cooked dinner – it was clear that this guy in no way deserves the rancor being displayed. As he served me tea, he talked about how he had given up his part-time career as a musician to spend more time with his wife and baby. His concerns, his thoughts and his actions are similar to those of women at the same stage of life. Yet that hate card had made his wife laugh louder than most: “It’s too true!” she said. 
Of whom is it true? Not her husband. Even she admits that. 

However, there is a pervasive sense among women that it is true of most men. The barely-concealed hostility reminds me of something a political science professor once told me: Revolution is the result of social change that doesn’t happen quickly enough. He described this phenomenon as providing “too little, too late.” Once an oppressive regime begins to relinquish control, he explained, theres’s a period of rising expectations. When these expectations aren’t met, frustration fuels the coup d’etat. 
Certainly, for women growing up in the postfeminist era there was a feeling that we had inherited a world our mothers could only dream of. We could have careers; of course, we found that we were expected to bring home the bacon and cook it. We were admitted to professional schools; but once on the job, we bumped our head against glass ceilings. 

On average we still earn 70 cents for every dollar in the pockets of our male colleagues. We still need to be wary walking on the streets at night. Even the courts devalue women by issuing judgments that say a man can be acquitted of rape if he’s too drunk to know what he’s doing. 

Given all that, is it any wonder “men are pigs” has become a catchphrase?

I’m not suggesting women will take up arms or mount the barricades, nor would I advocate it. (I’ve see Les Miz, which suggests revolution is riddled with bad music, and worse acting. Who needs more of that?) But I do suspect we’ll be seeing a few more terrorists of the Lorena Bobbitt persuasion. 

Anger that’s widespread enough to make it onto Valentine’s Day cards isn’t going to go away easily. And it won’t go away at all if the world doesn’t become a more welcoming place for women. 

So here’s a suggestion for men who are considering honouring Cupid this year. Instead of overpriced chocolate, red roses or other symbols of mock sentimentality, may I suggest a gift that might help avert open civil war? How about hiring a house cleaner to take some of the load off your partner (women still do most of the housework in two-career couples). Maybe you could make a contribution to a women’ shelters, or do something as simple as telling another man that his sexist jokes are out of line. 

Don’t have a lady love? Well, you have a mother, and possibly a sister, and probably female friends – why not use Valentine’s Days as an excuse to show them you love them enough to improve their world. Remember: a speedy evolution is so much more pleasant than a violent revolution. 

I’m even planning to my bit to support the ceasefire. As a show of good faith, I’m burning that bloody card. 

Editor’s Note: And to those of you who find this essay an unromantic selection for a holiday that celebrates love, a note: Except for two submissions from men (one commemorating the fact that he had impetuously told his girlfriend “I love you,” thereby scaring himself out of his wits; the other a married man who didn’t buy his wife a romantic present last year, but who got one from her) the Valentine’s Day essays this year were all penned by women. And gentlemen: they are not pleased.) 

14 Feb 1995