Open Letter to He Who Must Have the Last Word (In A Professional Context)

From Flickr user Northfielder

Dear He,

Please note the careful choice of pronoun.  I have never met a woman who is so enamored of delivering a bitter pill of haute vulgarisation to a poor, plebeian other.

I never met a woman who cradled her mons pubis while delivering her last word.  Who took such small-minded, bureaucratic joy in lording her position, her talents, her intellect.

Certainly such women exist, I am not saying that this is a uniquely male problem, I assert that it is a predominately male problem, that having the last word must be like the joy of release from orgasm, or from finding the perfect thing to complete a project, or giving an enthusiastically received gift.

It is, in our culture, a birthright.  Men pronounce.  Women do.

So especially, He, when  you are wrong, or when you encounter an other who is your intellectual equal, or equal in position, or perhaps simply arrogant, confident, or some other thing that only you and your kind are supposed to own, you come down with what shall henceforth be known as LastWorditis.

You do not approach the world with calm, open, curiousness.  You approach the world ready to hit it with something or penetrate it with something else.  You are so convinced, assured, cemented in your rightness that you will not step back for a moment and experience empathy.

You do not know how.  You never had to learn.

So you blast on, having rarely been called on to reconsider your rightness, or to think about it as a thing to earn with a quality of fact other than your penis. You do not think about who and what lay charred in your blast force wake.

And He, I must say that it is exhausting to do business with you. It often makes me hate you.

I am not hateful.  I love people.  I want to see the good in you, to enjoy working with you, to collaborate, to plan and do, to create things that aren’t babies together.  We can do that, you know.  All that needs to happen is for us to respect each other, and for you to remember that I am not for penetrating in literal or metaphorical terms.

Seeing the good or trying hard has landed me on the receiving end of LastWorditis. Often, I have replied with calm, reasonable, kind words only to be shouted back on myself.  To react by doubting myself, to strive to see myself as you do so that I may understand your point of view and work within it, or fix myself, or understand why it is you see me that way.  Because for me, being in the work world is not a given; it is a stroke of luck, a blessing of education and circumstances and doggedness.

And He, it was not until recently that I pledged to trust myself.  If it looks like a rat and smells like one, then it is, no matter what other un-ratlike qualities the rat may possess.  If a rat calls me a rat, I do not have to listen.  I am not a rat, and I know this about myself.

But there are lots of other not-rats who do believe you when you sneeze LastWord all over them.  That is why I am writing this letter.  To ask you to stop.  To give my fellow not-rats the ability to draw their own conclusions, and to give you the freedom of not knowing.  Not knowing is a joyful, liberating thing.

I may be physically weaker than you, and without the cultural-social gift of a penis, but I am still able to look at myself, to locate areas of opportunity, to see the ways in which I have been complicit in your LastWorditis.  But it feels truer.  And I’ve come to greater realizations without you, He, in my head.

Did you see the 30 Rock episode in which Liz Lemon gets Jack Donaghy in her head, and he tells her to break up with her boyfriend which she does not want to do, but does, then un-breaks up with him?  Despite the slapstick, that was a complex, layered metaphor for gender relations in modern society.

Take a lesson from Donaghy. He should’ve trusted Lemon.

You’re not helping.  It is not important to have the last word.  I know plenty of hes who do not need the last word, who are capable of collaboration, of admitting fault–occasionally–who value my mind and my ability to contribute.  If you’re a He, and you’re in my life now, this is probably true, or mostly true, of you.

But He, believe me when I tell you that I am finished nursing LastWorditis, and when you get LastWord, it’s because I simply do not care that you have it, because I am confident, arrogant, or some other thing that only you are supposed to be; not because you’re right.


An Independent Woman