This is a piece from our online issue, FALL OF MEN, inspired by the New York Review of Books.
CONTENT WARNING FOR FALL OF MEN : Despite the conclusions of the bad men falling in the end, some of these pieces may have sensitive or explicit content. (That said, it might be real cathartic to read a thing where the bad men get thrown into volcanoes or eaten by alligators. Either way, your mental health is really important to us. Take care of yourself!)
BY MEGAN GIDDINGS
National Holiday #1: SHUT UP, MEN
On October 28th of every year, men must be silent the entire day. They are only allowed to speak in order to save someone’s life. Men who persist in talking are fined $500 dollars per sentence and have to write sincere apology notes to every woman in their presence. Gangs of teenage girls dress in their favorite outfits that would be high school dress code violations. They are encouraged to follow and jeer at men and say all their opinions while knowing that any man who begins a sentence with, “Well Actually…” will have to give them a thousand dollars on top of the $500 fine. They’ll get $1500 if they can get a man to say the word, “Females.” The girls carry cymbals to smash and sometimes play trumpets and xylophones. They carry tomatoes to throw at men who try to get around the rules by speaking in gestures or writing their thoughts on paper and shoving it into women’s hands. The girls are encouraged to make videos of men getting pelted with the juiciest tomatoes to share on social media. The men who can’t afford to pay these fees have to volunteer their time to women’s organizations. They have to write essays about why women’s voices are important, and on the next national holiday have to give a community talk about a woman from history that everyone should learn about.
National Holiday #2: WOMEN ARE PEOPLE WHO DESERVE RESPECT
On January 6th of each year, women are celebrated. Communities come together to have a large festival. Men prepare all the food and don’t ask for any special recognition for doing it. They roast chickens and braise beef and make roasted broccoli and assorted dips. After the feast, each community has a moment of silence, and then moves onto the benediction. They commend the ones who endured childbirth and the trauma that happens afterward to their bodies, to their emotions. The community commends the ones who don’t care about being mothers or who can’t be mothers. They say an apology for every time someone said something along the lines of: “The most womanly thing you could do is have a child.” Throughout the day men and women present talks on women and gender non-conforming people that everyone could view as potential role models. At the end of each day, before the women go out into the cold night, the whole community joins hands. They say, “Only in seeing the humanity of everyone around us can we truly be free. Only by acknowledging the personhood of everyone can we move forward.” The men stay behind to clean up the mess.
National Holiday #3: WOMEN OF COLOR ARE WOMEN
On March 11th of each year, women of color are recognized for their accomplishments. The ordinary kindnesses that are often taken for granted: the strong friend who is always taking care of everyone but herself. The grandmothers who passed on their wisdom. And the large kindnesses, the life-risking-this-country-could-be-better-kindnesses that women of color do every day and that men usually get the credit for. Signs are up in every town: Rosa Parks Wasn’t Just Tired! Wilma Mankiller Deserves Your Respect! Be Brave Like Hermila Galindo Acosta! White people are encouraged to apologize and write commitments to bettering the world for people of color. They are especially encouraged to apologize for all the time they didn’t care about what happened to people of color, to their families, for the times they lied and said we voted for him out of “economic anxiety.” Museums where women of color have created fifty percent of the displayed works are opened. Paintings are unveiled that don’t sexualize the subject, but display women as proud, regal, fierce, intelligent, human. Women of Color give speeches, present their art, and release movies that are nuanced, well-financed, and can be about anything they want. At the end of the day, all women of color are given gift bags specially tailored to their interests to keep them inspired, feeling safe, and ready to brave the world as it usually is.
National Holiday #4: THE BURNING OF EFFIGIES AND THE SMASHING OF PINATAS
On July 3rd of each year, the streets are lined with effigies and piñatas made to look like bad men. The Thomas Jeffersons and Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys and the ones who will never be nationally famous but deserve to be fucking smashed. The men who argue that what Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings had was a beautiful, consensual romance. Any man who has used a racial slur. And all of the people who instead of acknowledging their family member’s racism or sexism has instead said, “Oh, he’s a good man, he’s just, you know, of his time.” The men who hurt women and have said things like, “women are so emotional. So irrational. You can never tell what they actually want.” The men who don’t understand that a relationship is not equal to ownership. The men who said you wanted it. The men who condescend. The men who say shit like I’m voting my conscience and decide that their conscience doesn’t include valuing the lives of anyone who is not them. The men who lied. The men who pretend to listen but don’t try to change. These effigies and piñatas are made of plaster of Paris and cardboard and wood that will be soaked in kerosene and leaves. Women at different ages—13, 27, 43, 75, 101—are given ceremonial bats on this day to celebrate their lives. The bats are specialty with inscriptions and carvings and paintings that represent luck and intellect and goals accomplished and goals they are still running toward. The women take these bats and they just let loose. The air is filled with confetti and candy and chanting. Women are sometimes so overwhelmed that they cry and laugh and sob. They don’t feel embarrassed. They don’t have to be afraid. They get to be.
Megan Giddings is a fiction editor at The Offing and a contributing editor at Boulevard. Her short stories are forthcoming or have been recently published by The Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, and the Iowa Review. Megan's debut novel will be published by Amistad in 2020. More about her can be found at www.megangiddings.com.