Male Supremacy

A former news staff member of the Hartford Courant, LORRAINE LEHAN HOPKINS is now a housewife in West Hartford, Connecticut.


IF YOU start looking for trouble, they say, you’re sure to find it. And similarly, I’ve learned, if you begin to think men are treating you like an inherently inferior woman, there’s no end to the shoes you’ll see pressing down over your nose. Men everywhere will step all over you.

I found this out only lasf summer — after twenty-six years — when I went to work for ail incurably antifeminist city editor. He was the sort who, with the city burning down around him and only a female staffer available, would cry out, “What am I gonna do? I don’t have any reporters!”

The veterans in the city room said it all went back to the war years when the male shortage forced him to hire, among others, a girl who refused to take obits seriously (she answered the constantly ringing phone not with the standard “Obits” but with “For whom does the bell toll?”) and a girl who refused to take obits at all.

But no matter, for by the time I hit the city room he was a confirmed male supremist, and for the first time I began to brood about the whole problem.

I had escaped up until then by spending six years in college —including nine heady months as editor of a coed student newspaper and two years as a graduate student with the rank and dignity of an assistant with papers to correct and young male undergraduates to flunk — and two working years on the state staff of a Hartford (Conn.) newspaper under a wonderfully egalitarian editor who assigned me, once anyway, to a sex murder. (I was aided no end in this venture by my hoarsely strident voice, for when I rang up city and state police in New Jersey — where the yeggs were being captured — the cops kept prefacing their answers with “sir” instead of “ma’am.” I remained quiet as a mouse about this deception, certainly not caring if they didn’t.)

Of course I couldn’t tell all this to the city editor, any more than I could bring myself to accuse him of being n male supremist. I could barely speak about it to my husband, who, after all, was a member of the tribe.

As the days passed and I realized no amount of hard work would, in the city editor’s eyes, bring me up even level with the street, I began to look around, and in my misery I found only company.

I walked into a hairdresser’s in town for a haircut and was told that for I could have a male stylist but if I was short of cash I could settle for one of the girls. They only cost $1.75. I walked into the library and learned the head librarian — a woman was retiring and had requested the library directors to hire a man to succeed her.

Finally I was asked to donate money for midget football for young boys and, looking around, found there was nothing to which I could donate for young girls, except possibly the group which financed the home for unwed mothers.

And when I read the newspapers, there was no end to my agony. Leaping up from the front page at breakfast were:

A story from Philadelphia that the baby son of a severely wounded policeman had received a four-year college scholarship; and looking on, left to right, were the baby’s two little sisters, who were, presumably, destined for a dead end at P.S. 48.

A story from Annapolis that officials at the Naval Academy were searching wildly for excuses to bar a woman applicant.

A story that at a prominent university a coed who turned out for the rowing team was allowed a polite workout and then was bounced.

Then I began to fight back. There was at least one thing I could do, one sharp pot shot I could fire from my typewriter. I could trap the city editor into running a story about the whole terrible question of sex inequality— knowing in advance, of course, it would have a slant like a tepee. So I produced, among other facts, actuarial tables showing that women are superior physically (they outlive men by six years) and research studies from the stale university showing that women are superior intellectually from grammar school throughout college.

Things only went from bad to worse, though, for I found that if there was one thing the city editor was more uncomfortable with than a woman reporter, it was a woman reporter who was pregnant, even unnoticeably so. In any factory in the state I could have worked until nearly the bitter, misshapen end. But after only four months, I was turned out of the city room, to pasture.

I took a part-time job on a suburban weekly newspaper, consoling myself with the idea that they, at least, couldn’t afford the luxury of discrimination. I had no sooner begun work when a woman wandered in, literally clutching a letter from her soldier son. The editor, sitting at the other end of the room, was busy talking on the phone.

The woman, speaking to me but peering off at him, said, “ I got a story I want in the paper but I don’t know how it should be worded. I thought there’d he somebody here who could help me,”

I told her to sit down and she did, hut she kept turning around to look, almost bug-eyed, at the editor. “I thought there’d be somebody here who could help me,” she said for the second time.

Of course I said — when I really only wanted to strangle her — “I’m sure I can help you.”

Finally it came out: “Maybe,” she said, “Ac could help me.”

And I thought: we never should have taught them to read, let alone given ‘em the vote.