read the room, buddy

Years ago, when I was a graduate student in DC, I lived in a dodgy part of Columbia Heights (well, the whole neighborhood was pretty dodgy back then, though I’m told it’s been gentrified now). I lived a couple of blocks from All Souls Church, where I attended a concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock. The opening act was an all-woman a cappella group from South Africa; they sang a song called Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo, which I understand means “When you strike women, you strike stone.”

A more flexible translation might be, “Don’t fuck around with women who are fed up.” I’m sorry to confess that’s a lesson that’s been impressed on me countless times over the years–and sad to say, it’ll probably be impressed on me many more times. But it’s a good lesson, a valuable lesson, and men need to learn and relearn it.

Glenn Youngkin, the newly-elected Republican governor of Virginia, received that lesson recently. He visited a Safeway market in Alexandria. Safeway’s policy is to request ALL customers wear masks–just like their employees do. Youngkin took the standard GOP approach and refused to wear a mask. And a woman shopper kicked him directly in the balls. Metaphorically.

She shouted out a question. “Governor, where’s your mask?” It was direct, but still respectful. She called him by his title. Youngkin replied, “We’re all making choices today.” The woman wearing a mask was making the choice to protect herself, the other shoppers, and the store employees from Covid; Youngkin was making the choice to put them all at risk. The woman said, “Look around you, governor. You’re in Alexandria. Read the room, buddy.”

Read the room, buddy. This ordinary woman stands up to the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and tells him to read the room. And if that’s not glorious enough, when some guy (who appears to be either a Youngkin staffer or security personnel, who was at least properly masked) gets in between the woman and the governor, she doesn’t back down. “He’s my governor too,” she says, “I get to say what I want.”

First she takes on the governor, then stands up to this guy.

When you strike women, you strike stone. Look at that face. Even if you had no idea what was going on, you know you’re looking at a woman who is fed up with somebody’s bullshit. I’m sure by now we know her name, but at that moment, she’s every woman who’s just fucking had it. She’s Safeway Boudica. Hangaku Gozen of the checkout counter. Ọya, the orisha of the produce department.

There’ll be a lot of stuff written about ‘speaking truth to power’ and all, and that’s appropriate. But I’m like 98% certain this woman wasn’t thinking about that. I’m convinced she was just tired of people–and probably men in particular–being dicks out of pure dickishness. She’s not advocating burning the patriarchy to the ground; she’s just wishing people would grow the fuck up and act like responsible adults.

Read the room, buddy.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Burn the patriarchal system to the ground. Burn it, pound the ashes into dust, scatter the dust, and salt the fucking earth. Then nuke the site from orbit; you know why.

8 thoughts on “read the room, buddy

  1. As a woman, I seem to have that expression on my face quite a lot. Such a lot of bullshit out there. Mostly from white men, but not exclusively. There’s a certain type of white woman who is just as good at it.


    • The body language in that photo is so very telling. You can tell he’s making that ‘Please just calm down and be reasonable’ move, which is probably the absolutely worst thing to do/say at that moment. And she’s all ‘I’ve been calm and I’ve been reasonable, and now I’m done with that.’

      Liked by 1 person

      • Women are told to calm down and be reasonable a LOT during their lifetime. And if they stay angry and “unreasonable” they are termed hysterical and laughed at. These aren’t phrases we associate with men though. Men are told being angry is tough and macho and acceptable. If a man gets drunk with his friends he’s “out with the lads” and it’s funny. If a woman gets drunk with her friends she’s likely to be called a slag or some such word. Double standards are everywhere. This is why that woman has an expression like that in her eyes. She just wants to be taken seriously and not talked down at.

        If the woman is short and/or has blond hair, it’s even worse. Blond short men aren’t treated differently to tall dark men.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know for certain if the guy who tries to interfere is a Youngkin staffer, or a security guy, or just some officious prick trying to stifle a woman from criticizing Youngkin. From the way he moved in, my sense is that he’s attached to Youngkin in some capacity–and since he’s wearing a mask, I tend to think he’s security. But Youngkin’s decision NOT to wear a mask is clearly a political move.

      Liked by 1 person

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