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.”
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.