What if one day, all of the women suddenly disappeared? Without what it is that women do, what it is that women are — what would happen?
Here and now, women’s subordination is so systemic it’s unremarkable (to all but serious feminists). In It Wasn’t Enough, once women are gone and men have to take their places, fill their roles, the subordination becomes remarkable—that is, it becomes noticeable. And then—what would happen?
Radically feminist. Dystopian.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
In particular, the book was inspired by a post by mariguana on Feminist Current. In general, the book was inspired by (and informed by) the increase in misogyny, as expressed in porn and the attitudes and actions of men who 'enjoy' porn (which is now most of them), and the continued male supremacy (as reflected by pay differentials, for starters) in our society.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
In general, my interactions with men informed my characterization. In particular, Marcus was inspired by John Stoltenberg (Refusing to be a Man) and Robert Jensen (Getting Off).
Justin was one of hundreds, thousands, of young men who were laid off. Things were in such disarray— With half the population gone, there was a significant decline in demand. There was also a failure to properly manage the remaining demand—by making sales, by acquiring and keeping new clients … As long as revenue was down, expenses had to be cut, people had to be let go. Last in, first out.
They say that everyone should have enough savings to get by for six months in the event of a layoff, but, Justin thought, whoever said that must’ve been thinking of people with six-figure salaries. He’d been making $60,000, but only for the last couple years. He was only twenty-six and had just gotten his MBA, at twenty-four. He’d been hoping to land a position that paid considerably more than $60,000, but when reality set in, he felt lucky to have landed any position at all that actually required his MBA. Problem was, he had close to $30,000 in student debt. And since he'd been supporting his wife and a six-year-old, he was lucky to be breaking even. Which meant that when he was laid off, he had nothing in reserve.
He cancelled the lease on his car immediately and started using the bus. He also cancelled his little-used membership at a golf club and sold what he could—his golf clubs, then his skis and his skates, and then his entertainment system, and even, eventually, his old ipods. But every other young man, it seemed, was doing the same, and he didn’t get much for any of it. He should’ve. Given.
But he couldn’t lose the apartment. His parents lived clear across the country and, in any case, going back home had to be a last resort. A very last resort.
So he also applied for a loan. Ended up having to wait in line for ten hours. To make an appointment six months hence. No telling whether his application would be approved. No telling when, or even if, the money would appear.
He started making cold calls. No one was hiring a freshly minted MBA.
He studied the classifieds. There were tons of jobs. For receptionists, secretaries, file clerks, tellers, nurses, daycare teachers, elementary school teachers, and high school teachers. He wasn’t qualified for any of those positions.
Maybe he could be someone’s executive assistant, he’d thought, but he didn’t see any ads for EAs. He suspected that whatever EA positions there had been had gone straight to someone’s relative or friend or friend of a friend. Nothing new there. He’d tell his friends about jobs he knew about too. Come to think of it, all of the jobs he’d had had been acquired as a result of his connections. Problem was, his connections were in male-dominated fields. Or at least for positions typically filled by men. It seemed impossible to cross over to the other side. Which meant, of course, that as long as cronyism ruled the day, that day would continue to be divided by gender.
Suck it up, he thought to himself, and called about the receptionist, secretary, file clerk, and teller positions. He was shocked to discover they paid little more than minimum wage. Some paid as little as four-fifty a week. He couldn’t support a kid on that!
Then an ad for EXOTIC DANCERS!!! caught his eye. Five hundred a night. Seriously? He actually considered it.
He had better things to do with his time than spend four hours a day working out, but he wasn’t in bad shape and he’d always thought of himself as a good dancer. And, truth be told, the women he’d seen at the clubs he’d gone to—it was standard operating procedure for business lunch meetings—hadn’t been exactly Janet Jackson.
He’d recently discovered Janet Jackson because “without fresh meat”, as the VJ had said with a grin, they were raiding the archives and airing videos by Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and a bunch of others he’d never seen before. Pity, he’d thought. They were pretty hot.
So he called the place, Grinders, and received an automated message saying that interested applicants should attend the orientation session being held that very night.
He left Liam with a neighbour and went to check it out.
What he discovered shouldn’t have surprised him that much. Now that the women were gone, drag queen shows had become popular with straight audiences. Not ones to miss an opportunity that was staring them in the face, some of the younger performers added more dance to their song-and-dance routines, and then very quickly starting doing just the dance.
Club managers hired them immediately to occupy their suddenly empty stages. To fill their suddenly empty tills. So suddenly there weren’t enough drag queens. Ads were placed and overnight all of the drag queens had classes. Full classes.
Justin found himself in one such class. At first, when he realized that he wouldn’t be dancing as a man—why he’d thought he would be, he had no idea—he started to leave. He wasn’t gay. There was no way he was getting into a dress, putting on make-up … But a quick glance around the room told him he wasn’t the only one. He wasn’t the only one who wasn’t gay and he wasn’t the only one whose hopes of climbing the corporate ladder had disappeared overnight. And he wasn’t the only one to recognize the realities of supply and demand and to want to be ahead of the curve. If he waited until his money completely ran out, he might not have even this stupid opportunity. Little did he know about this particular demand.
And he wasn’t the only one with a kid to support.
So he learned how to move as if his center of gravity was in his hips rather than in his shoulders. He learned how to use his hands, to be expressive with his hands. He learned how to use his face, to be expressive with his face.
He learned how to put on make-up. And a wig. And stockings.
He learned, tried to learn, how to walk in heels.
He learned what it feels like to have the hair ripped off his entire body.
He drew the line at implants. T & A implants, their queen of queens, DeVonn, called them. Apparently the process was painful, and expensive, but, he said, worth it. As was a little face work here and there. Some even had the facial reconstruction surgery that transgenders had been getting for years. Apparently there was no shortage of surgeons with assistants to perform those procedures.
Good thing, because once a new standard was set, you had to meet that standard if you wanted to stay in business. Tension between the ‘real’ trannies and the ‘opportunists’ developed. It was harsh. But who cared? Certainly not the men in the audience.
Friday night, Arnie pulled in, as he did every Friday. He was aching for things to be back the way they were, because everything had been just fine the way it was, why did the women have to go and wreck everything? That Friday night, Justin was making his debut. He was waiting in the wings, ready. Or not.
“Wait a minute!” The manager grabbed Justin away from the stage and pointed to his feet. “You can’t go on like that, are you crazy?”
Justin’s blistered toes had started bleeding again, so he’d bandaged them up before putting on the stockings, and then the open-toed, high-heeled, slingbacks he was supposed to wear. “You think that’s sexy? Take off those bandages!”
“You want me to bleed all over the stage?”
“Good question. No. Next!”
Justin was afraid that if he didn’t perform, he wouldn’t get paid. “So let me wear regular shoes!” Shoes that didn’t make your toes bleed. Shoes you could actually walk in. Maybe even dance in.
“What, you wanna wear your Nikes on stage?” The man shoved Justin aside.
“Here,” DeVonn thrust a pair of high-heeled boots into Justin’s hands. “Put these on.”
Justin nodded his thanks and quickly, painfully, changed his footwear, then stood in the wings again, waiting.
Of course he was nervous. And of course he felt like an idiot. It wasn’t in his nature to put himself on display like this, to preen and prance—to be entertainment.
But he tried. For Liam. He could make more in one night here than he could in a whole week at a call center. Which was the only job for which he’d received an interview. And the best part was that Liam could be here with him. Many of the dancers had kids, and they all brought them to the club. They’d even set up a designated kids’ corner and filled it with make-up and costumes no longer stage worthy. The kids had fun and mostly stayed out of their way. When someone was on stage, he didn’t have to worry about his kid; someone else would be looking after him, looking out for him. They were all in the same bind, so they became each other’s family in a way. In the way circus performers became family, Justin thought.
The music started, a stupid bump-and-grind, and Justin made his slow and seductive (he hoped) way onto the stage. He felt stupid. So stupid, moving the way he was moving. A pole had been lowered from the rafters; yes, he was actually doing a pole dance for part of his number.
The hoots and hollers caught him off guard. He knew the men did that—he’d done it himself on numerous occasions—but from his perspective, now, it didn’t sound like they were cheering so much as—
“That’s it, baby!” Someone whistled.
“Show me what you got!”
“Bend over for me baby, show me your hole!”
That one made him stumble. He had never been that—crude? That clear?
He recovered and resumed his routine. He strutted across the stage, stopped to pose with his finger in his mouth—and felt like a complete idiot. Grown men do not put their fingers in their mouths. Then he made his way toward the pole, around and around, closer and closer. Then he hefted himself up, thinking of it as a sort of vertical pommel horse …
And then he fell off. Sort of. Forgetting he had high-heeled boots on, he lost his balance when he landed and fell over. The men in the audience laughed, some of them until they had tears in their eyes. It was humiliating.
He ran off the stage. Or would have if he’d been able to run in heels.
“It’s okay, Justin,” DeVonn said to him. “Takes a while. You did good.”
He was embarrassed at how much that meant. For her—him—to comfort him, reassure him.
“Now go and mingle, like we’re supposed to.”
Right. In between numbers, they were supposed to double as waiters—waitresses—serving drinks. He collected himself, shrugged it off, and headed out. He could do this.
“Come over here, sugar, come sit on my lap,” a man with a crew cut called out to him. “Do you think you can do that without falling off?” he guffawed and everyone around him laughed along.
Justin just glared at him.
“Come on, sugar, give it a try!” the man waved a hundred dollar bill.
Okay, that stopped him. They hadn’t been told about this though. Justin glanced at DeVonn, who nodded for him to go ahead. The manager was also telling him to go ahead already, impatiently gesturing with his hands.
So Justin awkwardly sat on the man’s lap. Oh god, he felt like an idiot. He felt four years old. Adults do not sit in other people’s laps.
“Oh, you’re a bit of a dead fish, aren’t you,” the man said after a few seconds. “Can’t you move around a little bit?”
Justin looked helplessly at DeVonn again, who swung her, his, hips in a circle. Justin started moving around a bit.
“That’s it, sugar, now you’re getting it.”
God, the man was so patronizing. Justin tried to remember how long lap dances were. He’d had one or two himself, but couldn’t remember, truthfully, how long—
“Lick it,” the man was saying. Ordering, actually.
He was dangling the hundred dollar bill in front of Justin’s mouth. “Lick it for papa,” he repeated.
Justin stuck out his tongue and touched the bill. Just a bit. God knows where it had been.
“You call that a lick? I said LICK IT!” the man was angry. “Don’t you know how to use that mouth of yours?”
Justin tried again. He licked the bill a little bit more.
“Oh get off me, bitch,” he man shoved Justin off of him, and bouncers quickly moved in. Patrons weren’t allowed to touch them, Justin remembered that much. “You’re makin’ me lose my steel!”
At the end of the night, Justin joined the others at the bar. Payment in cash, that was the deal, end of each night. But when the manager got to Justin, he just laughed at him.
“Five hundred,” Justin said with as much dignity as he had left, and held out his hand.
The manager laughed harder. “Five hundred? Five hundred is your maximum earning potential. You start at one hundred!”
What? The ad had said five hundred.
“But the ad—”
“Are you calling me a liar?” the manager challenged.
DeVonn sent Justin a look.
“And honey, for your performance tonight, you don’t even get that!”
“You can’t do that!” Justin protested. “I—”
“I can and I just did,” the manager said. “Tell you what though. Just to show you what a nice guy I am, you can come back tomorrow night and try again.”
Justin gaped, as the man just turned and walked away.
Un-fucking-believable, he thought, as he lit a cigarette with shaking hands once he was outside the back door, Liam at his side. He’d been attending those stupid classes all fucking week, he’d done his best, he’d done six fucking dances, and served drinks for four fucking hours, tottering on those damn boots, getting leered at and jeered at, and now he didn’t even get paid? Not five hundred, not even one hundred? He blinked back the tears that had been forming, even more angry that this was reducing him to tears.
“Hey sugar, I’ll give you a chance to make it up to me, what do you say?” It was Mr. Asshole. Justin recognized the voice. He grabbed Liam’s hand.
“One hundred?” the man held out the hundred dollar bill again.
“For what?” Justin said stupidly.
“For what,” the man repeated as he stared out into space, incredulous at Justin’s stupidity. He turned back to Justin and shouted, “What do you think?” He was already undoing his zipper.
Justin recoiled. Then reconsidered.
“Go back inside, Liam, okay? Daddy’ll be there in a minute,” he gently pushed Liam back inside.
Sometimes, you just do what you gotta to do, he told himself. Besides, if some guy is stupid enough to pay a ridiculous amount of money for something that takes no skill at all and only a few minutes—he was using them. He told himself.
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