So she invented something that will get a man with an uncontrolled compulsion running (well, limping quickly) to the nearest doctor in search of help. And maybe they'll get attention for their psychological problems while getting the Rape-aXe removed.

That sort of creative thinking is sorely needed here in America. Perhaps we don't want to resort to physical violence. But does our culture address the emotional and psychological causes and effects of anti-feminism in an effective way? While researching this article and its sidebar listing local feminist fantasies (many of which, while wonderful to contemplate, are lacking in visceral practicality that could bring such imaginations into Rape-aXe-like reality), I sat down with a woman and stumbled into a heart-wrenching reality.

As I asked her about her fantasies, this woman (whose name we are withholding for reasons that are about to become obvious) interrupted me: "Sorry, I don't think I'm the best person for this because I'm still with the guy who hurts me." I put down my cup of coffee.

There is nothing that says "victim" about her. She is smart, sharp-witted, attractive, capable, a leader, someone who has her shit together. And she won't leave "the monster that's there 20 percent of the time" because she "loves the man who is there the other 80 percent." She wants him to be better; she can see his humanity, and she stays because she can visualize him as a decent person. But unless he gets the help he needs, or she leaves, she'll be there dealing with the mess. (Her fantasy is for mental health care to be recognized as equally important to physical care.)

Shifting perceptions

Perceptions of feminism — even by feminists — are changing. "People think that feminists are bitchy, uptight, sex-hating girls," says Lizzie Anderson, one-half of Portland's Pussyfoot Burlesque duo. "You need to change that stereotype to make it accessible. There were times when I didn't call myself a feminist because people are so turned off by that word."

Our greatest weapon in the United States may not have teeth. It may be to teach men and women about insidious, seemingly benign, mysogyny in society — at the workplace, in women's health care, in popular culture. In other words, the places where women and men interact daily.

Craig Campbell, a restoration specialist, works with rough-necks on job sites at times, and is annoyed by what he sees: "Every man who relies on a woman to iron his own shirt or make his own lunch is one of the many building blocks that make up this larger cultural wall," he says. He would like it if he didn't need to spar with a barrage of homophobic and sexist remarks while on site. "There has to be other ways to bond."

Preservation carpenter Jess MilNeil went into her field expecting a lot more to have changed. "People our age, I don't feel a big difference from . . . (But) there is this one guy who says he was there at the advent of the feminist movement — like he invented it. They think because they're not the fucking Ku Klux Klan, they're not the problem anymore. I mean, when you set your bar that low . . ." Her voice trails off. When at work, MilNeil wants to know that criticism, or lack of promotion, are due to her work, not her gender.

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 See all articles by: DENA RIEGEL