MERRY MYSOGINISTIC MALARKEY
Kathy was there to take minutes. Being the Head of Department, Gary’s secretary, she felt she could lord it over all the other ladies. She sat smirking at Molly, tapping her pencil against her red stained lips. It must have been obvious Molly felt intimidated and Kathy was clearly enjoying it. Molly imagined grabbing Kathy’s lanyard and wrapping it around her neck.
Gary’s booming voice promptly brought Molly back from her daydream. ‘Molly. Whenever you’re ready?’ he hollered.
She looked around the outdated boardroom at all the mostly middle-aged men waiting to hear her pitch. Surely they would approve of the design, but with many company executives looking her up and down like she was a piece of meat, she switched up her angle.
‘Good morning, gentlemen.’ Were they all gentleman? Most likely not. She was simply being both polite and professional. ‘Like many other companies, you asked for a traditional happy family gathered around the table for Christmas dinner.’
One man at the front of the group cut her off. ‘Sorry, sweetheart, but we thought the person handling our campaign was …. ah…. male.’
He had clearly never heard of deodorant. Faking a sweet smile, she bit her tongue and swallowed a bit of vomit before replying. ‘Well, you shouldn’t assume. You know the old saying. It makes an ass out of u and me.’ Gary looked less than impressed. She said nothing further and started her presentation.
The image was projected onto the screen. Everyone in the room nodded in agreement, except for Kathy and two young men at the back who made faces at the picture. Addressing the room once again, she enquired, ‘So, what do you think?’ Gary gave her a reassuring nod. Oh, yeah sure, I knew you would like it, you sexist pig.
‘It’s great. Her family looks happy.’
‘Mum has done a great job with the meal.’
‘She did a wonderful job with the table settings.’
‘Her husband looks thrilled he married such an exceptional woman.’
‘Her children are so well behaved.’
Molly’s blood boiled, and she clenched her fists so tight, her knuckles turned white. Her children? Getting the response from most of the group she expected, she said nothing, feeling deflated. Will things ever change?
Gary broke the awkward silence. ‘Molly? Is there a problem?’ She shuffled on her high heels, now acutely aware that her feet were throbbing. Why the fuck do I wear these torture devices, anyway?
‘Um yes Gary, there is a problem.’ Kathy put down her notepad and pen, rested her elbows on the table, placed her head on her hands, and watched on with great interest. She was like someone settling in to binge watch her favourite TV show. It surprised Molly she didn’t break out the popcorn. Kicking off her crippling high heels, Molly walked across the room with a sense of absolute determination.
‘I ask you all. Isn’t this image outdated?’ She got nothing but confused looks from the group of older men in the room. Kathy was grinning from ear to ear, and the two younger men snickered and nudged each other under the table.
Mr. Malodourous was the first to speak. ‘What do you mean, honey? It is the picture of the perfect family.’ She clenched her fists even tighter. Please don’t call me, honey.
‘What is wrong with this picture? she asked. Kathy’s hand shot up like an excited student in a classroom. ‘Go ahead Kathy.’
‘Well, it implies that the woman, the wife, the mother did all the work.’ Molly nodded in agreement. The sea of confused faces turned back towards her. Gary fidgeted in his seat and suddenly looked as if his tie was trying to strangle him.
‘Exactly Kathy, exactly.’ Gary shot Molly a look of death. She ignored him. Kathy smiled at her. Molly knew she wasn’t alone in her fight. ‘So, I ask you all, why does the woman have to do it all?’ One man appeared to think it over.
‘That’s just the way it is. It’s the way it’s always been. Women are good at this sort of thing. Women enjoy doing this sort of thing.’ He needed to be challenged.
‘Are we? Do we? Who told you that? It wasn’t us women, was it, Kathy?’
She didn’t look up from the table. ‘Ah, no. I hate doing all that shit, and I’m sure my mum does, too.’
This is great. I may lose my job, but right now, I don’t care. She pointed at the smelly one. ‘I have a question for you, sir. Are you married?’ He cleared his throat. Molly Glanced around the room. Suddenly it looked as if everybody’s tie was trying to kill them.
‘Yes. I am married with three kids. Why do you ask?’ The two younger men were the only ones making eye contact with Molly.
‘Do you help your wife cook Christmas dinner?’
He fiddled with his watch and replied. ‘No, I do not. My job is very demanding, so I don’t have time.’ Molly maintained eye contact.
‘Does your wife work outside of the home, and if so, may I ask what it is she does?’ Gary turned a lovely shade of white.
‘Um, she’s a doctor.’
‘Right then, clearly this backs up the point I am trying to make. Why don’t we be progressive? Show a family where this poor woman who maybe works as a doctor, shall we say, doesn’t have to do it all. Let me tell you she doesn’t have enough time in the day to organise everything and make the Christmas magic happen, but somehow, she fits it in, and why is that, Kathy?’
To Molly’s complete surprise, one of the young men up the back tentatively put up his hand. ‘Yes, do have some thoughts on this?’
‘Well, it’s not the bloody 1950s anymore, is it? Women work just as many hours out of the home as men do these days. So, why should they do all the work at home? This add is downright misogynistic.’ Molly could have run over and hugged him. Running was certainly a possibility as she had removed her restrictive high heels only a moment earlier.
It appeared that the person in charge of making decisions was a bit out of touch. He looked at his younger colleague with amusement. If you can show us what you have in mind, we will be back next week to see what you have for us?’
The young man looked most pleased with himself and gave Molly a wink and a satisfied nod on leaving the room. Gary stopped and turned towards her in the doorway. ‘Molly, I sure hope you know what the bloody hell you are doing.’
Unpublished Work - Hayley Walsh (c) 2023