May 30, 2020

Gender not germane to ability and accomplishment

In Olathe, Kansas, last weekend a bank robber held several bank employees hostage for eight hours, before one of the hostages knocked the gun out of the robber’s hand and a SWAT team from the FBI moved in to save the day.

It pleased me no end that the robber was a woman. Not because the job was horribly botched, with whatever implications that may have for the future of the equal opportunity movement within the bank-robbing profession. Rather, because it somewhat validated a long-held suspicion that a certain percentage of unsolved robberies may well have succeeded because the cops assumed that the heist was pulled off by a guy, and went chasing after the wrong species as the culprit.

How many times have you heard an investigating officer say of the perpetrator after a robbery that “he” had pulled a gun on the clerk, or “he” obviously had known the layout of the joint before “he” vaulted over the counter to help “himself” to the cash register.

Surely, I can’t be the only goober to wonder how, in these unisex times, the cops can always be so certain of the perp’s gender. In the world of ski-mask wearing stickup artists, the skinny little runt with big hair and rhinestone earrings is not necessarily a woman, it seems to me, any more than the porker who pumps iron and can bench-press a hogshead of beer is necessarily a guy.

And so I was happy that the robber out in Kansas was of the female persuasion, if for no other reason than it might disabuse us of any notions that the gals can’t compete with the guys. Give a babe a .38 Special and a bank to knock off and six hostages for the taking and eight hours to while away on a Saturday in January and she can make every bit as much of the opportunity as can a bubba with a .357 Magnum and an attitude. It’s the American way. God bless America.

Thankfully, the day is long gone in the newspaper business when we were awash with those “first-woman” stories — the first female firefighter, the first female snowplow driver, the first woman mule skinner to chew tobacco and curse fluently in two or more languages while yarding pulpwood.

Slowly, the stereotypes are crumbling and we are beginning to realize the truth: Gender is not the story. The story is the story. Ask the hostages at the Kansas bank if they felt less like hostages because a woman was holding a gun on them than they would have had the person with the itchy trigger finger been a man. Ask John Bobbitt, that butt of locker-room jokes, if his ex-wife, Lorena, is less skilled with a knife than was Jack The Ripper. In the words of columnist Linda Ellerbee, “The truth, like it or not, is women can be brutal, too. Brutality is not sexist.”

Interpol apparently agrees. The international police organization is said to advise its anti-terrorist squads to be more wary of the female terrorist than of her male counterpart, the women of such outfits as the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Palestinian Intifada allegedly being hell-on-wheels and far and away more clever than the guys.

Women long ago proved that, given a level playing field, they can excel every bit as much as can a man, whatever the profession. Show me the guy dumb enough to think he can outsmart Ruth Bader Ginsburg in arguing the law, for example, or one foolish enough to think he could have out-written the late brilliant Newsweek magazine columnist Meg Greenfield, and I’ll show you a guy also probably dumb enough to go one-on-one with Cindy Blodgett on the basketball court, Abby Spector on the golf course, or Joan Benoit Samuelson in the marathon.

Author Dan Jenkins suggests that the average housewife can outsmart her husband merely by sending him on an errand to the hardware store, as detailed in his delightful book, “Bubba Talks,” published in 1993:

“I don’t know what you call it, but have you got one of those things that’s about this long and has a deal that curves around and looks kind of like — well, it looks a little like that I think — except it’s supposed to be bigger, with a knob or something on top, and a wooden handle, and there’s a thing you ought to be able to pull up with, you know, in case you’re trying to … I’ll tell you what. Just forget it. I’m gonna have to go back home and see what the hell she’s talking about.”

NEWS columnist Kent Ward lives in Winterport. His e-mail address is

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