Another great start
on the Weeh...
By Neal Barrett
10 a.m. In the car and on my way
through a gray Houston morning. The
radio says low 30s till nightfall, with
petro-sleet and rain by Tuesday.
10:20 a.m. The new client is okay. He
reads both Time and Atlantic Monthly
and makes up his own mind. He knows,
by my beard, that I am a liberal thinker,
too. He also knows I have a partner/wife
and tells me he encourages women in
business. He believes if women really
work at it, they can get to the top and
still retain their femininity. I make a note
to tell Ruth.
11:30 a.m. I find it easy to keep a finger
on socio-sexual thinking in the business
world. I am a man, and an automatic
member of the club. I am also a writer, as
well as an advertising person-so people
tell me things they might not confide to
another. They know that we writers are
radical and amoral folk, and can be trusted with the truth: that they are not all
they appear to be, either.
There is a talk show on the radio.
The Rotarians or whoever have applauded
the mayor's decision to rid us of Nikki
Van Hightower. Some of the callers are
pleased with this. One says it is another
step in warding off the evils of ERA. For
some reason, she does not wish to share
my urinal at hockey games, or serve with
me in the armed forces. Another call.
From a man. I get an uneasy feeling
about this one. He is breathing too hard,
and he wants to know more about wife
beating. Is it true what he hears? "I mean,
a lot of them kinda like it, don't they?"
12 noon I call the office. Ruth is pounding out advertising gems, can't go to
lunch. There are bills in the mail, even a
few checks. The printer is being unreasonable again. She reminds me I am to attend
a meeting that evening. I remind her we
are an equal opportunity company, and
that we will draw straws for this one. I
am not enthusiastic about attending. I
feel I am gaining little from this group.
And they are certainly getting even less
out of me.
Among these people is a token successful woman, a person who has risen
through the ranks of this band. She
makes money. She is an inspiration. What
,she is, is a female good oP boy. She has
made it in a "man's world" and she is
anxious to remain the solitary hen among
these admiring roosters. She is the resident expert on women's rights. She has
explained to us that ERA is a crock-an
excuse for sexually frustrated women
who want rights without responsibility.
Mostly, these women are lesbians. Some
-worse still-are intelectuals. They do
not appreciate what their husbands go
'through in the business world. They
could get somewhere if they would only
follow the rules. Like she did. She frequently tells us how to recognize an ERA
supporter: They carry bent coathangers
in their purses, for emergency abortions.
1:30 p.m. My afternoon client is one I
have met before. We are consolidating our
deal, which promises to be a good one.
When we are finished, we engage in a little small talk. He is curious about the advertising business. Which part, exactly, do
I do-and which part does Ruth do? I
have heard this question before. He is
smiling, but behind this smile is hesitation. The copy he wants us to do is heavy
industrial stuff. He is thinking he is not at
all sure how / would look in a hard hat—
and he is certain he doesn't want some
woman working on his ad.
"I guess your—wife-does a lot of
fashion stuff, right?" Wrong, I tell him.
Placing foot in mouth again. I explain
that Ruth is some better at financial and
petrochemical writing, while I turn out
pretty fair home furnishing and cosmetic
copy. I leave him to ponder this. He will
see me again, because I come highly recommended. But he is an astute businessman, and a keen judge of character. My
manhood is on the line. He will be on the
lookout for tell-tale gestures and mannerisms—and he will quickly spot any girl
stuff in his copy.
2:15 p.m. The talk show continues. A
woman has the answer to the abortion
question: The Bible tells us we must kill
all doctors who take a human life. She is
also against lesbian teachers undressing in
the classroom. Especially below sixth
grade level. A man calls in. He is the same
one interested in wife beating. He agrees
-we ought to send all the lesbians baclc
to Russia. If we don't, though, which
Houston schools do they ordinarily undress in?
3:30 p.m. Back to the office. Ruth on
the way out to haggle with printers. She
will also stop by and talk to our attorney
about bringing suit against a former client. This fellow is really not a bad sort.
Some months ago, after a few drinks, he
gave Ruth a friendly pat and told her by
God, honey, if there's one thing he was
for it was equality for everyone. He informed us that just as the Lord had seen
fit to "make a couple of pretty smart nigger businessmen," He had also turned out
some damn competent women.
This man practices what he preaches. He ignores his bills equally, without
regard to race, creed, color or sex.
5 p.m. Not for the first time, I am wondering exactly where we are going. I am
not sure we are getting anywhere fast in
the equality game. And I have decided we
talk too much about bright, successful
women. Whatever it is, it isn't equality.
Equality is the right to get to the
top without displaying a great deal of talent. It's the right to gain professional
status while retaining your mediocrity.
The right to be accepted for your half-
assed efforts, and get paid for it.
This is not to say the male business
executive is generally incompetent or
inept. Some are, some aren't. The fact is,
a great many men get-and keep-high-
paying jobs in the worlds of commerce,
industry and government without ever
being quite sure which end is up. Men can
get away with this. You can't. At least,
"The first time I asked why I couldn't umpire anything other than
the center line, they told me in all seriousness that 'women can't see as
fast as men.' "
Calling the shots
By Susan MacManus
Julia Collier is an effective-and outspoken-women's advocate in a profession
dominated by men. An active member of
the Houston Tennis Umpires Association
(HTUA), she serves on that organization's
board of directors, and is a member of the
Operations Committee which chooses chief
umpires for all HTUA tournaments-including the annual Virginia Slims event.
She was the first recipient of the
Most Improved Umpire award given annually by HTUA. Collier currently holds the
status of both a Section Chair Umpire and
National Life Umpire. These titles allow
her to serve in Houston-area tournaments,
and national tournaments sanctioned by
the U. S. Tennis Association.
Collier encourages women who enjoy
tennis to get involved in HTUA. At present, she points out, membership is about
90 percent male. "Some women quit from
sheer frustration-because they're not allowed to umpire anything but the center (
line." (The center service line is generally
recognized among umpires as the easiest—
and least prestigious-to call.)
Julia Collier feels that many women
involved in the profession never get either
the nerve or the confidence to tell the chief
umpire they want to move up from the
center service line to a more "whistled-at
line." Whistling, she explains for non-tennis
fans, is an audience reaction to a questionable call. "The whole tennis umpiring scene
needs to be opened up-and women can do
it, if they are aggressive and interested
enough in the game."
Collier notes that "very little special
attention or encouragement is bestowed
upon new women in the organization who
show potential-unless they are outspoken.
If a man shows promise, the other men
will go out of their way to help him develop. A woman simply has to fight her way
Collier has met the challenges of her
profession by being both outspoken and
good at what she does. At the Woodlands
tournament two years ago, she was the
only umpire who received a perfect rating.
Although Collier is guardedly optimistic about changing attitudes among
some male members of HTUA, she thinks
the association should be making a more
active effort to encourage the participation
of women. She also believes respect for female members of the profession should be
demonstrated in other ways: Many chair
umpires continue to refer to line umpires
as "linesmen," even though official USTA
rules call for the term "line umpire."
Collier is also concerned by the fact
that women are not chosen by HTUA to
serve as chief umpires in the large, prestigious tournaments, where such officials
are paid an average of $350. Instead, she
says, women are judged "competent
enough" to serve as chief umpires in tournaments where there is nominal pay, or
no pay at all.
Collier feels less than optimistic
about women's chances for umpiring on
the national level. "Women don't stand a
chance," she says. "It's almost impossible
to get involved in Team Tennis officiating.
About all we can hope for is more equity
in participation at the local level."
Still, Julia Collier isn't about to give
up. "Listen," she says firmly, "I can defi-
nitely see as fast an any man out there...
HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH February 1978 Page 17