“Misandry isn’t a ‘thing’,” said August. “It’s a reaction to misogyny.”
Seven women sat in a circle on grey folding chairs for their weekly “Search Inside Myself” session with Dr Whitley, who named the program without much thought to the sense of humour of incarcerated women. Some were there solely because of the name of the group, and had no interest in exploring personal or sexuality issues. Their attendance was noted, and they looked upon Dr Whitley as naive, unintelligent, and laughable. These were incentive enough to encourage their weekly attendance.
“What do you mean, August?” asked Dr Whitley. She wore a cream coloured skirt and a black jacket. She always looked well-pressed. The rest of the women were clad in slightly rumpled charcoal grey two-piece uniforms, stamped with the institution’s initials on the back in sunny yellow, and with their names on badges stuck with velcro to the front of their uniforms.
“There aren’t women who hate men. Women hate what men do sometimes, but not the men.”
“Amen,” said Agnes. She was thinking of her husband, Armand, whom she didn’t realize was cheating on her at that very moment.
Miss Fisher spoke up. “There are women who hate men.” She had lost a few pounds in prison for the multiple murders, but still looked well for a woman of her age, and was far from frail. “For example,” she said, “I feel I am a misandrist. I am afraid, and regretful, that I truly do hate men. I honestly didn’t know there was a word for it until I attended this, um, group meeting.”
“Search Inside Myself,” said Bonnie helpfully.
“How could you hate half the population?” August asked. She was approximately half Miss Fisher’s age. “You have reason to hate some men, but not all men.”
“I can because I do,” said Miss Fisher. “I didn’t always feel this way, but circumstances, life experiences, observations, and research have led me to conclude that the world would be a better place without men.”
“Amen,” said Bonnie, who was serving twelve years for poisoning her boyfriend.
“You hate little boys? Toddlers? Gandhi?”
“Of course I don’t hate little boys,” said Miss Fisher, smiling benignly. “But I do hate what they become. I never hated the young men in my classes, and it is tragic that they grew into men.”
“As opposed to what?” August asked.
“Many decent people are men.”
“I respectfully and regretfully disagree.”
“Do you,” said Dr Whitley, “regret the murders you committed? Are you sorry for the men you killed, and for their families?”
Miss Fisher paused. “That is the 64 thousand dollar question, isn’t it?” she said amiably. She would hardly confess to any deed or feeling to a prison doctor with both a smart phone and a ballpoint pen, without careful consideration.
“What’s that?” asked Bonnie. “The 64 thousand dollar question?”
“It means a question at the gist of a matter,” said Miss Fisher. “It refers to a game show popular in the 50s, called The 64 Thousand Dollar Question, in which the contestants had the chance to win prize money by answering a series of questions.”
“Before your time, Bonnie,” said Agnes. “It’s like Trivial Pursuit.”
“What’s that?” asked Bonnie.
“Can we please get back to the discussion at hand?” said Dr Whitley in what she perceived was an kindly yet authoritative tone of voice.
“Let’s continue Searching Inside Ourselves,” said a woman named Tricia. Dr Whitley looked at her sharply. She had never spoken in group before.
Miss Fisher smiled.
- Original Prompt: Frail, July 18, 2016.
- Image: Orange is the New Black, Netflix.