The character Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network,” seemed to be off-kilter, until his famous speech, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!” Soon people all over New York were yelling the same words out their windows, and a movement began making Beale the most popular television host in the United States.
Well, I, too, am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!
When I grew up in the 1960s, I was told over and over that I couldn’t be something I wanted to be, just because I was a girl. I recollect the things I was told I couldn’t be, which I well knew I could. But, like many girls who came of age when I did, in the late ’60s and the decades and centuries before then, I acquiesced.
I wanted to be a carpenter. Nope, girls can’t be carpenters, I was told, despite helping my father build a boat during the summer between eighth and ninth grade.
I told my dentist that I wanted to be a dentist. “Girls can’t be dentists,” he told me. That simply isn’t true, when fully a third of all dentists in the United States today are women, including my own dentist!
I was fired from a position I held at the University of Wyoming’s Institute for Policy Research, where I was the editor of its magazine, Wyoming Issues, until the decision was made to cease publication of the magazine. My firing did not come until a month after the magazine’s demise. Then I was told I was not going to be paid for the final month I worked there, right before Christmas and with a 5-year-old son expecting Santa’s visit. I was definitely mad as hell! I had gone to work every single workday of that month!
(While working in the same position, I wrote an article about an energy company which was met by denigration to me personally by that company, despite my interviewing their employee over and over, asking questions that he would not answer. That same boss at the Institute for Policy Research made me retract the story, but I received more than 30 letters of support from readers, most notably from former Wyoming legislator, the late Al Wiederspahn, concerning the article. The letters of support were not allowed by my boss to be published in the magazine.)
I wanted to sue the university due to the details of my termination and went to see an attorney, Stan Hathaway, who had been the governor of Wyoming, and whose first campaign for that office was also my first experience in politics. Hathaway told me not to bother with a lawsuit, that I should get a job more appropriate for a woman, like a secretarial position! Finally showing some gumption, I stood up and walked out without saying a word.
I had to fight the university on my own, but I won! I received all the pay I was due, after very angrily telling off my boss. (I refrained, though I was mightily tempted, from “keying” his prized possession, a fully refurbished old pickup truck.)
I continued to pursue my career as a journalist, first as the associate editor of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Wyoming Wildlife magazine, and as the editor of six or seven newsletters for Game and Fish, probably the most fulfilling job I ever had.
From there, it was on to the Buffalo Bulletin as editor; to the Gillette News Record, working first in the back shop and then as a paid contributing editorial columnist; and on to a public relations position at the Campbell County Public Library, where I met with resounding success. Finally, I began writing this column, despite the fact that my only pay for doing so is a free subscription to the newspaper.
But I am still angry about being told, over and over, what I could not be. I feel like I had to give in, like Marlon Brando’s character, a boxer who threw a fight, in 1954’s “On the Waterfront,” who spoke one of the most famous film lines in history. Brando’s character, a boxer who deliberately threw a fight, said, “I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody!” Instead, Brando’s character felt like he was a nobody. And I have felt the same way.
Well, folks, I’m not going to take this anymore. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle may decide to drop me as a columnist. I may never write the great American novel or any kind of bestselling book. But I’m going to pursue all my dreams, not just the ones that society allows women to have. Other women have been there before me, and I say bully for them, but I have to do this for myself. I’m no longer going to pull any punches, like Brando’s character did. I’ll no longer demur when told I cannot do something I know I’m capable of doing. And, because I won’t back down, I’ll grow stronger with every challenge.
From now on, when I’m mad as hell about something, I’m going to shout it out my window, figurative or real, because I’m not going to take this any more. The gloves are coming off for good.