Government Workings in Misogynyland by Barbara Ardinger

Dazed by the breakneck speed of the descending subway ride, the girl collapsed on the marble floor and just sat there for a while. Eventually she noticed a table with two full cups sitting on it and a sign that said Drink Me. “No no no,’ she said aloud. “Auntie said never drink what you don’t know you’re drinking because you never know what’s gonna happen to you.” She sat for another long minute, then said, “So where am I? I know where I was headed. To a committee meeting. But that’s not where I am. Where am I?” No reply. She looked around. To her left was a fancy garden gate, but she could see no garden beyond it, only lots of steps. To her right was a long corridor with office doors on both sides. All the doors she could see had names on them.

“Alice.” Where was that voice coming from? “Alice, you’re here for a meeting. You’re late! Hurry up! We can’t be late!” She stood up, but all she could see was a long-eared shadow (how curious!) running down the corridor. “I’m late, I’m late,” came the echoing voice.

She picked up the sheath of papers she’d almost forgotten, then took her first step into the long corridor. A minute later, she was at the door of a large, formal room with a table in the center. Along one side were seated seven men, all of them studying old-fashioned, folio-sized volumes illustrated with drawings of superheroes defeating ugly female villainesses.

‘Miss Liddell.” A tall, stooped man was standing at the door. “Young Alice, you have finally arrived.” He began writing in a book he was holding. “You may enter. You are expected.” He wrote some more.

“Don’t mind him,” said someone who looked very much like a tall white rabbit wearing a gentlemen’s suit. “Don’t mind him. He’s just a writer. You’re late! Can’t waste time! Go in and find your place.”

As Alice followed the instructions, she heard a rustling around the table and a deep voice saying, “The meeting of the Council on Feminist Policy will now come to order. With the Committee’s  assent, the Secretary will call the roll.” All the men sat up straighter and some closed their books, leaving superheroes whizzing through the air.

Everyone looked expectantly at the two men at the head of the table. Two obese men, the well-known Tweedle Twins. The first twin spoke again in a harsh whisper, “Dum! I said call the roll.”

“Okay, Dee, I’ve got it.” The second obese twin began consulting a large book. “Senators, when I call your names, reply Present. Got that, fellas?” Nods around the table. “Okay, Senator Thingamajigamabob.” “Present.” “Senator Fookadookadoodledee.” “Present.” And on down the line. Senator Hatethegalsadoodledandy. Senator Toppatheheapnstaynthere. Senator Cokeadrinkaburpee. Senator Ishkabibblebirdy. Senator Allusgottabeincharge. And finally, a female Member of Congress, Representative Margyknowseverythingjustaskher. All present.

Tweedledee cleared his throat. “With the Committee’s assent, the meeting will begin and we will examine our first witness, Miss Alice Liddell. Little Miss Alice, are you ready?”

But before she could reply, a dark shadow fell across the room as a hugely tall, manlike creature stepped through the door, almost crushing the writer. “’Twas brillig,” said a deep, deep voice, “and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.” He took a step forward. “I am here representing the Supreme Court.”

“Sir Jabberwock,” said Tweedledee, “we welcome you.”

Alice raised her hand. “ Please, Sir, what … what are you saying?”

Mr. Walt Jabberwock, Esquire, stared harshly down at the girl “That is legal language. Diction not intended to be understood by mere women. The Supreme Court speaks loudly and clearly to be understood by those in the government who accept its legal rulings.” He looked down at the paper he held and read some more. “All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.”

The senators gave serious nods, but Alice still looked confused. “But what does that mean?”

“Young woman, are you entitled to be present at this meeting of these august senators? Who invited you? What are your qualifications?”

“Yeah,” said the female Member of Congress, “who asked you? The gazpacho police? Did they send you to spy on us?”

Before Alice could figure out what the Member meant, Tweedledee stood up. “Little Miss Alice,” he said, “I am ready to swear you in as a witness.” He raised his left hand, then swiftly lowered it and raised his right hand. (“Doesn’t he even know his right from his left?” whispered the White Rabbit, who was now standing behind Alice’s chair.) “Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth and all the whole truth, so help you Richard M. Nixon?”

Before Alice could think of how to reply, a Walrus and a Carpenter rushed into the room. “We’re here to shore up the floor,” said the Carpenter. “It’s sinking fast.” As Tweedledee gave him an absent nod, he and the Walrus retired to a corner, where they stood and talked of many things.

Finally: “I swear to tell the truth by the souls of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jeanette Rankin,” Alice said in an earnest voice. “I always tell the truth.”

Tweedledee shuffled some papers, his lips moving, then looked up. “Little Miss Alice, why were you at the—”

But before he could finish, someone else rushed in, a short man wearing an enormous top hat. “I’m here from th’ other committee,” he gasped. He took a deep breath. “They just voted to render the Suffragettes null and void. We don’t need them old White Queens. Or Red Queens, neither, ya know? Anybody here got anything ta eat?”

By this time, Alice was feeling both weary and disgusted. “This governmental tea party isn’t doing anything useful,” she said to the White Rabbit. She repeated her judgment in a louder voice. The senators all shrugged their shoulders.

“So what did you expect?” the White Rabbit responded. “Look where we are. We need to go out on the streets. Meet some smarter folks.”

“Yes, we do,” said Alice. She turned to the author, who was still near the door and still writing in his book. “You can come, too,” she told him as she turned left in the corridor.

The writer, remembering how much fun he always had with little girls, smiled, closed his book, tucked his pen in a pocket, and followed the girl.



Categories: Feminism, General

Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. Thank you so much for this, Barbara. Fantastic social commentary and a much-needed chuckle to relieve the darkness.

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  2. Alice in Wonderful – what a perfect metaphor for our time! It’s amazing how closely the characters in that book explain some of the people you are satirizing even though it was written so long ago — maybe our time isn’t as unique as we think. Mimsy were the borogoves, indeed. And you are so right. I get such a different, and better, perspective when I am out with people who are actually out there working to make things better. Thanks for this story.

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  3. Senator Fookadookadoodledee – I roared until tears rolled down my cheeks! Barbara, you’ve done it again, taken a horror story and created something humorous – sort of beyond belief – like today’s politics – OH THANK YOU!

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  4. My friends, thank you for reading the story and laughing. As usual, making y’all laugh was my intention. In these awful days, laughter is what we need, so let’s keep laughing at as many things as possible.

    Yes, I had a lot of fun inventing those names. Took me a while to figure out how to spell them. Cheers!!

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  5. Comment from Vila SpiderHawk:
    As I expected, Barbara Ardinger’s incisive wit and pinpoint insight grab our attention from the get go in this tale. The story had me smiling, even laughing all the way through. Then, after rereading it, I remembered the fear we all felt for our democracy at that time.
    With humor. her story analogizes a menacing moment with a child’s tale. Further, Barbara’s comparisons are spot on. Indeed, during Watergate, we all felt thrown into Wonderland, since no one living through it had experienced anything so dire before.
    Excellent job, Barbara. And excellent timing, releasing this piece at this particular moment. I can’t wait to see what you write, once the morass of corruption we’re now slogging through is behind us and we’ve had time to assess the mucky damage it has left.

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  6. This was wonderful as always, Barbara! I love your creativity. Is there going to be another part to the story? I hope so!

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