One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

February 4, 2009

Women in general. Safe as a concept.

So. Feminism.

I mean, I know, right? Feminism is not the way to make friends.

Have to say, I think my feminist thinking really solidified during my time at home with Hannah. It felt like logical common sense stuff, so I wasn’t prepared to come back to the real world and have people act like I’m crazy when I talk about it.

And, this is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging, I think. Because this is pretty much what weighs most on my mind, but I’m kind of all about keeping a friendly blog. I don’t want to talk about things that might upset my acquaintances if/when they find/read my blog. Many of them already know about it (though I don’t expect them to be interested enough to actually read it). I don’t like double lives, I don’t like secrets and I don’t like upsetting people.

Not that there’s any secrets here, because the stuff I want to talk about is stuff I have already called people on.

But the people I have called on these things are also friends. And saying, “that wasn’t cool,” is one thing. But it is another thing to elaborate to the internet that I’m still shocked and kind of upset about the misogyny that people think is okay to say. And furthermore, shocked and upset that when I say “that’s not cool,” they come back with justifications why I’m overreacting.

I totally understand that for most people sexism/rape/harassment/misogyny are remote concepts involving villains (probably shadowy)  and a woman who is helpless and feminine enough to represent women in general, the kind of woman you’d want to protect from shadowy villains. So it’s gonna freak you right out when some specific woman, whom you consider a friend (and not someone you should be protecting) says that you are playing the role of villain/harasser. Then you sigh/roll your eyes and give some flippant response that will communicate, “silly. That’s not what they mean when they talk about harassment. They do not mean real-life well-meaning guys, like myself, who are just cracking a couple of jokes to a girl who is considered cool enough to know that these are just jokes. You DO know that these are just jokes, right?”

These guys are friends. Their humour, intellect and culture is similar to mine. These are guys that in every other regard, I think well of. But then the question of acting like you consider women as human beings comes up, and if I call them on something, they look uncomfortable and say “well… Yeah, but-[you don’t understand/it’s different/no it’s just true]”, or they laugh me off, or they crack a big ol’ sexist joke as if by pushing the situation to extremes they can remind me to see the humour in the situation.

I don’t know. There have been a lot of specific incidents. And I think the reality is that I want to blog to explain my side of the argument. I do maintain the hope that if I explained it clearly, they would get it and maybe agree that women should be able to feel safe, unharassed, unthreatened and undenigrated. But because they have gone to great lengths to justify themselves already, I am realistic that they won’t.

So yeah. I don’t know. I’m feeling kind of miserable about it. I don’t see how guys can’t see how hostile it is. I draw out a litmus test of, “would you feel comfortable with the racial equivalent?” You wouldn’t make the black guys listen to lynching jokes. You wouldn’t tell them they’re only good for certain kinds of work. (God I hope you wouldn’t.) But they tell me that’s different.

I say that’s because misogyny is invisible.

But they would tell me they’re not misogynists. And also they’d tell me that they do want women to feel safe, but I’m being oversensitive.

So what does that mean? “Women in general” and “safe as a concept”. Down with shadowy villains, right?

As to the danger of the generic blog post: In my experience, complaints of this exceedingly general nature, so far from sparing anyone’s feelings, actually allow people who weren’t tarred with the original brush to read enough into it to assume you meant them. What I mean by that is that I hope anyone who has read this far and knows me personally and is offended at my ruthless internet bullying of them will kindly chill and recollect that the chances I mean you, specifically, are remote. How ironic, that after all that, if you are seeing this as specifically about you, I am advising you not to.

Let us say, then, that if you see this as an unwarranted attack, go back to seeing it in generalities. If you are having a moment of obstreperal enlightenment and wish to consider how your actions contribute to your own privilege over others, feel free to consider it as specific. In truth, the observation that we tend to villainize crimes of privilege until they can’t possibly mean ourselves is an observation about every single one of us (myself included).

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  1. gish

     /  2009-02-09

    yes! exactly! is what i’ve been saying to myself while reading this. my sister and i were just discussing this the other day. misogyny is so totally invisible that even a lot of women don’t see it, which creates a problem separate from racism. kind of. (the rather rude example i made during the discussion was that women have far more uncle toms than slaves probably did, intentionally or not.) i mean, we all just accept that this is how we’re supposed to be treated and don’t give it a second thought. sometimes when reading feminist writings, there have been so many “aha” moments for me that it’s kind of embarrassing.

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