One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

April 6, 2010

Living with the Oppressor

I couldn’t go back and update the last post with car pictures because, evidently, Ian didn’t take any. It was too packed and he was using the 50mm lens, so he couldn’t back up enough without just shooting a bunch of crowd.

I spent that Friday home with Hannah (indeed, for four or five hours). I managed to do some sewing on my wedding dress. And when Hannah woke up, I walked her down to the corner store for some orange juice and pretzels. And then I took her out to the garage so I could put a coat of paint on our new front door.

Ian came home while I was painting. I don’t think I was pouting, but I was definitely still stewing. I’m generally really civil when I’m stewing – even positive. And that used to totally slip by him, but I think he’s learned the difference between my natural conversational tone and my non-eye-contact, studied positiveness “oh yeah. That’s great.” We talked trivialities, but I was totally not ready to look him in the eye or let down my guard because so many other times when I’ve been so angry with his dad, he would say awesome things like about how I just didn’t understand the spirit in which the remarks were meant. Or (my favourite) that his dad’s doing something like gloating over “knocking an Indian down by driving really close to him and opening the driver-side door at the last minute” (when he was still a youth) isn’t horrifically racist because he’s actually friends with a lot of natives.

I understand that it’s just different when it’s your father. I can be like, “your dad is an ass” but I’m not emotionally invested in accommodating his dad. Kids’ relationships to their parents can be so stockholm-syndromy. And who am I to say how stockholmy Ian is allowed to be about his dad? I push for enlightened analysis, and I back off when it gets too heated. What else can you do when the topic is “Oppressive behaviours that you’re invested in excusing.”

So anyhow, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I would have to deal with my anger without vocalizing it to Ian. But he came in and commented on the door painting, and I was like, “yep.” And he asked if I wanted him to finish that coat, and I said, “or you can just entertain Hannah. She’s been pretty needy. We’ve been out here for almost a half hour and I’m barely into this coat because every five minutes she needs something attended to.” Somehow we negotiated that he would finish the painting and I would run to the store for supper fixins. And as I was about to leave he said, “Hey, I’m sorry about the way we left. And that my dad was an ass to you.”

So that was nice. Though he probably regretted that show of enlightenment, because once the topic was on the table, boy did I rant. It’s not just his dad, you know. I’m just so sick of men who feel they get to tell me who I am, what I like and where I belong. Where I belong for sure. And the more I assert that they’re wrong, the more adamant and sometimes just downright mean they get. Like starting out smiling and joking, “I bet you’re relieved you’re not coming” and quickly devolving to assertions that even if you WERE interested, you’re not tough enough to keep up with them.

It certainly wasn’t just his dad. That exchange pushed a lot of buttons related to ways I’ve been treated in my career. I’m so tired of being told I don’t belong places.

There are women who grow up being told that there’s things women don’t do, I told Ian. And usually, they reach some point in their lives where they’ve had enough and they decide to just do the things they want to do. On the other hand, I grew up being told that women can do whatever they want to do. That there would be some people who said they couldn’t, but they were just wrong-headed so you just had to tough out some differing opinions. Now I feel like I’m at an age where I’ve had enough of that side of things. If you’re going to come at me, over and over, telling me I don’t belong because you’re so certain of who I am, I would rather just slink away and find something else to do. I’m tired of fighting about who I am. I’m still prepared to fight about principles, about rightness and wrongness. To call people out on sexism, racism, rape jokes, gay jokes, etc. But I’m not prepared to stand my ground when the attacked class is my own identity or my right to self-define. Because when it’s personal, every rebuttal smacks of jumping through some asshat’s hoops.

And then Ian told me, but retreating doesn’t make the fight go away. It just loses you ground.

And they’ll just come encroaching on your identity in other ways. Thanks Mr. Enlightenment.

No, it’s good. He’s getting pretty awesome at recognizing not just sexism, but systems set up to propagate a difference in power between the sexes. For example, understanding that the idea that you ever could follow the femininity rules well enough to escape being belittled for being-a-woman wrong is entirely an illusion.

I realize I shouldn’t play into that trap of praising dudes unto exhaltedness for tiny acts of progress – but I do think his anti-sexism efforts are sweet. He came home from work last week saying how he’d been ranting about those stacking rings toys and that we had seen one in Toys R Us that was all shades of pink. He was talking about how extremely stupid the genderification of kids’ toys is and how people turn a blind eye to it. And one of his female coworkers facetiously adopted the perfect vacuous, saccharine voice to reply, “But girls don’t need to know all those other colours.” What’s adorable is that he brought the anecdote home not to say “look what a feminist hero I am”, but because he thought her take-down was so perfect and he knew I would appreciate it.

Though, privately, I think he really enjoys that he has this new ground on which to relate to the intelligent women around him. When women go from explaining patriarchy to you, to making snide jokes about the patriarchy with you, it’s a pretty big transition.

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