One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

August 6, 2011


Sometimes someone makes a statement to you, about how they see you, and it’s as if you’ve somehow caught a glimpse of the back of your ear in the mirror – an angle of yourself you’ve never contemplated before.

My friend from high-school was in town last week. She said this to me, “I never worry that I’m boring when I’m with you because you are so easygoing to converse with and so obviously engaged in the conversation”.

* * *

I have been having a lot of conversations about being a woman and being interested in “male” things – like cars and programming.

Maybe you remember how last year, Ian’s dad was an ass about whether I’m allowed in the “likes cars” club. This year I didn’t even attempt to go to the car show in the spring. But there was another car show this last weekend and I said to Ian “oh, maybe you want to go this weekend” and he said, “yeah, actually I’m going with my dad.”

So then the morning of it, he said, “well, I mean, you could come too. If you want to. I’m not trying to exclude you.”

And I said, “no thanks. I’m not up to dealing with your dad impugning my stamina or whatever dig he’s going to make just to remind me that this is him-and-you time and I’m intruding.”

And Ian said, “Oh it’s not about stamina at all. It’s that you’ll just be so bored. You know! Like… you would obviously outlast me at thrift shopping.”

I was all jaw-dropped and “are you kidding me? Are you even aware that you just gave me the ‘it’s FIIIIIIINE that you don’t understand this thing that I think is important since I will never understand that shopping thing that girls like you do,'” and I said, “Well I definitely do not feel like going now.”

He was smart enough to get that he had said something regrettable – but he still went. And it took me until a couple of days later to say, “where do you get off telling me how bored I’ll be. Neither you nor your dad have ever once asked if I would be bored and though I’ve told you multiple, MULTIPLE times that I wouldn’t go along and stay for hours if I was bored, that I don’t go along ‘just to make my husband happy’ – YOU STILL FUCKING BELIEVE THIS NASTY SEXIST STEREOTYPE AND KEEP ON TELLING ME WHO I AM AND WHAT I LIKE.”

The thing is that when I go along, I don’t say much. I actually thought it worked out really well to go along with Ian and his dad because they would converse and I could take it all in. They would point things out to each other that I wouldn’t have thought to ask. They would get passionate about a car and volunteer stories about its history that it wouldn’t occur to me were there to know.

But also, about taking it all in… If you (like many women do) have the impression that you need to earn your place and that if you say something stupid it will be taken for proof that you don’t belong, then you’re not going to say much. You can’t assume that just because I’m quiet means I’m not interested. If Ian walked into a car show and asked some question about a car that was way off-base, the car owner or his dad or whoever would say “well actually it’s this kind of engine, so really [information here]“. If I asked the same question, I’d get an indulgent smile and a bit of an eye-roll: “girls! they’re so cute when they think they’re participating in our thing. Hahaha.”* And it would be further proof that I don’t belong. There’s just a higher social risk for me in those environments.

If you don’t belong because of gender, then the barrier to belonging is more than just not knowing enough to prove you belong, it’s twice as difficult to learn -because no one will teach you -because you don’t belong.

It’s not just that people who already know the field are considered teachable where those new to the field aren’t; if one of the kids wanted to come along no one would say, “well you’ll be SO BORED there’s no point.” They might recognize that the uninitiated get bored sooner, but that’s no reason to exclude them. And if one of the kids asked a silly question, there too, it would just be corrected with information.

Well anyhow, when I represented all this to Ian, he said, “Well I would love it if you were interested in cars. I think that would be great,” and left me replying, “what? But this isn’t about you and what you’d love. I don’t need a kyriarchal head-pat and your approval – just say ‘okay, you’re interested and from now on I’ll take that at face value instead of stubbornly ignoring it in favour of my unexamined knee-jerk sexist beliefs or spinning it as supporting/supplemental to my legitimate interest and I’ll quit making you justify and prove it all the time’.”

But I guess enlightenment is a process. In the meantime, however, I think I’ll just find other car-event companionship


* The way people laugh indulgently at dogs who try to sit at the table, “Awwww, haha. He thinks he’s people.”

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  1. THIS. So much THIS. If you don’t belong because of gender, then the barrier to belonging is more than just not knowing enough to prove you belong, it’s twice as difficult to learn -because no one will teach you -because you don’t belong.


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