Monday, July 9, 2012

Things are Much Happier in my Bubble

At a party this weekend, two people were discussing how absurd traditional gender roles are. HEY! What a great topic. I can get down with this--or so I think. I knew one of the people better than the other, and I was legitimately curious, so I asked if he identified as a feminist.

Of course, this opened a can of worms. A big, nasty can of worms where feminism was posited as something deplorable. Amongst the things said were...
-"I'm not in the extremes. I'm not a misogynist and I'm not a feminist." (umexcusemewhat? We're setting up a continuum of extremes and the alternative to misogynist is feminist? I mean I do see them as opposites, but not in the way that is set up here.)
-"Every feminist I know hates men." (ORLY? And I suppose you know every feminist too! Seriously--this person probably knows one outspoken feminist who said one anti-male thing once and that's what stuck in her head as "all feminists." Sidenote: She was at the party of one of my favorite male feminist friends, so yeah, there's that.)
-"But just by its name, you can tell it's only for women. Feminists are sexist." and "I am a humanist." (Hang on, I'll brb. ()*(*)$(@#@#*&@(#_!)(@_)(%(%@$)(*)(*# HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO HEAR THIS EMPTY ARGUMENT?!?!? WHY GOD WHY? Ok, I'm back, thanks for holding. For a better explanation about why "humanism" is inadequate, check out Shakesville's Feminism 101 and scroll down to "On Feminism and Humanism.")
-"I hate labels." (Yawn. What else is new? That's everyone's go-to when they're too afraid to commit to something. I know labels can be oppressive and awful sometimes, but when you're having a SUPER FEMINIST DISCUSSION is it so bad that someone would ask if you happen to identify with the ideology you are espousing? For the record, I'm not trying to tell people how to identify, I was just curious because it's not that far fetched to associate a discussion about gender roles with feminism.)

From there it generally dissolved into the woman involved explaining to me how she's had to play nice and accommodating to the men in her all male workplace, so she's learned that you can't come at people in an extreme way if you want them to understand your side of things. Basically, that my message would be much better received if I could smile and giggle a little more when I delivered it. You know, I could understand that I need that a lesson in civility had I jumped in screaming at them, "FEMINISM!!!1!" but I had only asked a simple, honest question and was then taken aback when people tried to school me on "how feminists are." I think the real lesson they wanted me to get was, "Your viewpoints make me think about things I haven't though about before and I don't like that. Maybe it's best if you don't speak up again." I wasn't even really mad but when this is what I face on a fairly regular basis, can you blame me if I was?

It got almost heated. Borderline heated. I tried to keep it together and be OK with explaining things at a super 101 level while being generally on the defense against some ignorant stuff. But it was really REALLY hard because 1) I'm so over the 101 stuff in the first place and 2) part of my audience thinks that by coming into this discussion identifying as feminist, I hate men.

I'm not writing today to make the case for accepting feminism. If you'd like to read about that, I've done it a time or two before, so you can head over there...

But anyway, the moral of the story is that things are much happier in my little feminist bubble, which is sad, because who wants to stay in a bubble always? 

I'm not sure I'll ever be skilled at the art of disclosing that I'm a feminist to new people in a way which doesn't freak them out (is there such a way?) but I'm fairly certain this weekend was a case study in "what not to do" on both sides (both the disclosee and the discloser.) It's for reasons like this (and my distaste for rape jokes, racist jokes, gay jokes, fat shaming comments, etc.) that makes it difficult for me to enthusiastically jump into meeting new people all the time. I have a bit of a layer of distrust from the start that's hard for some of my more outgoing friends to understand. 

It's particularly interesting because I am a big time extrovert who is wary of meeting new people. I guess I just enjoy being an oddball like that. 

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