So I was reading this.
I like Soraya Chemaly. I already knew this about myself. Sometimes I don’t really like following her on Twitter, because it can get depressing, but you know. I don’t dislike it enough to stop following her. As usual, in this HuffPost piece there’s plenty to chew on. There’s plenty to feel discouraged about. There’s plenty of references to real honest-to-god-this-is-happening institutionalized rape that I almost wish I hadn’t read about but then how the hell does that kind of thinking help anyone. I guess what I’m saying is, there’s a lot to discuss and unpack and research and think about, and if she stirs you up and makes you upset, I think that’s part of it.
In this particular case, on this particular day, I felt motivated to link to this article. I’m not sure why. I read these kinds of pieces pretty frequently, but as I’ve grown older (ha) I’ve become a person who does not so much with the Facebook statuses. Stati? I mean to say, I absorb the information. I engage with what I read on a personal level, I share it out a little (in person) with the people who are around me at the time. I chew through my feelings on articles, essays, infographs, rants, claims, or whatever else I find, usually with Moss, but occasionally with other people if they happen to be in my immediate area. Occasionally I think to share something on a social network. Sometimes, I even start to type an opinion into Facebook, but usually something stops me. I think it’s probably the same something that stops me from typing out most of the words I consider typing out in any given situation: a persistent monologue that regularly reminds me that no one really cares what I think and maybe I ought to avoid wasting the time and eyeball energy of everyone I know. Maybe I consider my own opinions this way because that’s the judgmental lens through which I look at the opinions of others. Actually, that’s definitely one of the reasons. It’s not the primary reason I didn’t share this link, though.
I didn’t share this link (even though yes, it’s true, I actually did share it at the top of this post– but I’m getting there), because doing so would make me one of “those women.” Who am I quoting there? Some imagined person, I guess– some potential person. What do I even mean by “those women?” Feminists, I guess.
That’s messed up.
It’s messed up because I am a feminist. I’m a self-assured feminist, who doesn’t mind saying I’m a feminist. That’s why I just said it. Twice. Three times, kind of.
So why does it bother me to imagine an imaginary person on the internet thinking I am one?
I don’t know. I’m attempted to assume it’s derived from my own skewed perceptions, but I’m not sure how fair that is. Should I really blame myself for presuming a condescending, dismissive reaction? Even if it’s (more than likely) one of the reactions I’d receive?
I guess these questions don’t come with great answers.
I attended a training seminar/workshop yesterday about having difficult conversations, and finding a way to interrupt bias, prejudice and stereotyping in the workplace. It wasn’t sensitivity training; no one was there because she or he had done something wrong. It wasn’t a punishment, just a completely voluntary four-hour discussion. I didn’t come prepared with specific issues to figure out. I came to see what kind of resources and skills I could learn in general. We were all pressed, however, to think of a specific issue we’d had, something that we’d found difficult to deal with, something we’d been unable to interrupt when we wished we could have. I struggled with this. I came up with example pretty easily, but it wasn’t one I really wanted to bring up.
My example was a joke, made by a coworker. The problem is, I like jokes. I think everyone should be able to make jokes, pretty much all the time. Not about absolutely everything, of course, but I like to think I have enough of a brain to know where the line-what-you-don’t-cross is, and that I have enough sensitivity not to trade in jokes that make other people feel hated, or unsafe, or unhappy. I like to think that I can read a situation and keep it light, without cheapening someone else’s values. At the same time, when other people tell jokes of their own, I really hate to think that I might be the kind of person who’s oversensitive, or easily offended.
I really hate to think I might be one of those women.
The thing is, it does matter. Words matter. Language matters. People say things for reasons (I know that’s probably the most vague phrase ever turned, but stay with me here), even if you aren’t meant to take them seriously. People who make jokes about me secretly dating my male coworkers are just doing it to make jokes. What bothers me isn’t the joke itself, it’s that they’d be telling different jokes if I weren’t a woman. Realistically, they probably wouldn’t even be telling that kind of joke at all.
So I brought this up, as an example. Only because I was pressed to. And, yeah, because it was true. I’d heard it more than once. It didn’t hurt my feelings when I heard it, but it did actually kind of piss me off. I didn’t want to admit that, though. I feel like a woman can only get so far into a claim that starts, “They wouldn’t have said it if I weren’t a woman,” before people stop listening.
After all, feminists are just inventing this, right? Isn’t that how it goes? We’re just looking for something to complain about, we’re grasping at straws to suggest that feminism is still a relevant argument in the current social climate, when really it’s time to do away with “feminism” and call it “egalitarianism” already? The time for talking about women’s issues is over, right? We’ve reached a level of enlightenment in which quite a few men are willing to support the rights of women, as long as they don’t have to apply a term like “feminist” to themselves, so you can tell that sexism has pretty much faded out of the social contract. If you’re going to argue that the doctrines of feminism are part of a cultural conversation and a historical narrative, you’re just being difficult. If you refuse to accept that egalitarianism is free from the tethers of context, you’re just making the problem worse. You’re really just being one of “those” women.
Well, yeah. Okay. I guess I am.
There’s just not that many things that can crush my good mood (hyperbole: I understand that there are worse things) more than sitting here noodling around on the internet, bored out of my skull, with ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” on in the background, and then stumbling onto a popular Buzzfeed article written by someone I went to summer camp with. I mean, it’s okay, because she’s just an occasional contributor except wait what no she was an intern and now she’s an Associate Editor.
I don’t mean to begrudge the lady. I never really knew her or anything, but I knew of her. She’s from near where I’m from. I guess it’s a peculiar mental refuge of the unproductive and ineffectual– I’ve found myself thinking that if I live in the same town as someone famous and clever and interesting, that increases my chances of becoming famous, clever and interesting. Unfortunately, I also feel like if I’m shlubbing it out on my couch watching the hours tick away until I get back on the bus to my food service job, how in the ever-loving-heck does someone from the same state as me have the nerve to have a cool writing gig.
I mean, really though. I understand that the logic falls down before it even gets close to standing up. It’s still hard for me not to be all, “girl, what you doing with your life?” and get all droopy about it. I mean, I say “girl” etc etc to myself, not to glamorous and successful former peers. I say former, because my current peers would also be living in a city-except-not-really making coffees and running cash registers, not writing jokes and taking Voguey pictures with cats (I mean, I’ve been known to be in pictures that also feature cats, but it is not for a career).
I shouldn’t complain. The truth of it is I barely run cash registers or make coffee anymore, because of climbing-the-corporate-ladder (joke: it’s not a corporation) reasons. But still. I want a fancy title. I want someone to pay me to write jokes. What do I have to do, like, apply for jobs and put myself out there?
Ugh. What a chore.
I’ve just had the pleasure of finally sitting down to watch some of Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” and can’t help feeling a particularly acute connection to Hannah Horvath in the episode in which she goes to the book release party. Pettiness and self-loathing, thy name is Totally Me Right Now.
Only problem is, I really want Lena Dunham’s job, too. I’m guessing she worked like crazy to get where she is, though. God. Why won’t success just fall in my lap already?