a) I know that there are folks out there who would prefer I didn't go off on 'that feminist thing' again.
b) I know that some of those folks are folks who I like and who like me.
I've said before that being a woman is an exercise in choosing your battles, and that a lot of the time I say nothing for the sake of peace, or going along with a joke, or enjoying a movie, or just so that I don't get folks going "She's doing that feminist thing again." *eyeroll* When I do speak up, it's about a third of the times that I notice stuff that makes me go *gnng*
It started yesterday morning when I opened up Twitter (yep, Twitter again. Why am I even still on there?) to discover that one of my friends was being lambasted by a gun-totin' Jesus freak about how 'the feminazis' were committing genocide through abortion. You know the type - "If you just kept your legs closed there'd be no unwanted pregnancies!"
It's easy to laugh at one of those, it's not so easy to laugh when you know that folks like that get far enough in power heirarchies to be making political speeches about legitimate rape, right? But hey, one arsehole, no worries, right? The problem is, it's not one arsehole. There are a lot of them out there, and they are vociferous all over the place with their opinions about the sanctity of a foetus over the right of a woman to bodily autonomy. And there is a definite pattern in discussions of abortion, of this type of man being the dominant voice - particularly on the pro-life side. Men defending the right to decide whether women have children from unwanted pregancies or not.
So ok, that's not news. Next I clicked a link to a study of fruit flies in which scientists replicated the famous Bateman study, and found it to be flawed to the point where its conclusions are not supported. The Bateman study? That's the one that claimed to prove that males are naturally promiscuous and females are naturally choosy - the one that's been used by evo-psych fans to such an extent that most people just assume that this is the way things are. And of course those poor wee fruit flies have found their sex lives applied to humans, and hey presto! Justification for why men 'can't help themselves' while women are the gatekeepers of sex.
And this study's been disproven. Yay! And look, in the comments, what do we have? A vast majority of male-named commentors defending the status quo. One even manages to call the lead scientist 'he', even though in the third paragraph, it says that her name is Patricia.
At this point you are probably going "Don't read the comments". But you see, I do read the comments, because while information is one thing, I'm interested in how people react to that information (trying to change the world, remember?). Reading the comments is kind of valuable in that respect. My current task at work is analysis of comments on a blog to glean information about what people are thinking. It's what I do.
Are you noticing a pattern yet? If you said "Yes Tats, I am noticing that yesterday morning, you encountered a lot of men making comments on gender-related issues, which defend a status quo in which women's gender role is disadvantageous to their self-actualisation." then we're still on the same page.
Then I went back to Twitter and my friend had just been told that actually, feminists are worse than the nazis because Xbillion foetuses killed vs only 6 million jews. That comment is wrong on multiple levels, and it annoyed me enough to say something. So I posted this:
"Hey, Dudes With Opinions About Abortion. Here's an opinion for you: If you think abortion is wrong, don't get one."
And this is where it got interesting. I'm not the most popular person on Twitter (quite possibly because I say things like that!). Anyway, there were a total of 8 responses. It breaks down like this:
2 women favouriting the tweet.
1 woman replying in kind
1 woman expressing support
4 men telling me they have a right to an opinion, that they are pro-choice but that I shouldn't imply that their opinion doesn't count because it's a societal principle at stake here, that abortion affects everyone and in a democracy it's important to ensure that all voices have a right to be heard. One even went so far as to inform me that while he agrees with me that abortion should be my choice, he reserves the right to try to turn his opinions into actions and people who disagree with me should have that right too.
I spent the rest of the day defending myself from these people. My uterus was compared with a gun (because gun control is a societal issue too, don't ya know?), I was accused of disenfranchising men, and informed that my argument was alienating and therefore not helpful to 'us'. I was asked to rephrase it in a way that would be easier for men to engage with and lectured on appropriate argument styles. Finally, when I mused how interesting it was that it was only the men responding who felt that I had made an attack on some high principle, I was sarcastically informed that it was because I'd made a statement offensive to men.
Three were men I know. One man apologised when they realised what they'd been doing (respect to that guy). The fourth is some random who thought giving me a short lecture on individual freedom vs societal wellbeing and how my uterus is totally just like a gun would help me understand the error of my ways. It didn't. It just pissed me off.
This is a pretty interesting split of responses, I thought. And all of these men are, as they put it, "Ideological allies." They agree that I should have the right to decide whether or not I have an abortion. But they assumed I was telling them they shouldn't have opinions, and felt it necessary to inform me of just how important it was that their opinions be heard alongside mine. As if I didn't already know that. As if I had actually been trying to silence them. As if my comment was even aimed at them. And it seems that for them, making sure my message was palatable to them by 'splaining to me all the ways it was wrong, was more important than what I was actually trying to say.
What was I trying to say? I was expressing an opinion - I even explicity said so. The opinion that men who think abortion is wrong shouldn't have one.
It was an eye-opener for me. Three of these four men are people I like and respect, whose opinions I believe are important, who work very hard to acknowledge and balance their privilege. And yet when it comes to expressing an unpopular opinion such as the one I expressed above, the assumption is still that it's about them and the response is still to tell me how wrong I am, because logic. And society. And me me me listen to me because I am important!
I am right now feeling an urge to apologise to those men. After all, they are on my side and what I said offended them because it made them feel invalidated and excluded. But I'm not sure I should, because in a way, having someone who's on your side pull their privilege on you is even worse than Genocide Guy at the top. I know how he's going to behave, you know? Unexpected sexism is much more shocking.
Unfortunately, it ties in with something that happened last week in which I had to tell someone I love to stop rubbing my nose in the fact that they have more power than me. They were joking, I know that. But it's not that funny when you've worked really hard to get from somewhere that is actually powerless to somewhere that feels sort-of almost self-actualised, only to have someone remind you that no matter how hard you work at it, there's this power imbalance that doesn't go away and narny narny. Oh look, here's my plastered-on smile for the sake of showing a sense of humour again.
And then I got home and decided to try playing Two Worlds 2, only to discover that you don't get to choose your character's gender and I have to play a guy.
Up the top I said I wasn't going to make this post. But then first up this morning I came across a situation in which a thyroid medication taken mostly by women had been changed, and the women were experiencing problems with it, and being told by doctors that it was all in their head. And at that point my desire to express this overcame my desire not to upset any applecarts.
So, um, yeah. Forgive me if I'm not all that accommodating of the wishes of those who'd like me to just shut up about this stuff. Or if I say something about a movie that you enjoyed that makes you think about it differently. I am capable of enjoying movies, and remember - every time I speak up there are two other times I've kept my own counsel, mostly for the sake of the comfort of others. Yet I can still enjoy movies, and friendships, and joking around. My life isn't entirely ruled by considerations of the so-called gender war. But to avoid noticing these things, I would have to avoid living, essentially. And I can't do that. So please, before you go *eyeroll* and tell me all the reasons why I'm being unreasonable, irrational, annoying, how men are important too, please consider how it'd feel for you, and whether you'd just go along with it if you were on the receiving end.