Tuesday, 21 August 2012

I got angry.

Cross posted from "Well behaved women rarely make history".

Tonight was a new low.
I left Auckland feminist drinks, also lovingly called Boner Killer Drinks* early.
Early, because I was so angry at a man attending, that I was scared of what I would say, who I would upset, and trouble I would cause.
So here is a little love letter to the guy involved, and perhaps the woman stupid enough to bring him along to something he was obviously opposed to.

I was angry when you made jokes about high heeled shoes and car washing fundraisers, because you obviously expected a rise out of us. And I’m really sorry, but the wide range of young feminists around the table have more valuable shit to worry about that telling other people how to dress.
Did you really think those jokes were fresh? Normal women have to hear that crap all the time. As people who identify as feminists, we are targeted for crap like that daily. I can’t believe you thought you were unique bringing that shit to our table.

I got angry when you made jokes about “accepting our lord and saviour Jesus Christ into our lives” because that exact phrase is really triggering for me, and you didn’t know that because you didn’t ask, or care.
In fact, all you seemed to want was a response.
It didn’t matter that the response wouldn’t be interesting, or make better conversation, or expand horizons, you just wanted to get someone angry.

I got angry when I finally tried to shut you down by joking that “I’m sorry, I can’t hear what you are saying, I’m too busy objectifying your beard” your girlfriend fired up because someone else yelled “Yeah, take off your top”. (which by the way was very funny) .
So you can literally sit there and bait us, in our own safe place, but we can’t pick on you, because why?

I got angry when you tried to enter a philosophical debate about abortion by talking over the top of a history major, about the history of genocide.
When you talked over the top of the women trying to explain their point.
WHEN YOU TALKED OVER THE TOP OF YOUR OWN GIRLFRIEND WHEN SHE TRIED TO HELP YOU ARGUE. Why in gods name would you do that!? She was the only one out of the two of you actually qualified for the discussion, since she is the only one who has to get pregnant.

I got really angry when you said “urgh let’s go” and then DIDN’T GO!!
You could have just left. It was our meeting, our space, our time. Why the hell when you realised you didn’t like it, didn’t you just leave?
But no, you stood there arguing so long that I had time to get up and leave.

I got angry in the car on the way home. Angry at myself for not saying all this stuff, angry at you for talking over me when I tried. Angry at your girlfriend for bringing someone unsafe to our safe place.
So angry.

And then I got angry at not expressing it.
Because you know what? Neck beards like you exist in my life EVERY FUCKING DAY.
You are my boss.
You are the doctors I work with.
You are my family members.
You are the men on the street.
You are the jackass who came to feminist drinks and had a laugh at our expense.

You were the one person I COULD have shouted at, and I didn’t.
Because I’ve gotten really good at being angry and keeping my mouth shut.
At letting people like you talk over me, walk over me, violate my boundaries, and make me feel unsafe. And I just play nice and try to get away as soon as I can. I don’t want to be a “bad person” and give feminism a “bad name”. God forbid a feminist be angry, why would we be angry?

Mostly I’m angry at the fact I live in a society where one half of our country genuinely feels that their opinion is more valid/important/correct than the other half. And it’s so ingrained that you are probably going home thinking you did us a favour giving us something to think about.

We read about this shit, we research it, we debate it, we watch it, we work on political change, and read policy documents. We work in sectors where we make a difference.
There is very little that you could have brought to that table that someone hadn’t heard before, and yet you assumed we would actually change our minds based on your awesome argument.

So please don’t bother coming back. Because I’ve figured out what made me angry. And next time I won’t just leave.

*or #AklBKD if you want to keep up on twitter


Lena said...

I am sad that someone like that came in and ruined our safe space, even though I had to miss this month's one. I think it would definitely be good to lay down some grounds rules - most of the regulars are good, but sometimes lines can be crossed.

Jess said...

I've been reading this blog for a while but this is my first comment as I really appreciated this post. People like that put me off identifying myself as a feminist as I often find the antagonism directed at me in response is just not worth the effort. But why would someone like that go along to feminist drinks? That's a real invasion :(

Sandra said...

I wish you didn't have to experience what you described. But I'm glad you wrote about it. I identify with your feelings of always feeling like I have to be careful about not being too obviously angry at male domination, but because of that sitting places quite uncomfortable and effectively silenced.

Adele said...

Personally, as a Māori woman who doesn't give a shit about what men think, say or do, I find this post somewhat hard to fathom. If this dude was invading my space I would have said to him "Dude, you're invading my space, so bugger off"

And then if he didn't leave, I would have made an attempt to set fire to his beard (in a loving and caring way, of course and without contributing to carbon emissions drastically).

You definitely have every reason to be angry at yourself for being such a wimp.

A Nonny Moose said...


We get enough of policing our responses to things, we don't need other women jumping on the bandwagon.

Way to miss the point about how many women are socialized to "be nice" to men, and how difficult it is to break out of those habits. As much as we'd love to, not everyone can be strong and or loud all the time - there are often consequences for these actions that involve anything from rejection from our fellow sisters (cough) to repurcussive violence.

Scuba Nurse said...

Lena - I agree!
Jess and Sandra, thanks for commenting, its nice to hear about other people feeling the same way.
Adele - I was hoping that this post would either make people think, help people feel less alone, or encourage people to come forward with their own functional strategies.
A Nonny Moose covered all that needs to be said about BS negativity in spaces where it isn't needed. But if anyone else does actually genuinely deal with this stuff day-to-day and do something about it without arrest warrants or losing their job, Id love to hear it.

One trick I use at work when someone says a joke I find offensive is rather than lecture or get angry I just look blank and say "I don't get it". They then either have to explain why their racism/sexism/bigotry is funny or get lost. It seems to be working quite well so far.

Adele said...

Kiaora Nonny and Scuba,

Nonny, you are being a hypocrit I have not been socialised to be nice to men but you are expecting me to follow some other socialisation rule that says I must be obsequious to other woman.

Scuba, obviously setting fire to the guy was a bit of brown humour.

Both your responses indicate that passive aggressiveness is more preferable than directness - pukana to that.

The final words are yours.

Acid Queen said...

I don't understand why men are permitted at these things

And before you accuse me of being a crazy lesbian or something, I don't think men need to be excluded from all feminist events

But there need to be some safe spaces

And by inviting men into this kind of event you are basically taking a gamble that they won't behave like this

And it only takes one man who doesn't, as we've seen, to ruin it

I guess it would be better still for men to somehow be "screened" for this kind of behaviour before they are admitted

But that is asking a lot of work from feminists

It seems like by keeping men out we would not really be missing out on much

There is a time and place for mixed-gender groups to meet and discuss patriarchy but it seems like this isn't it. Not if we want women to feel safe, which wasn't the case here

I urge you to name and shame this guy, Scuba Nurse, unless of course you don't feel safe doing so

ChundaMars said...

Well the guy certainly sounds like a dickhead. I'm curious, was the "accepting Jesus" comment meant as a joke from him or was he actually trying to convert people? Not that either way is acceptable, just interested.

I guess whether men come to these sort of events is entirely down to how they are advertised - is it clear they are for women only? (I've no idea, I'm in Christchurch, so no concerns with me gatecrashing one at least!).

@Acid Queen: "It seems like by keeping men out we would not really be missing out on much" Again that depends on the content of the discussion and whether male input is wanted. Safe spaces for all genders are necessary but for any progress to be made clearly the majority need to include discussion across gender boundaries.

And without meaning to take away from Scuba Nurse's justifiable anger, I don't think lacking a uterus instantly makes you unqualified to enter a philosophical debate about abortion. Just sayin'.

Scuba Nurse said...

I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of excluding people based on gender, partly because, I think any cause needs a wide range of supporters. There where white people on the busses in the USA in the student protests, there should be men at feminist drinks. Thats just my personal opinion.
I do agree that there should be "standards" and this shmuck- not worth naming since he isnt part of the group, and was literally a friend of a friend's boyfriend, would never have made it past a gentle reminder to women to not bring people who don't identify as feminist to the group.
The other really big reason to allow all people of all genders, Cis, trans, male, female, and so on, is that there are too many barriers in the real world all ready when it comes to gender. I have no intention of building more in a place I have a part of.

Scuba Nurse said...

And I have no idea whether he was serious about Jesus but he knew aaaall the words. *hairs stand up on the back of my neck*

Liz said...

I sympathise with the situation you were put in, as I always have the exact same experience with straight cis people who come to queer trans groups.

Scuba Nurse said...

Yeah, great to have support from outside immediate network, but it does open us up to the elements of stupid.

Acid Queen said...

"there are too many barriers in the real world all ready when it comes to gender."

There aren't many barriers which apply to cis men, though.

I agree it's good to have cis men supporting the movement, but the idea that cis men will only support the movement if they are given across the board access to all events, well, that is a very entitled attitude. I would hope not many supporters have such a cold attitude but if they do their support is unwelcome IMO.

I have done many workshops on how to be a pro-feminsit man and one of the first things we teach is "Just because you are supportive does not mean you will never find yourself excluded from feminist spaces, and if you truly understand feminism you will understand why that is and hav eno problem with it"

Liz said...

Acid Queen, can I ask why you are separating out cis men from trans men?
I would be mortally insulted if a men's group said "trans women welcome, but not cis women".

Acid Queen said...

It is hard to imagine a trans man behaving in the way the guy in the original post is don't you think?

The whole thing is about abusing one's cis male privilege, which trans men, not being cis men, don't have.

Liz said...

"It is hard to imagine a trans man behaving in the way the guy in the original post is don't you think?"

No, not at all. I've seen plenty of trans guys who are just as douchey as cis guys.

"The whole thing is about abusing one's cis male privilege"

I don't see where the 'cis' part enters into this. All I saw was the abuse of male privilege.
Shit, the guy could be a stealth trans guy for all you know.

People need to stop with the 'everyone welcome but cis men' bullshit because it is othering of trans men. It says to trans men "You're not a real man; you're more like a woman."
And as I pointed out earlier, that's really insulting.

Acid Queen said...

Actually it's more like "You're not a part of or a beneficiary of the patriarchy". I've yet to meet a transman who is offended by this statement.

I'm not arguing transmen can't be douches - I've met plenty - but women can be douches too.

The point is that the specific type of douchiness that comes from a place of privilege, as opposed to just being annoying, is what was displayed here. Scuba isn't angry and unsafe because the guy was a jerk, it's because he was a jerk in a way that reinforced his privilege.

Unless you are claiming transmen are part of the patriarchy, they don't have that privilege to reinforce.

But this is a derail really, since it seems the policy is to continue to be "all welcome", transmen, cismen, everybody.

It is up to the organisers to organise it hwo they want of course, but I will no longer be attending if they can't guarantee my safety

Liz said...

Unless you are claiming transmen are part of the patriarchy

Plenty of trans men have male privilege; especially the stealth ones.
Again, how can you be sure the guy from Scuba's story wasn't a stealth/woodworked trans man?

If trans men don't benefit from male privilege and are not part of the patriarchy, then they must not be men.
That's cissexism.
I thought you were better educated than this, Acid Queen.

Lena said...

For a bit of context, the Feminist Drinks aren't a serious meeting where we discuss academic type stuff, it's quite literally a bunch of feminists (mostly women, but some men too, and they are usually cool) having drinks. I would be uncomfortable with excluding men from them, because most of the guys that come along are fun, and our friends!

ChundaMars said...

@Liz: "I thought you were better educated than this, Acid Queen." Interesting that you should say this Liz, because I found Acid Queen's last post troublesome too - she seems to be suggesting that cismen are the sole drivers and beneficiaries of the patriarchy, and that everybody else (women, transmen etc.) are outside of the system and can neither benefit from nor contribute towards the patriarchy.

Acid Queen said...

The ability to pass does not make a transman a beneficiary of cis privilege anymore than the ability to pass as straight makes a queer person a beneficiary of hetero privilege, or a person of colour a beneficiary of white privilege.

I'm comfortable with my level of education, thanks.

Anyway as I say, this is a derail.

@Lena: "Most" men may well be well behaved, but it only takes one. The fact that other men don't behave this way is cold comfort for Scuba I imagine.

Liz said...

You haven't addressed any of the pertinent points we raised, Acid Queen, such as why 'cis' is important in this context or how cis men are the only group complicit in patriarchy.

And sorry to burst your bubble, but when I'm passing a cis (i.e. all the time, unless someone has been told) I get treated like I'm cis.
We call that 'passing privilege' and it confers pretty much all the social benefits of being cis.

I also don't think you have any right to compare my identity to queer people or people of colour. That shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what being trans is about (for example, one of the main goals of being gay or a POC is not to pass as hetero or white, whereas the majority of binary trans people wish to pass as cis).

You may be comfortable with your level of education, but I am not.
Could you please educate yourself further before you comment on trans issues again?

Acid Queen said...

I have worked hard to educate myself on trans issues Liz and while I'm sorry it doesn't meet your standards little of the education I have sought implies that excluding trans men from safe spaces is somehow a way to make life easier for them.

You may recall earlier it was argued that we shouldn't be banning people because life throws up enough barriers on the basis of sex and identity, and I made the point that it doesn't place many barriers in the way of cis men. The same cannot be said for trans men.

Liz said...

Yes, my apologies also, I forgot that as a cis person, you are always more correct than me on trans issues.
Consider me put back in my place

Scuba Nurse said...

Ok, everyone has put their points forward. Apologies have been made. Can we return to the main topic at hand, or stop. Anyone wishing to have a direct conversation person to person about their understanding of gender issues can contact each other directly please. No further person to person discussions are required.

Barbarella said...

Oh man, this blog is so full of angst. It gives me a headache. Chill ladies, chill!