Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How I came to yell at a woman on the street about feminism

My sister and I were walking back from the bus and a woman came riding up on her bike beside us, talking about how crappy men are and how unlucky in love she is. We mumbled in agreement, etc, and thought we left her behind us. Then she rode up again and started talking about how men are wusses and pansies and girls when they don't do their "job" (whatever that is). I told her I didn't appreciate her comparing weak men to women, saying that it put women in a hierarchy under men. Well, I said it less academically. Eventually we ended up shouting and she called us lesbians, and then somehow I ended up yelling across the gas station area, "'Man up' is not an acceptable term!" At that point, I became the yelling lady and the circle was complete. The student became the teacher.

Honestly, I started talking back to her because I've had enough with people not living their beliefs. I believe in gender equality, even - especially - in language. How we speak and the words and idioms we use reveals our inner biases and beliefs. Inclusive language in church is another fine example of this exact thing. If we're for something, well then, let's be for it.

All in all, I just didn't want to think later, "Why didn't I say anything?" Casual sexism is sexism is sexism.

Would I have been nearly as vocal if it was a man, or a person of color of any gender? No. Her whiteness and gender made me bold in ways I wouldn't have if it was another person. Well, maybe it didn't make me bold, but it made HER non-threatening. I may have said something, but definitely not yelling the way I was.

Would I have even said anything if it was in a group of my friends or family?

Casual sexism is sexism is sexism.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree! I'm tired of hearing "feminine" traits being used to dis men. When people don't understand what I mean as I try to tell them how far we still have to go, I ask them, "What's the worst thing you can call a man?"

When I tell them, "a woman", you can see the stunned look on their faces as they realize that for a split second they thought that was true. And then they get it.

Great post!

tessarae said...

oh, linds. love you, love you, love you. and have been THISCLOSE to doing something similar myself. it can be so hard to talk about things that seem so obvious to us without getting angry, but i commend you for making a statement instead of just mumbling quietly!

Anonymous said...

Just to put this out there, I find that you are ever so slightly condradictory. Yes, i agree that it is ridiculous to compare weak men to woman, because i, myself as a woman, believe in gender equality and feminine strength. However, you fight for gender equality, are a feminist, but you were "casually" racist and sexist yourself. "Would I have been nearly as vocal if it was a man, or a person of color of any gender? No." If you can't stand up for your beliefs to everyone, then are you really standing up for your beliefs?

lindsay said...

I acknowledge that my actions were influenced by the gender, age and race of the other person. I included that last part because I wanted to make sure that people knew how the other person influenced my actions. Since I unconsciously (or consciously) considered her to be a low threat if I spoke back to her, it made it easier to say what I did.

I know that I should be upfront with everyone I meet, but this incident made clear that she was still within my comfort range. In the post, I wanted to be as transparent as possible about the encounter and that included my own casual and (sub)conscious racism.

Tasha said...

Great post. I recently took my housemate aside and asked him politely to stop saying that his exams were "raping him" and explained why. He got quite defensive, then eventually promised to not use it anymore, but not because he agreed with why I said it was offensive, only because he knew it was offending me. I kind of felt like it was a small win but not the kind of win I wanted.
I wish that I had the courage to stand up to others when their biased language upsets me though.