wSep 6, 2007

Yes, I consulted Chad before writing this post.

So. I've been complaining to Chad lately about how some people suck at feminism, and I feel the need to explain some things to the world (which is clearly best done by writing in my blog).

I will start with a hypothetical situation. We'll start with Chad - Chad has lived across the street from my house since birth, and is now a roommate of mine. I went through all of my schooling with Chad, and I am really hard-pressed to think of a single person who disliked him. He is a quintessential nice guy - the popular people liked him, the band kids liked him, the choir kids liked him, those marginalized for various reasons liked him. It is why Chad's/my plan for world domination mean Chad will run for political office, and eventually president, and I will be his chief of staff. He is well on his way, having now entered his first year of law school.

I digress. So, Chad, our quintessential nice guy (he is an eagle scout), when encountering a person of the opposite sex performing some act of manual labor will offer to complete the task for them. In Chad's mind, he is doing it because he is nice. When describing such mentalities, he uses the word "chivalrous." In his mind, it is honorable and right tell a girl, "You don't have to do that. I can do it instead."

I know that I can't speak for every woman, so I will speak only for myself. When a task involving manual labor needs to be completed, and it is sensible for me to be the one to complete the task - either because it is part of my job description, or because I would benefit from the task being completed - I see no reason why I should not do it. When I am told by a man, "I can do that instead of you doing it," I feel like I am being told, I can do this job better than you can or You are incapable of performing this job adequately. I feel this way even when people such as Chad are the ones to make the suggestion. Even when I know that people such as Chad have the best of intentions. Because what is behind that intention? A socialized mentality that men are "built for" physical labor, while women are not. It is not Chad's fault that he has been socialized in such a way, but the socialization process he went through does effect how he interacts with and treats other people. This is true of all people, especially men. It is possible to be sexist - to say sexist things - without being a mean person.

In fact, when having the conversation about whether or not I could blog about it, he tried to justify his position as righteous by saying, "I would help an elderly person cross the street." He quickly recanted, saying that that was a bad analogy, but it's still what came to mind first - and it really is a telling analogy. Comparing an elderly person, who is feeble and frail, to a woman who is striving to, say, cut the lawn. Making a comparison implies that it is beyond her limits for the woman to complete a task that requires muscular strength to perform.

None of this is to say that Chad is a bad person - verily, Chad is one of my best friends, and I think he is a very good person. The intention of this blog post is to show that sometimes, even without meaning to, a person (and it is not always a man - women do it all the time, too) can be sexist. This also applies to racism: Without trying to, a well-meaning person can say something racist. It doesn't mean you are now an enemy of all people of color, or of all women. All it means is that you should try to pay more attention to what you're saying, and why you're saying it. Similarly, if you benefit from privilege - if you are male, or if you are white, you need to do a really good job of listening. It can be really hard for a woman, or a person of color, to bring it up when they encounter sexism or racism with their friends, in class, in the workplace, or at the store. They are afraid of not being taken seriously, of angering people they care about and/or respect, and afraid of their words having no effectiveness.

So, listen - listen for subtle cues. Listen for when people hesitate, look for when people have fleeting looks of anger. Listen for where someone goes into a defensive mode by using a sarcastic quip or silence, and ask yourself why they're doing it, and if it might be something you did or said.

It's difficult to shift your mind into thinking in such a way if you're not used to doing it, but once you do, you'll be surprised at what you see and hear. Why is the default pronoun always "he"? Why is every class that I have contain a sea of white faces? Why do people of a certain color tend to ride on certain bus line, while people of another color tend to ride other certain bus lines? What areas of town do these bus lines go to - upscale or down? Why?

Most of all: if someone accuses you of being sexist or racist, the first thing you need to tell yourself is: "CALM DOWN." Chill out. Ask them why. Apologize. Tell them you did not intend to be offensive. But most of all, take their explanation seriously, and think about it for a while, even after the conversation is over. And try not to do it again.

It really is that simple!

Current Music: Hooker With a Penis - Tool

Labels: , ,

scribbled mystickeeper at 10:26 PM

Very well said! Being defensive is not the key to progress - thought is!

By Blogger Steph, at 10:24 AM, September 07, 2007  

This is the fourth day you haven't blogged. This is unacceptable. If this obstinacy does not cease we will be forced to take action.

-The Powers That Be

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 PM, September 10, 2007  

I actually wrote most of a blog entry last night....and then fell asleep on my laptop. :*(

By Blogger Jackie, at 6:17 PM, September 10, 2007  

I find it interesting that you feel that when someone from the opposite sex does something nice to you that you feel they are sexist. Think about it, just as you asked us to do, that there are some people who are nice and helpful and some are not, be they male or female. Some people may never know a person willing to go an extra mile for you, not because you are a woman, but because they like you and think you are worth it. "Labeling" them is sexist in itself. You can be a strong woman without being offended that the reason someone is helping you they think you are week. Are we going back to the days of Gloria? Have you burned your bra yet?
Some people may never have a person in their lives who takes care of them, and let's face it we ALL need that sometimes. Enjoy it!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:39 AM, September 19, 2007  

I think it's possible to be nice and sexist at the same time. It's nice because they're doing something for her, and sexist because they're only doing it because she's a woman.

By Blogger Antoine, at 9:46 PM, September 19, 2007  

I don't like anonymous comments. Please leave a name.

No, I have not burned my bra(s). Did people ever really do that? Maybe they did. Due to the size of my bust, I actually need to wear a bra, or I find life extremely uncomfortable. TMI? TOO BAD.

I think you need to read my original post a little bit more thoroughly. I never said that if a man did something nice for me, I wouldn't think it was nice. I'm sure it is nice.

If people are helping me "because they like me and they think I'm worth it," then great. If they're helping me because I am a woman and they think that I am physically incapable of doing it myself, then it is sexist. Verbatim from my original post: It is possible to be sexist - to say sexist things - without being a mean person.

You can be a strong woman without being offended that the reason someone is helping you they think you are week.
See, there's a difference here: before, you said I should recognize that people are helping me because they are nice. Now, you're saying I shouldn't be offended because the real reason they're helping me is because they think I'm weak? Or am I reading you wrong? I really hope so. Because if people only help me because they think I'm weak, then that's kind of insulting.

You're right that some people never have someone to care for them in their life. I don't know why you would assume that I would expect a mere friend of mine to "take care of" me. He's not my parent or my spouse. He's my friend. If I need to pick up a box and move it, I can do it myself. If it's my turn to cut the lawn, I will do it. If I'm at work and boxes of things need to moved, I would never expect co-workers who happen to be male to "take care of me" by taking care of every single errand that involved physical labor.

Even when I am married, I'm not sure what "being taken care of" implies. I don't want to have to be taken care of. I'm not a child. I would not enjoy having to rely on somebody else for my own well-being.

By Blogger Jackie, at 10:04 PM, September 19, 2007  

Gosh darn it, Jackie.
Why did you have to bring up the fact that your boobs are bigger than mine? That was NOT NICE!

By Blogger Creighton Hogg, at 10:22 PM, September 19, 2007  

Post a Comment