We have such good intentions, us feminists. Perhaps, though, being a “feminist” – a human who believes that all people, regardless of their gender or sex, deserve the same rights and opportunities – is just being a normal person? Maybe we should first start with being regular people and assuming that all regular people agree that everyone should have the same rights and opportunities? You know, because they’re people? Then we would refer to those who don’t feel and live this as “sexists” or “racists” or whatever kind of bigots they are that they think this group or that should be excluded from “people?”
It would be nice to be able to ditch the word “feminist” altogether.
Yeah, here we go again, and I’ll do the #NotAllMen and #NotAllWomen disclaimer right now so you can move on and listen, so you can process what I’m saying. This might hurt a little, but suck it up. I’m going to remind you that language matters, and then tomorrow I’m going to drag out some of our internalized sexism and challenge some of this shit society taught us. Better here in the privacy of my blog post than opening your mouth and advertising your ignorance and/or sexism where everyone can see it but you, right? Here’s a chance to learn, to reflect on your own opinions and behaviors. We’re going to pull that misogyny you thought you didn’t have out of your brain, out of your heart, and lay it out in front of you so you can begin to deal with it, to learn, grow, and move on. This will be good for a us both as I have a ways to go unlearning and relearning, myself.
Do not talk down to me when I suggest that calling women “girls” is rude and wrong. Calling a man “boy” is rude, wrong, and often racist. Why would you ever think that calling a woman “girl” is okay? Stop it. Seriously.
Consider where I’m coming from when I suggest that calling women (but not men) “sluts” is wrong. Done well (absent any medical or psychological issues) and with consent, sex is fun. It’s your problem, not ours, if you don’t like it or if you’re not getting as much sex/as many partners as you want. Keep that jealousy to yourself; calling women sluts in an attempt to demean them makes you look petty, sexist, and pathetic. Rather than cutting other adults down for indulging in a romp between the sheets, maybe go out and get some for yourself? It’s perfectly fine for the guys, and since it’s generally women having sex with those guys, clearly it’s perfectly fine for the ladies, too. Don’t forget to carry condoms, get everyone’s enthusiastic consent, and you’re off for sexy, fun time. Yay!
Don’t get all uppity with me when I suggest that calling women “whores” is wrong. First, people tend to use the term for women who are getting a lot of (free) sex. That’s misusing the term, and again, it makes you look petty and jealous. Second, though prostitution is illegal in most of the United States, it’s not known as the “the world’s oldest profession” for nothing. I try not to judge people by what they do for a living. We don’t all get to do what we want. Sometimes we do what we have to in order to feed our kids, to survive. I don’t call people “crack dealers” unless I’m very fucking sure they’re a crack cocaine retailer. Don’t call anyone a “whore” unless you’re damned sure he/she is making at least part of their living exchanging sex or sexual favors or otherwise selling themselves out (Senator Ron Johnson) for money/rent/etc. And think twice before you judge. All jobs have their good and bad points. All jobs involve some cool associates and some jerks. We all need to make a living. Right?
“Sexist grammar burns into the brains of little girls and young women a message that the male is the norm, the standard, the central figure beside which we are all deviants, the marginal, the dependent variables. It lays the foundation for androcentric thinking, and leaves men safe in their solipsistic tunnel-vision.” – Adrienne Rich
Don’t insult other people, especially women, as being “bossy” or “emotional” or “shrill” if you wouldn’t use exactly the same term (for exactly the same behavior) for a man. Men are at least as bossy and emotional as women. Women, overall, do an amazing job of keeping their cool even when assholes push them to the point where any other normal human being of either gender would consider homicide. My imaginary weapon in these scenarios is usually a dull, serrated knife – what can I say? I’m not that creative with my would-be victims. Give credit where it’s due. Any time you want to assume/accuse a woman of being unable to “control her emotions” consider the people around her. Consider the people who’ve been elected to office and the people they listen to. Consider Trump, Limbaugh, Alex Jones, O’Reilly. . . you can see why some of them act like petulant children, and they’re men. I’m not saying some women aren’t or cannot be passionate/emotional; I’m saying don’t use that assumption about an individual, any individual, to discount an entire gender’s opinions, intelligence, competence, or capability to do a job. You’d be wrong and sexist to do so. And you have no idea how many bodies they DIDN’T leave in their wake due to their award-worthy self-control.
Same goes for calling a woman a “bitch” or a “cunt” or “honey” or “dear” or any other similar term. Consider the message you’re sending, and be prepared to be called out on your sexism. If the shoe fits. . .
Words matter. We use them to form our thoughts, and we use them to express our thoughts and ideas. As a woman, I can tell you that I’m painfully aware of how important it is to choose my words carefully (even though I don’t always manage it). I’m also aware that even when I say exactly what I meant to in exactly the tone I intended, I’m still going to be intentionally misunderstood by those who don’t believe I am deserving of equal time or consideration. I can’t teach them how to show respect – that was for their parent(s) to teach them – but I can control my reaction to their disrespect.
Don’t tell anyone or expect anyone to “act like a lady” or to “man up.”
Just as we can’t expect a person of any gender not to cry when they’re happy or sad, we shouldn’t tell someone to “smile” because we prefer the way they look when they smile. Sure, smiles are nice and warm and inviting, but if they’re not feeling it, it’s not our business. If they’re a friend, maybe just ask if you can help somehow?
We can’t expect people not to express frustration or anger when it’s appropriate, again, regardless of gender. We’re humans. Our empathy, and our passion, and our emotions, are part of who and what we are as individuals, and we need to be able to safely express emotion sometimes. It’s as important as being able to think critically, being able to have human interaction, spending relaxing time with friends or family. And who and what we are isn’t a sex or a gender or a skin color or a sexuality; we’re human beings. We cannot expect people to always act or react the way we think they will based on our biases, based on the roles we and/or society have set up for them. We must learn to accept people as they are. We won’t get along with all of them, but that’s just how people are. And you’ll find that acceptance goes both ways.
We’re all going to slip up sometimes. We’re people. We make mistakes. When this happens we apologize and learn from our mistake.
The object of this post and the next is for you, the reader, to examine your own opinions and biases, to see how you might be misunderstood and to help you to choose the words that form your thoughts and the words you speak, carefully. When we’re aware of our own biases, sexism, etc. we’re better able to catch ourselves and correct our thoughts. We can then choose the words that will help us to grow past the stuff we learned as kids, move past our biases and “limits” to a better understanding, appreciation, and respect for the diverse people around us. We can learn how to expect more from ourselves and from everyone else.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, and I hope this post made you think about how you view others and the world and how the words you use affect your thinking. I can’t help but wonder what I’ll see when I look back here a few years more into my own unlearning/relearning. What did I get wrong? What did I have right? It’s a process. Anyway, second part will be posted on the 26th. *hugs*
Link: “Young women reported Larry Nassar for decades. No one took them seriously — until now.” – by Anna North at Vox
Link: “How NOT to sexually harass someone – The Mash Report – BBC Two” – good points done in a really funny way. Enjoy!
Link: Uppity Woman – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters. More on making excuses for men and expecting more from others. “You don’t praise a man for not beating his slaves. You praise a man for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you and fighting for the rights and dignity of every person, for fighting alongside you until every single human being has the same rights and opportunities he does.” This post was important to me. I hope you find it helpful.
Link: According To Men. . . – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Live Your Life; Leave Us Out Of It – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Excuses, Excuses (first in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Nevertheless (second in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link: Don’t Rape (third/last in the series) – by E. Brooks of Gray Matters
Link to original tweet from Celia.
#ExpectMore #WordsMatter #MeToo #TimesUp