[TW misogyny, gender-essentialism, ableism]
I’m angry. I’m angry enough that it would take the cuddle power of at least six cats to begin to disperse my anger. I am not angry because I am feminist, I am angry because the kyriarchy makes people assholes. I am angry because people insist that their intolerance is just their “opinion” and insist that I must be tolerant of their intolerance. I am angry because people have been telling me over and over that my rejection of stereotypes, racism, intolerance and marginalization is the dogma of over-radicalized social justice movements, and anyway it’s just my “opinion,” which makes it no better than anyone else’s opinion.
I’m angry because when I hear “Boys are better at hiking than girls” I know there are women and girls out there who hear “You are going to suck at hiking, so why bother?” and men and boys who hear “You can’t hike? Are you sure you’re not a girl?” Sure, the sentence doesn’t literally say that. And maybe it’s true (though I have reasonable doubt, given all the backbreaking labor lots of women do all over the world) that a vast majority of men are stronger than a vast majority of women. Perhaps. Maybe. I’ll try to glue my skeptical eyebrows down, if it will make you more comfortable. Even if that’s true, there are still women who are better at hiking than a significant portion of men, and men who are worse at hiking than a significant portion of women. To generalize about that, in addition to being utterly stupid and pointless, is to make people who don’t fit that mold feel uncomfortable.
Growing up as a relatively strong, tall, stubborn, loud, wrestling, fake-ninja-fighting young lady, I have a fair amount of experience with the coping mechanisms of people who don’t fit the mold. First, I became a raging misogynist, and did guy things and talked about how women are “crazy” (hint: women are not all actually mentally ill, even when they have their periods. I’ll wait a minute for your brain to finish exploding). I felt under intense pressure to prove, every minute I was with guys, that I was not weak, like those other ladies, that I was not overly-emotional, that I could keep up, and I did a lot of things I don’t enjoy and took them more seriously that anyone should ever take, for example, a game of burn ball. All this seemed to do, mostly, was make all the guys feel like they needed to prove they could beat me (because we were both still playing by rules that said masculinity is defined by the shunning and conquering of the feminine). So I started becoming more stereotypically feminine, very very slowly, and felt more and more crushed, because the farther I moved into traditional femininity, the sillier people seemed to find the idea of me as a feminine woman silly and laughable. Thanks to my height and continued tendency to, you know, speak my mind, I was never going to be able to crush myself into the mold of traditional femininity enough to escape comment. So I finally became a feminist and now I do whatever I want, because fuck that. I’m a woman, and enjoy Mario Kart AND knitting. I don’t like math because I had uninspiring math teachers, and I like science because I had fantastic teachers. I love martial arts and anthropology and baking and don’t ever ask me to cook other kinds of food for you. None of this makes me any more or less a woman – none of this is related to my vagina/uterine/ovary complex (hereafter the VUO complex).
I’m angry that people feel such a strong need to decide what other people are and are not that they ignore the almost always true fact that, among their acquaintances, the individual differences are usually far more drastic that the differences as they split up over gender/race/anything lines. True fact: not even “all women have uteruses” and “all men have penises” are true statements. Not all “Americans” (in quotes because duh, America is bigger than the USA) were born in the USA. Not all people who have sex with the same gender are gay. So while I understand the urge to categorize, it’s probably best to keep that ignorant bullshit INSIDE your head, since many have been the times I’ve seen variations on the following embarrassing and/or hurtful interaction:
A: Oh, so you’re B? So you don’t X, Y, and Z, right?
B: Actually, I love Y and Z. X’s not really my thing, but my sibling loves it.
A: Oh…I didn’t know Bs did that…um…gotta go!
Furthermore, any results of any study we could do would test only the results of the current system we have, not of a human’s ideal capacity. We are all produced in the kyriarchy that ingrains, deeper than even much deconstruction can excavate, the Way Different People Are. Who knows what people would do if we didn’t keep telling them that certain things were off limits to them?
I don’t think I would mind being told women build less muscle mass than men (if that’s true) if that wasn’t immediately being used to spout some other discriminatory bullshit. “So women can never compete with men at sports.” “So you should let me carry your bag.” So go fuck yourself. Those kinds of statements (Xs do/are Y) are always being used for shit that I don’t agree with, so even if the statement has a chance of being scientifically true, it still makes me want to superglue the speaker’s mouth shut. There is not a single person on the planet I have met who has ever said a sentence like that with just a “huh, okay, whatever” attitude – it’s always an attempt to prove something and that something is usually hir own superiority. When I say “most men have penises, most women have vaginas,” all I mean by that statement is exactly what I fucking said. It’s just pointless trivia. That doesn’t tell you anything about their capabilities, likes and dislikes, favorite colors, height, weight, ability to do magic tricks, etc. Yet people like to pretend it’s possible to extrapolate from gender to capability, from weight to state of health, from race to intelligence, from sexuality to number of sexual partners. Fuck that shit.
“Singing the praises and virtues of passivity in woman as an expression of her fundamental nature inevitably leads to an attack on any positive traits or strengths she may show, since these are considered as contradictory to her innate characteristics and to the very qualities which make a woman what she is. A positive and strong woman is necessarily an abnormal person or a freak of nature, and merits vilification and hatred, or at least a measure of criticism and sarcasm.” – Nawal El Saadawi The Hidden Face of Eve
El Saadawi hit the nail on the head there, and this applies to more than the woman – passive – active triad. Any time we set criteria for what a “certain kind of person” is, we make others who don’t fit that mold freaks or outsiders.
So, pretty much, I’ve resolved to keep all my ignorant categories in my head, to do my best to assume as little as possible, and notice in a big way when I fuck up. Only one label for people is important to me: ASSHOLES. You know one to earn it? By assuming shit about people you don’t fucking know.