Ardent feminist = ardent humanist

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December 10, 2009 by 8junebugs

In the second grade, I demanded the right to join a Little League team. I’ve never been an athlete and I didn’t want to be one then — I managed to play second base without picking my nose and I got one hit all season, but I was there. And I was there because someone said Little League was only for boys.

Two years of PE had taught me that Lisa Q. was at least as good at sports as Peter M., if not better (and Rob W. was at least as bad at them as I was, if not worse). Also, both of my parents played softball. Why one earth would Little League be for boys only? It seemed dumb, so a bunch of us signed up.

Thus began my unintentional foray into feminism. I wasn’t introduced to formal “Feminism” until I spent what seemed like my entire senior year on literary theory under the tutelage of the capital-F feminist teaching AP English.

Before then, it was just life. My mother tended to make more money than my father, and she’d logged more post-secondary education. My father was the better cook, liked being in the kitchen, and cleaned up after himself. Both could herd cows, drive tractors, and braid hair. Dad taught me to drive, but Mom helped me change the thermostat in my first car. Neither of them could help with my math homework once I hit geometry (I fear this will be my fate, as well — I stopped caring about math about mid-way through calculus).

My parents both seemed content enough in their own abilities that they didn’t need to lay claim to particular roles…or force the other into one, for that matter. The decline of their marriage started, I think, when circumstances dropped them into traditional roles that did. not. fit.

The most important thing they ever taught me was that I could do anything, and so could anyone else. It wasn’t until I encountered public education that I heard that boys and girls were expected to be better at different things.

I have found no evidence that males or females are naturally, inherently, obviously better at anything.

As a broad result, I reject as false the premise that someone else’s expectation of me is more accurate or important than my actual self…my personality, my goals and desires, my abilities, and my experiences.

This applies whether you expect me to fulfill a traditional role* or be a nuclear physicist.

Similarly, I reject as false the premise that my expectation of you is more accurate or important than your actual self…your personality, your goals and desires, your abilities, and your experiences.

Combined with a lifelong tendency to question everything, this manifests in a direct approach that has gotten me called a selfish (or self-absorbed) bitch more than once. Fortunately, someone else’s perception of me is subject to the same principle as their expectation. By realizing that my judgment of them is irrelevant, I have to acknowledge that their judgment of me is, too.

The upside? This principle really frees you up to actually know people instead of knowing stereotypes.

Caveat: These principles are null and void if one’s “goals and desires” in any way harm another or impinge on someone else’s life without that person’s consent.

For what it’s worth, this outlook presents as extremely attractive to certain types of men. I have to tell you, though, that the attraction wears off for most of those men when they realize that the “My view of myself is more important than your view of me” and “I question everything” principles apply to them, too…and their families, and ideas or beliefs they do not want to consider or discuss. If you think these principles sound like you and you want to have a relationship, I highly recommend falling in love with someone who thinks your brain is your sexiest feature.

Actually? I recommend that anyway.

* On “traditional roles”: I know what I wanted to convey in that line but I tiptoed like crazy around it. Here’s the thing: I have a bunch of friends who are stay-at-home moms, and I’m not at all convinced that being a nuclear physicist wouldn’t be the easier choice. I’m endlessly grateful that they have the choice…it’s a hard one to make for our generation, because we were raised in a time when women were expected to work outside the home. But there’s that word again — expected. Screw that, I say. The whole point of this is that the person is what matters, not the expectation.

***

This post is brought to you by two recent experiences — one mostly positive and one mostly negative:

1. By shining what light I can on the ongoing fight for cultural and financial parity (and by occasionally being one of those feminists), I get into a lot of discussions with men who love and respect women but are unaware of how they unintentionally support the constructs they’re inclined to fight. Because I can have these conversations, I will…in fact, I must. (And lately, I have been.) Not having them implies acceptance of The Way Things Are.

Every day, women standing up for themselves, their lives, and their own experiences can have an effect on well-meaning guys who need to be told when they’re being insensitive, threatening douchebags…so they can stop.

2. Recently, I told someone, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn’t interested in spending time together or getting to know him better. At one point (for he tried more than once), his response was, “Don’t I get a say in this?”

No, you don’t. Your desire to be connected to me in some way does not matter if I don’t want to be connected to you. Full stop. It’s tremendously empowering to know that no one is entitled to your attention if you don’t want to give it, but it doesn’t lessen the ick factor when someone won’t take no for an answer.

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