It is apparently Feminism Day in the internets. (I know why, actually — it’s a particular stage of ripples from an earlier much-discussed incident — but I’m not going to try to trace the lineage; I’m just here to provide the links.)
First up, something most of my personal friends understand, but worth spreading as a public service: “A Straight Geek Male’s Guide to Interaction with Females.” It’s the basics, nothing more, but it never hurts to remind people of them.
Second: the L.A. Times on, well, one of the fastest ways to piss me off royally, aka Men Who Explain Things. You know, the patronizing jackasses who presume they know more about Topic X than you do, even when they don’t. Bonus rage points for the fact that, while some of them sometimes do it to other men, it is frequently directed at women. (Includes a fabulous anecdote of the best shut-down possible. Alas, it is not often possible — but it must have been satisfying when it happened.)
Third: a lengthy post from synecdochic on “Don’t Be That Guy.” Very long, but useful not just in identifying the male behaviors that put women off, but offering suggestions for how “allies” (other guys who notice the problem) can help out. I’m sure somewhere in the three pages and counting of comments, multiple somebodies have pointed out that the suggestions do often involve a man speaking on a woman’s behalf because she won’t be listened to, but — as I believe the poster acknowledges — sometimes that’s regrettably necessary. Ultimately no woman should ever need a man to step in and speak for her, but if him doing so gets us a step closer to that day, I won’t discourage it.
. . . but you know, it’s odd. Many of the experiences that last post talks about, I just, well, haven’t experienced. Not often, anyway. And I can’t help but ponder the confluence of factors that makes that so.
Partly, no doubt, it’s causal factors. I’m not curvy and I don’t tend to dress in anything remotely resembling a revealing fashion (LARPS notwithstanding), ergo I’m not as likely to have the “my eyes are up HERE” problem. I associate mostly with guys who are legitimately Good Guys, and therefore unlikely to patronize or dismiss me. (Half of them are better feminists than I am.) Etc.
Some of it, though, has to be perceptual. In other words, I do encounter such things, but I don’t notice them. I’ve said before that I must have run into more than two or three sexist teachers in my educational career, but I guess I just steamrollered over the others without noticing. Because on the one hand I can’t think of more, but on the other, I can’t find much evidence in my life of sexist assumptions and behavior holding me back. I’m having a hard time articulating what I mean by that; I don’t mean I’m immune. Situations where I was hampered externally, sure, those no doubt have happened. But I have rarely felt inferior, inadequate, what have you, as a result of my gender. I actually believe it’s true when I say that I went from Great At Math to Sucking At Math, not because I felt like I couldn’t do it, but because I didn’t feel like doing it. And sure, my loss of interest partially coincided with one of the identifiably sexist teachers — but only partially. I never felt incapable. (Nor was I, if I managed to pass AP Calculus by doing all the homework the night before the test.)
At cons? I suppose many of the writers I hang out with there are women. If I tally up a mental list of the people I anticipate seeing when I go, it’s definitely skewed female. Then again, this is more likely to be a problem of interaction with strangers or new acquaintances than with established friends. But if there have been room parties/dinners/whatever where a guy was checking me out or behaving like he had a right to something from me or dismissing my words, I just . . . haven’t noticed. And have not, so far as I can tell, let it affect me.
And you know, I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, yay me! I can haz self-esteem. On the other, maybe I’m missing out on opportunities to push for change, to make a difference, to call people on their bullshit instead of ignoring it. (Or maybe it is undermining me after all. You can be oppressed without noticing your oppression.) How much can I trust my own perception? How much good do I do in a broader sense by shrugging this stuff off?
I don’t particularly know. But at the very least, chewing on these questions is good for me.