so let me see if i can articulate a thing
i obviously do not believe in or agree with the whole “victimization” rhetoric people use to shut up marginalized voices narrating and examining their own oppression. However, sometimes–especially when there’s so much shit going down all the time–we can start to see it when it’s not there, or we can become so sensitive to it that it is there but we blow it out of proportion. I do believe that happens on occassion and I work to be critical of it in myself. It’s one of many reasons why critical distance is so important.
Now that being said I often tell my students “start with a feeling” and I think that’s good advice. Often times you will react to something without being critically cognizant of what you are reacting too. So if I find myself particularly irritated or frustrated what I have discovered, time and time again, is that there is sexism there. It’s a tough dance between “am I reading this correctly or am I overreacting?” But that’s what it means to live critically in the world.
Now several things have happened in the last few weeks that have me…emotionally off-center. There was the facebook Ghostbusters fiasco (I took the post down) that I still keep asking myself, “did I overreact?” Not about the obvious mansplainer but the more standard conversation that followed with other men. Then there was a good debate with my brother wherein I articulated (I am super stoked I got this moment into words. I’m paraphrasing here) “I am not going to apologize for knowing things! I am educated. I do know many things that other people do not and while that doesn’t give me the right to force decisions on them it is not wrong or unethical of me to assert my knowledge as valuable and justified!” I then went on to point out that he shifted the debate from where we started (capitalism) to a subtle ad hominem attack on my statements. He listened, as he almost always does, and we live and love to debate another day. (I seriously lucked out in the sibling department fyi.)
Okay and then I went to play Magic Cards with 5 men who are all older than me that I grew up with. My brother and four of his friends, 2 of whom I was in highschool with, and 1 my brother graduated HS with who married to my cousin. One of them in particular has an interesting relationship to gender; he keeps himself so carefully cloistored choosing to interact through his “jokey” self. A self that primarily makes jokes about sex and body parts and is semi-constantly engaged in a game of chicken.
Spoiler alert: I’m really good at that game. You want to try and get me to blush? Make me embarrased? Out do me in the game of who-can-say-the-most-sexually-inappropriate-thing? Not going to happen. I’ll win almost every time I really want to. I’ll take it farther and I’ll go harder. (That’s what she wishes he said.)
So there’s this guy who can dish it but can’t take it but won’t stop regardless. Then there’s another guy I like and respect who, while absolutely aware of social lines in a professional capacity, nonetheless has a very complicated relationship to systemic inequalities on the personal level. And then there’s just the usual run-of-the-mill “we’ve known each other since we were 10 and 14 and our relationships are surprisingly complex for being so shallow.”
But by the end of the night I was in full lockdown. What I mean by that was I was so tired of the sexism, the dismissals, the questioning, the subtle undercutting, and the emotional warfare that I said to my brother “I have one more game in me and then we’re going to have to go.” I literally couldn’t take it anymore.
So the question is: is what I feel legitimate or am I overreacting?
Now before you answer let me say one thing. I know what I felt was “legitimate” but I don’t mean it in that way. Obviously there was sexism at work. There always is in a dynamic like that. But the presence, even frustratingly so, of sexism doesn’t mean that my…extreme emotional reaction to it is justified. Some of this could still be on me. I guess my question is where and how much.