Let’s Talk Sex(ism) [Part 3 of 3: Feminism’s Biggest Obstacle]

I’ve spent the last two posts discussing my struggles with balancing feminism and common sense, and feminism and my faith. As I’ve established over the course of this three-part blog series, the institution of sexism is one I feel called and created to speak out against, and – in time – to overthrow. So does that automatically make my opponents (whether men or women, whether purposeful or unwitting) my enemies? I’m not convinced it does, but there are times that my adversaries do feel like legitimate enemies.

The sad truth is that sexism against women is not something perpetuated solely by insecure, chauvinistic men. If it were, I don’t think it would be quite so difficult an institution to abolish. For me, the most frustrating detractors of feminism are other women. Misogynistic women are the worst kinds because they breed intra-gender discord, and they have an easier time convincing other women that they are less than equal (and not only less than equal to men, but to certain types of women as well). As Jesus said (paraphrased), “A gender divided against itself cannot stand.” When I use the term misogynist women, I’m talking about the ones who are overly competitive with other women, who set themselves apart from and above other women by putting women down, and who are generally nasty to anyone who doesn’t have a penis.

I’ve struggled at times to keep from becoming this kind of woman myself. My personality does tend to mesh a little (or a lot) easier with men than it does with women. I’m not interested in arts and crafts, home decor, fashion, or cooking and baking. I’m not married, engaged, or dating, so I don’t have a man to lightheartedly complain about with my coupled-up female friends. I don’t have children, so I can’t talk breastfeeding, homeschooling, stay-at-home vs go-to-work mothering, cloth diapers, or whatever else the moms think is interesting these days. And finally, I hate Pinterest.

On the other hand, I live alone, my longest-lasting non-familial relationship is with a canine, I eat Ramen and pizza more than is good for me, I enjoy crude jokes, I have thick skin, I’m sarcastic, I enjoy sports, and I stay up later than I should. By default, that usually means it’s easier for me to hang out in male company than female company. It means I don’t have to try as hard, and it means I can talk freely about my own interests, rather than trying to muster up an interest in things I don’t understand. (If we’re being totally honest here, it also means I can fart with impunity.)

Because of this natural tendency to gravitate toward the opposite sex, it’s always been easy to cause friction with other women, and for a long time, I didn’t even care enough to try not to. I do remember one year in college, though, when I decided I should attempt to cultivate more meaningful friendships with women, and I declared a New Year’s resolution that stated simply, “Be Nice to Girls.” Seems comical, but considering that for the past four or five years I’d been going around saying things like, “I hate girls” and “Girls are stupid” and “Girls are the worst,” it was quite an adjustment for me.

What I learned during that year (and have continued to learn in the years since) is that there are deep rewards to be found in meaningful friendships with women. However, I have also learned and relearned that not all women want to be friends, and I’ve been burned in relationships with other women that I thought were real friendships but turned out actually to be only shallow competitions of one kind or another. I wish that more women would realize that feminism and equality could make a lot bigger strides if we would start by being kind to one another.

Women get especially competitive and territorial when it comes to certain of their hobbies and interests that they believe to be unique, such as (gasp!) being a sports fan! The truth is, however, it’s not unique to be a female sports fan. It might be a less common occurrence than a woman being into fashion, but it’s not unique, plain and simple. And who cares? Whatever world it is that a woman is interested in, that she believes to be dominated by men, what’s the big deal if she encounters another woman in that same world? It doesn’t make her less interesting, and it doesn’t invalidate her interest in the least, whether that interest is hunting, sports, video games, comic books, etc. I know some women (myself included) don’t want to associate themselves with women who pretend to be interested in these fields just to get a man’s attention, or to seem cool. Here’s a tip, though: People can tell if you’re faking it. So if your interest is genuine, you have nothing to worry about. So what if Valley Girl wants to wear high heels and pink sports apparel? Does her wanting to look cute make you less of a fan? No. No it does not.

Full disclosure: I do still struggle with this from time to time in my baseball fandom. It’s important to me that people view me as a real fan and not someone who’s just trawling for men. And I don’t want to be associated with cleat chasers, that’s for sure. But, for the most part, I haven’t had to work very hard to establish myself in people’s eyes as a genuine baseball fan. My enthusiasm has done that all on its own, I think. Besides, baseball is too exhausting a sport to keep up with for someone who’s just pretending. Unfortunately, the people I have had to work the hardest to convince of the authenticity of my newfound interest have actually been women, further proving my point.

Other than being unequivocally kind to the women I meet and get to know, I don’t know what the solution to this problem is. It’s my experience that, no matter how kind and open and vulnerable I am with other women, there are some who are just going to be competitive, shallow, catty, or territorial. Since it’s not in my nature to just back off at the first sign of conflict, I usually initiate some candid confrontations, but if that doesn’t resolve matters, my next recourse is to write those women out of my life. I don’t do that to be rude. I do it because I don’t see a positive way forward, and disengaging seems more healthy for both parties than the alternative. And because I loathe pretense and false courtesy. (I could never survive in the American South.)

Now, admittedly, “being unequivocally kind” is not necessarily something that comes easy to me. If I sense insecurity or intimidation in other women, I tend to ignore them because that’s easier than trying to engage them and be friendly and prove to them that I’m worth getting to know. I’m extroverted, but one-sided small talk is hard for me, and if someone doesn’t “get” me, or if I have to carry the conversation, I prefer not to waste my time.

All things considered, even though I have some work yet to do, I know I’ve made a lot of progress both in how I think about my relationships with other women, and in how I execute them. Since I became a Royals fan, I have enjoyed finding other women on Twitter who like to talk baseball. It’s good to have allies. And that’s really what it comes down to. If this feminism thing is going to get us anywhere at all, if we’re ever going to conquer sexism, we are going to need as many allies as we can get. We have to be on the same team. We have to stop cutting each other down and start giving one another the benefit of the doubt.

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2 Comments

Filed under baseball, bloggy, feminisim

2 responses to “Let’s Talk Sex(ism) [Part 3 of 3: Feminism’s Biggest Obstacle]

  1. “….The sad truth is that sexism against women is not something perpetuated solely by insecure, chauvinistic men…. For me, the most frustrating detractors of feminism are other women. Misogynist women are the worst kinds because they breed intra-gender discord, and they have an easier time convincing other women that they are less than equal (and not only less than equal to men, but to certain types of women as well)…..”

    So you admit to disagreeing with patriarchy theory – the theory that men as a group deliberately and successfully oppress women as a group. If women are also oppressing women then patriarchy theory is invalid. Patriarchy theory is the very basis of feminism. So logically you cannot identify with feminism, just as a non-racist cannot identify with the KKK. As you say yourself, you object to certain PEOPLE (men AND women) who treat women as less than equal than other PEOPLE (men AND women).

    By way of an analogy, you object to ‘bad drivers’ as opposed to ‘male drivers’. And I hope you agree that it would be silly (and hateful and discriminatory) to subscribe to any movement which claimed male drivers were deliberately targeting and oppressing female drivers. But that is essentially what feminism does claim.

    “…. I’m not interested in arts and crafts, home decor, fashion, or cooking and baking…. And finally, I hate Pinterest….”

    And if a man generalised women’s interests in this way he would be accused of being sexist.

    “….I wish that more women would realize that feminism and equality could make a lot bigger strides if we would start by being kind to one another….”

    A lot of people believe being kind to one another would be a lot easier if we all stopped subscribing to feminist theory, stopped competing to be either ‘the best victims’ or ‘the most empowered’ and treated each other as equals instead (ie throughout the day we’re all victims, we’re all objectified, we’re all flawed at some point – men and women).

    “… It’s important to me that people view me as a real fan and not someone who’s just trawling for men. …”

    Again if a man were to suggest some women pretend to be fans just to trawl for men he would be lynched by feminists….. who would then start a campaign (featuring Beyonce) to ban the word ‘trawl’ ;)

    “…Unfortunately, the people I have had to work the hardest to convince of the authenticity of my newfound interest have actually been women, further proving my point….”

    And further proving that men as a group are not out to oppress women, after all. They’re actually quite respectful creatures who respond very well to sincere, honest women who don’t have ulterior motives.

    “..If this feminism thing is going to get us anywhere…”

    What is the ‘feminism thing’? I mean seriously (genuine question), in clear precise terms, what is it?

  2. Having worked in a primarily female workplace for my entire career, I definitely identify with your statement that women don’t necessarily want to be friends with other women. It is surely competitive, and not in a fostering-a-fun-competitive-atmosphere way. Perhaps the opposite of you, I am “too” nice. I don’t say no often enough, I try to make others feel appreciated entirely too often, and I appear to be the “typical” nice woman. The worst insult I got in college was that I was one appliqued vest away from being a true elementary teacher–implying that I was all sunshine and daisies.

    Of course, if you find something I feel strongly about, I will come at you faster than Yordano Ventura’s fastball, and I will take no prisoners. Then, people get hurt. Really hurt. I think that’s because they can’t combine my “nice little girl next door” personality and the fact that I am a smart, driven female with strong opinions. THIS, to me, is the major reason we need feminists in the 21st century. The main anti-feminists to me aren’t necessarily men. They’re people who can’t understand that women don’t fit into a category. I can be a friendly, fun person who gets fired up about politics. I can choose not to have kids. I can be the person in my relationship who is work-focused while my significant other prefers to do the cooking.

    True feminism, to me, is seeing the bigger picture. Hate someone because she’s a bitch, but not because she’s a woman. Attack someone for knowing less about baseball because she actually knows less, not because she’s a female fan. In these ways, I think your post is spot on. Women are nearly always worse at seeing the big picture than men. And they rarely realize it.

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