The Polite Silence of Feminism

I’d like to share something with the women (and men) who visit this page. It’s something that I know everyone else experiences. And it makes my blood boil.

I’m friends with mostly guys. And they have a lot to learn in the sexism and equality department, even though they honestly think themselves to be totally respectful of women. They all know I consider myself a feminist, but they can’t get through their skulls that men can be feminists as well. One of them has actually stated that men cannot be feminists and he thinks feminists are too extreme. I feel like if I regulated his testicles and gave him a 20% pay cut, he’d probably be just as militant as he thinks we are. But that’s a story for another time.

Two nights ago I sat on the couch in their apartment watching TV, and one of them cracked a joke about how women can’t drive. Even though I was sitting on the couch right in front of them. And they laughed and laughed. So I looked at them stoically and said quite plainly, “It’s not funny.”

So he has the audacity to say, “Allix, you know that we make these jokes in front of you because we’re comfortable and because we know you’re okay with it-”

I honestly didn’t hear anything else that he said. And I don’t think that I even gave them a chance to say anything else because I almost immediately responded, “But that’s the thing. You think I’m okay with it because I don’t go off on you and I don’t yell and scream. But in reality, I’m over here cataloging every sexist thing you say for future reference, and plotting my revenge. Because it’s not okay.”

feminism carThey stared at me, speechless, until one of them gave a nervous laugh and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you did it by running us over with a car?” And yes, that’s exactly what I wanted to do, but that’s beside the point.

I didn’t say everything that needed to be said. I didn’t tell them that the reason they see feminists as militant is because we get angry from not being heard and lose our minds when people talk down to us for finally getting fed up with it. We aren’t militant; we’re just angry and tired of not getting what we deserve. When my best friend told me that he’s all about women’s rights, I didn’t pull out every sexist joke he’s ever made, even though I should have. Because if we don’t tell them that what they say is not okay, the media will tell them that it is. They’ll never know what it really means to be feminist. I didn’t say any of that and I’m angry at myself for it.

I didn’t get through to them like I did my freshman year of college. I offered to carry some boxes to the car and they looked shocked and insulted.

laymah gbowee

“What?”

“Oh my god, Allix. Why would you even ask that?”

“If you really want to help you can go make me a sandwich.”

After that comment I completely lost all self-control: “Don’t you ever – EVER – tell me to go make you a fucking sandwich, ever again. Do you hear me? I will never make you a fucking sandwich. Now get the hell out of my face.” Not quite as eloquent as I would have liked, but it was somewhat effective. Later, he tried to brush it off and act like he didn’t remember. I proceeded to walk away and wouldn’t speak to him, which I suppose conveyed the message and he finally apologized. After that, he never told me to make him a sandwich again. He treated me with nothing but respect and never made another comment. But it doesn’t say much about a guy when they treat the girl they care about with respect and still make comments about the others.

I actually got through that day. And I think it was because I actually allowed myself to get angry. Now I try to approach things in a more peaceful and quiet manner, but it doesn’t work. You can’t just be the quiet type of loud. You can’t sit around and hope your good equality vibes will seep into the people around you. When you’re confronted with that kind of situation, you have to say something. And you have to be firm about it.

One of my biggest problems is that some men say they’re all about women’s rights, but label feminism as negative. I think that it has something to do with our strength posing a threat to their masculinity. They only want us to be equal if that equality doesn’t fall all the way across the board. They’ll say that they think women should be equal, but they still joke that we can’t drive. And if we get angry, then we must be on our period, and if we’re upset, it’s just because of our uterus.

I Need Feminism BecauseSo I’m just going to come out and say no.

If I’m angry, it’s because I’m angry. If I’m upset, it’s because I’m upset. Do not assume that my feelings stem from my being a woman. I have feelings because I’m a human being and I have the absolute right and obligation to feel angry for not being treated as such. And don’t respect some women but make comments about others. You’re not a man for saying it was a girl’s fault that she got raped, and you aren’t for women’s rights if you’re just supporting equal pay.

That’s why we need feminism. Because it’s about more than equal pay and paid maternity leave and rape culture. It’s the social stigmas, the shitty remarks, the little things that keep perpetuating a misogynistic culture. Because those things float under the radar and no one notices them until you get angry and actually mention it.

So we should start mentioning it. Because we aren’t okay with it.

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