A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

One Year, Three Things, and a Homecoming

Occupy Seattle, Day 1

A year ago this month (October 4, 2011) I was among about 300 people who showed up to occupy Westlake Center in Seattle. That night I was among the 40 or so who resolved to consummate our occupation by camping overnight there on the concrete, some of us with only a thin blanket dropped off by a local mission. I had my tent and sleeping bag and a sense that I was about to become a part of something big. For the next several days I spent every waking hour and several largely sleepless nights at Westlake doing my part, and after about a week I came home and collapsed for the next two. I had learned a lot about myself and about how and where I fit into the solution. And part of that was learning how hard it can be for a woman’s voice to be heard among men.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the second among three ways I would learn this lesson in a single year. Strange when you think that I’d lived 46 years previously without really giving it much thought.

“Women speak less when outnumbered.”

The setting for my first classroom that year–last year, 2011–was my job. After fifteen-or-so years I’d made my way back into management and was fairly happy leading a team of writers who seemed to like having me for their boss. One of the reasons for that was that I fought for them (in conference rooms where I was usually the only woman), which meant that I sometimes showed emotion. This is not to say that I yelled or cried or anything like that–only that if you were in the room, it was apparent that I felt passionately about my team and our work and how it was presented…and if I disagreed, I said so, and if I didn’t like something, I said so, and no, I’m not shy and demure, and yes, my boss did make me a little weepy one time  when we were alone, I admit, BUT! When it became a “thing” that people didn’t want to “upset” me or felt they’d had “run ins” with me or whatever and I got put on official “emotion” notice, well then I realized that my problem was not (entirely) the level of emotion people were seeing from me. I looked at how these men reacted to me (vs. one another)–listened to the words they used to describe me or to explain to me why my personal style challenged them and it became clear that my biggest issue was that I was a woman in a company full of men who don’t know how to deal with a woman who hasn’t learned to “get along” in a male-dominated corporate environment. For that reason, among others, I gave up my job, and though I like and respect my former co-workers for the most part, I believe that I left behind a culture that is not particularly welcoming to women in leadership positions.

Lastly: Early this year I attended a writing conference as a professional. The panel seemed well-balanced, at first, which is sometimes a problem at this particular con (and many others), with two men and two women. Then it emerged that the other woman–the moderator–had to cancel, and at the behest of one of my co-panelists, I took over as mod. Now, I have been attending conventions as a professional for many years, and I have seen panelists take over the show and trample everyone else into the ground. This wasn’t like that. The same guy who nominated me for moderator proceeded to moderate the panel, talking over me, calling on members of the audience, encouraging participation from the other male at the table. He had decided at some point that I didn’t have anything to add, and he figured he’d man up and give the audience what they paid for, I suppose. He wasn’t a total asshole about it. He was just louder than I was. More aggressive. More forceful. And I wasn’t willing to be rude in front of an audience.

If you’ve ever been in a situation at all like this one, you know how long it takes for an hour to pass. I’m pretty sure I bit my tongue until it bled, and when I walked out I told my boyfriend, “I think I just became an Angry Feminist.”

It’s not that I think this guy was an outright misogynist. I don’t. I’d have to paint nearly everyone in that room with the same brush, because not one of them seemed to have a clue what I was going through. This guy probably thinks of himself as progressive. And that’s the problem. It’s the everyday misogyny that has become so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even notice it. Until we do, and then it’s like pregnant people or VW Beetles*: You can’t stop seeing it.

I don’t regret any of these experiences, and I’m grateful for them as a whole, because they helped bring me to the place I am today where I’ve decided that I really do have things to say and want people to hear my voice. I know that no one set out to silence me in any of the situations I described above. At my job, they just didn’t expect me to care about things that to them seemed trivial. On the panel, a guy asserted his dominance the way we’ve taught him he ought to. At Occupy, I stood surrounded by men and boys who had no concerns about whether their voices would be heard, and many talked over me while calling themselves progressive, but to their credit, some did listen when I said, “Hey, we don’t all speak so loudly or walk so tall, so listen for the quieter voices among you.”

MIC CHECK!

My homecoming was finding a voice I wasn’t afraid to use. That meant creating a persona and removing the personal and professional from the philosophical to some degree. But it also meant becoming more real than I have ever been before. And each of you have been a part of that process. You who read and comment and help me make sense of all the BS. I won’t always get it right, but damn, I’m enjoying the education.

Thank you.

Rosie

*I am not comparing pregnant people to VW Beetles. Not that it wouldn’t be apt in some cases. Like when I was pregnant.

13 responses

  1. Leah

    Absolutely right about the ingrained misogyny. I once posted a link about “etiquette for men at night” (so as not to make women think you are a rapist if you are just a man out walking at night) and so many of my male friends thought it was ridiculous. Of course you’d think it’s ridiculous if you’ve never had to fear being assaulted on the street for the “crime” of being a woman alone at night.

    You comment about “can’t unsee it” reminded me of this excellent comic from Sinfest: http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4051

    October 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    • Oh, that’s PERFECT! Thank you!

      I watched a video recently wherein men were asked what they do on a regular, daily basis to combat/prevent rape/sexual harassment. The men were like, “Um…”

      October 23, 2012 at 7:22 pm

  2. When I was in The Workplace it was called Playing the Game. Which meant kissing man ass, sucking up, shutting up , pleasing and appeasing — kind of the way marriage worked in those years for many of us, too. And all that for lesser pay and more intense work than the men did. I lasted many years until I started having dreams of my job being a place where I went to eat a plate full of shit every day. It’s in Art and the Internet where I’m hearing my voice.

    October 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    • Rosie

      Wow, your dream life doesn’t mess around, does it? I recently saw a post from a woman criticizing another woman for whining instead of being “passionate” enough to ignore the BS and let it roll off her back. I thought that was pretty damned sad on at least a couple of levels.

      Thanks for letting us hear your voice here.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm

  3. Pingback: First They Came for the Communists… « Make Me a Sammich

  4. I’ve always thought of feminism as being something like taking the red pill in The Matrix–once you know what’s going on, there’s no going back to your previous obliviousness. You have no choice but to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    • Yes! That’s the perfect analogy. Much better than pregnant people and VW Beetles. :)

      October 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

  5. Linz

    I agree that men label women as “emotional” when they express the same level of passion as a man who would just be labeled “enthusiastic” or “determined.” It’s like people of color who are labeled as “angry” just for standing up for themselves. It’s the perception of the men, or the white person, that is judging based on fear and prejudice that labels, and won’t accept when it is wrong.

    As I said to a friend last night, if feminist rage is good for me, I am so healthy lately.

    October 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    • Oh, me too! Healthy as a frakking horse. :)

      October 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm

  6. You’re absolutely right that a lot of the inequality of women’s voices just sort of passes under the radar until you notice it. Men learn ways of communicating that work well in all-male groups, but the system (and the communications) begin to break down as women enter the groups. We have a whole different way of communicating, both in all-female groups and in male-female interactions.

    The phenomenon is dozens of layers deep and will take a lot of smart women like you showing people how to notice it and what we might do about it. And because communication is between all parties, it will also take a lot of smart men to realize it’s time to do something different now.

    October 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    • Thanks. I think we just have to keep talking about it and hopefully we find our way to a solution together.

      October 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm

  7. changeforbetterme

    I’m glad you learned something about yourself and about the “Man/woman” thing in the work place and outside it. I too learned the hard way these same lessons. But we DID learn. Now we stand up for what we believe in and we lend a voice when we can. Now, with me, I’ve been called a feminist for many years. And for just as many or more years I’ve been labeled a bitch. Because I won’t back down from a debate. I was taught debating from a man who was a great one. I’m not near as good as him, but I get a label because I am a woman. So be it.

    Good for you for standing up for what you believe in and for trying so hard. I applaud you!

    October 12, 2012 at 4:12 am

    • Rosie

      And I you. Thanks so much. I get in a lot of trouble sometimes for being a lot like you describe yourself. High-fives and cheers and much love to you.

      October 12, 2012 at 4:16 am

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