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

One of “Those” Girls

Guest post by Sid

Take my wife…please!

I watched a fair amount of TV growing up—much more than I do even now (I also played outside more than I do now and read more than I do now, so I assume there were simply more hours in the day back then). When I was old enough to stay home alone—during the summer in particular—I would watch whatever I could find on TV while I baked or ate lunch or figured out which book I would read that afternoon. It was at this time that I discovered the channels with stand-up comedians on the air, back-to-back, all day long. And I watched them. I watched them all. Well-known or not, dozens of them came across the screen, often in sets of three on something like Premium Blend.

Often, the shows would repeat, so I’d see them a couple times, and over time I came to notice that several of the male comedians had a common theme—they complained about women. A lot. Women did this, and women did that, and doncha hate it when a woman does this? “Oh,” I thought to myself at the time. “This is like…a guide. This is stuff I shouldn’t do.” And that was the first time—but not the last—that I would think to myself, “Well, I don’t want to be one of those girls.”

One of those girls. At—charitably—twelve, I didn’t want to be like the loser wimpy girls who love shoes and shopping and pink and ribbons…because those girls were annoying. Those girls were troublesome. To men. They were annoying to men. And at twelve, I didn’t really have the capacity to understand that these people on stage were not representatives for all men everywhere. My house consisted of my mom, my dad, and me—I didn’t have brothers and I didn’t have a reliable way to gauge what these comedians were saying against the real world, so as far as I knew, these were important tips that I needed to remember for when I was old enough for them to matter.

I ended up internalizing a lot of it, and at this point I don’t like shopping because…I really don’t like shopping. I can’t stand the crowds, trying a bunch of stuff on is exhausting…plenty of reasons that have nothing to do with some random jackass comedian I saw when I was twelve. But that’s still where a lot of it started. Once I started dating, I had this list of things in my mind that I couldn’t be or shouldn’t be. And like I said, now I simply am who I am, all preconceptions be damned, but I still think it’s interesting to examine how I got here. I didn’t want to be one of those girls. (To be completely honest, I still hate pink, but for no really identifiable reason. This one might be a remnant from the time I’m talking about because nothing about the color is inherently offensive to me, but my avoidance of it borders on compulsion.)

I have a friend who is vehemently against people who say they aren’t one of those feminists. Pushing yourself away from the word and the cause behind it, she posits, only serves to weaken the base of feminism and what it represents rather than strengthen that base. I think she has a very good point, but I have been guilty on more than one occasion of hesitating to use the word “feminist” to describe myself. The word holds such a stigma—and while I agree that “fuck stigma, feminism is not a bad word,” I know that more than once I’ve tried to set up a barrier between myself and the word “feminism” specifically because I wanted my audience to take my point at face value, not filter it through an “oh, she’s just talking about girl stuff” lens.

Is that wrong? Or is it just tactical? I’m honestly not sure, and if it leaves me open to criticism then I’ll take it. Either way, though, the fact that I feel like I have to frame my words for anyone to hear them is part of the problem—if not the crux.

My roommate has a theory that the problem with the words “feminist” and “feminism” are the “–ist” and “–ism” suffixes. In our vernacular, he suggests, that suffix is almost exclusively associated with negative things or forms of supremacy. “Racist” and “supremacist,” specifically. In this way, the word itself is actually damaging to the cause, because the word itself provokes defensiveness. This is a fascinating approach, and while I don’t exactly agree with it (especially after a quick Google search that immediately disproves the “most –ist words are negative” part of the theory), at the very least, it’s an interesting thought experiment—would we have a better reaction if we called feminism something else? Would it be easier to talk with people and explain simple ideas? Would we be less likely to have our points dismissed as “girl stuff” or “angry stuff”?

One way or another, though, separating ourselves from other women for the sake of looking better to men only hurts us. It shows the kind of men who would try to bully us out of our autonomy and into fantasy roles that this is an excellent plan. That if they continue, they will get the results they are after, because look, this girl totally agrees with us.

When I was in my early twenties back in my hometown, I was talking with a high school friend of mine. He was getting into venture capital and telling me, along with two other guys, that their firm had one really hard and fast rule—they would not deal with female business owners. “Women are crazy,” he explained in the same tone of voice you might use to explain that grass is green and fire is hot. Naturally, I had an immediate and loud reaction to this.

“Yeah, they are! I know exactly what you mean.”

Sigh..

Because I wasn’t one of those girls, remember? I was cooler than that. I got him because I was awesome. Or because my self-esteem was in a shape at the time that I couldn’t really argue, because then I wouldn’t be as cool (and he might think I was one of those girls after all).

This conversation stands out in my mind not even because it was the first time I’d said something like this, but because I remember feeling a strong, “Are you serious?” reaction underneath my verbal reaction, and that was new. Even while I was agreeing with him, I was suddenly very certain that I did not want to be around him. This may have been the last time I saw him.

I don’t think my high school friend was trying to bully me or anyone out of autonomy—truth be told, I’d bet a small fortune that he was only parroting what someone at his job had espoused—but he was, intentionally or not, supporting the kind of attitude that breeds this bully behavior by placing the central tenet on a pedestal: women are less. From there, it’s a simple jump to assuming they should behave as you wish. Because they are less than you.

By separating yourself (as not one of those girls), what you’re really saying is, “But I’m not less,” when what you perhaps ought to be saying is that none of us are less.

One of those girls, one of those feminists, one of those anything—no one identifies themselves that way. So whoever you are and whatever you represent, remember that separating yourself from a group may be a quick method of self-defense, but focusing on the group as a whole—and pointing out that no one is less—is the only way to make any lasting progress.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.

15 responses

  1. Pingback: Article Index | See Sid Write

  2. Sid will be here soon to respond to all your comments. Thanks for reading, everyone!

    November 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm

  3. Thank you, Sid! I’ve been writing and avoiding the use of the words feminist and patriarchy to distance myself from those women. Those feminists. And I don’t even think that they exist-I wrote a piece on the Angry Feminist and how it’s a boogeyman used to silence other feminists or to ask them to reframe their dialogue in a nicer way so as to not intimidate their male allies.

    Because God forbid you offend a potential ally. Even if that means explaining over and over again that yes, the Patriarchy hurts everyone, yes, you’re against sexist portrayals of men, and yes, you are being fully rational. It’s draining.

    I loved your last paragraph: spot on.
    “One of those girls, one of those feminists, one of those anything—no one identifies themselves that way. So whoever you are and whatever you represent, remember that separating yourself from a group may be a quick method of self-defense, but focusing on the group as a whole—and pointing out that no one is less—is the only way to make any lasting progress.”

    May I reblog this?

    November 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    • You may! Always. :)

      November 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    • Sid

      Angry Feminist as a boogeyman (boogeywoman?) is super interesting to me because it is definitely used to silence. “You don’t want to be like *this,* do you? No one will take you seriously.”

      Also, the more often that boogeyman is brought out of the closet and touted around, the easier it is to point at and insist that anyone with opinions must prove themselves to not be THAT. And frankly, at the point where we must prove that we have a right to speak on a topic, something in the system is broken.

      Thanks so much for your interest and kind words.

      November 20, 2012 at 4:57 am

      • “You don’t want to be like *this,* do you? No one will take you seriously.”

        I think that this can partly be defused if, when we are asked, “You aren’t some kind of feminist, are you?” we reply, “Of course I am.” Just casually, like it’s obvious. Like, why wouldn’t you be? It’s a normal thing to be.

        (I used to very much agree with the friend you quoted, about its being people’s responsibility to identify as feminist, but having read more about (and witnessed myself) some of feminism’s uglier, racist and transphobic side, I can totally understand why women of colour and/or trans women might hesitate to jump into that pool. But this is coming at it from the opposite angle from those who don’t want to identify with feminism because people might think they’re–ew!–politically conscious or something. My suggestion above was not a prescription for people who have these kinds of hesitations about feminism, just for those of us who want to be able to say, “Fuck yeah I’m a feminist!” and for it not to be a whole Thing.)

        November 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

  4. I’d like to add that boys internalize this kind of comedy as well. It’s just one facet in a larger world of … I don’t want to say sexism exactly … intergender malevolence.

    There’s a kind of frat boy view of gender relations that completely objectifies women and articulates a completely destructive view of masculinity as well. Self destructive and other destructive. And there is a reciprocating corollary, the “comic” view that men are dumb lunks, thinly civilized barbarians who pass the time by grunting and crush tin cans. Beer commercial comedy. Male and female comics both take these cheap laughs because comedy is a business. Buy low, sell high.

    Comics are supposed to be the truth-tellers, the court jesters telling the hard truths that no one else dares to speak. But even the best of our court jesters are humans like the rest of us. They are as influenced by stereotypes and broken by this malevolent view of the other sex as something less than human as all the rest of us. Even the best comedy, then, is going to be telling flawed truths. How much more flawed is the rest of the business.

    And its unfortunate because comedy has such a wonderful shortcut past the conscious filtering of data. “It’s only a joke,” the conscious mind says, and lets the data pass into the rest of the brain. Which promptly takes it all very seriously, at face value. A mere chuckle can be a virus that brings down the whole organism, infecting it with bad ideas.

    So, thank you, Sid for speaking up. It’s an important point. I don’t know what can be done about it, because we love to laugh, and laughter is a healing thing too. And it’s also true that something can be very, very wrong and very, very funny.

    November 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    • Sid

      Very well said. I hadn’t intended to speak to comics on the larger scale, but you make a really good point, bluejack. These images are destrucitve to both genders and can let a lot of exaggerated perceptions of male and female seep into our overall experience.

      And it’s definitely true that something can be both funny and wrong at the same time.

      November 20, 2012 at 4:57 am

    • “And there is a reciprocating corollary, the “comic” view that men are dumb lunks, thinly civilized barbarians who pass the time by grunting and crush tin cans. Beer commercial comedy.”

      This is what I don’t get–misogynists are also the biggest men-haters out there. I believe that men are not innately useless at social interaction, that they can be trusted to look after their kids and not live in a pile of filth, and that they aren’t uncontrollably compelled to rape people, and yet *I* get called a misandrist (whatever that is)?

      November 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

  5. Wow. That part about the comedians and desperately not wanting to be one of “those” girls reads almost exactly like what happened to me at that age. Any time I’d hear my parents complain about women behaving badly, I would internalize. Any time I’d hear a comedian cracking a joke about “crazy” women, I’d internalize. Any time a woman in a movie, television show, or book acted in an over-emotional, needy way–I’d internalize. I was an only child, and an extremely isolated one at that. I was brought up to be terrified of men, either that they would hurt me; or worse, that I would offend them by acting like one of “those” girls and then I would *deserve* it if they hurt me. It’s taken me years to get over those feelings. It doesn’t help that I’m so dissimilar to most women I know that I have literally no girlfriends; and haven’t for years. Everything about my life has been centered around rejecting strong emotions, rejecting “feminine” things, playing it cool, ignoring my inner self, and essentially trying to be a man. And all in an effort to blend in, to survive, to not be hurt. To not be rejected.

    At 24, I am finally, just finally coming out of this shell I have spent years unconsciously building. I have finally begun to realize–thanks in no small part to this blog and others–that I am OK. Being not cool with certain things is OK. Being frustrated or emotional is OK. Being outspoken is OK. I do not have to be someone or something I’m not. No one does. I am no longer beholden to what I imagined other people want. I am a woman, and there’s nothing wrong with that…or with me. I don’t have to hate myself or others anymore. I am free.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    • Sid

      Thank you, mandaray, for your beautiful comment. I’m an only child myself, so I can relate. I spent a lot of time being convinced that strong emotions were terrible–but I still had them! But I wasn’t supposed to have them! And I would essentially sort of spiral down into a panic attack because of the conflict. Only recently have I been able to get that under control and just let myself *feel* things and *say* things. That kind of freedom takes work. Good on you for putting it in.

      November 20, 2012 at 4:56 am

  6. Good to see another guest blog from Sid, and on a subject that totally resonates with my own experience a couple of generations earlier.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    • Sid

      Thanks for the kind words, Bridget.

      November 20, 2012 at 4:58 am

  7. This is so wonderful. Thank you!

    November 16, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    • Sid

      Thank you! :)

      November 20, 2012 at 4:58 am

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