Resisters, I’m assuming you’re like me: you struggle to balance the daily work of rabble-rousing in support of a vastly improved universe with the work of lustily enjoying life’s many richnesses.
It’s important to do some good in the world, but not to get so dour and puffed up about it that you become a complete asshole, you know? People like us are always running into people who are too far on one side or the other, and they always irk me, as they probably irk you.
Shallow hedonists who only care about prettiness and fun—I know a few. But I know many more committed, devoted activists who are so dedicated to their causes and so self-righteous about them, that they turn off everyone they know. Usually these people walk around puffed up to the sky with their supposedly giant brains and are ready at every turn to insultingly point out all they have done for this community/group/collective/revolution. Not being good at the “live and let live” thing, I can’t seem to stop getting into altercations with these people. This pains me, because, certain posts on this very blog notwithstanding, I am not a giant asshole. But when I meet people whose egos are so inflated that they can’t help but insult everyone they know every time they open their mouths, something snaps in me.
I’ve been having a horrible round of emails with one such person this week. I keep trying to end it, but he keeps writing back with a new batch of shite that is so incendiary and mindbogglingly ridic that I keep on taking the bait and responding. My justification for wasting my time is what it always is, the same as that one time, and so many other times: people like this live in a bubble, because everyone always lets them off the hook. People say “Oh, that’s just Steve [just to pick a random name, of course]. Just ignore it. Yes, his attitude is horrible. But he gets good work done!”
Not to get all self-righteous on you, but I decided long ago never to let people off the hook. I decided—and it was a bad decision, I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t—to be the one person who won’t ignore assholes who also happen to do good progressive work.
One time it worked. In the fight I talk about in that link above, the friend did apologize to me one year later. We subsequently got into more fights that have since further damaged what little friendship was left, but whenever I tell people who know him the story (don’t get into a fight with me, I will talk about it to everyone, OK? I’m not even going to pretend I won’t.) and tell them he apologized, they are amazed—he never apologizes. I made some headway. We both changed a little. It was a damaging, horrible fight, but we are different as a result of it.
But that was three years ago, and now I’ve got this thing with a guy we’re calling Steve. What is comes down to—have you guessed it already? I’m sure you have—is feminism. These guys—it’s always guys, I’m sure you had figured that one out— pretend that their giantly patriarchal egos are just fine because they “tell it like it is,” and because it’s all supposedly in the service of progressive work. They all have the exact same egotistical, stultifying tone of voice—a tone that says: “this is the way it is, and if you don’t like it, it’s because you don’t like what I’m saying, and are throwing around your stupid little terms like “patriarchal” because you don’t want to talk about the real issue: you’re wrong and I’m right.” My point is that the medium is the message, fuckers, and I’m trying to point out that the reason everyone says you’re a giant asshole behind your back is because you refuse to understand that your entire way of communicating has been shaped by a patriarchal universe that you….
Oh it’s getting so tiring already, isn’t it?
At this point I would love to copy and paste some hilarious comments from this so-called Steve to back up my points, but I don’t want to email him to get his permission to do so and I know he will read this post [fun fact: my blog has spies!] so I don’t want to go behind his back, so:
[insert awesome feminist takedown of a leftist dude's amazingly insulting all-knowing attitude here].
I will copy only my most favorite response to him:
Me calling you an “alpha male” had nothing to do with whether or not you championed [a woman for something. He had also argued that he couldn't possibly be the sort of patriarchal guy I was accusing him of being because he is the primary caregiver for his kids!!! The mind reels!]. That you have such a simplistic notion of gender relations that you don’t even realize that saying things like that is the equivalent of saying “I have lots of black friends” to prove you aren’t a racist is simultaneously mind-blowing but, sadly, also not surprising. It’s amazing that so many men on the left have absolutely no understanding of the basic tenants of feminism, and are utterly unashamed about that. Of course there is a way to be pro active without being, well, an asshole, and to pretend that in order to get anything done or be active in any way you have to treat people the way I have consistently seen you treat people is ridiculous beyond belief.
Now let’s move on to the real issue: should I even be wasting my time? My mom, who stands outside Chicago department stores in all kinds of weather handing out cards about how fur is made to people wearing fur, would say that I’m “planting a seed” and that one day those fur-wearers and my fight dudes will wake up and the seed will have sprouted and the world will move a little more toward perfection. I can’t decide. It sure does take up a lot of my time, and it riles me up to a horrible degree and makes my stomach hurt when I think about checking my email. These stupid fights literally hurt me, but I love the idea of doing the little bits of dirty work that other, more noble and upstanding members of the community feel is below them.
I love the idea that no one tells these guys that the reason they are so annoying is because they don’t understand feminism. It makes them so angry! They will reel off all the women they have worked with and supported while completely missing the point: feminism isn’t about simply working with women. It’s about power structures.
We could power all of upstate New York with the explosive anger of unfeminist dudes being told they need feminism to continue their work. But is it stealing power from me, power I need for chocolate and my own lefty projects?