Owning my Space.
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
Flashback to last week, I had a visit from someone very dear to me. During our conversation, this person decided to give me the opinion that I often ‘go too far’ with my messages and intentions in my writings, and people can often perceive me as ‘over the top’. I was cautioned that I needed to be careful in my delivery with my content, as women can be viewed as merely ‘whinging’ within these contexts; and as a result, the messages can be lost.
I was outraged. This discussion extended to a very heated argument that resulted in a very clear division that involved two sides; a very defensive side, and a very angry and offended side.
It baffled me that there were even sides to this argument though. Two other men, who are very dear to me, sat during this discussion with no remarks. I have amazing male figures in my life, three of the most significant ones were these men mentioned during this argument, and none of them decided to challenge any of the misogynist opinions being thrown around. My mother was the only one that came to my defence; a woman who has taught me to own my own voice. And although these men did not involve themselves with this discussion; their silence was just as impactful as the accusations.
The same goes within society when people, particularly men, choose silence over discussion. There is such a problem with men and women who would prefer to avoid an awkward interaction with another person than to challenge a backward, limited and destructive view. We must begin to address this issue. Society needs to start calling these toxic opinions and values for what they are; values that are nothing more than backwards, harmful and misogynistic.
If you hear something or see something, call it for what it is. Within this context, I often feel men have even more of a responsibility than women to tackle this situation and issue within our society. Men are the main perpetrators and instigators of these continual backwards, misogynist views and values.
When reviewing this piece before publishing, I was told by many people not to call out men in such a personal and attacking way. I was told that men would become defensive and as a result, the message would be further lost. But if we do not call it out for what it is, how are we ever going to hold people accountable and change this serious and prevalent issue? Men, and in the context of my experience, white cis-men, hold the highest privilege of all; so, I will not alter my arguments for the sake of pleasing a group of privileged people. So, let me reiterate my statement- not all men are the perpetrators of these misogynist views and values, but men are the main instigators in cultivating these attitudes and instilling these values within societies throughout the world.
Within this heated discussion, this person was quick to reiterate that what he meant by casting his opinion towards me, was that I should be aware that society perceives women this way, and that I should ‘be careful’ with how I deliver myself as a result of these perceptions. I was told ‘constructively’, that if I wanted to get my point across effectively, I must be aware that I am often perceived as nothing more than ‘whinging’. To back his point, he stated that many people had contacted him to tell him I have been perceived in such a way. What outraged me was that this person didn’t think to flip the perspective and challenge these perceptions. That instead of casting these limited opinions onto me, he should have challenged these initial thoughts and called it for what it is; misogynist bullshit. And if these accusations of others who were connecting with him to tell him about my ‘whinging’ tendencies were, in fact, true; why was he not challenging these people?
Misogynistic gender stereotypes have led to serious biased and sexist evaluations of men and women; particularly on the emotional perception of both genders. Through such categorisations and socially constructed limitations, women’s opinions are often seen as less valid to one of a man’s. Women can be viewed as opinionated, rather than educated. Thus, when given a space to speak, women are seen as whinging rather than just seen as expressing their learnt knowledge. These gender stereotypes are not limited to women, however, and have also led to divisive attitudes amongst men, that have created the unrealistic expectations of how a man should express one self. Toxic male qualities have created fear in men to speak out against these oppressing issues which have led to the preference of silence over discussion. And this is not okay.
We see values thrown around where women are considered emotional in situations, while men are viewed passionate. But let me tell you one thing; women may be considered fragile, but I have never seen anything as easily effected than that of a man’s ego.
Why limit me, when society is the one that is limited to these views? Why try and reconstruct the way that I am to fit a limited and narrow perspective? There is no doubt in my mind that this man who sparked this debate, is not a sexist male that holds misogynist values; it wouldn’t be fair to label him as such, as he cannot defend himself within this piece. But what I can say through this experience, is that he, like many other men within society, are comfortable with the current values within society and become uncomfortable with anything that interferes with it or may challenge that.
This accustomed comfort comes from nothing more than unawareness and a lack of experiencing any setbacks of any socially constructed predispositions within society; something a majority of white cis-men have the privilege of never experiencing. I can only imagine that these responses and limited views towards me are formed out of an uncomfortableness because I speak a truth that contradicts the life these men are living.
I am also fully aware that this article is focused entirely from a ‘white feminist’ perspective; given my example used. But without these discussions and bringing awareness to the idea that we should be calling out sexism for what it is; how can we ever begin to recognise and address the broader, more serious and detrimental impacts of sexism and gender inequality? If men can’t even begin to recognise the inequality projected through these opinions and values towards ONE woman, who is simply sharing her knowledge of world issues; then how is it ever possible to address the larger and more serious issues that affect other societies?
Countless times I have been humiliated by people as a result of this, and every time, it’s behind my back where I am unable to defend myself. A majority of the time, it is men who have been behind this humiliation. Men, who I can only assume, are uncomfortable with what I’m bringing forward; otherwise, why would they feel the need to do it in an environment where I am unable to defend myself?
This reminds me of an anonymous quote that reads: “to those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. Through what can be considered as such a ‘privileged’ issue to be addressing in the face of many other genders and societal issues around the world, it can then only be viewed as unbelievably outrageous that these basic discussions still need to even be addressed.
Ultimately, women don’t owe men anything. I don’t owe anyone an explanation into my writings, and I will not tailor them to fit into society’s standards into how a woman should act and be perceived. I will not alter my stance and arguments, so the perception of me fits comfortably for men to handle and tolerate. I was not put on this earth to please men and fit into their comfortably and socially constructed definitions; so that they can continue to dominate and control. Nor should any other woman be put in this position and feel the need to silence herself for these backward reasons. A woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be.
I am fine with not being tolerated. I am okay with myself and who I am. What I am NOT okay with, is men telling me how they would prefer to tolerate me and what I can change to fit that. I write because it’s my passion. I do not write to please men. I write to fight these stigmas and address these ridiculous backward perceptions, so we can start to address broader, more serious issues that are affecting people and their fundamental human rights. I write because I am not fragile in myself and my stance within society.
Let’s cut the bullshit and call out sexist opinions and values when we see it. Stuff fragile masculinity and stand up for women, so we can begin to address and focus on the more significant issues relating to gender inequality within this world.
These limitations start with us. However, these destructive constructions can also end with us.
(I’ll stop my whinging now!)