“It was exhausting”

Via Feministing, KMA Sullivan writes a beautiful, provocative article about the nonsense she puts up with hanging around with male poets and writers. This bit, in particular, struck a chord:

This kind of crap went on and on. It was exhausting. Exhausting to figure out how to respond to the relentless misogyny from men who are otherwise kind and educated, who would never think of themselves as chauvinist assholes.

9 thoughts on ““It was exhausting”

  1. Another related feature I find exhausting is figuring out *if and when* to engage with a response, in addition to the energy it takes to think of an appropriate response.

    The worst of it often happens around deciding if and when when to confront or correct allies in some misbehaviour (especially since it often results in a backlash).

  2. Avoiding backlashing is something I work activity on, with, I’m sure, variable success.

    It’s easy to get defensive and for the defensiveness to trigger a spiral. So, I try to make my first move acceptance and reflection. Sometimes, it really is a misunderstanding, but I find that not going there does a better job than trying too hard to clear it up. Often enough, it’s a mis-step and the last thing I want to do is turn it into more than a mis-step.

    My experience is this works very well. So well that it pisses me off that it’s such an effort for me to do.

  3. I was a little disappointed by the recommendations that she hang around with different people. She wasn’t just hanging around— she was in that venue, with those men, for the purposes of her art and audience. Telling her to go elsewhere is no different from telling women philosophers or scientists that they need to work with a different group of people.

    It is often difficult to tell when being vocal and immediate is the right course, but I suggest that it’s probably not the right time when the offenders are drinking, and that holding our ground in an environment where we belong is more important than verbal challenges when the men are consciously or consciously excluding us as fellows and verbally pissing on the environment to claim it as a male domain.

  4. Wiley, one issue, especially in something like philosophy, is that a lot of the “extra curriculars” that are so important for one’s career happen in places like pubs where people drink, so I don’t think we should avoid confronting people just because they’re drinking. (Maybe this was just a pragmatic point, but maybe you could expand on what you meant. Why isn’t it the right time? When is the right time?)

    Also, this seems to implicitly exclude bad behaviour on the ground that “well, they had a couple glasses of wine.” I’m not necessarily saying that *you’re* saying this, but I’ve had a colleague use this to excuse another colleague’s bad behaviour…at an official department event, no less.

  5. I wasn’t excusing, just pointing out that the time to act is not necessarily limited to the time of the offense. Those extracurricular activities are part of many professions and pursuits. The “right time” should be determined by the woman who is having the experience and who wants to lobby on her behalf as well as for women. She is entitled to decide how and when she responds to displays of misogyny.

    Not challenging behavior at a particular time and place is not condoning it. Such men, in some situations, can benefit as much from being challenged by using it an excuse to critique her. I see no benefit in women piling on her and criticizing her as if solving the problems of misogyny and the commodification of women belonged to her, at all times. It’s men’s problem.

    Women, as feminists or not, should not have to take responsibility for men’s bad behavior whenever and wherever men feel like misbehaving. Continuing to take a place when efforts are being made to exclude you on the basis of your sex or gender is, in itself, pushing back.

    Surely, if another woman had challenged them, it would be fair for other women to back her up. But we don’t owe anyone a ceaseless campaign to modify men’s behavior on behalf of all other women, even at the expense of our own comfort and safety.

  6. Well, like I said, I wasn’t claiming that you were excusing behaviour. The worry was that saying that one ought not correct a guy when he’s drinking *might* be read as “Well, give him a break, he’s had a couple drinks,” which would be excusing.

    But now that you’ve expanded, I still don’t understand what you meant by “it’s probably not the right time when the offenders are drinking.” What does their drinking have to do with your later saying that one doesn’t have a duty to correct misbahaviour when it happens (which I agree with, by the way; however, I think that immediately correcting behaviour is often the most effective).

    My first comment, though, was related to your point that it’s not our job to correct people. Trying to figure out whether to even do it, I find, is often a huge headache and source of stress (since it happens *so* often, and it often results in being perceived as a bitch or someone without a sense of humour: both feminist negative caricatures/stereotypes).

  7. Drinking doesn’t make people more reasonable and often brings out the worst in them. Personally, when I want to have a serious talk with someone, I prefer that they have all their inhibitions intact.

Comments are closed.