Wednesday, 1 May 2013

An open letter to the one who 'just wants to learn' or "Why I am so Goddamn tired".

There's always one. Sometimes it's a troll getting kicks out of acting stupid. Sometimes it's a genuine request. But they're always there. And when the issue under debate is a feminist one, it's almost always a man. If you've been anywhere near a feminist discussion thread (or just about any other social issue debate for that matter), I'm willing to bet one of these guys has waded in. Oftentimes, they deliver their two cents' of barely literate 'wisdom' then, and here's the kicker, expect to get a dollar's worth (or local currency of your choice) of knowledge from anyone foolish enough to argue with them. They usually adopt the position that you're the one 'being argumentative' (read: disagreeing with them) so you'd just better explain yourself.

I'm talking to you, now. You, those people who do this over and over again, whenever a woman has the temerity to be offended by something outside your white/male/cis/thin/hetero/other-privileged sphere of experience. You want us to explain ourselves, well listen up.

What you don't seem to realise is that we women, on the whole, don't love this. We don't enjoy being treated as second class citizens. We're not looking for excuses to mouth off about how oppressed we are. We don't get up in the morning, stretch, sharpen the castration shears and head out looking for fights to pick. Of course, some might, but not me and not any woman I know.

On the whole, we're just tired.

We're emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted with the whole thing: the stupid, unthinking misogyny and the calculated viciousness; the rape jokes; the victim-blaming and slut-shaming; the derision, the degradation, the objectification; the pressure to conform to a type of beauty chosen, marketed and demanded by men but absorbed by just about everyone and the vilification if we decide to resist.

Most of all, I'm tired of explaining.

"What is rape culture?"
"How am I victim-blaming?"
"What do you expect?"
"Why is it okay for women to feel that way, but not for men?"
One I had flung at me just today, not for the first time, "It's hard to believe people can be so passionate about something and yet so unwilling to explain or discuss why they have said opinion(s)."

And the clarion call of your type, "Come on, then, educate me!"

Educate yourself. I'm tired.

I admit that some feminist issues are difficult to get your head around, to say the least. I only became familiar with a lot of the terminology recently myself and, guess what, I still make a lot of mistakes. I used to use 'rape' to talk about losing a video game. I used to use words like 'lame' and 'retarded' and 'slut'. And you know what else? Sometimes I slip up and catch myself using one of them again. But I'm trying. I'm trying not to hurt or threaten anyone else by what I say or do.

So, why won't I educate you? A number of reasons.

1. It's not my job to turn you into a decent human being.

2. When you ask this question on a comments thread, what you're asking me for is the cliff notes of an issue that rules my life and the lives of just over half the world's population, that keeps me awake at night, that gives me panic attacks, that makes me fear for the lives of friends when we split up to go home after a night out. I can't reduce a lifetime of experience to 140 characters and I shouldn't be expected to do so for your convenience.

I believe I speak for most of my feminist friends (and if you are a feminist who disagrees with me, feel free to call me on it) when I say that, if you come to us saying, "I was doing some reading about rape culture but I still don't think I fully understand this part...", we will try to make it clearer for you because we want you to understand, so long as you're prepared to do your share of the work. But most of us do not want to hold your hand from the get go. We have shit to do! I'll repeat this one more time: it is not our job to make you into a decent human being.

I don't mean to discourage anyone from trying to learn, quite the reverse. But if I point you to an article that's already been written, do the courteous thing and read it and try to understand what it says and why I sent you there. A phrase I keep hearing today is that "it is the duty of the informed to educate the uninformed". I actually agree with that. I don't expect men to know exactly what my experiences of being a woman are without ever being told and I'm not trying to say we never need to explain why we feel the way we do. If no one did that, no one would ever understand anyone else at all. The point is, we've tried. We publish justifications and explanations every day. The people this post is addressing don't care about that. They won't read the blogs or the articles or the books. They won't listen open-mindedly to the debates. If you really want to understand, if you really want to avoid causing offence and have others feel safe and comfortable in your company, you need to do your homework.

The internet is full of blogs like this, many of them probably more articulate and most of them more frequently updated. You could do a lot worse than starting with our list of recommended blogs, which you'll find on the right hand side of this page. There are articles all over the place. Once you start clicking a few links, you'll get some idea of how deep the rabbit hole goes. There are even books, remember those? Don't worry, you can always get the electronic versions if you suffer from pixel withdrawal.

Basically, the information is there, ready and waiting for you. It only needs a little application.

The discrimination faced by women for no better reason than that we are women is naturally a tense subject. People tend to get angry when they're dehumanised and demonised. That is why things can get a little heated when you complain that we don't jump at the thankless job of tutoring you in manners and sensitivity.

Basically, we are so Goddamn tired.

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