Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Waiting For Permission: Feminist Frontiers for the Straight, Single, Person of Privilege
Emma Sklar 6/8/2016
I am straight, white, and single. I have a college degree from a nice school and I don’t have any kids. There are no abusive men in my life or even in my past. I have a full time job and access to healthcare. I have had an experience or two in which there was no legal consent, but nothing bordering on assault. I’m fine and we don’t need to talk about it, I just can’t ever drink picklebacks or go out with men from South Africa again but needless to say I can only imagine how scary it is when “a little sleazy and very stupid” crosses the line into “entitled, violent and completely evil”. This is what privilege looks like. I have to remember that.
My Feminism is about reducing violence against women everywhere first and foremost, about restoring female power by ensuring that men are not allowed to stay in positions that give them the right to make decisions for women, and to work against any dynamic which puts women at a disadvantage as a rule. Sometimes this means giving time and money to causes which seek to reduce all instances of women being dependent on men by necessity. Mostly, it means never apologizing to or backing down from patriarchal constructs which aim to demean and immobilize me. Recently, I have had to come to hard terms with the fact that my own behavior not only enables the male gaze, but is easily manipulated by it. Below are my thoughts on this. This is long, but important, and I hope it can reach anyone who feels pressure to act a certain way in the name of finding a mate. Male or female, this behavior hinders progress towards equality.
For deeply rooted cultural reasons women feel compelled to wait for permission, wait to be chosen, and wait to feel fulfilled until this happens. I have to work against this feeling every single time I meet someone I might like. My first instinct is to wait until he expresses interest. I happen to have a variety of hang-ups which make me more prone to walk away than express interest, some of which have to do with terrible outcomes in the past, but I’ve tried to make a promise to myself that If I want something to progress I have to be willing to be the one who drives things forward in a direct way. No coy games. No manipulation or complicated series of hints. Just “hey I like you and I think we should go out.” or even just “hey I think we should have sex”. Right now we’re all afraid of rejection, but women fear passive rejection later in the process while men feel direct rejection out front. If things even out that fear will lose power.
We’re all responsible for this dynamic in which Women have to wait. This dynamic means body image and self-esteem issues, the normalization of objectification, drinking a lot to seem more approachable, and a general lack of emphasis on nurturing one’s own interests. This dynamic means the enabling of rape culture and violence against women; it means a lifetime of suffering at the hands of the question “You want to be wanted, don’t you?”. It means we are not truly free to participate in genuine reciprocal love, which is really one of the only nice things that humans do.
What’s dangerous is that women still willingly conform to what they believe will make them seem docile, beautiful, fun, and sexy while a lot of men are free to sit on their dicks and feel entitled to judge women’s bodies and brag about bagging 10s.I don’t want to diminish the reality of male insecurity, I have too many lovely male friends who I know suffer just as much as they try to navigate the expectations and limitations of masculinity. Then again, I know otherwise reasonable men who still operate on a 10 point scale when talking about women as if this weren’t completely repulsive. We’re all responsible for this reality and it needs to change.
Regardless of how anything actually works out in the real world (nuance, gender fluidity, all sorts of fun and wonderful things), women are vilified for wanting commitment. Women are blamed for their own loneliness under the assumption that they have scared away all potential mates by being too aggressive, or too slovenly, or not maternal enough, or not fun enough, or somehow not up to the enormous task of bringing fulfillment to a man’s life and showing him his true potential. And the list goes on. I’m not going to belabor this point. We already know that this is a problem. Men are blamed for being the ones who blame the women; but what I’m trying to get across is that is really isn’t the fault of ANYONE who is actually out here in the world trying to make this work. It’s a darker driving force that we all need to address, the Media, and Universities and the Government, and anyone who has something to gain from our malcontent. The fact is just that men have been in control of all of these more recently, deeper into history, and for a very long time.
The Government is controlled mostly by wealthy, Christian men who do not care that not having access to birth control and abortion and education about healthy relationships is basically a sentence to a life of struggle and violence for a woman born into poverty. Our Universities do not care that rape and the brutal degradation of women is still considered a rite of passage for entitled men (be it entitled by wealth or sports status). These are actual issues, the evidence of which rolls in daily. Fixing this starts with fixing the extent to which women are willing to go out of their way to be appealing to men. It is simple, and it is something that we can all do. Men can second guess where their preferences come from, and women can refuse to oblige any request made by a man that does not contribute to their own enjoyment of life. It can be fixed, but unfortunately, it isn’t up to activists and lawmakers. It is up to every one of us.