One of the most difficult parts of being a feminist is fighting for feminism in my real, everyday life. It is easy to be an armchair feminist, a digital feminist, a weekend warrior. And it is a completely other matter to walk to the walk. I for one am not a huge fan of confrontation and so when I recently encountered misogyny “in the wild” it was difficult to confront that.
A few weeks ago, someone I kind of knew from when I lived in Austin reached out to me and said that he was going to be visiting Asheville in a few weeks and did I have a couch he could crash on. I said sure, why not. He was visiting to see if he wanted to move here in a few months. I knew him from seeing him at shows and the bar and we had mutual friends in Austin so I thought it would be nice to see a familiar face and be able to show someone this town that I love.
I had to work the first night he was here and then the second night, we went out for a few drinks and I wanted to show him some of my favorite bars around town. Seeing as I live and breathe feminism, it wasn’t long before the subject came up. I said something about holding men accountable and he went into this tirade about how he was falsely accused of rape because some woman had regretted sleeping with him. I kind of couldn’t believe that he actually thought that, and that he would say that to me. But I let it go for the time being.
A little later, he was commenting on an upcoming event at the bar we were at and began with “I’m sorry, but…” If you are already apologizing before you even say something, then obviously you know that you probably shouldn’t be saying it and therefore, don’t. He went on to say that he disliked burlesque because it was an excuse for fat girls to run around in their underwear. Um, what??!? Why on earth would someone say that? I can’t even fathom why anyone would feel it was even remotely appropriate to comment on something like that, something that does not effect him in any way.
Minutes earlier, we had been talking about the US vs Europe (he is from the US but has been living in Europe for a few years) and how in Europe, the government allows adults to make their own decisions. If you don’t like something, don’t go to it or do it. And then 2 minutes later, he spouts this BS. If you don’t like burlesque, don’t go to it! There is no need to make rude, demeaning comments like that.
There were a few other things that bothered me about him that I’ll touch on briefly. For instance, he mansplained my town to me on multiple occasions (on his very first visit here), he made fun of people who use they/them pronouns and he used the word “retarded” at every available opportunity.
Needless to say, I was extremely relieved when he finally left. I knew I needed to say something to him and spent a few days processing what happened and considering how to go about it. I wanted to remain as objective and not emotional as possible. This was not about me or my feelings.
I wrote out a message to him, had a few friends proofread it, took a deep breath and sent it. This is what I said:
“I’ve been thinking about some of the things we talked about while you were here and I have a few more thoughts that I wanted to share with you. You said something along the lines of “burlesque is an excuse for fat girls to dance in their underwear.” I don’t remember what you said exactly. You had just been talking about how things were so different in Europe and how if you don’t want to do or see something, then don’t go; that adults are free to make decisions about what is best for themselves. And I will say the same to you. If you don’t like burlesque, don’t go. Comments like that are rude and unnecessary. So don’t.
Then, in the same conversation, you told me that someone accused you of rape out of regret. I don’t know the exact situation, but I have dealt with sexual assault personally and have done research on the subject (and I have regretted sleeping with someone), I am pretty positive that no woman would go through the pain, difficulty and humiliation of reporting a rape when one did not happen. Statistically, men are more likely to be raped themselves than to be falsely accused of rape. Again, I don’t know the situation, but that is my view on the matter.
With that said, Asheville is very open minded and progressive and I would really take a look inside and do some soul searching before moving here. People here will not tolerate your close mindedness, in particular, your flagrant use of the word “retarded” or your antiquated misogynistic ideas. Wanted to give you a heads up before you are surprised by that after moving here.”
This was his response:
To which I said:
“Ok, only you really know. I wish you the best of luck. And one last thing, if being kind and considerate of my fellow humans is considered over sensitive, then I’m ok with that.”
This kind of logic makes absolutely no sense to me. It reminds me of the people who say I have a ________ friends/relative/etc therefore I can say whatever I want about those kinds of people.
No. You can’t.
I understand that the world is changing and that things that were considered socially acceptable in the past are no longer so. I get that this can be very challenging for some people. Changing lifelong habits is never easy.
And, I will hold people accountable for their actions. I’m not trying to be right or a jerk or mean for no reason. This is not about me. Too many people have dealt with too much BS for too long and the time for change is now. I will continue to do my part to bring about that change even if it makes me uncomfortable or it means people don’t like me. It is 100% worth it to me. If we all do a little bit each day, the results will be exponential and this world will be a much better place to live in.
What are your thoughts on the issue? How would you have handled the situation? What are you doing to make the world a little bit better every day? I would love to hear from you in the comments.