About two weeks ago I was writing about some self-evaluation coming out of reading Beauty Sick, and it went pretty well. I was left feeling mainly good about myself.
You may remember that even when I had been feeling weak and without many resources, I mentioned being able to help two people by listening to them. Then I started writing about some of the things that had previously made it easy to feel badly about myself, then took some time to talk about racist attitudes and how my own weakness may have affected someone's ability to come out to me. Now that we're all caught up, I want to talk about those two people for whom I provided a listening ear.
As it was, one reason both of them needed to talk to me is that there were others who were not listening. Not by a total coincidence, both were women being talked over and down to by men.
I think it was important for me to write the post about Beyoncé's baby picture not just because I had been thinking about it, but also because of what was covered on how we need to interrogate immediate reactions and instinctive attitudes that we are sure are not racist. We run into the same problems with issues of gender.
"I'm not sexist!"
Maybe you aren't, but historically there has been enough sexism enshrined in law and enforced by tradition that it could have influenced you in ways you will not be conscious of without careful self-examination.
Remember that Sanders supporter who kept getting angrier about my support of Clinton, where it was starting to feel like harassment? Then, when I asked him if he was doing that to any male friends of his who did not support Sanders, that was a vile accusation of misogyny and he ended our Facebook friendship.
I swear I did not mean to accuse him. I knew he had at least one other contact who had disagreed with him on something, and I was curious if he was pushing everyone in the same way, because it seemed disproportionate. Personally, I suspect his conscience did the accusing, which can feel pretty terrible. It would still not be the first time that a man was not able to accept a woman's rejection of his opinion.
That came up in my second conversation from that day explicitly. A friend was receiving creepy attention from one man, which was its own problem. The reason she called me was because of a different man who just felt so sorry for the creepy one and kept reiterating that.
If he had only said it once, that could be a mild irritant and then done, but he just kept going. She expressed her discomfort with the conversation, and he kept going. He felt so sorry for the guy; after all, she would be such a prize for him.
That is objectification. It is more obvious when he uses the word "prize", but the real tell was his inability to accept her different mind and thoughts. I don't believe he is consciously thinking "I have to keep going until she admits I am right" or "Women don't get to disagree with men"; that would be too crude and obvious. I maintain that the feeling is there underneath. Since it is buried, we need to poke it and prod it and drag it out into the light.
If anyone reading this thinks that's an annoying viewpoint, I can see why you think that. I will further acknowledge that doing the work of rooting out internalized bigotry of any kind is uncomfortable and unpleasant.
That said, it really sucks being perceived as an object.