My Wounded Activist Heart

I’m not a Trump fan by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m as eager as anyone to see him discredited, dethroned, impeached, jailed, etc.

But I draw the line at attacking his wife.

Since the election, I’ve seen an upsurge of Facebook posts suggesting that Melania’s former work as a nude model makes her unfit to be the First Lady, disparaging her for being an immigrant, or negatively comparing her with “classy” first ladies like Michelle Obama or Jackie Kennedy.

As a liberal, feminist, bi activist, I cannot participate in those efforts in good conscience because they conflict with my values.

How Melania has expressed her sexuality shouldn’t matter. No woman deserves to be ridiculed and shamed for how much or little of her body she has shown. Having a history as a porn model or sex worker should have no effect on whether someone is qualified for political office, much less on whether she’s qualified to be the wife of someone in political office.

On a similar note, her former work shouldn’t imply that she’s less “classy” than other First Ladies because claiming such would require a view that sex work is shameful and debasing–a premise I adamantly reject.

Ironically, I have periodically heard people try to justify these attacks on Melania by claiming that it is no different from how Michelle Obama was treated.

But in my book, turn about is not fair play.

It’s not making people reconsider how they might have talked about Michelle Obama. It’s not preventing Melania from being the First Lady.

It’s not even hurting Trump because he unquestionably demonstrated that he had no problem taking jabs at Melania at the Al Smith Charity Dinner, despite his visible discomfort with any jokes directed at himself. Melania is expendable to him, only useful insofar as she feeds his need for power and prestige.

But I have another reason for my refusal to make sexist attacks on Melania. She is the first First Lady that I have worried about her treatment at home.

Trump is publicly emotionally abusive to virtually everyone he dislikes, particularly towards women. He has been accused of rape and sexual assault from more than one woman, including an accusation of marital rape and domestic battery from a former wife.

I have no confidence that he suddenly becomes a docile teddy bear in private with Melania.

It’s hard enough to get out of a toxic relationship in normal circumstances, but when your husband is suddenly the Commander and Chief with the secret service at his disposal and an ego as fragile as a butterfly wing…I don’t know about you, but I’d probably keep my head down and beg people not to make him angry as well.

Ultimately, I see attacking Melania as more than a direct conflict with my values; it’s potentially heaping yet more mistreatment onto an already mistreated woman, demonstrating to her that those who claim to be “on the side” of women are hypocrites, neither a safe haven nor living example of respect for her.

But standing true to my social justice values has resulted in some unexpected conflicts. Others that I would have previously assumed shared my values have reacted with hostility towards my discomfort with the treatment of Melania. I’ve found that people are willing to resort to prejudice and then claim oppression when I speak out against that prejudice. Just yesterday, I was accused of being a homophobe and a white supremacist because of this stance.

It’s a discouragement I didn’t expect to face as I headed into a Trump presidency. I’m not only contending with the horrible realization that sexism, racism, and despotism won the election, but I’m also having to face the reality that it’s infiltrated what I would have considered “my turf” and poisoned those I would have called “my people.”

Trump has said and done some truly awful things that shouldn’t be ignored…but if the attempts to oppose him sound more like something he would say, I’m not sure that’s a movement I actually want to be a part of.

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The Demonization of the “Feminine” in the Battle of the Sexes

One of the great debates of our era is in regard to differences between men and women. Scientists and psychologists set up countless experiments to see whether men and women have different intelligence levels, strength levels, skills in vocabulary or object rotation, mathematical abilities, brain sizes, relationship drives, sexual desires…you name it, they’ve probably tested to see if there’s a difference between the sexes.

There tend to be two sides to the argument:

  1. Men and women are different
  2. Men and women aren’t different

Both sides find statistical evidence and cogent arguments to support them.

But what neither one realizes is that the argument isn’t really about whether gender differences exist. The real argument is unstated, thus unrecognized and unable to be resolved.

There’s a logical fallacy at play here called an unaccepted enthymeme. Okay, there’s two unaccepted enthymemes.

The first is that gender is binary.

But the second, and I think in regards to the sexism debate, the most important one is: If men are different from women, men are better than women.

The two sides of the debate are really rather absurd on their own because the answer to both sides is ‘yes.’

Yes, men and women are different from each other. In general women have a uterus, though that is not true for all women. In general men have testicles, thought that is not true of all men.

Yes, men and women are very similar on many levels. There’s enough evidence now to suggest that mathematical abilities only differ because of classroom socialization. Everyone has varying levels of testosterone and estrogen within them. We all have a basic human need for connection. And it’s a myth that men are only interested in sex and not in relationships.

But when you add in the unstated value judgment that men are better than women, that “masculine traits” are better than “feminine traits,” then the debate becomes so much more than just the absurd question of whether something objectively is or is not.

Feminists could argue until the world ends that women are just as capable as men, but unless we actually address the underlying assumption that certain traits are “less than” others, we will never be able to actually resolve this issue.

And this is where the construct of gender comes in because those devalued traits aren’t even exclusive to women. They are human traits, but because they’ve been stereotyped as “feminine,” they’ve been deemed worthless—so even men who possess those traits are looked down on in our hypermasculine culture.

Take emotionality for instance.

If a guy cries, he’s made fun of for being a “girl.”

If a girl cries, she’s accused of being “too emotional” or “too sensitive.”

Being in touch with your emotions is not a quality that we associate with a savvy business person or a political leader because, as a society, we value emotional intelligence less than analytical intelligence.

For that matter, we value quantitative research (stats and numbers) more than qualitative research (interviews and actually listening to someone’s experience of something).

We value aggression more than negotiation—just look at how many “action” movies exist that immediately resort to shooting people up as opposed to sitting down around a table to resolve differences.

We value conquering more than nurturing, competitiveness more than cooperation, judgment more than understanding, assertiveness more than congeniality.

As women attempt to work their way towards equal representation in the workforce and government, they are essentially told to be more like “men.”

But the traits that men (and women) are supposed to avoid are human traits! They are necessary to our society as much as the other traits are. They’re the glue that binds humanity together, without which our elevated primate species wouldn’t survive.

Somehow, I think ancient cultures understood that better than we do now. Perhaps being closer to death by predator, act of nature, or just plain bad luck did something to help them recognize how important a balance of both was.

There is a time for emotion and for logic, for assertion and for congeniality, for aggression and for negotiation. There are times when we should conquer and times when we should nurture, when we should compete and when we should cooperate, when we should judge and when we should seek to understand.

If men and women could be equal but different (not in the icky Complementarian way) without it being good or bad, would it really matter so much about whether there were differences? If people could be equal but different, with different mixes of different traits unique to them, without being shoved into boxes of masculinity and femininity–If we thought of the “feminine” traits as being as valuable as the “masculine” traits, would we even feel the need to defend ourselves when we were called “sensitive”? Goddess forbid that actually be a compliment and a sign of capability rather than an insult and an assumption of weakness.

I used to be interested in whether men and women were different. I wanted so badly to prove that those differences didn’t exist.

Now I just wonder why it matters.

5 Key Ways that Husbands Can Support Their Wives in Graduate School (A Parody)

The following satire was “inspired” (and matched word-for-word in some places for effect) by 5 Keys to Supporting Your Law Enforcement Husband, an advice piece recently published by a fairly popular website for police. 

~~~~~~~~~~

It’s been one of those weeks. Your wife has been working on three group projects, waking up early in the morning to cram in a chapter of text reading before work, and coming home hours after dark only to sit in a room with headphones on to write yet another paper.

Meanwhile, you’re stuck with all the day-to-day tasks all on your plate.

You might be tempted to complain about the fact that you’ve had to wash dishes, cook dinner, and scrub the toilet for two months now without an ounce of assistance from your significant other. But men, if you really want to be able to support your wife during this significant yet stressful time in her career, complaining isn’t going to help.

So here are 5 key ways that you can support your special lady:

  1. Always have a meal ready.

When your wife comes home from work or class, she’s hungry and tired. She’s been dealing with the world all day, and the last thing she needs is to have to wonder where her dinner is. It’s a simple gesture to have dinner waiting for her when she gets in at night, but it makes a HUGE difference in her day. It lets her know that you’ve been thinking about her.

In the morning, set your alarm clock for just a half hour earlier so that you can brew a fresh pot of coffee and give her a good start to her day before she heads out. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and when your wife is in graduate school, she’s going to need a lot of brain food to keep her at her optimal.

  1. Connect Every Day

Your wife is busy. She’s going to be missing out on a lot of life trying to keep up with her studies. But you can help her feel connected by little gestures that keep her in the loop. Meet her on her class breaks with a little snack and an “I love you.” Send her text messages throughout her day letting her know that you’re thinking about her. Get involved and stay up to date on the things that her school is doing. Maybe even bake some cookies for her class. Try not to get upset that she isn’t there and help her feel a part of your life.

  1. Stay Available

Graduate school is notoriously hectic. There will be entire weeks and weekends where it seems like your wife doesn’t emerge from her books except for food and water. But when she does have some free time, you want to make sure that you are there to spend it with her. Find out what her class schedule is, when her projects are due, and when her days off will be. Write your own schedule around hers. Plan in when she will need to eat meals by herself, whether at home or on the run, and make arrangements for her to have healthy options. Make a note of when you can have meals together and guard those days or evenings from other encroaching activities. Don’t make plans with your buddies during the times that your wife will be home. Turn off that football game when she has the odd free hour. Protect your time together, whether it happens once a week or once a month.

  1. Resist the Urge to Complain

I get it. Sometimes you’re tempted to resent the fact that she’s sitting in classes and reading books while you wrestle with an uncooperative washer or haul six bags of groceries in from the car, but resist the urge to complain. When she comes home from class, steer clear of any topics of conversation beyond asking about her day for at least an hour. You want home to be a haven for her, not a place where she has to face yet more stress. Walking into a house where her husband is complaining about how she gets to sit around with her group members and put together a powerpoint will only make her want to take up an extra class on scrapbooking and call it a required credit for her degree!

  1. Love her!

Well, you think, I married her. Why wouldn’t I love her?

But I’m not talking about that feel-good kind of love. I’m talking about faithfulness. Going that extra mile. Love her when she’s up until four a.m. working on her thesis. Speak proudly about her to your friends, telling them about her commendations from teachers and the articles she has published. One day, she might hear about how proud you are of her, and it will boost her confidence all the more to know that you get so much from her accomplishments.

In doing all of these things, husbands can support their wives in graduate school. As the semesters drag on and the projects pile up, grad school students can know that they are loved and appreciated at home.

~~~~~~~~~~

Think this is ridiculous?

Great, so do I!

No one in their right mind would think this is good advice to give to a man, but it’s just a sample of the kind of “advice” women are given on how to relate to their husbands. Isn’t it about time that “support your husband by having no life” articles are recognized for the pathetic bullshit that they are? Let’s leave the 1950’s housewife in the 1950’s, please and thank you. And I’m expected to believe that sexism is dead…

It feels good to be back! 🙂

 

Allies are People Too

Did you hear? Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, died this week.

And, of course, all of social media lit up with everyone’s opinion about the significance of his death and the “appropriate” response.

I’m not interested in adding to that dialogue. We each need to figure out how to respond to the social blight that was Westboro’s founder, and we’re all going to have different responses. I have chosen to not allow it to disrupt my life, just as I didn’t allow his fucked-up opinions to upset me all that much when he was living. I have plenty of other people in my life to be angry at and to hate for the harm they have caused me directly and don’t have the energy to waste on someone who merely hated the idea of me without really knowing me. Others feel differently, and that’s fine.

What I do want to talk about is how we’re approaching the opinion of others, especially of those who are “different” from us.

Right now, the debate is over whether it’s appropriate to revel in the death of Phelps and to protest his funeral. The LGBT community is pretty split. Some think it’s a good idea. Other’s think a compassionate approach is stronger.

When my partner chose to voice his support for the compassionate response, he was dismissed by an acquaintance for being a straight, white male who wasn’t in the military—the implication that he didn’t have any right to add to the commentary about this public figure.

It was the tipping point in the frustration I have had recently with regard to the treatment of allies. As a bisexual and as a feminist (aka, as a bifeminist), I’ve had my fair share of frustration towards allies who claim to “want to help” but who royally fuck up because they simply aren’t willing to listen to how they might be hurting another or perpetuating something negative.

I get it.

We want our allies to be willing to listen to us. We need them to attempt to see from our perspective rather than just from the perspective of privilege.

However, I’m also really uncomfortable with the way allies are treated in feminist or queer groups. For over a year now I’ve watched as men are insulted and harassed because they dared to try to protest the objectification of women in the media in a way that didn’t match up perfectly with some feminists’ ideals or as straight people (or at least people who are assumed to be straight) have been told to shut up simply because they are straight.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t confront someone if we feel they are being insensitive or prejudiced (after all, even the most well-meaning person has internalized prejudice to confront), but I’m concerned that I don’t see people engaging with allies in beneficial ways as a whole. I don’t see understanding and patience towards them as they try to navigate the layers of their privilege. I don’t see any sort of compassion towards them as human beings who are struggling to understand some complex and difficult issues.

I don’t see any room for them to have their own journey and identity development as an ally.

Rather, I see people telling them to shut up, stop thinking, and accept what they are being told by (usually) one person in an oppressed group.

Where do we, as people who have experienced oppression, get off thinking that we can discount someone else’s thoughts because of an aspect of their identity?

We should know better.

Allies need to listen in order to be good allies, but listening doesn’t mean that their perspective and thoughts are automatically devalued.

Dialogue is how social change happens—passionate discussion, sometimes even passionate disagreement.

We don’t need more people who follow group pressure blindly. We need people who are willing to question the social constructs around them and to dare to disagree with the status quo. Shutting down someone because they have questions—or even because they disagree with you—doesn’t encourage critical thinking. At best, it subdues a person’s willingness to engage. At worse, it alienates them completely.

I don’t think every person in an oppressed group should make themselves available to be the source of information from which the privileged can learn, but I do think that we need to at least develop the ability to turn discussion down kindly, admitting that we don’t feel like engaging with them rather than blaming their privilege (note, if they are asking questions, they’re wrestling with their privilege, not ignoring it).

We also need to be willing to accept where there might be room for genuine disagreement without someone being a bigot, as in this case, with one person choosing to respond to Phelps’ death with love while another wanted to experience the depths of her hatred. If the LGBT community is filled with a diversity of responses to Phelps, how can we disdain a straight person for having as diverse of a reaction to his death?

For the most part, allies are well-meaning and are going through some pretty tough work to confront privilege. There’s no reason to treat them with hostility because they have to go through that process. It’s one thing to get pissed off at someone for being a deliberate asshole; it’s quite another to castigate someone because they don’t see exactly as we do.

I think in our attempts to have our voices heard, we may have forgotten that one of the tenets of both feminism and queer activism is that no one should be treated with disrespect and contempt, no matter what group they’re from. The idea that someone’s voice and thoughts aren’t valid because of their genitals or sexual orientation is the exact same kind of prejudice that we’ve been fighting. We need to treat our allies with the courtesy that we believe should be afforded to all human beings, even if we think they are misguided.

Reaching Out to Christian Allies: An Apology and a Challenge

I talk a lot about my dislike for Christianity.

As a survivor of an abusive Christian cult, I think I’ve earned that right.

But I also recognize and appreciate that not all Christians are abusive sociopaths. I have some friends who identify as Christian who are wonderful people. I’m so proud of them for finding a way to turn Christianity into a positive faith experience (not that it’s my place to feel proud of them, but I have to give them credit and respect for doing what I could not).

I thought that my disdain and criticism of Christianity were clearly not something they would perceive as directed at them.

I was wrong.

Within most systems of oppression, there is a way to differentiate between individuals within the privileged group and the system that grants them privilege and oppresses others. Patriarchy and male privilege delineate a system that oppresses women and gives men power without implying that men are all horrible, misogynistic asses. The same goes for White privilege and racism and for homophobia, heterosexism, and straight privilege (or biphobia and monosexism for that matter).

I’ve never heard a differentiation made between religious oppression and religious people.

It might be clear in my mind when I rail against Christianity that I’m not railing against all individuals who identify as Christians, but someone else may only hear a word that identifies them personally.

I don’t want to make Christians feel targeted as individuals by my hatred.

Some have tried to argue that what I dislike about Christianity “isn’t really Christian.” But you can’t say that someone who identifies as Christian isn’t Christian because you dislike the way they act. It’s a logical fallacy, commonly known as “No true Scotsman.” It should be an obvious logical fallacy. No one ever tries to argue, “That’s not really a White person. They’re racist, and I’m not. Since I’m White, they can’t be.” It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not a valid differentiation method.

But I understand what these people are getting at . . . I also want to be able to differentiate between Christianity as a faith identity and Christianity as an oppression/prejudice.

What we need is a word, like sexism, to identify Christianity as a system of power. Whether Christianity was meant to be a system of power is beside the point. We have to deal with what Christianity is, not lament what it should have been. Being a Christian is not bad, but just because an individual Christian doesn’t want to participate in oppression doesn’t mean that the religion suddenly loses its oppressive elements.

I came across something on Urban Dictionary the other day that feels like a solution. “Religism” hasn’t come into wide usage yet (I’m hoping to change that), but it exists to identify prejudice against those of a different religion.

Voila! Just like that, I have a word to describe the prejudice and oppression that comes from the Christian religion as a whole that doesn’t target individuals!

I feel it’s important to say that I’m truly sorry for the allies that I’ve inadvertently hurt. I should have done my Google search far before now. I want to work with Christian allies.

But in return, Christian allies need to also do work to recognize where they have privileges because of their faith identity. Just as I have hurt Christian friends without meaning to, many Christians unintentionally contribute to the oppression of others, even with the best of intentions. This article has a great beginning list of privileges Christians often enjoy without realizing it. I’ve added some of my own additions below.

  • If a person who shares your religion commits a violent crime, your neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances aren’t likely to view you as an imminent threat.
  • If a person who shares your religion commits a violent crime, the media and law enforcement aren’t likely to see your religion as the root of that violence.
  • If being questioned by the police, you have reasonable expectation that stating your religious faith will be an asset rather than a liability.
  • If arrested, you have reasonable expectation of a speedy trial without excessive detainment.
  • If you talk about your faith on the phone, you can feel relatively secure that the NSA won’t monitor you for simply mentioning your religion.
  • Lawmakers and judges who oppose laws on religious reasons refer to your religion.
  • In cases of civil rights violations, your religion is likely to be favored.
  • The morals of your religion are so commonly accepted that they are represented even in media and entertainment that claims to be from a different religious perspective (e.g. Charmed, a supposedly Pagan show, featuring Christian-esque demons despite the fact that most Pagans do not believe in the Christian version of the Devil or good and evil.)
  • Accepted alternatives to scientific theory reference your religion’s mythology.
  • Despite a violent past, your religion is not considered violent.
  • TV shows that portray your religion favorably aren’t likely to be boycotted or recalled because of public outrage.
  • History often favors your religion’s perspective and portrays the work of those from your religion as beneficial.
  • Even non-religious people are likely to use your religious buildings for special occasions unless they have cultural ties to other religions.
  • If neighbors or acquaintances find out about your faith, they are likely to assume you are a safe person for their children to be around.

I could go on, but I hope that my point has been made. It’s hard to see all the ways that Christianity is favored above other religions in the U.S. until you step out of Christianity. It doesn’t mean that these privileges are always present for all Christians, nor does it only refer to rights acknowledged by the government. Privilege is about societal structure that favors one group above another.

And I’m not saying that having privilege automatically makes someone a bad person. Privilege, by its very definition, is something that is given to a group of people whether they want it or not. It’s not necessarily something they have a choice about, and those who are aware of their privilege are limited in their ability to decline to participate.

However, being aware of privilege and taking steps to counter it can pave the way for healing and change.

I’m taking the first step to acknowledging how I’ve hurt the conversation by failing to differentiate between people who have a Christian faith identity and the Christian religism that pervades society. I’m changing my language in order to open the door for that conversation to begin again. We can work together to address the oppression within Christianity but only when Christian allies are willing to acknowledge that it exists.

Now, the ball is in the court of the allies. Are you willing to do your part to address and raise awareness of the system? Can you meet me in this place of differentiation? It won’t be easy. It may challenge you to examine your own life and faith a bit closer. It may challenge you to change perspectives, which is going to be extremely difficult when society is designed to validate your perspective. It may require you to bite your tongue when a wounded person is writhing under the agony of what Christian religism has done to them and to practice patience, love, and space-holding for those too hurt to recognize yet that you are not the same as the system. It may require stepping back from the conversation and listening instead of talking, following instead of leading, acknowledging instead of defending.

The good news is that if you’re a Christian ally, you’ve probably already had to do these things in other areas. You’ve probably already done some work to address white privilege if you’re white, male privilege if you’re a man, and straight privilege if you’re straight. This is nothing new to those who love equality. The trick is to take what you’ve already learned to do and apply it to a new aspect of your life.

As a Feminist, I Believe in Men

It would be appallingly easy to hate men. I honestly can’t blame women who do. With the amount of sexism, objectification, and misogyny women face on a daily basis, it would be easy to think that all men are like that.

And when a guy comes onto my Facebook wall declaring that he needs women to be sex objects and is only concerned about seeing boobs—and then generalizes that and says that all men are like that, it’s tempting to believe him.

But even though real life experience and statistics both show that sexism and misogyny are thriving to one extent or another, I’m not buying the whole “it’s just the way we are” tripe.

I have faith that men are better than that!

You see, as a feminist, it’s not just that I believe that women are just as capable as men. It’s not just that I believe that women should be given equal opportunities, that they should have the rights to their bodies, or that they should be able to live like human beings.

I also don’t think women have to take over the world in order to achieve that, which means . . .

I believe that men are capable of being humane. I believe that men are able to recognize inequality and fight with women to change the system. I believe that men aren’t driven by their penises and that they are capable of emotional processing and empathy. I believe many of them want to be set free from the hypermasculine expectations. I believe they don’t inherently want to rape and that, if we give them the resources and education they need to learn respect and understand consent, the majority of them wouldn’t rape. I believe that men can get offended by objectification too and that they can want to see women in active, equal roles. I believe that men can appreciate beauty without dehumanizing someone . . . or that they can keep it in their pants when it’s not really appropriate to take it out.

“What guys do you know?” I was asked when I expressed my belief that men aren’t all chauvinists.

And the lucky thing is that I know a lot of guys who fit that model of a man. I know they can exist because they do exist.

I’ve heard a lot of feminists say that men don’t deserve to be thanked for being feminists. And perhaps in an ideal world, it wouldn’t be necessary to praise people for refusing to partake in oppression, but in this world, where rape threats and hateful comments are directed at women for little other reason than being visible online, I think it is appropriate to give a shout out to the male feminists and allies of the world—not because we should find it so extraordinary to find someone who isn’t an ass, but because it takes a lot of courage to stand up to the status quo and say, “I’m not having it.”

We as feminists should know that.

So . . . my dear male feminists and male allies,

Thank you for giving me something to hold onto and hope for while we struggle to change the world together. I know it’s not easy for you, just as it’s not easy for me. I know you face your own brand of backlash, and I am sorry that standing for equality is such a shitty experience for both of us right now.

Thank you for standing up to your friends, not buying that product because there’s a sexualized woman in the ad, getting angry when you see the news, and even apologizing when you yourself find latent sexism slipping out from time to time. Thank you for being beautiful, equality-loving human beings who are willing to try to recognize and change the patriarchal culture that other men are content to just assume is the way things should be.

As a feminist, I admire you. I believe in the future that you represent—where respect and equality are things that all of humanity can strive for and achieve.

****Note: Due to an unusual schedule this week, I will not be interacting as much online. I love your comments. Feel free to leave them, but forgive me if you don’t get a detailed or personal response to yours right away.****

Bitch? Why yes, I am one. Thank you for noticing.

“Bitch.” It’s a toxic word, an insult of the highest order to many women. I used to to be so afraid of being called a bitch or thought a bitch that I would go out of my way to prove myself non-bitchy to people. I was particularly eager to prove that around openly sexist men, as if their sexism was somehow my fault and within my power to change.

It was exhausting . . . and ineffective. I discovered that no matter what I did, someone, somewhere, would perceive it badly. It got to the point that there were certain people I just didn’t want to be around because it was too much to try to prove myself non-bitchy when I knew that their assessment of me as a bitch wouldn’t change. I had even gotten to the point of recognizing that it wasn’t anything that I did; it was just the fact that I was a woman.

My fears started many an argument with my partner. Or I should say that I started the arguments because I was driven by fear, and to some extent, I think I argued more with myself than with him. I would argue back and forth about how I didn’t want to go somewhere because I would be perceived as a bitch, then I’d turn around and argue that if I didn’t go, I’d be perceived as a bitch. I would argue that people’s opinions didn’t matter because they were wrong. I would argue that people’s opinions did matter because obviously I must be doing something to warrant that opinion. I don’t know what he was doing while I argued. Keeping his head down probably because there really wasn’t anything safe to say when I was in my “how do I prevent people from thinking I’m a bitch” mode. I only remember one thing he said.

“What does ‘bitch’ mean?”

I remember it because I didn’t have an answer. What does the average person mean by calling a woman a bitch?

I started to make a list of the various things that landed me in the “bitch” category.

  • Having an opinion
  • Stating my opinion
  • Disagreeing with someone else’s opinion
  • Participating in a conversation with a man
  • Being a wife
  • Being a girlfriend
  • Being a woman
  • Having emotions
  • Saying “no”
  • Making my own decisions
  • Not submitting
  • Speaking honestly about things that affect me
  • Expressing dislike for a movie, book, or song that expresses hatred towards women
  • Getting angry when someone says something inappropriate or does something inappropriate to me

That last one was the clincher. I suddenly realized that if someone were sexually harassing me and I got upset, I would be labeled the bitch in the scenario . . . because . . . women aren’t supposed to experience anger?

BULLSHIT!

None of those actions is considered inappropriate for a man! None of them renders a man an asshole! Why? Because they’re not the actions of an asshole. They’re the actions of a human being who leads an authentic, autonomous life.

In the end, I realized that being called a bitch didn’t say anything negative about me.

It said that I dared to think for myself. It said that I was willing to stand up for myself. It said that I honored my emotions, beliefs, and experiences. It said I was independent.

What it said about me, underneath the derogatory language and negative connotation, were all things that I desired to be.

It also revealed a whole hell of a lot about the people calling me a bitch—like the fact that they were uncomfortable around women who didn’t kowtow to their expectations and so afraid of those independent women that they felt the need to demonize them with a loaded term that they themselves probably couldn’t even define better than, “you’re doing something I don’t like.”

So the next time someone calls me a bitch because I have a strong political opinion that disagrees with their equally strong political opinion, I’m going to smile and say, “Bitch? Why yes, I am one. Thank you for noticing.”