I imagine this new writing space as a place where, among many things, I can call an impromptu write-all-night because of
If I were in that space now, I would be hitting up your cell phones hella hard tonight.
I remember that at some point during my graduate program I wrote
“Patriarchy causes insomnia”
on a light pink, flower shaped post-it note, folded in half and push pinned it to my desk. I don’t remember why I wrote it, but I do remember it moving around the room and then into a box and making its way to several other apartments after that.
Tonight I just finished studying with one of my football player students. We were studying for a final in which two readings were mentioned, one by Lakoff and one by Deborah Tannen. I remember her full name because of how much I dislike her. Lakoff talked about the “question tag,” as in that inquisitive little punctuation mark that women are taught to put at the end of their assertions, so as not to push their opinions on others, to push anyone out of the conversation, to exclude anyone, to step on anyone’s toes- so as to be POLITE. My fists ball up as do my insides and I say, ” I hate this shit.” It’s the sort of hate that can only be felt so sharply and distinctly because of it being a hate within that manifests as the fucked up thing you don’t want to be a part of but are.
I did this, just last week. Because I wasn’t drunk enough to get loud and talk over people yet. Because I wasn’t drunk. Because it was a white people party dominated by males and when one guy explained that he started a company, other guys asked him about it and wanted to know more. When I said I am starting a
feminist writing space in Oakland
they said ummmhuuummm and didn’t want to know more. So I was conscious of being the feminist in the room. As well as I was conscious of the blonde pointing at me for wearing feety pajamas when the invitation called for “outer wear,” and the drunken excommunication behind the pointed finger of the words “disqualified.” As I was aware that I wasn’t having fun, should leave, wasn’t leaving, hoping the night would be redeemed, I was having conversations with the guys on the back porch. Or rather I waited until there was a sip of beer being taken and I posed questions. I fucking did exactly what she said. I started my strong opinion with “don’t you think…?” As if handing them my assertion to co-opt, to remember later as being of their own origin. Though half of me said it sarcastically, as if to say, you fucking dumb ass, did you consider this glaringly obvious point that you aren’t making, about this topic you know nothing about but feel you can talk about because of your privilege?
As I walk out of work tonight, done learning my students’ material by proxy, I am thinking about work in the context of the history of my work and the guys there. I am considering the guys who have made passes at me at work. The one who drove me home, letting his hand linger on my thigh and tried to convince me to come home with him because he owns a house, the one who waited until two glasses of wine were drank to let his hand linger on my thigh without asking, the one who dropped me at the bart, after an attempt at getting me to hug him, after telling me on day 2 of working this job that he was willing to leave his wife for me- and I’m getting mad. I’m in heels and I’m hardly ever in heels because I used to think they were stupid. Now I think they are kind of sexy and I think about stepping on men’s balls with them whenever I feel a man is looking at me as an object because I am in them. Both times that there was a hand on my thigh I kind of liked it. The first time, I was so disgusted with how persistently he talked about why I should come home with him that I was no longer interested. When he got to my house and tried to force his tongue in my mouth, I closed mine and got out of the car, slamming the door, and went inside. I had said I am not sleeping over about a dozen times on the ride home. All I know is if he had shut up, we’d probably have made out for a while. IF he shut up and then asked if I wanted to fool around or what made me feel good, I may have done more than make out. What made me disinterested was his assumption that he had a right to me and that the way to get in my pants was coercion and not permission. Then the other guy- why use the guise of two glasses of wine? We may be slightly giddy but hey, it’s just awkward to let your hand linger and not ask, at this point. I mean, I know it is there. Time isn’t slowed down or anything. It’s just a little funny. I might have said yes, keep it there, or do you want to make out? Or what do you think about being casual? But instead I didn’t say anything. Instead, I asked that lecturing white boy a question. Why didn’t I just get in my car and go? The pull of these mother-fucking standards is strong.
While I make progress, purposely interrupting men when they are going on and on, to say something that shuts them up like “it is pretty self explanatory” or asking clarifying questions when the only male in the room that has the same job title as me is asked to speak for all of us, such as “is that question just for so-and-so or can I answer as well?” I find myself still perpetuating these subservient, polite, non-confrontational norms even though I go home and feel like doo-doo after I participate in them.
But back to why Deborah is so dislikable. She basically said that men are complimenting women when they interrupt them and challenge them because that is how they converse with other men they respect, so we should just learn to be men more in our conversation styles. Is that what I am doing by cutting people off or asking if I am allowed to answer as well? I don’t want to converse in a combative style all the time. I don’t want to nurture everyone’s opinion all the time either. Sometimes I really care about what someone is saying. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes they are someone I have to talk to because I work with them or someone I feel obligated to be cordial with because someone I do like cares about their dumb ass. However, I am feeling less and less like that is necessary. I don’t like to leave a social outing feeling icky. I don’t have to convince everyone that I am compassionate, passionate, strong or able to do combat.
On the car ride home, my woman Sara Bareilles broke it down:
You can be amazing
you can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
you can be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
or you can start speaking up
Show me- how big your brave is.
In case that isn’t how you want to end your night, here is the piece I wrote about that guy who told me he’d leave his wife for me.Let’s just call him Jafar.
(Imagine images added, or even better, animations, for the underlined parts. If you are interested in illustrating\animating this piece, let me know.)