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Many of you will be unsurprised to learn that I get in a lot of arguments with men. These arguments often take place in bars and they are almost always instigated by the men themselves. ("He was asking for it," as I'm pretty sure the old saying goes.)
I have some theories around why these arguments happen so often:
- Men who hang out in bars think they are interesting.
- Men in bars think pretending their opinions on things like politics and feminism are informed, intelligent, and relevant.
- Men in bars think they can impress women by pretending they have informed, intelligent, relevant opinions on things like politics and feminism.
- Men like to hear themselves talk.
- Men expect women to just sit back and ingest their breadth of knowledge and philosophical musings passively, with a smile, and don’t react well when they encounter a real human being who isn't interested in in their idiotic opinions on things they’ve thought about for a total of maybe eight minutes.
- Men are not used to being challenged by women and find it makes their balls shrink uncomfortably.
Here is how these arguments usually go down:
- Man sitting at the bar asks me what I do. I say something vague and try to change the subject.
- Man perseveres, discovers I write about feminism, then wants to talk to me about whatever he thinks feminism is. (He loves his mother! And "strong" women! He truly believes women should play sports and maybe even be firefighters! Oh hey have you heard of Hilary Clinton? What about Serena Williams? Did I ever tell you about that burlesque show I went to? Empowering, let me tell ya. Do you know that women can have babies? It's magical. Have you ever heard of Hilary Clinton?) I will usually tell him quite clearly that I don't want to discuss feminism with him (because, believe it or not, it isn't fun or interesting for me to have the same stupid conversations about "feminism" with men who have no fucking clue what feminism actually is but are certain they can educate me about the subject or think it's "fun" to debate a movement that wants nothing to do with them while I'm trying to get lit/relax).
- Man says something ignorant, I tell him he doesn't know what he's talking about, that this is my job, that I am a woman and a feminist and that, therefore, our opinions are not of equal worth and what he thinks about feminism is irrelevant and uninteresting.
- Man gets mad, maybe yells at me or insults me.
- I move on with my evening. This man thinks I am an evil no fun bitch and is all perturbed.
So, I have little patience for men. I don't know if they're used to women not having opinions or if they simply are so full of themselves they never bothered to listen, but I've had it up to here with men talking at me. If you don't know how to listen and have a conversation, don't force me to engage with you. And if you really want to talk that badly, you're going to have to accept the fact that I am right and you are wrong and if you're going to push it, I'm going to tell you that straight out and end the conversation. If you argue with me it's not going to be fun or cute. I'm not just putting on a show of having a brain that I keep opinions in -- it's real.
Last weekend, for example, a man tried to force me into a conversation about socialism by telling me America is a socialist country. Actually. When I told him he didn't know what socialism was he got angry and called me a moron. I laughed and turned to talk to a friend. He tried to apologize later but like, please. Stick to talking about sports or go read a book.
These kinds of experiences are articulated very well by Rebecca Solnit, who coined the term "mansplaining," though I'm not sure her experiences ended in such heated and unpleasant altercations as mine…But then again, I've always been quite stubborn and don't avoid conflict very well. Conflict doesn't scare me and I'm not going to play nice with someone who forces me to talk to them just so they can mentally masturbate themselves to a climax. And certainly I don't care about being nice to rando men who spend their lives pontificating to one another about ideas they don't understand, in bars. I do not exist to make you feel good about yourself, to make you feel intelligent, or to listen politely while you bore me to tears.
The connections to men's approach to sex and to engaging with women in day-to-day life, you'll see, are quite the same. Men learn sex is something they do to women, that makes them feel good about themselves, first and foremost. Likewise, many men treat conversations with women primarily as an ego-boost, but leaves the woman on the other end feeling bored, angry, and unsatisfied. We exist for their benefit either way, though they tell themselves we are enjoying their dicks/banter.
Do I sound mean? I don't give a shit. Do you know how many women suffer through "conversations" with boring men, smiling or laughing politely because it's clear the man in question not only has no interest in her opinion, but doesn't even think she has one? Too fucking many.
Sometimes I get stuck in this misdirected anger spiral wherein I blame these men's ex-partners or mothers for putting up with their bullshit or stroking their egos while they drone on. Now I have to suffer because you played along, I think. Often, though, I feel sympathetic; picturing the last woman, more polite than I, trapped on a bar stool listening to this dude drone on and on, hoping a friend will notice her predicament and rescue her from the "conversation." I do remind myself that, at the end of the day, these men are fully capable of learning to listen and be self-aware, just as women are, but can't help but think that if we all stopped being so nice and polite to windbags, they'd take the hint.
But how many of us were told, as kids, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?" I mean, really. What a horrible thing to tell a girl! Can we try something different?
"Say whatever you think, as much as possible."
Or, "Don't stay quiet while some man talks at you about something you know more about than he does."
Do me a favour and practice saying "Your opinion is dumb," a few times over. Maybe then next time I say it, I won't be met with a rabid dog, frothing at the mouth.
I mean, it's nice to be nice, but it's not nice to hold women hostage to your stupid ideas when they could be enjoying themselves. Being interesting and having interesting conversations also means you have to actually listen to the person you're talking to and show interest in their ideas and opinions. Talking at a woman, while she sits silently and pretends to be interested is only fun for you.
I'll warn you, just as this video does below, that having an opinion will get you into trouble. Men aren't always nice when you communicate your opinion in a confident way without pretending they are political geniuses or when you call them on their bullshit. No they don't like it at all. But is it worth being most popular girl in the bar if what you have to give up in exchange is your self-worth and integrity?
There are a ton of people in this world who think I'm a bitch, but fuck 'em. Better to be a bitch than to be boring. Better to say what you think than stay silent. I'm not interested in perpetuating "Girls should be seen, not heard," just so that people like me. It's not worth it.
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