Tag Archives: feminism

Why I’ll Never Date an Anti-Feminist Again

11 Dec

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked, my friend and confidant of almost a year. He could tell that something was bothering me, and I was doing a crappy job of hiding it.

“Just stuff. This messed up world we live in.”

“What about it?”

“Something I read.”

“What did you read? Something in the news?”

“Just stuff.”

I was being extremely stand-offish with him, the man I had once considered someone close to me. He was someone I could once easily spend hours chatting with. Someone with whom I had shared pictures of my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We had even discussed our bowel movements. Nothing seemed out of bounds before. I didn’t know why I was behaving this way with him, but I felt uncomfortable with what I was about to reveal to him.

“I hate Jian Ghomeshi,” I finally relented.

“Ah. I thought that was it.”

Dead silence.

What I just said went way beyond Jian Ghomeshi. I hated a justice system where three out of every thousand sexual assaults led to a conviction. I hated a culture where women were constantly silenced for speaking up and having their wrists slapped for taking up too much space. I hated a society where female presidential candidates were lambasted by the media over email scandals but male candidates accused of child rape were let off the hook.

And he loved it.

*

A year before the Ghomeshi trial permanently altered my perspective of the beautiful but troubled nation in which I lived, I met an introverted, video game-loving man who seemed quite compatible with me on paper. We were both vegetarians. We both liked to travel. We had the same eccentric taste in music. Best of all was the effortless way we bonded. I could easily talk on the phone with him until one in the morning, and never run out of things to say.

Except when it came to the topic of feminism.

He believed that feminism was about women denying their natural femininity. He believed that men’s rights activists had a point. That women were actually favoured by society, and that any trends of inequality in the workplace, politics, or media were coincidental. He was a gamer that harboured a weird, irrational hatred toward feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, even wishing her death.

At first I thought he just didn’t understand the concept of feminism and was trying to have a conversation with me. Then I realized he was sealioning, and I decided to drop it rather than get myself worked up over nothing. It was better to stick with safer topics.

“So what shows do you like?” he asked me one night.

I smiled with relief. That was good. That was safe.

I told him I liked watching Orange is the New Black and Girls, and he instantly cut me off and told me about how terrible Lena Dunham is.

“Did you know that she lied about getting raped? What kind of horrible person does that?”

“She did?”

I had read her memoir, but while she had confessed to a lot of other outrageous things, a rape lie wasn’t one of them.

“Yeah. She wrote about a rape that never happened in her book, and ruined some guy’s life. She belongs in jail.”

“With Clinton?”

“You bet.”

I smiled, rolled my eyes, and changed the topic again.

I thought I could handle his anti-feminist eccentricity, but there were also other issues that made us incompatible. No matter how much we seemed to click, I knew that I would never be able to fall in love and spend my life with this man. But, even though we had our differences, I genuinely liked him as a person and thought he genuinely cared for me too, so we maintained a good friendship.

*

I realize now why I never wanted to tell him about how deeply the Ghomeshi trial had affected me. It wasn’t just those awkward moments we’d had early on when we were still dating. It was something that had happened a few months afterward, something that made me certain I had made the right decision not to pursue a romantic relationship with him.

I don’t recall how our conversation had drifted into such dark parts of our past, but one evening when I was on the phone with him, I recounted an assault I’d experienced outside a campus club. He responded with, “but you shouldn’t have been drinking.” I rolled my eyes and told him I wasn’t, and without missing a beat, he replied, “but you shouldn’t have been there.”

I had no idea what to say. For the first time since I had ever spoken to him, I was at a loss for words. The assault was outside of the campus club. Should I have not been to university at all? Should I have stayed in the kitchen?

I felt like I was slapped in the face. After all, I had never told him that he “probably provoked her” when he revealed that his ex-girlfriend had been abusive. How could he tell me that this was my fault?

I changed the topic once more, relieved that this person was just a friend and was not going to end up my life partner.

But then some months later, when Ghomeshi was acquitted and this friend was silent, I knew on which side he stood, and it wasn’t Ghomeshi’s alleged victims. Something inside me finally clicked.

His stance went beyond a personal dislike for a handful of women—Sarkeesian, Clinton, Dunham—he stood against all women. Against me.  Even though we had once confided in each other, he wasn’t actually my friend at all. After the Ghomeshi trial, when he finally got me to spit out what was bothering me, we began speaking much less frequently.

Last night, after watching a sitcom, I recalled my old friend’s accusation of Dunham, and decided to do a little digging. It turned out that Lena had altered the man’s identifying characteristics so they happened to match another person’s. When Lena confessed that Barry wasn’t “Barry,” John Nolte of the right-wing publication Breitbart actually bothered to fly to Dunham’s alma mater and dig through library archives to verify the story. When he couldn’t verify that “Barry” existed, all hell broke loose on the internet, with each outlet conveniently overlooking Nolte’s postscript indicating that he had come across a different lead but dropped it because it was too much work. Even if he hadn’t, did that mean “Barry” really didn’t exist?

One thing was clear: Lena did not want her actual rapist to be found. Why did the media lampoon her for this? Because protecting his identity wasn’t enough? Because just mentioning that a rape happened to her at all was taboo?

I felt hurt by my former friend. While he was courting me, he had also been playing with words. He was using MRA rhetoric to try to indoctrinate me. He had never accepted me as I was.

That’s not to say that our entire encounter was useless. I had learned from this man. Our lives had briefly crossed paths and he had humanized the rape apologists I once abhorred. Anti-feminists can be charming and caring. They can have inexplicably long, meaningful conversations with you. But make no mistake—they will never see you as an equal.

They are simply too self-centred to build a healthy relationship with you.

Had we built a life together, this man would never really be on my side. If something tragic ever happened to me, I wouldn’t be able to count on his support. He would tell me that I shouldn’t have been there or shouldn’t have worn that. He would never root for me, vouch for me, believe in me, or want the best for me.

At the heart of his anti-feminism, it was his selfishness that prevented him from being a good husband, or even a good friend to me or any other individual.

To be honest, I don’t even think he had the best interest of all the other straight, white men of the world whose tragedies he bemoaned.

At the end of the day, he only stood for himself.

Feminism and Chauvinism in The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness

8 Apr

You know a book is good when after you finish reading it, you just can’t stop thinking about it.

I just finished The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp, the memoirs of a woman who found herself homeless during the recession despite years in the workforce, a great resume, and a seemingly stable job. And yes, this post will contain spoilers.

I could not put the book down.

One thing I really admire about the author is her borderline self-deprecating honesty. A former Jehovah’s Witness, she openly admits that stigmas attached to homosexuals and racial minorities have been difficult for her to overcome, and in fact, she still struggles to un-learn them and think beyond instinctive gut-reactions.

Even sexism dies hard with her, and she explains why. When she talks about the things that she’s had to overcome with such brazen clarity, I feel almost voyeuristic for reading on, yet I couldn’t stop. I really wanted to see her triumph in the end. She knows that America is a patriarchy, and in certain circumstances (dealing with cops, etc.) she even finds ways to use her social disadvantage to her advantage, in a sense, which made me admire her. There is something about her–perhaps this reflective honesty she possesses–that makes you instantly like her. As a middle-class North American woman of about her age, I felt an instant bond with her. I felt that despite my liberal-minded parents and much easier upbringing, I could relate to her, and I rooted for her. Her sense of perseverance was inspiring, and made me want to root for her even more.

One thing I found unsettling was her love interest. She had met and fallen in love over the internet, which made me sceptical, but I supposed it could work in our tech-y age–the guy seemed all right from what she’d said about their e-mails and Gtalk sessions. But as soon as he got off the plane to meet her, something seemed off. He made snide comments about his ex-girlfriend, infantilizing her, which I found incredibly chauvinistic. All of his “you’re-so-much-more-intellectual-than-my-childish-ex” crap seemed shady. She adored him, of course, but he needed someone more cultured. Why were you with her, then? Why would you be with someone you have no regard for and use-and-abuse her just because you needed the place to stay and the emotional pick-me-up? Doesn’t that say more about you than it does about her?

His other favourite compliment, “you’re-so-unlike-how-I-imagined-you-shallow-American-girls-to-be” line, I found equally unimpressive. He even mocked her parochial upbringing and shamed her for the remnants she couldn’t shake loose. To be honest, it seemed a bit like Karp just lapped it up because she was in love with the idea of being in love, thrilled that someone she truly admired and e-loved (because there is no real “love” over the internet) had taken an interest in her. Her feelings were requited for the first time in her life, which was a self-esteem boost. Although he gave her backhanded compliments that might serve as red-flags for other women, she liked being different from stupider, shallower women. What she called “two crazy kids madly in love with each other” I called one young lady and one kinda-sleezy mid-thirties divorcé with a mid-life crisis that came early.

All right, so this guy’s lame, but I love this girl, so I’ll hope the best for them, I thought. But the chauvinism continued: despite his admission that a bout of depression lead him to indulge in promiscuous sex for a while, he was super judgmental when Karp confessed a racy tale of her own. To me it seemed like the kind of thing most men genuinely interested in a girl would brush off, or even find kind of impressive, especially for someone with a sexual history typical of a Jehovah’s Witness. His judg-y attitude showed me as a female reader that he thought that his emotional and sexual experiences were somehow more legitimate than hers, and that he had more  right to a sexuality. And he actually seemed a little jealous, which was creepy.

Then came the xenophobia (176): “I’ll never understand your American system. Do you realize that in the UK, everybody gets free health care–homeless people go on a short waiting list and get a free flat, and you can live there the rest of your life if you want to, never even have to get a job or anything if you don’t want to. That’s why I was only homeless for a short time. It’s all cradle to grave there. We care about our people there.”

Hmmm, that seemed like strange talk to me coming from a homeless activist. If homeless people have it so easy in the UK with their government handouts and free flats, what’s this dude advocating for? And if the UK is anything like Canada, that whole free health-care schpiel is a lie, too.

I was also really pissed off that he said “WE” care about “OUR” people…as opposed to you and “YOUR” crazy backwards American system.

If you try to feel superior to me because of the country you happened to be born in, I’ll leave you right there.

This man was totally disregarding her feelings when it came to seriously important topics, like having children. He insisted that her fears were irrational and that if it was so bad, women wouldn’t keep doing it. This type of devaluing of women’s experiences really unsettled me. Why is she irrational for voicing her deepest concerns? Because she is a woman? Because she doesn’t feel ready to have your children when you are both essentially homeless?

Ridiculous.

I was fuming at this privileged white British man, with all his sexism, xenophobia and smug superiority. Why had he escaped his great life and free flat in the UK for a fantasy getaway with an e-love? It didn’t make sense.

Then Karp went to meet the douche in his homeland, and suddenly it did.

She found him in his flat with his ex, and suddenly she was no longer the fiancé, but the other woman. She was not allowed in the house, and he was verbally abused by this woman who had been described to Karp as the sweet and loving, but simply not-up-to-my-level ex-gf who could not take a hint and move on. Suddenly it became clear: he was the abused, not the abusee. He could not get out. She owned him.

Much like petty officers who morph into petty tyrants upon promotion (ex. Henry Morton Stanley, General Dyer, most colonizers, really), Doucheface enjoyed being able to escape his shitty life and put himself in the position of power when he ran away to meet his e-fling, as he put on an uppity British air that was never his own. He delved into his would-be life with her, living in a Victorian mansion raising snottishly “cultured” children with shelves full of leather bound (EW!) antique classics. Worst of all, he let her buy into it, too. But he never had any intention of leaving this so-called “ex” of his. Still, he let Karp make sacrifices for him. 

As I finished the book, I still got the impression that Karp is unaware of the full extent of his douchebaggery. In lieu of her unusual ability for self-reflection, and even self-critique, when she reflects on her former romance with The Douche, she becomes all butterflies and irrationality.

I was almost relieved when he left her after abandoning her in the snowstorm (And you’re a homeless activist? Seriously?) because I knew that she wouldn’t do it herself. Which is sad because she can do a lot better than him, and she will.