Cathy is my ex-lover, my writing mentor, my confidante and friend, and one of many Libertarian friends that I have (despite not being Libertarian).
She’s also a regular contributor to this here blog. We get together to compare notes on polyamory and politics, and everything in between.
She often tells me I’m wrong in such a blunt way that, if I were less feminist and/or less autistic, might get under my skin. It doesn’t though. I love her for it.
We sat and had lunch the other day, and she wrote about it.
Wednesday I had an early lunch with my friend Dommie Darko (not his real name). He’s a writer, and he gives amazing compliments. Like when he said a man has to love strong women to be interested in dating me. Or when I said I was insecure about my education, and he told me I was extremely clever, by which he meant witty and able to very quickly suss out the meaning and importance of things.
Over fried chicken for me and a scramble for him, he elaborated on the strong women point he’d made days earlier. “You disagree forcefully with me. You don’t hesitate to tell me ‘You’re wrong,’ or ‘No, that’s stupid.’ Men are delicate. They don’t like that.” He is right. I did this to him when we were first dating, when you’d think I’d be on my best, not-castrating behavior. Obviously I still do it now that we’re not having sex and it’s even less important to me that his gonads remain attached.
He is right that men who don’t like strong women don’t tend to do well with me. But I don’t think of myself as a strong woman. I think of myself as shy and retiring and someone who has trouble establishing and maintaining boundaries. Someone who’s had sex she wasn’t jazzed about because saying no would have taken more effort, and made it awkward. But, through both luck and force of will, no one has entered my body who I knew I wanted to not be there.
I’m not strong for the same reason I’m not brave. I regularly publish my most intimate and embarrassing thoughts and feelings online. But that’s not because I’m better at overcoming my fear of doing so than other people. It’s that I feel less fear to begin with. I’m not embarrassed about the same things other people are embarrassed about. I’m not ashamed of the same things. I don’t even find the same things intimate. I’m not courageous, I’m defective. But I’m broken in a way that I’ve learned how to turn into a strength.
What does it mean to be a “strong woman?” I think to an extent it’s male feminist for “bitch.” It’s disagreeing forcefully because I forget that people don’t like to be corrected. It’s making a face when someone says something interesting about themselves instead of trying to appear neutral because I forget they might feel judged by me.
My experience with *ahem* “forceful women” (to quote Cathy) goes back quite a ways. There was a girl in my sophomore French class who saw me reading Charles Bukowski.
“You’re reading Bukowski?” she asked, kind of snottily.
“Yeah, do you like Bukowski?” I responded, hopefully.
“I think he’s a misogynist pig,” she replied, and sneered.
And that was the moment that I fell in love with my first high school girlfriend. Over the next several months, she would introduce me to Simone De Beauvoir and Emma Goldman, as well as several female authors and feminist novelists. She was my very first feminist girlfriend. Since then, I’ve always had quite the hard-on for feminism.
I say this as I listen to Easy-E rap about “jockin the bitches” and “smackin the hos.” I feel like a faker.
I didn’t even start calling myself a feminist until a couple of years ago. However, my wife and ex-girlfriends assure me that’s what I am. I’m proud to be it. But I don’t try very hard. I don’t go to rallies or anything. I don’t belong to any special organizations or anything. The secret to my feminism, if there is one, is this: I’m diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. And humans puzzle the fuck out of me. Both female humans and male humans, and also the non-binary ones.
So I sit with women and listen to them, and try to understand their perspective—not as women, but as humans. And most of the time it doesn’t make much sense. But feminists are committed to being seen equally as humans. This makes sense to me. So, I guess that what it is for me to be a feminist.
I still listen to NWA and read Bukowski though.