5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having, Really

I saw an article, “5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having,” by HuffPo and got excited to get my feminist morning-read on, but….what was I thinking this is HuffPo. Of course it’s just “5 Conversations People Should Stop Having” …if they want to stop being boringgggzzzz.  Everybody talks about being stressed out, “traumatized” by their parents, annoying people, where to eat dinner, and clothes. This article is not news.

Good on HP for not resorting to all-out disgusting stereotypes, but if this was supposed to be an appeal to female readers it was weak. Actually, no. Shame on HP for implying that these conversations are only problems, only annoying, when they are had by women.

These are the 5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having, Really:

1. I am not a feminist, because… You’re actually some kind of feminish. Fine. We get it. There are so many different ways to be a feminist, and so many disagreements about those ways.  Some of us take CGS classes. Some of us raise boys up to be good men someday. Some of us burn things. Some of us just try to go about our day without ruining anyone else’s. But unless you truly believe that women don’t deserve equal rights with men…you’re a feminist. Pretty much.

I’m not going to argue with you; you can self-identify however you want, but you’re wasting precious breath that we could be spending on “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” That’s all feminism is to me.

bra-burning-is-a-lie

2. Your body is amazing/beautiful/perfect but my body is sad/horrible/flawed. Actually, I do think there can be value in comparing our bodies and our feelings about them so that we can learn and grow. But I’m sick of impossible compliments, sick of the whiplash of first trying to process the nice thing you said about me and then the gloomy thing you said about yourself.

HOWEVER. I am trying to teach myself to hear the little plea in such statements: “Please see that you are privileged and acknowledge your advantages over me because you are socially recognized as attractive.” Because I know I’m a minx with glorious hair (er, actually, that I don’t face discrimination for my weight, physical health status, and race), I think I hear this plea and I try to answer it when I can.

Sometimes, though, it isn’t so obvious that I might have a particular privilege and it really just comes across as another beautiful lady telling me I’m more beautiful-er than she. Um?? Girl you’re amazing. I guess I’m just supposed to say, “Stop it, no you are.”

Here’s the conversation I’d rather have: “I’m dissatisfied with _____ part of my body and I’m reaching out to you as another woman to help me contend with that. Maybe I just need you to boost me up, or maybe I need you to agree with me that you are fortunate to not have this problem and that it’s ok for me to feel disadvantaged sometimes.”  And I’d also like to make time for this super special conversation, “I am proud of _______ part of my body and I’m reaching out to you as another woman to help me celebrate that.”

shut-up-prettier

3. “She needs to stop wearing the Hijab.” One woman will say, the Hijab is a symbol of oppression, and muslim women (in America) should not wear it. Another woman will say, it is her choice, her freedom of religious expression: “Don’t bother her.” The two will argue, neither side will concede.

Which of the two will also say that revealing clothing degrades women? Which of the two will counter, it’s her choice, let her wear those daisy dukes and boob toob? (It’s not always a predictable pattern.)

We should not argue over how much or how little cloth we use to cover our bodies. We should instead agree that what is more important is our freedom to choose for ourselves. Whose eyes do you feel when you get dressed in the morning? I’m a femme lesbian; I feel the eyes of women who might think I should put on a flannel instead of a frock. I feel the eyes of women who see the advantages of my femme invisibility, and yes I acknowledge and understand them to be true. I ask them to see the loneliness in my femme invisibility, too.

Can’t we just agree the whole point is to have the freedom to wear what you want? Please let the communities who wear particular items of clothing discuss within their own communities about the symbolic significance and/or necessity of those items, and shut up and enjoy your high heels and/or combat boots.

Bad-feminist-fuck-it

4. I’m not like other girls because…. You. Are. Not. Like. Other. Girls.  I know. Thing is, we’re all incredibly different from each other.

Don’t tell each other this, don’t believe this. If you form a friendship on the basis of, “It’s ok, we’re not like the others,” you won’t make it through those moments where she is like all the others. You’ll be sniffing out each other for signs of the enemy, The Conforming Woman. You’ll want so badly to be seen as Not A Typical Woman that you’ll erase yourself, you’ll erase entire identities.

The only time we should see each other as fellow women is when we are on the same team, when we are sharing in our suffering or our growing, when we’re listening to the experience of someone who is going through “woman” differently than we have — or soul-touchingly “the same.”  Otherwise we should see each other as other human beings.

Which leads me to….

5. I have all guy friends because I don’t get along with (normal) women (but you’re an exception).  If this is a conversation you hear yourself frequently starting, you need to Just. Stop. Go stand in a mirror and practice a new conversation: “I don’t understand why I’m insecure in my ability to relate with other women. I need to heal this in myself.” I get that it’s tough sometimes to form relationships with women when the patriarchy often pits us against each other, but if you believe it’s only other women that are the problem, then you’re part of the problem.

This conversation breaks my heart more than all the others. When a woman starts this conversation with me, I wonder, does she think she’s not getting along with me? Does she think we have reasons to be enemies simply because we’re both women? “I’m not like other girls, don’t fear me,” she says as if it’s a truce.  Excuse me, but I like women. I love women, actually. You can’t take that away from me. You can’t make me some sort of “not really a woman” woman.

And if she knows I’m gay, do I not count as a woman, because I might look at her the way a man does? Does she think I’m not capable of valuing her as a person rather than a person I’d like to touch naked?

Does she realize the poison she is spreading between women by perpetuating this conversation?

Straight Girls Pt. 1 “Mean Girls” as seen by a notorious Toaster Taker

Consider this a letter to my fellow humans of the feminine persuasion.  Dudes, let me know in the comments if this was at all valuable to you. Frankly, I wasn’t thinking of men when I wrote this. I could write a book on this subject (Straight Girlz), so let’s go ahead and call this Part 1. This has less to do with the “straight” part of “straight girls” and more to do with women in general, but through my personal perspective as a kissing bandit. I have probably smashed faces (and other…) with maybe 3 bonafide lesbian chicks. The rest have been varying levels of bisexual or straight. So very many straight women. I swear I don’t specifically target them. They’re drawn to me — outgoing, harmlessly femme; I think they feel safe and welcomed. Not just the ones that kiss me, but the ones that befriend me also surprise me with their warmth and trust. Often women will tell me “I don’t normally get along with other girls” or “I prefer hanging out with guys.” How do I manage to break down social barriers and engage women on deeper levels? Am I just appealing because they project or sense a level of desire in me (as a lesbian) that they find familiar from men? Is it just my pretty hair? Or am I managing to do something else… My friend wrote to me about her recent experience (anonymity preserved for work reasons):

Friend1Oh. Surprise, surprise. I finally kissed a girl that I liked it. Sami

??

You accidentally a word. Not sure if you finally liked kissing a girl, or one finally liked kissing you

Friend1 haha…I kissed a girl…well…and it worked out anyways it didn’t tweak my usual “that doesn’t work” reaction Sami Sexuality is fluid so maybe something changed for you Friend1

I dunno. There might be a few girls I can kiss and it would work out. I’m pretty sure there aren’t a lot. I’m definitely not anything beyond heteroflexible.

I wanted to know what was special about this kiss. Why, when she’d always asserted that this wasn’t a thing for her, did she have a successful experiment?

Friend1 I think bubbly, friendly, outgoing girls maybe sometimes work for me. I know the first time I managed to successfully kiss one without it tweaking me was similar in that respect. Girls who are a bit oblivious to the fact that I may not actually be bi…and are just super friendly/warm and bubbly, I guess. Sami

You don’t want to be targeted maybe?

Friend1 I think part of it is that for the most part I don’t trust women, in general, because so many of them are so catty…and this personality type tends to be fairly opposite the catty persona that I feel comfortable with it? I mean, this girl, she heard I didn’t feel well and immediately took me downstairs and hooked me up with cough drops and was just super sweet. The more I learn about her…she is a straightforward gal…so, someone I would get along with easily.

Sami

Women in general are nice at the core. I don’t know why they catty front has to be prevalent

Friend1 This doesn’t account for your basic nerd/lezzie girl types I tend to get along with just fine, as well, of course.

Sami It’s interesting to me that you operate with so many categories

Ok, I started to get a little rude. Really though, women need to STOP acting like their problem with other women is other women. If you categorically cannot get along with an entire gender, it might be something you’re doing wrong. My friend rocks for taking my criticism in stride.

Friend1 Haha! I think I do nowadays because I used to just think it was women, in general, that I didn’t get along with. Then, as I got older I noticed there were certain personality types/traits that I got along with a lot better. I grew up, though, with mostly boys for friends. I thought a lot of girls were just plain mean.

Her younger self’s perspective is one that I see perpetuated even by women my age and older. I’ve come to realize that since our society evaluates women strongly on a rubric of “niceness,” failure to perform to the gender is read as “mean.” Saying it like it is? Mean. Standing up for yourself? Mean. Setting clear and firm boundaries? Mean. This analysis is further muddied by the fact that “mean” is also willfully taken on as a strategy by women who see its value in power plays. If a woman (nice) is expected to be docile, and gentle to the point of weakness, then the opposite (mean) is brassy and cruel to the point of strength. Your popular “mean girl” will be perceived as mean both because she is rated on the mean-nice scale and because she draws her ideas of power from the anti-feminine ideal: act like a man to game the system. Then of course she (the popular girl) overcompensates in other stereotypically feminine roles (make-up, clothes) and we hate her for being a hypocrite. You really can’t win. How do I pull people out of this overwhelming network of social scripts and assumptions so I can have a decent conversation, or even make a friend?

Sami Women are obsessed with being nice, at the expense of being fake. Since the opposite of nice is mean, fake-nice comes across as mean Friend1

there you go fake nice=mean at least, that’s how I feel about it disingenuous can’t trust people like that Sami

Thing is, it’s not actually mean. It’s just fake. Get real with her and the fakeness stops

Friend1 that’s a good observation .. “Get real with her?”

I really struggled to explain myself here. It’s not something I had consciously analyzed before.  I just…do the me…and the friends…happen.

Friend1 Maybe most girls are just nicer to you because you are cute so they want to be seen with you. Sami

Haha sure but it’s still fake-nice until they realize I’m going to be real with them Friend1

Maybe I just prefer dealing with women who are real from the beginning…and don’t know how to deal with fake nice.

She makes an excellent point. It’s not her fault if women observe her naturally open and interested nature and throw a wall up in her face. She is fair, genuine, and very used to managing expectations and relating to people (she deals with young-ish ones for a living). But I want to deal with fake nice. I find it immensely rewarding to get people to come out of their shells, even if it is a shell made out of gender shenanigans. Or maybe I’m a jerk that just likes to poke people out of their comfort zones.

Sami Just see it as insecurity. Validate them and the insecurity goes away. Unless it’s insecurity matched by ego/arrogance. Then sometimes you have to call their bluff Friend1

That probably explains the difference I run into between the women I get along with and the ones I don’t in a nutshell. Validate them? Like, “Wow, I really like those shoes (if I genuinely do),” you mean? And what’s up with the “calling their bluff?” What do you mean by that? Sami

Well, like, it’s never something you can do verbally per se. But you can disengage from their bullshit. You have to direct the conversation in a way, don’t react with the script that we all know

And after you call their bluff, you have to be nice for real I typically will kinda zone out when the fakeness is gushing. Then I chime in with the conversation I want to have. Faker will typically get a bit unsettled by this. I look for an opportunity to mitigate her fears. Get her on my sailboat and give her a life preserver Friend1

LOL…I guess that makes sense. I am constantly redirecting student conversations from where they want to take them back to the class concerns in ways that kind of broadside them. I use humor and self-deprication to move them back in the right direction…maybe a mild insult that gets their attention without really insulting them. Kind of the same thing? Make it more comfortable to have a real conversation? Sami

Sure, stuff like that, as long as it’s recoverable. Kinda like hey I know what you’re doing and knock it off, but I understand how you feel I do it too

We hinted at a few strategies.  Let me elaborate:

  • Disrupt the script – do something unexpected
  • Refuse to play the game — you don’t have to prioritize being “nice” over all else. I, for one, get more out of life with “honesty.”
  • Being “fake-nice” will often get misread as “mean” because most women know exactly what you’re doing, at some level. Even if they don’t feel like you’re being mean, they’ll often balk at your apparent insincerity (and they may not even understand why they don’t like your demeanor)
  • …Regarding getting along better with teh menz, they may not see life through this same lens and so they interpret “nice” as just plain “nice.” So maybe that’s why you get along better.
  • Extend olive branches. Make the effort to truly connect. Show that we’re all on the same team here.  If you “don’t play the game” but also skip this step, then you’ll fall into the category of “girls don’t like me because I don’t act like a girl WOE is meeeee”
  • Use the “benefit of the doubt” both to show that you will be considerate to her point-of-view, but also to allow yourself to believe she doesn’t hate your guts already
  • In other words, be “actual” nice
  • Don’t assume that girls are mean and awful and it’s not in any way your fault you get along with boys better.  YES it’s a systemic problem but the only way we’re going to get around it is if we do actual work to relate to each other like human beings and not “mean girls.”

Friend1 Thanks for all the insights. I might understand women when I’m ninety. Sami

didn’t know I had them til you asked! Give me more insights on getting girls in the kissing mood! Friend1

Be super nice and helpful and welcoming? Sami

Will try that haha