I’m not a game player. If I say something, it’s because I mean it. Sometimes I don’t communicate perfectly, just like you and everyone else. But I was talking to someone recently about how when men speak, people tend to take them at face value, but when women speak people often routinely read into it some hidden agenda, passive-aggression, exaggeration or failure to grasp reality. It’s as if they’re sure the thing she’s said is the one thing she can’t have meant, so they start looking for the true meaning and, boy, do they find it even if they have to pull it out of thin air.
I’ve been meaning for two years to write a very complicated piece about (deliberate, malicious) false allegations of sexual crimes and misdemeanors, and how they are much rarer than most people think, but when they do happen they tend to follow a certain pattern… but after this mind-blowing conversation I realized: before we can address that, we need to talk about how women are generally presumed to be incapable of telling the truth. When we’re not outright suspected of lying, it’s presumed we’re probably just oversensitive, overwrought, PMSing, not seeing the big picture, not putting things in context, not interested in solutions, etc.
These attitudes have caused me to get ever more careful with my communication over the years, and to limit the people with whom I will engage – at work, with alleged friends, and especially on this website and WhatPrivilege. Well, forget that. It’s a form of gaslighting and I’m done with it. We are moving on, and let me tell you a few cold truths as examples of what I’m talking about, some personal and some professional.
- If I suggest planning ahead, I’m not “assuming the worst and being negative”. I’m suggesting that “we” have a plan to reduce stress when some highly predictable mini-crisis erupts instead of your preferred method of dumping it all on me while you run off somewhere.
- If I say maybe the First Nations/Native Americans have a point about the name “Redskins”, I’m not just “being politically correct” to “feel good about myself”, I am experiencing visceral empathy because I know how I’d feel if someone named a team “Poor White Trashers” or “PMSing Crazies”.
- If I answer your uninformed opinion with established, documented facts, I’m not “failing to respect your right to your opinion”, I’m saying we don’t get to have opinions about established, documented facts. Kind of like the California school that asked kids to write an essay on whether they believed the Holocaust happened. This can’t be an essay because the answer is, “Yes, it happened.” Ten seconds with the search engine of your choice brings up images, videos and documentation from governments and institutions not controlled by Jewish people or organizations, so there is no debate to be had.
- If you meet me at a party and tell you I’m originally from West Virginia, and your immediate reaction (yes, this has happened more than once) is to tell me your favorite Appalachian incest joke, the reason I’m walking away from you without another word is not that I’m oversensitive or PMSing or stuck up, it’s because I’m afraid if I try to explain to you that you are one sick jerk to be telling jokes about incest to a complete stranger (or possibly at all, to anyone) and to encourage the stereotype that all Appalachians are some kind of warped perverts, I’m likely to lose patience mid-speech and end up poking your eyes out with my fingers. I don’t want to go to jail.
- If I tell you I don’t care if you remember my birthday or other anniversaries, it’s actually because I don’t care if you remember my birthday or other anniversaries, not some weird trap I’m setting for you. I think it’s so much more important that we be there for each other every day of the year.
- If I write about the gender pay gap, you do not get to infer from that article that I don’t care about climate change or the price of lederhosen because I didn’t mention them.
- If I say society isn’t yet as equal as it could be, that doesn’t mean I want it to be unequal in my favor. It’s not “reverse sexism” to suggest that women and men should, for example, be paid exactly equally if they are doing the same job equally well. And I don’t think you believe that either – like I said, it’s gaslighting.
- If I say people don’t consider me beautiful and that this reduces my dating opportunities but that’s okay because who wants someone who’s so shallow they won’t even talk to a non-hottie, that’s exactly what I mean. I’m not “down on myself”, I’m “down” on people so shallow they base their entire mating strategy on looks.
Feel free to add your own truths in the comments. I am sick of not speaking up – I mean that literally, it makes me anxious and that has physical ramifications. I’m sick of being afraid to say what I mean for fear someone will “take it the wrong way”. From now on, people can take what I say however they like. The important thing is that we don’t keep taking their crap.