I’m not playing games

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.


  1. Maartje says

    Oh, this is so recognisable! Here’s another one: when I say I collect my fat on my ass and thighs (hurrah, not around my organs) I get horrified looks and reassurances that I am not at all ugly. I am not saying I am ugly. Fat=/=ugly.

    ETA. And another thing: things I do or do not do with/to my body are not a statement about what I think everyone should(n’t) do with theirs. Not plucking my eyebrows for example, does not make me a raging and/or militant anything. It just means I don’t like plucking my eyebrows.

  2. Alex says

    This “playing games” assumption also affects not just male feminists, but pretty much all men that aren’t completely horrible towards women. There seems to be a common assumption that men are completely incapable of having any empathy for women and must have an ulterior motive if they view them as more than meat dolls.

    No, I am not a “white knight”. No, I am not “trying to get laid”. No, I am not “brainwashed”. No, I am not “pussywhipped”. No, I am not a “beta male mangina”. No, I am not a “traitor to men”. I am a person with basic human empathy for other human beings, even if they’re “outside of my tribe”.

    If I am playing an online video game and I tell a person to stop harassing a woman, it’s not because I expect the victim to so much as even thank me, but because the abuser is acting like an asshole and their tirade is negatively affecting everybody’s experience.

    If I say it’s inappropriate to have half-naked women draped over everything in a convention or find the portrayal of women in media degrading, it’s not because I’m “gay” or “don’t like looking at breasts”, it’s because such parading of flesh is juvenile, one-sided, and makes everything deeply uncomfortable if you have basic empathy for others.

    If I say somebody’s sexist, racist, or rape-glorifying jokes are horrible and they are horrible for saying them, it’s not because I’m “overly PC” or “can’t handle an edgy joke”, it’s because they are horrible people who barely disguise their horrible viewpoints with strings of words that are crimes against the very concept of humor.

  3. Cheryl says

    Oh, hells yes! I see and hear the bashing of women all over the place, and it hurts me when it’s women bashing women. Last Wednesday, at the small group I’m in through my church, I heard one of the other women telling someone how she felt like she wanted to say to her five-year-old son, who was being whiny and moody, “What are you, on your period or something?” My brain freezes up when I’m caught on the spot, so I had no idea what to say, but I wanted to call her on her misogyny SO BADLY. I hear period-related diminishment crap a lot, and I speak up/out against it as often as I can. I am sick and tired of any mood/emotion in women other than smiling placidity being brushed off and dismissed as hormones and/or emotionalism.

    I’m tired of feeling like I can’t ever show emotion to be taken seriously. I know there is such a thing as being too worked up, but if I’m Pissed about something, why is it wrong for that to show? Why is it wrong I give a damn? If I’m capable of making my case in a clear, rational, logical manner and the facts support my claim, that should be all that matters. If I were a man, the fact I were Pissed and it showed would be considered a virtue, but I’m a woman so showing emotion is suddenly a weakness. Well, f*ck that.

    SO sick of ‘jokes’ about how the opposite gender is so difficult to understand. No, they aren’t. The opposite gender are people, too. How about shutting up, listening, and then taking it at face value? Men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus. News flash, we’re all from Earth, where ‘no’ means ‘no’, ‘yes’ means ‘yes’, and each of us are individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses.

  4. says

    My truth is when I say that the phrase “under god” needs to be removed from the pledge, that does not make me an atheist terrorist. That makes me a person who is concerned that America is not honoring its own promise of separation of church and state.

    When I say that you can’t be homophobic and watch lesbian porn, I’m not saying that lesbian porn is the devil, I am saying that you literally cannot be homophobic and watch two people of the same sex get it on in any way.

    When I say our founding fathers wouldn’t want our country run this way, it’s not because I think Obama is inherently evil or republicans should have won. It’s because our founding fathers were against a two party system because of the inevitable deadlock.

    Whatever I say is exactly what I mean as well. Thank you for this post!

  5. Amy Cooper says

    Yes, yes and yes!

    I’ve had several instances when I was talking about a cause and someone else either said “why do you care about X when Y. Shouldn’t you be more concerned about Y?” For instance, why be concerned about rape in America when in some parts of the world people are literally starving to death? First, just because I’m discussing one matter at the moment, doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about others. And second of all, for a variety of reasons, I may feel called to actively work on one problem over others, based on my talents, my ability to make a difference, etc. And third, and most importantly, you are derailing the conversation.

    • Cheryl says

      Can’t stand it when people talk over other people like that. I care about X for all the reasons I’ve given. Y is another conversation–which we’re not having right now. If you don’t want to discuss X, then why are you here?

  6. Nuria says

    Yes. All these.
    I hate it when I say I don’t want to have children and people assume that I’m a child hater, a cold hearted bitch or an inmature womanchild clinging to teenage life.

    • Cheryl says

      Didn’t you know that biology is destiny and it’s a natural given all women absolutely want to have children, so if you say you don’t, you’re an unnatural, delusional creature? [/tongue deeply in cheek] I just ‘love’ how people a) automatically assume the reason a woman doesn’t want kids, b) assume that reason is a negative one that’s tied to a defect in her, and c) tend to launch right into some sort of righteous judgmental lecture-talk-thing. I love how personally everyone takes a woman’s decision not to have children and how they think they have a say in who/what takes up residence there. The womb is not public property, people. STAY THE HELL OUT!

      I, personally, am open to having kids. I take Effexor for anxiety, though, and The Medical Powers That Be say a woman shouldn’t take it in the third trimester because it can cause dependence issues in the fetus. Considering the results of the Tylenol study that just came out about the possible link to increased risk of ADHD, if this is just coming out now after decades, there’s no way in Hell I’d want to use Effexor, which is a new drug we haven’t had time to learn the long-term effects of and it directly targets the brain, during the first and second trimesters out of concern for the health and well-being of my child. Therefore, no biokids for me. Imagine the reactions of some people, and imagine what they’d say if/when I told them I didn’t want to marry and have kids until I’d accomplished a few more goals in my life (I’m 35). Horrors! Zounds! I’m being selfish! Delaying too long! I must lower my standards! Stop being a womanchild clinging to my childhood and grow up! If I wait too long I’ll be too old for children! What man will want me? Doomed to childless spinsterhood! Won’t someone please think of the children!

      • Cassia says

        I think I love you. I am 33 and feel all of these things and it’s so reassuring to hear others feel similarly.

        At age 18 when I said I was never going to have children, they said “Oh, you’ll change your mind”. I said the same thing at 25 but a softer “I don’t really want to have children”, “Oh, you’ll change your mind when you’re older”.

        I’m 33 now and I’m still saying it. But now they tell me that I’ll regret it. Grrrrr.

        • says

          For what it’s worth, I was diagnosed at 16 with PCOS and told I’d likely never get pregnant without medical intervention. So I went into adulthood knowing that becoming a parent would be more expensive and difficult for me than for most. I figured I’d adopt.

          But as it happened, I never got to a place of financial stability that I wanted for a child. Apparently this is very common for Generation X (about 1965 – 1980). But guess what? I had other growth experiences that most parents will miss out on. Either way you go at every fork in the road of life, you will miss out on one thing but experience another. Whether you’re a parent or not, it’s all as good as you make it and no better. There is no one true path for all.

    • Gabriella says

      YES! I LIKE children, I can see myself as an awesome aunt/step-mother, but I don’t think I’d be able to give that much of myself and not resent the hell out of the person I was giving it too. I KNOW I’m too selfish to be a mum, but aren’t I also wise and responsible enough to KNOW that and not go ahead and have kids anyway?

      • Nuria says

        YES! Exactly! They’re so blinded by the social mandate to have kids they cannot see that the most selfish of my reasons for NOT having kids is more generous to those unborn children that any of their arguments *for* procreation.

        • Gabriella says

          I know, right? Do these people realise what they’re saying is this hypothetical child would be better off with a neglected, resentful mother than having never existed in the first place? And given our vastly overpopulated planet, how is foisted children on people who’ve actively decided not to have them even a remotely good idea???

  7. sbg says

    Mine is not even a verbal thing – I’m one of two single people in the office where I work. From the time everyone became comfortable with me (I’ve been there a year), it’s been pretty much nonstop, “We’ve got to get you a man!” Which presumes two things: that I want a romantic partner and that I am sad and lonely because I don’t have one.

    Frankly, neither of those things is true.

  8. Cassia says

    I have a really simple example and it went a bit like this :

    Me – “Wow, I have a lot of grey hairs. Oh well, that’s life.”

    Boyfriend – “No you don’t. I can’t see any.”

    Me, pointing at an entire visual field of grey “What do you mean you can’t see them? They’re right here”

    Boyfriend – “I don’t know what you are talking about. You’re crazy.”

    Me – “Ok, look, am I going nuts here? You’re telling me you can’t see ANY grey in my hair”

    Boyfriend – “No! You’re beautiful”.


    I have had this conversation with MANY people. It was only when I checked with my best pal on the state of my hair that she said “Oh yeah, you’re going pretty grey”. That’s why she’s my bestie!

  9. Robert says

    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.

    I love the combination of “romantic” and “down-to-earth practical” in that.

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