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Nov 13 2013

The Right Thing Isn’t the Easy Thing

“Just go along to get along.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“You’re blowing this out of proportion.”

Yeah. That’s what they always say.

So there’s these little things, at work, going on. We’re in an industry dominated by women, but by a twist of fate, nearly everyone on my current team is male. Male supervisor, only three women, and neither of the other two women is what you’d call a feminist. One’s too timid to stand athwart the tide, the other one doesn’t care. That leaves me as the Lone Social Justice Ranger.

And it sucks.

B’s on the same team. It suits him. He likes the easy camaraderie and the fact that our manager doesn’t toe the business conduct line. Honestly, most of the time, I’m just as glad.

But there’s this projector we play stuff on, and guess what? The dudes dominate. They make the overwhelming majority of decisions as to what we get to watch. Sports. Shoot-em-ups. Gritty comedies. Heaven forfend we should watch anything girly. It might threaten their masculinity. So every time I look up, it’s something dudely playing. And if the ladiez choose, well, doodz get to interrupt partway through and choose something else.

This rankles.

I’m sorry, but we ladies have spent lifetimes subservient to dood wishes. We’re taught from a young age that what the doodz want, they get. If you want to be a cool lady, you don’t ask for, oh, say, The Notebook. You ask for a kung fu movie. And even then, if there’s a game on, the doodz get to overrule you.

Every time I look up, with trifling exceptions, it’s all doodz all the time. And while my tastes run overwhelmingly dood (to the point where I scream if they try to turn off the Nascar races on Sunday), it still gets old.

That’s Point #1.

Point #2 is that our manager decided to relate a funny story from his teen years, when he went to Canada where the drinking age was 18, and proceeded to get so drunk he invited a prostitute back to his room – until he realized the prostitute was a man. Transphobia ensued. It wasn’t over-the-top, just the typical red-blooded American male brand where there’s no way in hell he’s gonna end up in bed with a man, no matter how good his or her makeup is.

And those two things were breaking points for me. I’ll let a lot of things slide offline that I wouldn’t give a pass to online, in the interest of diplomacy and just being too fucking tired to fight the good fight again. But when you’re talking about being on the verge of killing a prostitute for being a man, no matter how jokingly you put it and no matter how unserious we know you are? When the choice of entertainment conflicts could be solved with a mild, “Hey, not cool that you’re not giving the three women on this team equal time”? Yeah. Gonna speak up. And my manager’s the kind of dood who may not like it, but will negotiate beautifully, with a happy ending for all.

I didn’t expect this to blow up like it does online, but you know that when you’re standing up for what’s right, something’s always gotta come along and rip your heart out for that crime. So B started in on this, “You’re overreacting!” bullshit, and it culminated in a confrontation tonight that has left me with no doubt that my intention to stand on principle makes him uncomfortable, and deep down, he wishes I’d stop, because it threatens his equilibrium.

B is the most important person in the world to me, and this rips my heart out to say, but: he’s not as important as this.

I won’t stop for his comfort. I won’t stop for mine.

I can’t see the world the way he does. Mostly, because I’m not a cis white male.

And it might cost me a friendship that means more to me than nearly anything else in the world, one that I’ve already sacrificed a lot for; it might cost the team’s peace and contentment, but fuck this shit. Fuck if I’ll stay silent. Fuck if I’ll let things slide and slide and slide. I may end up alone with nothing but a 19 year-old cat and you lot, and I might scream with the pain of losing yet another cherished friend to this, but fuck if I’m not going to stand for what’s right.

So I’m alone right now, rather than happily watching Doctor Who whilst eating seafood, because some things matter more than friendship. Things like ensuring women don’t have to sacrifice everything in the interest of keeping peace with the doodz. Things like making people understand that their funny little stories aren’t so funny to those who have heard the stories of those who were harmed or killed by transphobic violence. Things like taking a stand for little equalities, because if you don’t stand up no one else will, and no one will ever realize there’s anything wrong with running roughshod over the sentiments of the less-privileged.

I don’t want to lose B. I didn’t want to lose Garrett, my best friend of over twenty years, either, but it’s been a year since we’ve parted company over his stance on abortion (not to mention misogyny). I didn’t want to lose so many in the atheist movement over simple questions of how to treat women in elevators, or sacrificing stupid bloody transphobic or sexist jokes, or any of the other dumbfuck fucking battles we’ve fought that have split this movement apart. I’ve not wanted to be the person standing up in the boat and rocking it side-to-side until all the bad stuff goes overboard. I’ve not wanted to make the sacrifices I have in order to stand up for what’s right.

And I don’t want to lose B, who is, hands-down, the one person I care most about in this world right now.

But fuck what I lose. Fuck who I make so uncomfortable that they distance themselves from me. There are things more important than my happiness, and some of those things happen to be correcting the minor problems that are a reflection of far larger ones. I may cry until my heart breaks, drink far more tequila than a sick person should, sob myself into state that decongestants can’t remedy, but I won’t stop standing right here upon this rock. This rock that says that someone has to speak up, stand up, do the unpopular thing in order to change this fucked-up culture of ours. I could lose everything, and you know what? It wouldn’t be a fraction of what people less privileged than me lose, every single damned day.

The right thing is far from the easy thing, and it costs almost more than I can bear. But I will do it.

And you know what? It won’t be that bad. Despite what the don’t-rock-the-boaters like B and so many damned others think, it isn’t the end of all the fun and spontaneity and sexy fun times. It’s not the end of anything except things that should have ended long ago.

Someday, that will be well understood.

Until then, I’ve got you, and I’ve got my kitty, and a bottle of tequila, and it will eventually be enough.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    jackal

    That situation sucks. I call my friends out, and they’ve called me out, and so far we’ve remained friends. I hope B comes around. Thank you for standing up for trans women and sex workers.

  2. 2
    Malachite

    With you.

  3. 3
    ekwhite

    Dana – I’m sorry to hear about your blowup with your friend. I think you did the right thing though. I hope that B comes around and sees that.

  4. 4
    athyco

    It’s not the end of anything except things that should have ended long ago.

    Yes. As Malachite said, “With you.” And thank you.

  5. 5
    rq

    Well, you’re not going to lose me. And hey, us (all the commenters), the 19-year-old cat, a bottle of tequila, and the sweet, sweet geology (you forgot to mention that one!!) isn’t such a bad deal at all.
    Right?

    *somanyhugs*
    I actually understand the bit where people tell you you’re overreacting… It’s been said to me, many times, just recently too, and I don’t intend to stop. Thankfully, the person who matters knows that and doesn’t intend to try to stop me, but he does comment occasionally on my stridency and confrontational-ness and misunderstanding of the importance of Cultural Values…
    You have my heartfelt sympathies. I hope that, with some careful thought and some (self-)education, B realizes which team he should be on, and joins you (professionally, at the very least) in standing up for greater fairness in your workplace. And if he can’t do that, then *evenmorehugs* because you’re right, there are things that can’t be sacrificed.

    And you’re also right – this is not the end of anything. :) You have yet to finish the Mount St Helens saga. :)

  6. 6
    carlie

    From all I’ve read that you’ve written, you seem like a fantastic person to hang out with. I hope B can overcome his ego enough to realize that, and that you’re right in this. I usually find the “you’re overreacting” gambit to be an odd one – I’m just asking you to stop doing this one thing, so if it’s not a big deal, how is arguing back with me not the overreaction, rather than the simple request? In any case, I feel for you.

  7. 7
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    For being that rock.
    For standing up.
    For drawing that line in the sand.

    THANK YOU

    It sucks that doing the right thing comes with a cost, but it is appreciated.
    You are appreciated.

  8. 8
    Lithified Detritus

    Very sorry to hear this. I wish I had something useful to say, beyond the fact that your readers do care.

  9. 9
    katybe

    Sorry to hear it’s causing you grief, but congratulations on sticking to your principles, and doing what you can to make things better. I hope B can come to understand why it matters.

  10. 10
    heliconia

    I am so grateful that you are standing up against all this bullshit, and so sorry that it’s causing you to lose people you care about. I hope B manages to figure things out. Just know that, whatever happens, you’re making the world a better place and making it easier for those who come after you to fight the good fight as well.

  11. 11
    seraphymcrash

    There’s something really fucked up about the “overreacting” line that gets so frequently used. People react more strongly when the issue is important to them, telling them they are overreacting is devalueing the things they attach meaning to. Not to mention I don’t think anyone has ever heard “you are overreacting” and stopped and said “Oh you’re right, I’ll calm down”.

    I want to respond “No! You are underreacting, people’s basic dignity and rights are being undermined, and sexist and transphobic bullshit is being perpetuated. If you lack the decency to take a stand for this, then sit down and keep your mouth shut, because right now by standing in my way, you are standing with the bigots and the sexists. Don’t be that guy.”

  12. 12
    Malachite

    I just wanted to let you know that because of this post, you inspired me to make a stand on a social justice issue at my workplace, fighting against a different form of oppression.

    An administrator at my place of work sent round an email containing a small phrase that furthers/normalises that kind of oppression. I replied to him asking him not to do this, and saying why. He might not agree, nor respond, but maybe, just maybe, he will think again, the next time he is inclined to write such a thing in an email circulated to everyone. Thanks for helping me not just sit down and take it.

  13. 13
    geekgirlsrule

    The Geek Husband What Rules and I used to go round and round about my “over-reacting.” But slowly, I wore him down until he gets it.

    So, there’s hope.

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this right now, but you rock and you’re awesome! Now, go drunkenly snuggle that kitty.

  14. 14
    Trebuchet

    Hang in there, Dana. I’ve met B, briefly, and he seemed like a good sort. Hopefully he’ll come around. Does he read your blog?

  15. 15
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Dana? You are fucking awesome. Don’t ever stop “overreacting”, because it is only by “overreacting” that shit changes.

    I don’t know who B is, but if B doesn’t come around, just remember, as you said, that you still have tequila, you still have your cat, you still have us… AND GEOLOGY! DON’T FORGET THE GEOLOGY!

    I hope B comes around, however. I hope B realizes where he went wrong and crawls to you on hands and knees begging your forgiveness… or, at the very least, acknowledges his mistake and politely apologizes.

    And don’t let anyone tell you to just sit down and discuss things with him all politely n’ shit. I can tell you from personal experience… sometimes we doodz just need to be slapped in the face.

  16. 16
    elpayaso

    “well behaved women rarely make history.”

    or positive social change. keep rockin the boat when needed.

    Mother Jones would be proud. and we all are too. a virtual bottle of Don Julio Reposado being sent your way!

  17. 17
    psanity

    Well, it is so extremely irritating when people you care about don’t get it, and you have to tell them so. I applaud your refusal to be an innocent bystander. And I think it’s unlikely that B’s been hanging out with you all this time, and somehow missed that you are a swordswoman rather than a damsel in distress. If he expected you to allow friends to make asses of themselves unchallenged, instead of pointing out injustice, he’s not been paying attention.He probably just got sandbagged by the boat-rock-phobia that can attack us all unexpectedly, especially when it involves workplace politics.

    As a former shop steward, I will now advise you to do things you’re probably already doing. It sounds like your supervisor is, by and large, a good manager, and wants to be. I’d point out to him that he is on the slippery slope that leads to “hostile environment”, and that you really know he doesn’t want that. I’d also point out that your team is already, in a passive, inadvertent sort of way (right?), pushing the women on the team to the side, and that he is probably not the person who is most likely to notice subtle signs of this becoming a bigger problem. Therefore, as a good manager, he needs to be proactive in making sure his team is truly a team by setting a standard of behavior and inclusiveness — that means he should be making sure there’s fair representation about what’s on the big screen, for example.

    And about his “funny story”: it may be easier for him to understand couched in different terms than transphobia. Another way to look at it is that he was really saying he was

    on the verge of killing

    a woman

    because she did not meet his expectations

    – a sentiment that any woman might view with alarm.

    ( I like to keep things simple — I deal with teenagers a lot.) (Then I say, “In this particular case, we call that “transphobia”.) Even in the recounting, manager-guy is probably processing this with his 18-yr-old brain, and he should try his grown-up brain out on that.

    Do feel better. It was not fair for B to lay his two cents’ worth on top of an already difficult situation, and I hope his disability is temporary. Have a bottle of Herradura on me. The verdad is even more important than the tequila, right? Yes..

    .

  18. 18
    keresthanatos...I am my Evil Twin

    Lead by example.

  19. 19
    rq

    B might do with reading this. There’s a small part on ‘over-reacting’.

  20. 20
    blondeintokyo

    I really admire you for standing up for what you believe in. I’m tired of people taking a “oh well, that’s life” attitude to this kind of thing. I’ll make a huge fuss and don’t care if it makes someone else uncomfortable because I’m rocking the boat. That’s on THEM.

  21. 21
    moarscienceplz

    Wow, Dana, I’m so sorry this happened. Good for you for standing on your principles.

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