You know those encounters that leave you thinking for days of what you should have said or done but didn’t?
Well, I recently reconnected with some childhood friends and met some of their new friends. Not the good kind, but the kind that is so feeble-minded and detached from reality that makes you wonder whether you even exist in the same dimension. I was shocked at the amount of overtly sexist comments thrown at me, not by old men solely faithful to their regressive cultural traditions, but by young men my age with university degrees, expensive clothes, and rich parents: the future businessmen and politicians who will hold the power positions that reshape our society. I want to address some of the alarming comments that were made as a way to vent and get closure by writing down what I should have said but was unable to.
The “You Women Only Read Self-Help Books ” card
As I was talking about an interesting fact I read in a book, some guy laughed at me hysterically, convinced I was a phony. “You women only read self-help books” he affirmed with a big condescending grin on his face. My jaw dropped wide open, but I tried to keep my rational and non-threatening posture, trying not to make any sudden movements to avoid the risk of him pulling out the “you women are too sensitive” card. I responded: “that’s not true”. And he immediately tested me, demanding I name the last book I had read. I answered: “l’Étranger, d’Albert Camus“. He was instantly impressed by my French accent as well as the renowned title I spoke of, certainly not the pink-covered-how-to-be-a-better-person shit book he expected. He started to talk to me in French, once again testing my integrity or competence or quality or my je-ne-sais-quoi to measure my honesty and worth, with the same assertive and patronizing attitude, only this time, he pulled that self-confidence out of nowhere. Poor guy must have had an A1.1 French level – on a good day.
The truth is that l’Étranger was not the last book I had read – I had read at least three books ever since, the last one being Mujeres del Alma mía: a feminist memoir by Isabel Allende. I am not sure why I lied to the guy. Maybe I didn’t want to scare him away with my feminist literature, fearing to be called a feminazi once again. Maybe, my internalized machismo pushed me to name a classic novel with a celebrated male author of whom everyone speaks wonders so that I could feel proud and respected. A foreign yet universal book that would allow me to prove my intellectual capacity and let me utter some French words to attest my fluidity in the third language I mastered. A casual testimony to my worth. Proof that I am worth more than what he thinks. I am more than just a pretty face who reads self-help books. WE are more. We are not just pretty faces with empty brains and disposable bodies. We have opinions. We have a voice. We are complex. We are all different.
But I – I am not going to let the stereotype of a submissive brainless pretty woman prevail in the collective mind of this so-called-progressive generation.
The “Pretty Girls don’t Have a Brain” card
My frustrating conversation with this unfortunate human being did not last very long since I promised myself I wouldn’t get angry. After all, I was there to have fun, not to debate. I had to turn around and dance with the happy people, reminding myself that it was just a “party”: or as much of a party as it can be within the legal framework during times of pandemic. I danced for a little, but either incredibly absurd or enriching conversations kept pulling me in. I was unable to ignore the topics that were being thrown around within my hearing range: abortion, religion, the right to vote. I will not revisit these drunk conversations in-depth, but I will say that these young men were in absolute awe every time I spouted my strong yet rational opinions, or as I like to call it, my thought vomit.
I hated to see the boys on one side, ranting about crucial matters with their terrifying opinions, and on the other side, the girls carelessly dancing and ignoring the atrocities that were being said. Why can’t we all just go to the men’s table instead of staying on the sidelines looking good? And why is it that so many men believe that pretty women are dumb? Thirsty men frequently approach us trying to teach something and show off like a peacock in distress. It is too often that we stay quiet to avoid scaring them away. But I’m trying to make sure they realize I am not one to passively sit there, swallowing their monologue like it were some kind of divine truth. I will, confidently, slap that bible closed and call it as it is: fiction.
The “Women are too Sensitive” card
The most absurd comment of the night was, by far, “women should not be able to vote because they are too sensitive”. I am pretty sure I started yelling at that point, which, in their perspective, was evidence to support their statement. The obvious truth is that all people are different: I’ve had boyfriends who were much more emotional than I was, boyfriends who were not capable of expressing their feelings, girlfriends who are as cold as ice, and girlfriends who cry every goddamn time the dog dies in the movie, such as myself. However, if we do accept the “it’s human nature” line of thinking, stating that most men are rational and most women are sensitive, then I would say that it is all the more important that women get to vote and get involved in politics.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, sensitivity is the ability to understand what other people need and be helpful and kind to them. In my humble opinion, if women controlled the political sphere, there would be fewer wars, fewer deaths, and less inequality. Funds would be redirected from guns and bombs, weapons and wars, big trades and buildings, and other manly men stuff – to children, universal education, healthy and affordable food, human dignity, culture, and community.
As a relevant example, I’ll share an interesting anecdote from when I lived in New Caledonia: Low-income families were receiving government credits, and the person in charge of handling the money was the designated head of the household, being in most cases the man of the house. The issue they found was that an overwhelming majority of men were spending all the money on booze and lottery games instead of their children’s education, food, and a proper roof to sleep under. The solution? Easy. They gave the money to the woman of the household, and it worked. Women started making savings and spending the money on their children’s education, books, clothes, improving their homes, diets, and overall quality of life.
If women held the highest decision-making power positions, maybe we wouldn’t be wasting our tax-payer money on the harmful policies and deals that are destroying our planet. Call it sensitivity if you may, but in my opinion, if we cry for injustice and feel pain and empathy more than men do, then our mentalities are more adequate for voting than the “rational” way of thinking that leads us to bomb other countries with our penis-looking machines.