Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More on anger.

Right now I’m having internet connectivity issues. I read comments on my phone but the interface on blogger and lj mobile suck. I’m not going to type responses with my thumbs. Especially because my thumb bloody hurts. In the past week I have cut it more than once and I have a nasty thorn or splinter or something I can’t get out. I’m not going to write elaborately on my phone. On the computer I am composing in Word and then when I get five minutes of being connected I hit post. Which is a long winded way of saying this post will hopefully include the things I would say to people individually and I like comments.

I think that class things play in as well as gender things, yes. Men and women talk down to me differently. Men treat me like I am stupid. Women treat me like I am not important. Men know that I have some use at least.

I grew up in a very female dominated environment. Men came and went and weren’t big influences. I lived with my mom and my sister and Auntie and my cousin and her daughter. The boys were Uncle Bob, my nephew Denny (who is eight years younger than me), and my male cousins would rarely show up for dinner. The avoided the hen house. Uncle Bob thrived in an environment where he was the only cock. It allowed him to strut and act like he did the important male jobs and we were all weak and stupid. The important jobs like sitting in his chair and waiting to be served. Awesome.

Over and over my experience of men is that they talk down to me and expect me to be grateful that they are imparting wisdom. It’s not just an engineer thing. I get the same kind of condescension from the maintenance guys at the local elementary school (That’s what Uncle Bob did for the last ten or fifteen years he worked).  I am more surrounded by engineers these days than I used to be and the feeling has intensified. I feel like being an engineer takes male bravado from seven to eight. They are just slightly more full of themselves. Either way I’d like to walk around with a baseball bat taking out kneecaps. Maybe they would stop fucking looking down on me.

Not really. I’m kidding. Mostly. The thing is, I like men. I find them comfortable to be around. Men think I’m not as smart as them so they don’t expect much from me. When I do things they are surprised and complimentary. Wow! You can do that? Why always the tone of surprise? Oh yes. Because it is a shock that I’m not sitting at home waiting for a man to deliver. Right.

I used to work technical theatre. I had two bosses. The technical director is a sweetheart and I adore him still. He is equally insulting to everyone who walks through his door. He does not treat women as less competent. I thought it was beautiful to watch him interrogate boys the way I normally only see women be questioned. “Have you ever used a drill?” He assumes everyone who walks through the door is completely unskilled because otherwise his liability lawsuits would be enormous. I can respect that. He works with large saws all day long. The other boss was in charge of more hand-wavey shit like lighting design and painting and directing. He is a piece of shit misogynist. He openly made nasty comments about women and he and the “boys” would sit around laughing. He was constantly rude to me because I was doing a “man’s” job.

I was one of two people trained to work the rail. The rail is the system used to hang the large backdrop pieces. It is a very carefully balanced pulley system that involves a lot of loading 10-50 lb bricks onto the device from a platform 50’ in the air. It’s not for sissies. The boss I liked thought I was one of the most attentive people there and it was safest for me to be in the air. The other boss would do things to make it harder for me. Like stop in the middle of the ladder right in front of me in order to have a conversation with someone. I just had to hang out on the ladder indefinitely. He would hear I was up at the rail and make loud comments about how we should evacuate the building before I kill someone. To be fair, before I figured out a way to attach the wrench to my belt loop I dropped it once. That was a dangerous mistake. He didn’t attack any of the men the same way. Even if it was their first time walking into the building and they didn’t know an Allen wrench from a Philips head screwdriver.

It’s not just about sex. It’s about the meeting point of class and gender. That’s where I feel stuck and angry today. Men and women manifest the ways they look down on people differently. I have different kinds of anger at them. Women are more subtle and horrible. Men talk to you like you are a piece of shit. Women will smile prettily and spew poison behind your back. Women are afraid of direct confrontation so you have no idea what to expect from them, ever. Women will lie and use relationships to manipulate people. Women get people to “take sides”.  I do it too. I’m not going to lie.

My experience of the difference is that men charge through life just asserting that they are better whether it has any reflection on what they have actually done or not. Women go through making sure other people can’t buck the system. They impose order. Once you are at the bottom of the barrel women don’t tolerate social climbing. You are bad and they won’t let you forget it.

I say these things and wonder how defensive my friends feel. Obviously I don’t want to set the whole world on fire with a torch or I probably would have. I’m expeditious. There are people of both genders who are not terrible people. Most people are not terrible people. Most people are self-obsessed and just don’t bother to notice how they are treating other people. I think that is part of what makes me so god damn mad. They aren’t trying to be mean. They just don’t bother to think about how they are acting. People really don’t put any thought into their tone of voice by and large. And the ones who say they do? They are often the worst. God save me from men who consider themselves feminists. It can go strongly one way or another. Either they are genuinely willing to consider me an equal human being (rare) or they like to tell me how evolved they are and that means that sex with them will be better. To this I say: Bitch, please. The sex is better with raging misogynists and I know it. Why are we lying here?

I think that is a lot of the problem. I do think the sex is better with misogynists. That is a lot of why I have kept my mouth shut in the ways I have. Men who carefully treat me like I am breakable don’t hit my radar. There is an assumption of basic competence when someone drags you through an experience because that is what they want to do right now. There isn’t a lot of room for, “But I have this weird little quirk”—they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear about how easily my vaginal tissue tears. They don’t want to hear about the various health issues I have as a result of violent sex. They just want to get off. There is this assumption that my body is going to handle whatever they feel like doing whether I enjoy it or not.

What? Not everyone has their father train them that all sexual contact is supposed to hurt and you are supposed to learn how to keep a straight face the whole time? That’s not what toddlerhood is like for most people?

I’m broken. I’m broken because I like people who want to hurt me. In a deep animal way I can respect them. In an animal way I don’t have a lot of respect for the people who use kid gloves even though I desperately need the kid gloves at this point in my life. I am so terribly wounded. I don’t think I can continue to just get up and moving on while people hurt me. At some point you lose the will to live. I need to stop accepting what I am used to accepting.

I feel deeply confused by how other people manage these things. For the life of me I don’t understand why I have the friends I have. I have quite a few really intense relationships. They enjoy my company for no reason I can fathom. I’m trying to just show up. I’m trying to trust them.

I hate how much dissociation I still have from my body. I am not interested in soft gentle bunny sex because I can’t feel it. My body doesn’t pay attention, mostly, until pain is applied. I feel very broken.

I have trouble with women, I perceive, in large part because of the Embargo. I’m hoping that fades as I am no longer competition. I can’t count how many women have told me, “I hated you when I first met you but then I started to kind of respect you.” Oh thanks. I’ll try not to let my head expand from that praise. People really don’t give a shit what they say to you. I’m so glad I have earned some grudging respect. That makes me feel better. I earn respect, near as I can tell, from trying to very seriously to do what I say. It’s unusual. I don’t stop doing things because they become annoying or difficult or unpleasant. That is when I feel a rush of adrenaline. I fucking said I would do this and I am not going to god damn fail. I don’t very often. It’s why I don’t casually say I will do things.

Men and women are different kinds of liars. There is overlap, of course. Men are more likely to trash talk you while giving you a chance to do it anyway. Women will gently put their hands over yours to prevent you trying because you don’t want to be humiliated when you fail, right? They are just trying to be kind and save you from your own failure.

The flavor of the condescension changes a lot as social status changes. Low class men talk down to women differently than very educated men. It’s easy to argue with low class men. I suppose I should say that it isn’t hard for me to convince a low status man that I am higher status than him. I can get them to back the fuck off. I am smart and extremely well educated on an unusual arrangement of topics. Low status men can be convinced that I am useful. Once they see that I have skills they specifically respect (no shit, I can build things) then they mellow in tone.

This is where my anger and rage at the engineers come in. They have no respect for all those low status skills I have. They really don’t care that I can do a wide variety of low status low paid jobs. It’s just more proof that I am not as good as them. If I can’t sit there and pretentiously spend my life talking about some minute thing they learned in college I am not as good as them.

And as much as I like all the people in my life who went to CMU or Stanford or whatever Ivy League school I’m really pretty tired of them spending parties talking on and on and on about their teachers. Isn’t college over? Can you move on? Yes, we are all aware that you went to this bad ass school. That’s nice dear. Have you done anything since? Get over college. Seriously. If it was more than ten years ago it is probably a good thing to talk about something more recent. Those of us who are not in the clique are heartily sick of it. We talk about you behind your backs. We are sick of hearing about your college experiences.

Why? Because my college experience was kind of shitty. I went to CSU Hayward before it gave up its place identity. I knew the names of three fellow students when I graduated because those were the ones who talked to me during classes. I lived with Tom. I was a 24/7 slave during college. I went to class, sure. But I went because there were hoops I had to jump through on my way to having the life I wanted. Not because college was so awesome. I went there after junior college. I certainly have stories about the college period of my life but the fact that I was in college wasn’t really the point.

When I deal with people who had transformative college experiences I have trouble being patient. They tend to overinflate the importance of that experience. Like you can’t truly grow up unless you go through an experience like that. But I didn’t have an even remotely similar experience. I read my books and wrote my papers and argued more in class than the teachers liked but it wasn’t my life. It was background noise to my life. It feels like one more way there is something wrong with me.

I didn’t have the same kind of experience other people had. I can’t talk about that period in the same way. It feels alienating. It feels like once again I did it wrong. I’m kind of tired of having to hear people over and over and over describe how awesome college was! Really? Uhm, whatever.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that people have good experiences. I’m glad that other people have transformative experiences. I’m just tired of having to listen to the same ones over and over while knowing that my transformative life experiences are ones that I should keep my fucking mouth shut about otherwise people will be appalled and horrified. My life experiences are disgusting and inferior. Can’t I shut up about them already? I would harp on that less if I was told to shut up less. I am told to shut up and give everyone equal time to talk. So I can listen to forty people tell me the stories of their college experience and they can all tell me the same stories about the same professors and the same papers they had to write. But sweet Jesus no one wants to hear about my shit. It’s just too hard.

In graduate school I wrote about some of my early life experiences. I was told it wasn’t realistic and I should try to write about things people will believe. I really can’t get over that. I can’t get over being told that I should make up a life story that won’t offend people so that I can participate in the vapid cocktail chat. Fuck no.

Men and women talk down to me differently and I hate them differently for it. I suppose that part of the problem is a big part of me accepts that men will always look down on me. When women do the same thing I can’t contain my rage and violence. It feels more visceral, more offensive, more shocking. When I say, “Can’t contain” what I mean is I say very mean things in my head, silently.

When a man talks down to me I can roll my eyes and shrug it off. When a woman talks down to me I want to punch her in the face because doesn’t she fucking know better than to act like that? What is her fucking problem!? I think there is a part of me that is just as big of a misogynist as anyone else. I hold men and women to different standards. I expect women to have a better idea of how to talk to me and they really don’t. It’s not fair or appropriate.

I suppose I expect women to give me the same tolerance I give men. Ignore my attitude and tone of voice and we will do fine. But I don’t give them the same tolerance. I think it is because they do it differently. If a woman is the same kind of angry-tetchy I am we can normally figure out how to get alone. There is a lot of bluntness available and we can muddle through how to relate. It’s the ones who have a high idea of protocol in their head that I will never measure up to that I have trouble with.

I deal well with other wild animals. I can respect that. It seems to be a harshness of spirit that I can recognize from a ways away. Very wounded people all seem to move or smell the same. It transcends gender in a variety of ways. There are two kinds of wounded people, in my experience. There are victims and there are wild animals. Victims think that they are wounded because they were terribly treated. Wild animals think that life is hard and sometimes you don’t get out of the way fast enough. There is a basic acceptance of brutality that I can work with. I don’t have a lot of patience for victims. Victims seem to think that the world is basically a just place so why were they treated badly—it’s not fair!

 I have never had someone who was black hear about my life and tell me, “You should be dead.” That has only come from white people. Only white people seem to think that the indignity of what I experienced is such that I simply should not keep going. People of other races nod and say that shit happens. Now what am I going to do?

It’s a very complicated intersection of race and gender and social class that drives my anger. I’m tired of being treated like a delicate wilting flower. I’m tired of being told that I should not survive what happened to me. I should lay down and die. I should shut up. I shouldn’t offend people. I should accept my place in the pecking order and stop being angry about it. There isn’t a point. Actually there is a lot of point. I’m glad I have enough anger to walk away from tense interactions more determined that these fuckwads are not going to kill me. They don’t get to win.

Sometimes I’m angry with people I don’t need to be angry with. That is unfortunate. But it’s life. Sorry. I apologize a lot. I think I’m quite the sorry individual. And that is why I am so angry. I believe I am low status. Despite all kinds of markers in my life that might indicate otherwise. I am completely convinced that there isn’t a lot of point in me continuing to waste oxygen. Ok, at this point someone has to raise my children but wouldn’t they be better off with someone who was less disgusting? Someone who was more appropriate?

I think a lot of this anger is all self-directed. Why can’t I be what I see in my head? Why can’t I be just a good upstanding citizen? Why do I have to fight all the damn time? Why do I have to argue? Why do I have to deal with men telling me that I am willfully blind if I do not see the world exactly as they do? I don’t think I am the blind one. But I seem to have bought into the idea that I am less than them. And I hate them for it.


  1. Going to go back and read some more of this when I've got time, but, wanted to add a perspective to the whole "talking about college" thing.

    I believe that many of the folks that went to top end schools were sold the idea that they would be movers and shakers, the "big" folks out in the world once they graduated...and it was a lie, or at least partially a lie.

    Now, all they have is a job that pays well, where they are just another cog in the same fucking machine as everyone else...a better educated and paid cog, true, but a cog none the less.

    What all the noise is about is that for them, college was the last time they believed they were going to make a difference, that they mattered...and many of them from what I can see, haven't done anything else with their lives since, because it was supposed to be automatic. The arrogance and fixation is a symptom of a profound insecurity and frustration with a world that hasn't "given" them the expected payout.

    My .02

    1. Also, please feel free to smack me around verbally if I ever talk down to you (or for that matter, if you ever see me talk down to anyone). I am awed by who you are and what you do, you're an amazing parent and an awesome friend...the brilliance and self control are just more frosting on the cake.

    2. There's definitely something to all of what Taylor said.

      Also, for most of us, what we thought we were training to do in college was way more interesting than what we do now, and more difficult as well. Definitely related, but it's a different thing than what he mentioned.

      What we do now is lucrative, boring and not world-changing. Which makes for even worse conversation than talking about old college stuff :-/

      I like some of my recent stuff better than that, and yet it's boring too unless you're interested in deep details of things like computer programming. Most people aren't.

  2. 'I can’t count how many women have told me, “I hated you when I first met you but then I started to kind of respect you.” '

    I think you said something similar to this to me. :)


  3. I think your victim/wild animal dichotomy, especially how it illuminates privilege, is right on. I think you are on the best side of that split and seem to be doing a fine job of both retaining wildness and still fitting within a broken culture. I think your daughters got dealt some nice cards when they drew you for a mom. I think I may have a long wait before you write something weak so I can stop sounding so sycophantic in your comment section.