Ignorance is a bigger threat

9 Mar

Remember last week’s post about choice?

The conversation over at the Smart Bitches degenerated rather quickly after Ann Sommerville showed up¹. Such derailments can be entertaining for a while, if entirely fruitless–screaming at people will not change their mind, and doing unto others as they’ve done unto you won’t endear your position to bystanders.

However, these comment threads help me remain aware of my own attitudes towards women’s sexuality and agency, as well as those of the people I interact with every day.

In the romance reading community (or at least those blogs I usually read and their frequent commenters) we have often talked about women putting women down and how that is one of the biggest threats to women’s freedom to choose–whether the choice is to stay home, barefoot and pregnant, to fight in combat, fly to Jupiter, get paid for sex², or find the ultimate answer to all the questions in the universe.

Most of the time I agree with this point of view, but this week I participated in a conversation that both horrified me and set me straight.

I work with a number of young people, about 75% of which are female. Of these, the majority are in their late to very early twenties (think not-quite-drinking-age here). Most of these young women are sexually active and, for reasons that escape me, feel free to talk about their relationships and sexual habits with me during slow times or after closing, while setting things to rights for the next day.

During one of such conversations, one of these co-workers was recounting her most recent scare.

See, she’s on birth control and has been for a couple of years. She’s also in a committed relationship with a guy who’s active duty in the Army. He’s currently deployed somewhere else, and so she only has sex when he’s free to visit for a few days. Apparently, during the most recent visit down here, she was in the middle of changing birth control, under medical advice. Obviously no one would expect them to remain celibate under the circumstances, but apparently neither of them considered that using an alternative method (hello, condoms?) during the transition would be a wise move. Hence, she had about three weeks of increasing panic before her period.

Interestingly, in a very cynical way, is that she speaks of this as a relative common occurrence–it’s not the first scare they’ve had, and she seems relaxed to think there’ll be more of them.

Me, under her living situation (complicated and her business) would be a tad less phlegmatic, but to each her own.

But, lest you think I’m truly this horrible morality troll, what utterly horrified me was the contribution to this conversation by another young woman–who is probably just over 18 herself, also sexually active and, as she’s proud to announce to anyone within hearing, in a very committed relationship.

Upon hearing of the scare and the subsequent birth control conversation, she dropped this pearl of wisdom with the most perfect straight face and affect of superiority:

I’m not on one of those things (i.e., birth control). My boyfriend knows when to pull out.

I wish I could convey the level of shock I felt, and I wish I could say that I managed to control it enough to set her straight regarding the real risk she’s at–and not just of pregnancy, either–but once I managed to sputter how *I* was conceived after my very Catholic mother tried that as birth control (and that after my sister was conceived using the rhythm–also church approved), she shrugged and walked away, and then refused to talk more about the issue.

She knows what she knows, and that is that.

And I’m forced to conclude that ignorance–and the stubbornness to admit to it–is a much bigger threat to women’s freedoms and women’s rights, than women’s disdain and collusion with ‘the patriarchy’ (or whatever you want to call the status quo)

~ ~ * ~ ~

¹ As it tends to do, in my experience of over half a decade of online interaction with her.

² Because, if it’s legal in your jurisdiction and you want to do it, why the fuck not? Posing nude and acting in porn films are as legal and as suitable choices as modeling or singing–why do we continue to put caveats on when or under which circumstances we approve of women’s choices?

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5 Responses to “Ignorance is a bigger threat”

  1. Lori 09/03/2013 at 12:57 PM #

    I’m sorry because this is going to be a little off topic but I want to say this and open up this conversation with you.

    I’ve generally disliked Ann for her ranty, obscenity strewn reactions to things she disagrees with but reading that thread on Smart Bitches I began to wonder what the reaction truly is. Because I almost always fall on the same side of the fence as Ann in her opinions. We have the same world views, the same beliefs in freedom and justice.

    Ann does stand behind her words and has taken the consequences with it. She was banned from DA for awhile, she lost her editor at Samhain in the past but she never apologized and she didn’t get beaten down by it. She was punished for being a foul mouthed, strong woman with overwhelmingly strong opinions.

    I have been too. I’ve lost jobs because I defend myself. I’ve been written up for refusing to let people walk over me. I refuse to allow people to insult me or people near me. I once called a doctor’s office and asked them to cancel a surgery because during the check-in process the patient made racist comments to the Indian registrar. A supervisor tried to have me written up for my actions but when she heard the things the patient said, it was hard to stand behind his rights. But she tried.

    I’ve been told to shut up more often than I’ve been asked to give my opinion. Truth be told, the amount of cussing and calling the c-word in my head to others probably makes AS look like a pussy.

    She derails conversations because things become too personal to her and that’s just part of her personality. She feels attacked and she attacks back.

    But is she really wrong?

    • azteclady 09/03/2013 at 1:17 PM #

      I often agree with a lot of what AS says myself, and it’s what makes participating in a thread with her so frustrating.

      My experience has been that if I agree up to 80% of what she says, she’ll jump down my throat for that missing 20%.

      If I agree with her 100% but don’t phrase my thoughts with the same vitriolic language she uses, then I’m–at her most restrained–a tone troll.

      It is not about not backing down, it’s not about not standing up for yourself or others. It is not about being a foul mouthed woman with strong opinions–Karen is and I haven’t seen her get in half the shenanigans AS has.

      My main issue with AS, as it’s often with Ridley, is that people who have not solidified their position on any given issue can and probably are put off by the screeching, and may even start buying the other side’s propaganda (i.e., irrational hysteric feminazis) when a woman goes for the throat on her very first post–and never accepts that perhaps she didn’t get the whole thing right.

      It’s an inability to give any ground even when warranted by nigh incontrovertible evidence of having crossed a line or being, you know, wrong.

      Because sometimes our first impulse is overreaction, and sometimes we just misread what someone else said, and sometimes that someone else comes back and says, “shit I was wrong” and you should accept their apology and move the fuck on–and AS is constitutionally incapable of any of these (and others I’m not listing right now).

      Years and years ago there was a thread over at Karen’s–wish I remembered when and what the original post was about–that brought AS screaming over, claiming both Karen and I had a vendetta against her, when in fact she was mentioned in passing as–wait for it–being on the right. No amount of dialogue would change her mind then and none will now.

      • azteclady 09/03/2013 at 2:00 PM #

        This one is a different thread, earlier (if memory serves) than the one I mean in my first reply, but it’s both entertaining and an example of what I mean here.

        Edited to add: I wish I had screencapped the hell out AS’s post I linked to there, because it’s now gone–not even the Wayback Machine has it.

        Edited again: crap, wrong link the first time around–sorry

  2. Lori 09/03/2013 at 2:13 PM #

    You’re right, no doubt. I thnk reading that thread at SB bugged me because of the women over there saying they were pro-choice but then still throwing in random slut-shaming comments. I wanted to call them out on it with the same AS vitriol.

    I have this issue with anger and forgiveness. I believe that woman are often told to let go of anger and to forgive others, not because it’s better for the women but because it’s better for society (ie: white men in power) not to have a bunch of angry, unforgiving women around.

    AS is angry and unforgiving. Also over the top and usually right. Except when she’s not right.

    But sometimes I wish I could scream at the top of my lungs also and just let it out.

    • azteclady 09/03/2013 at 2:29 PM #

      I don’t know that I’m necessarily right about her, it’s just how I feel and react to AS pretty much every single time.

      I see what you say about women and forgiveness, and agree that *that* bit of bullshit is often trotted out for the benefit of not rocking the boat.

      What I’m saying is that, in my experience, a person stands a better chance to sway me from my first, instinctive (read: society/patriarchy-fed, not-considered) views when they don’t attack me, the person–even when they disagree loudly and foul-mouthedly with those views.

      I would love to see more people (especially women, but all people in the end) come to realize how real and pervasive misogyny is, how often we condone it by keeping silent, how important to humanity it is to bring equality about, and I fail to see how screaming at them about what miserable human beings they are accomplishes that.

      So if the end goal is to get people to see the light, and that goal is so all-important as all that, then exercising restraint is key. That is where AS fails miserably, as far as I’m concerned, and given how much I agree with a lot of what (as I understand it) she believes in, it’s extremely frustrating to see her antagonizing people who may haven been persuadable to see the light, had they not been eviscerated by her from the get go.

      Makes sense?

      (And boy, do I regret giving in–i.e., not exercising that famous restraint–and leaving AS entirely off my own post here. Talk about errors in judgement)

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