Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Asking for the Moon

Last night I had a dream that my father was talking smack about gender equality.  You probably don’t know my father, but this is very realistic.  He was arguing with another man about how bitchy feminists are, how cold and unforgiving they are… when they fight for basic human rights.   

In my dream, I started arguing with him, defending that fight- much like I do with him in real life.  After listening to me for a few minutes, he responded with what he must have considered a very poignant misquoted line from Now, Voyager*:

"I gave you the moon, why can’t you be happy with the stars?"

What my dream-father meant, of course, and what dream-me actually understood (because I was unconscious) is “men have given you so much, so many things, why can’t you be happy with what you have? Why are you asking for more?”  

My response to him went something like this:

"Because we want the moon.  Because the moon shouldn’t even be yours to give, you stupid asshole.  Because having the moon is a basic human right. And how can you say that you gave it to me and then ask me to be happy with less anyway?!"

I stand by those words even now that I’m awake.  I’m actually really proud of myself for being able to make such an articulate argument while I was unconscious.  Now, if only I could transfer that awesomeness to these final papers I still need to write...  

Maybe I was able to think so clearly in my dream because it is an argument that I constantly have to reiterate when I’m awake.  It is an argument that so many of us, suffering from all different kinds of oppressions, have to make all the time.  Asking to be treated like a human being is not asking for too much.  And, as nonsensical and contradictory as what my dream-father said was, it perfectly encapsulates the kind of bullshit that we often encounter.  

Because the 14-year-old girl in me likes to stare at fan manips of James McAvoy with sloths and prevent 21-year-old me from actually getting work done, I am a very passionate Tumblr girl.  I recently got into an argument about race and gender with a sexist, transphobic, racist asshole on Tumblr, like you do, in which I had to defend my major and career path in addition to my role as a woman of colour.  In the same post, he told me “you already have your equality” and, at the same time mind you, accused me of wasting the opportunity I’ve been given with my college education by studying about injustices rather than studying to be a scientist because too many women “complain about the lack of females in scientific subjects, and with this decide to study feminism to ascertain why, rather than actually break the chain and enter these fields themselves, thereby contributing to the trend that they oppose.”

I mean, it’s a valid observation; not enough people are trying to be the change that they seek.  I will grant him that.  However, I must take his criticism with a grain of salt because a) I have been through his blog and he is an asshole and b) he said all this and still claimed that I “already have [my] equality.”  Furthermore, I don't think he understands that women are socialized to pursue careers that do not focus on math and science.  We are encouraged to do other things because the misconception is that women are not as good as men in these fields.  This, of course, leads to stereotype threat and the internalization of that harmful belief that women are actually not good enough, and then women do not try to become scientists.  And the few that do are so clearly entering a man's world that, more often than not, they begin to feel intimidated by the majority. Additionally, I don’t think it’s fair to charge some people with that kind of responsibility while others just walk around, pursuing whatever profession they desire without having to worry about how it reflects their whole gender or race or sexual orientation, etc.  So I said this:

"What I am majoring in/plan to do with my life is not the issue.  The issue is that no matter what I do, I will be held up as an example of what my entire group as a whole is capable of in a way that men never have to worry about- unless they are not white or straight or cis or neurotypical or able-bodied or from a middle-class background because that’s the whole point here; when you have privilege, you do not experience marginalization and therefore do not understand the imbalance.
And I don’t understand how you can tell me that I already have equality and reinforce the fact that I clearly don’t, and NOT even realize it. If there was true equality, as you suggest there is, I would not have to tailor my career path to fill that gap because, by definition, there would be no gap."

What faux-allies and most people with privilege see when they look at us, the oppressed, fighting for our basic human rights, is a group of people asking for more than they need.  They think our demands are outrageous and blame us for our own dissatisfaction.  They expect us to be content with the crumbs offered, to sit here repeating to ourselves *“Let’s not ask for the moon, we have the stars” (the actual quote from Now, Voyager).

So, let me make this really simple and easy to understand; if you have the moon, a.k.a. privilege, you don’t get to tell other people not to ask for it, a.k.a. equality.