Monday, November 1, 2010

Down with dudes

I've always avoided large groups of dudes. One of the problems with entering into a state of divine dudely isolation, however, is that you never really pick up the art of talking to dudes. This is great when you don't want to talk to them; for example, I never felt bad about not talking to a dude. I've gone years without talking to them, in fact, even within my own family. But it's bad when you need to talk to them; when you want to appeal to their better dude. I don't know how to do this -- certainly not with some random dude.

For most of my life this was ideal: I could bypass the problem of dudes. Now it kind of sucks, because I bear responsibility for that which is "dude." I really don't want to learn the language of sports if I don't have to. But dudes are too fast and loose with the things they say about women; they ambush you in the middle of an aboveboard chat. If I could draw a sports analogy right quick maybe I could make some salient point about the ladies to an audience of dudes.

The only role model I have when it comes to negotiating with dudes is As'ad AbuKhalil -- the Angry Arab. His solution is to yell at dudes whenever they act unbecoming of a dude. I'll be honest: I don't know if I am that brave of a dude. It turns out that dudes can be your colleagues; a dude can be your boss. A dude could be just some swivel-headed dude on the street, slack-jawed after every passing non-dude. Yelling doesn't really work for me; I'd rather not announce myself, and prefer to plot and scheme.

The best thing about confronting patriarchy is the hope that someday you'll know how to be just one dude, not a different dude suited to each occasion. I know someone who must be literally 15 different dudes; whether he says something to your face or behind your back, or remembers from one day to the next are among the deciding criteria. What he says about women while flirting with every one he sees is a wonder to behold. Don't be this dude.


Katie said...

I wonder about disdain. A "that is so yesterday" eyeroll. But then one could be accused of being elitist.

I don't know. I don't know how to appeal to people's better selves except to have relationships with them, have compassion for them, and to do the tedious work of being with them on the baby steps that let them have perspective on themselves. This is the sort of thing we are not supposed to have to do. Not supposed to have to be "the bridge called my back." But I haven't found a way around being the bridge.

And sometimes I think, "Fuck it. Women may have to dance every step that men do only backwards in high heels and being the bridge and everything blah blah blah but what ever. I'll do all that and ten other things at the same time and still do a bang up job because, frankly, most humans hold the bar so fucking low it's just not that hard to do everything they do backwards in high heels." Which I can do for quite awhile until I find myself emotionally exhausted now and then.

And really, it's as much the areas in which I myself have privilege as much as my "dancing skills" that make this possible.

I think people have to get to a point of not "othering" who ever it is they are othering, and if that someone is me, getting in their face and engaging with them and actually caring about them has been a powerful way of making myself hard to "other."

It's something I can't take time to do with most people. I'm glad other dudes want to take on some of this work.

It's a lot easier to pressure people to change by demanding that they change via organizing I think, or by doing "cultural work" that changes the culture around them and creates an environment where their sucky ways of treating people are not supported.

This blog is some of that cultural work, and it does wonders to cheer up a girl when she's exhausted from all that backwards dancing, among other things.

JRB said...


Your comment reminds me of the Harvey Milk quote that "If they know us, they don't vote against us."

There's something to be said for announcing who you are when your values are being attacked; which, for a man, should be anytime women are being disparaged. How to do this without closing off all discussion, though, is the question that interests me most.

Katie said...

I like a lot of what liberation-theology Buddhism has to say about this kind of thing. The stuff that Tich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron write about, about the mind that holds compassion for the political opponent and does not "other" him or her, while confronting the injustice in the situation.

These are emotional and cognitive skills that I have found that liberation theology Buddhism has some practical tools for in its teachings. I use them all the time.

The neither yielding nor contributing to the cycle of violence thing is a skill that requires inner work and self-awareness that go beyond the teaching we get in most radical cultures.

As an atheist, my preference would be to see this education coming from somewhere secular, like from Psychology instead of from religion. Perhaps the field of Psychology has something to offer here that I don't know about yet. In the mean time, the Buddhist teachers have been helpful to me.