I’ve accidentally put myself into a box. I’ve outed myself as one of those liberal women influenced by ‘mainstream’ liberal media, with no real understanding of what labelled-by-the-liberals-as-privileged-people (and especially labelled-by-the-liberals-as-privileged-men) go through on a daily basis. Especially since the election, I’ve started feeling like I’m preaching to the choir on this blog. I’ve started to wonder what the point of writing it is. Anyone who doesn’t agree with me won’t last more than about two paragraphs before writing me off as just another crazy person who, to quote something I read on Facebook recently, “doesn’t think like the rest of the country”.
And then, a few days ago, I read an article (in German…sorry for those of you who can’t read it). It basically says that “heterosexual white men” (aka one group of people who may potentially be put-off by reading some of the things I write on this blog) don’t like the label “heterosexual white men” because it doesn’t encompass all of their complex characteristics. This is something that should be obvious. Obviously heterosexual white men also have personalities and opinions and I’m friends with some and not friends with others and some like dogs and some like cats and some are allergic to both. But the feeling of being put into a box like that is frustrating. It’s a feeling I know well as a white, cisgender, heterosexual woman, and a feeling that many many people without the privileges I have know better than I do.
It’s a feeling that makes me feel like it would be better if I’d never come out publicly about all of the things I’ve been through, because then I could feign objectivity. It’s a feeling that makes me eager to justify my every word and action. A feeling that now makes me say out loud that I am a heterosexual white woman, just so people know where I am coming from. It’s like I want my own warning sign that says “any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental”. That reminds people that no matter what I say, it’s always just coming from my mouth, out of my experiences, and it’s probably not universal and maybe not even legitimate. To me, it’s pretty (pardon my language, but fucking) obvious that I am not objective. Everything I say (and also everything I write) is my opinion, my truth, my point of view. Obviously.
As a child, I thought my mom was objectively correct about most things. As a teenager, I thought she should think a little harder about how her ideas aren’t necessarily universal truths. Now I think she’s just be an opinionated woman who’s been trying her whole life to be heard. She has learned to state her opinions like they’re objective facts because if she doesn’t, people accuse her of thinking that way (i.e. having ideas) because she’s a girl, because she’s emotional, or because she just ‘doesn’t get it’. Whatever that means.
I think I’ve figured out what the it that my mom doesn’t get is. I think it refers to the truth of white heterosexual men that dominates everything. The truth that has always been labelled as ‘objective’. Not because it’s more correct (or more incorrect) than my truth or my mom’s truth or my sister’s truth, but because it’s the one that people who have historically been in positions of power have spoken. As a child, I thought my mom was objective because she spoke like she was. As a teenager, I thought her opinions were too strong because she’s articulate and has a tendency to use facts to back up her arguments (and that’s annoying when you’re fifteen and trying to argue). Now, I’ve started to notice how often and firmly I need to repeat my own opinions to be heard.
Neither my mom’s nor my opinions are objective, despite what seven-year-old me thought. But we live in a world where your ideas are subjective by default if you’re a woman and objective by default if you’re a man. So we’ve learned to speak loudly and clearly. Sometimes, we can trick seven-year-olds.
Just like my Facebook echo chamber told me prior to the election that there were probably only 4 people in the whole country voting for Trump, the echo chamber of the United States of America has historically told white heterosexual men that their truth is the only one out there. That’s a comfortable place to be, and an uncomfortable place to admit you are. In fact, as soon as you admit that you’re in it, you admit that other people’s truths matter, too. For me, that means trying to understand where Trump voters are coming from. For some heterosexual white men who hate being reduced to ‘just’ heterosexual white men, it means admitting everything they ever thought was True might actually just be an opinion.
As uncomfortable as it may be to embrace the heterosexual white male identity, it’s an identity that heterosexual white males need to embrace. You’re allowed to have other personality traits. Your white heterosexual male-ness doesn’t even need to be your main trait. But my patience is waning with those of you who continue to believe in objectivity just because the world is your echo chamber. If someone doesn’t get your “it”, you probably don’t get their’s, either. You’re allowed to disagree. You’re allowed to be angry. You’re allowed to feel confused. But you are not allowed to pretend your words represent Objective Truth. Because in the end, if I don’t get ‘it’, neither do you.
P.S. If you just read this and you’re a heterosexual white man (or other person) feeling offended, re-read it and notice that I’m just asking you to embrace and acknowledge your box, not accusing you (or your friends) of being an awful person.