Most of the time, I try not to make my blog entries too personal. But one thing has been bothering me a lot lately, and I think it’s something all women can relate to.
I’m sick of being invisible.
Not in my classes, or at work, or amongst my friends. If you’re even sexist with a little s, you probably aren’t going to be my friend for very long, and I would say my work and school environments are elevated enough to respect women, at least on the surface. The place I find myself invisible is with the friends of my boyfriend’s best friend.
Now, I know that’s an awfully specific place not to exist, and it’s thankfully a place I don’t have to inhabit very often. But when it does happen, it drives me to a fury and confusion that most other interactions don’t cause. These friends are also a kind of microcosm for the rest of society, the non-geek one I rarely delve into anymore.
A little background: My boyfriend and his best friend have been best friends since they were little. They stay best friends, more a ceremonial title these days, mostly because of that fact. They’ve grown apart the last several years, in part because BFFL now spends his time mostly with tools (not the useful kind). He and my boyfriend rarely hang out anymore, especially because my boyfriend doesn’t like BFFL’s friends. (And they do seem like very difficult people to like.)
There are two male friends of his that I think represent the two kinds of men in that social circle: sexist with a little s, and sexist with a big S. The first one, let’s call him Taylor. Taylor seems like a nice enough guy. I haven’t been around him much, but when he is around, he’s never said anything offensive. One way he probably avoids this is by never acknowledging my presence in the room and ignoring every single thing I say. Even when my boyfriend introduced me, he didn’t even look at me, let alone nod vaguely in my direction, or say something normal like, “Nice to meet you.” When I responded to a comment he made about the Guitar Hero controller, it was as if I hadn’t said anything. When he left, he said goodbye only to my boyfriend, not to me. Taylor is what I classify as sexist with a little s. While every word out of his mouth wasn’t “bitch” or “slut,” he clearly doesn’t value anything a woman has to say.
The other friend is a far more open sexist. He’s a misogynist with a big fat M written in red marker. My first encounter with this friend, let’s call him Matt, was when BFFL brought him over for some pre-gaming before they went out to the bar. (The image of what kind of social circle this is should become ever-clearer. It’s the kind of social circle where guys wear Tapout shirts.) We were watching some werewolf B-movie that featured a female scientist. Literally every time Matt meant to say something like “woman,” “girl,” or “female human being,” he said “bitch” instead. For example, after being attacked by a werewolf, that scientist was now going to become “some crazy bitch-monster.” That same scientist was also “the only bitch in the movie.” You get the idea. That was the most personally infuriating and degrading 2 hours of my life. But I, a coward, didn’t actually say anything to shut him up, and instead glared mercilessly because I didn’t want to make things awkward. (I have since realized that this is stupid; I should never let someone continue to make me feel like less of a person in order to avoid “awkwardness.”)
I have thought about that evening often, even though it was months ago. So, when BFFL brought Matt around last week, I was pretty upset the second he walked into the room. But I was ready for a rematch. Things were going ok until a hilarious story was told about how when his Skyrim wife said she’d make that food tomorrow, he killed her. Then, when I was talking about how I just died (I was playing Skyrim at the time) because one of my attackers went behind me, Matt thought it was hilarious to tell me that I was raped. By the time BFFL was telling a woman in a fictional conversation, “listen, bitch,” and Matt was advising him to “slap that bitch,” I exploded in rage and my boyfriend told Matt to get out. Once Matt left, my boyfriend explained to BFFL that he shouldn’t ever bring Matt around again, especially if I’m there.
I may have won the rematch, but it was a small victory: not only does Matt not actually realize what the problem was, but there are plenty of other Matts in the world that I will never get revenge on. These Matts will keep hating women, because their little culture condones it. I didn’t even win a battle, I won a skirmish. A skirmish that, ultimately, means nothing.
In this kind of social circle, when you’re someone’s girlfriend, it seems that, by having totally removed yourself from the “fuckable” category, you become a nonentity. Nothing you say or think matters. And it definitely doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be the only “bitch” in the room.
I’m not used to being around the Matts and Taylors of the world. I’m not used to being The Girlfriend, which is just code for Untouchable. While geekdom obviously has its gender-related problems, it’s still more welcoming than some other societies. In face-to-face dealings with geeks of any gender, I’ve never been completely ignored or insulted in these ways. I’ve seen some things on the Internet that compare or are worse, but never in actual life. I also can’t remember a time among geeks where people spoke to my boyfriend instead of to me. It makes me glad I’ve always chosen the friends that I have. It means I never ended up surrounded by people like Matt and Taylor, people who see a woman as insignificant as a human being once she enters into a relationship with someone else.
Perhaps I am wrong to be congratulating geeks. Perhaps the sexist subtext of much of geekdom is worse than overt misogyny. Perhaps it is simply my experiences with the people I’ve met in my life. I don’t know. But, for me, it feels better to be around people polite enough to at least pretend they think you’re a person, rather than people who just don’t fucking care.