Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Clinging Like Hell To Your Prejudices Must Be Hard Work

This is probably going to be more of a rant than anything else coherent. I have a coworker, let's call her M. Now M is an okay person, a little bossy and overtalkative, but fine. Work is boring and she's nice enough. We don't have a lot in common, but we talk. Unfortunately, she angered the hell out of me by saying two different really awful things, and when I told her that I was offended by them and why she shouldn't use terms like that, I got told in no uncertain terms that I'm too sensitive and she has the right to her opinion, among other things. Oh, and "that's just the way people talk/that's how it is". I did not scream at her, "BUT YOU'RE FUCKING WRONG!!"- I could sense that it would be a bad move. Give me credit for that I guess. So, the things in question:
1. She's describing a female coworker of her husband, who works in a traditionally male-dominated field. It's outdoor labor and the pay is okay but not great. Apparently, this woman's suspect behavior includes taking this job (even though she's a non-butch girl) , being attractive, flirting with men although she's married, and having a bad relationship with her husband. These last two are pretty iffy- how does one verify this, other than "Well, I heard..."?
M states that "She just took this job because she can hang around with men all day, because she's desperate for male attention. She's a whore and a slut. I mean, she's married and I hear she flirts with all these guys. How pathetic."
At which point I needed to *headdesk*.

There are so many things wrong with this statement (which wasn't terribly papraphrased, either) that my head starts hurting. I try to gently explain to M what slut-shaming is, that's she doing it, and why she shouldn't... and it's like talking to a wall. The ideas that: maybe the woman does actually just like the job and it has nothing to do with men, or that her marriage or the state of it is no one's business but hers, or that how she acts isn't M's business, or that she could be banging every guy in the department and lingustically, unless she's getting paid for it it doesn't make her a whore, or that even if she was an actual whore (sex worker?) it's not M's job to give approval or scorn, or most importantly that calling women sluts or whores is degrading to all women and we shouldn't fucking do it... none of these ideas take. And yes, it's wrong if she's cheating, but again, has nothing to do with me OR M. I finally say, "We shouldn't be making judgements about someone else's life, either way." Her response: "But everyone does it anyway." Yeah, obviously you've got it down solid. Glad I've never just gone around willy-nilly, having sex when and with whom I choose to; that'd be really slutty! (Oh wait...)

2. She said a phrase I hate with a fiery passion: "That's so gay". And Ceiling H Cat, I just want to smack people who do this. Also using "fag" as an insult. (Unless you're British and you think calling someone a cigarette is just scathing. Brits can ignore this.) I explain to her that I hate it because it's equating the word "gay", as in, queer/lesbian/bi/wev, with something that's bad or stupid. Please see this excellent post about it from Shakesville. Her response was textbook: I have no problem with gay people, I'm not using it THAT way, it's just a slang term, people can say what they want, why are you so sensitive, it shouldn't bother you, blah blah blah. Fuck you, it shouldn't bother me. You know what? Too much rum in my daiquiri shouldn't bother me. Hate speech should, and does. fucking. bother. me.

My not-overly-bright 18 year old brother does this as well, and I take issue with it with him too. I hated it before I came out, which is something else she asked (as if it mattered). I compared: If someone says "Oh, he's such a Jew", in reference to someone being cheap (another thing my bro does that I hate), and a guy standing nearby says "Hey, I'm Jewish and that's offensive", you'd hope the speaker would apologize, feel like an ass, and consider his words more carefully in the future. You'd hope at least, if you were wildly optimistic.

When I made this comparison to M, she considered "Jew=cheap" a totally negative and hateful stereotype and would never say it. But "gay=bad/stupid" is totally ok, because, actually, the word "gay" really means happy, so it's all good. Um...no, I explain, that hasn't been common usage for Americans since the 50's. So far as I know, the LGBT community, me included, prefers "gay" to "homosexual", which is I guess the 'technically accurate' term (as she argues it is). We don't like 'homosexual' because creepy fundies and right wingers have taken that word and infused it bad connotations. (See here, wherein Christian news websites fuck it up hardcore, to the amusement of many.)

But never mind what the people who are actually IN the group you're trying to label want to be called, as long you don't have to give up your straight privelege.
Anyway, the point is, I couldn't win, she didn't apologize for shit, didn't see how anything she was saying was the least bit wrong, and refused to see how maybe it could be. What to do, what to say with someone like this? Someone who thinks they're a good person but talks like an asshole half the time? She's also said once something to the effect that "girls who got pregnant cause they were irresponsible (ie, didn't use BC or force their partner to use a condom) or who've had too many abortions should be forced to have the child to teach them responsibility for their actions"... Which is another post about "wrong on so many levels".

I'm so glad I'm leaving this job soon. My partner Ferret is job searching in the Frozen North-Midwest so we can start fresh up there, cause the economy here bites. I'm not thrilled at the idea of the MidWest, but I'm sure as hell not thrilled about staying here either. People like this make me think I'd rather work alone.