February 9, 2016
Yesterday at the library, again and again, men asked us to watch their things while they went to the washroom, and we did so. Men of colour, white men, old men, young men, all cis passing, all neurotypical passing, none readily legible as poor.
Eventually, a white man, boisterous at a table full of other men, spoke loudly of his thrill at how many “chicks, bitches, and good little sluts” there had been at a bar he attended the night prior. We told him that he needed to stop using that language immediately because it was wholly inappropriate and unacceptable and when he protested that he hadn’t been talking about us, we told him in unison that we didn’t care and that it didn’t matter. He apologized and left.
A man of colour whose belongings we’d guarded twice came to our table to explain to me that I am Black, but had I heard that in some places you get preferential treatment as a Black person if you are lighter skinned than other Black people? And to explain to me that because I had behaved “so aggressively” and “so cruelly” to the white man yelling about bitches and sluts, it was clear as day to him that I am racist towards white people, did I know? And to explain to me that I ought to recognize that all the men surrounding us were deeply wounded, and did I know that it is my duty as a woman to love them and heal their hurts? And to explain that they’ll never listen to me if I’m not nice? And to tell me, once he’d finished monologuing, that my chosen course of study was clearly not for me, and that I ought to be a teacher; I’d listened to him so patiently, you see, that it was clear to him I’d be a great one?
I agree that it’s capitalism and colonialism that make even the most white, the most cis, the most able, the most straight, the most rich men into tortured pitiful goblins; and while I am ferocious in accounting for and redirecting the various ways in which I have been disciplined to weaponize myself against others’ bodies, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to be fucking angry.
Your actions are understandable, but they are not acceptable.
I do not accept the actions of every single man who interrupted my friend and I as we worked because they know they can count on femmes to be patient and accommodating and observant. I do not accept how readily they interrupted our work, our education, our conversation, our care for one another. I do not accept how they blare their misogynist gaze in celebration, how their bonds with other men are predicated on their shared capacity to weaponize against femmes. I do not accept how easy it is for them to blame femmes—blame us for what they declare is our own unhappiness, blame us for their pain, blame us for what we endure at their hand and their tongue. I do not accept how their anti-racist politics are just their inclination to police my behaviour in public, to tell me I’m a traitor to black people for being “rude” to a white man, to tell me that the continued subjugation of people of colour stems from MY refusal to allow the white man his space.
If your masculinity is contingent on your status as a locus of power that you enact against others to make them smaller, your masculinity is not acceptable.
You are not acceptable.
Black cat familiars via Tumblr.