I moved

You can find me at EthEcoFem from now on.

Thanks to everyone who enjoyed this blog and participated in discussions! Similar topics will be discussed often at the new place, and the same rules apply. If anyone is curious about whatever issue I am bringing up or simply wants to engage in a respectful discussion or debate, I’m always willing.

Once Again

Many comments in my most recent post about The Pill indicated that readers thought that I was calling people selfish for taking prescription medication, especially hormonal birth control, and that I was proposing that all people on medication should stop taking it. This isn’t the case. I want to clarify my point.

While I am lucky enough not to suffer from chronic conditions like endometriosis and others that were mentioned in the comments of that post, I do understand that others do and that, for them, hormonal birth control is the only way they’ve been able to find relief. I also understand that there are a wide range of mental illnesses that, without the aid of anti-depressants and other prescription medications, can be excruciating–or impossible– to deal with. While I think that we need to be looking for other methods of treatment for various alments and conditions, I understand that we cannot (and should not) simply take it away from people who are dependent on the medications. That would not be morally right.

This is why I repeatedly stated that I was not advocating denying people’s right to medications and forms of treatment.

It’s clear that, because of the angry, flippant tone that I used in that post that this message may have not been made as clear as I intended.

There are a lot of inconsistencies in my argument; this, I am aware of. For one, besides conditions like endo, synthetic hormones improve the lives of many transgender people, and I have no desire to inform transgender people that they must either find a different way to transition, or “deal with” being trans without the option to transition.

Instead, what I was trying to get across was how obnoxious I find it that so many people in various feminist communities, for some reason, flat-out refuse to acknowledge negative affects of The Pill and other pharmaceuticals. In a similar vein, in these communities it is often also rarely acknowledged that in the US, at least, people are over-diagnosed with mental illnesses, disorders, etc., and many anti-depressants and other medications are often over-prescribed. I realize that this silence is often in attempt to shield the people who actually have conditions that are relieved in at least some way by various pharmaceuticals of more ostracization and disbelief than they are already unfortunately accustomed to. It is my opinion, however, that the truth needs to be accessible to everyone and that, as typically progressively minded people, we should not take off our critical thinking hats when faced with people in our own community.

My position on the pharmaceutical industry has not changed, nor has my opinion on oral contraceptives changed. While I do not wish to forbid the use of pharmaceuticals to people who need them, I do hope that we can all agree that the industry is under-regulated, for-profit in the worst way, and in desperate need of an overhaul. We need to be searching for alternatives that are better in the long run for people who need them, and others who don’t. Enough allowing them to exploit our legitimate problems and issues for their financial gain. Where is the accountability? We can’t turn a blind eye to them just because we like the convenience of The Pill when it’s used as a method of birth control. They need to be held accountable, and we deserve better. We are not stupid; we are not sheep who should be expected to trust everything they offer us. They’ve proven themselves not to be trusted.

That said, it’s become almost funny that I maintain a blog called The Nice Feminist when I’ve been writing such angry and disillusioned posts lately. So, as a result, I’ll leave this blog up, but for future posts (since I still love blogging and can’t help but make sure I type my opinion at as many people as I can), I’ll be starting another blog. Because I’m a feminist and committed to equality, these topics will be the majority of the content of the new blog, similar to this one. I anticipate many of the first posts to be me attempting to suss out the inconsistencies of the various philosophies I hold, so expect minor navel-gazing, but with a hopefully more relevant, analytical approach.

For any regular readers who do check back often and enjoy the posts here, I will be posting a link to the new blog when it’s up.

Thanks to everyone who has enjoyed this blog and the content in it. I appreciate your readership, and the blogroll will also be moving to the new blog. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out when I figure out what to call it and get it up and running.

imnotme, who seems to have forgotten that he can post on this blog, can still be found at his personal blog, which is imnotme.wordpress.com.

Later.

Considering a Move

Clearly, The Nice Feminist has gotten too angry to maintain a blog with the word “nice” in its title.

I’ll probably be moving this blog elsewhere and broadening the range of topics. If/when that happens, I’ll post the new blog address.

The Pill

by cacophonies

edit as of 10/14/09: Please read the updated post that will appear sometime 10/14/09 evening (US Central time) for a clarification of what I intended to get across with this post before commenting on this thread. Comments from here on out yelling at me about my tone will be deleted. Thank you.

Amanda Marcotte wrote an article about how she’s irritated by all of the criticism of the Pill, and claims of scientific studies proving that hormonal birth control is harming women’s health and the planet. She doesn’t believe the claims, and believes instead that because the Pill symbolizes “female sexual independence,” it should remain on the market, for everyone, no matter what the silly studies say.

I usually really appreciate Amanda Marcotte. She’s an intelligent and insightful writer, her book is hilarious, and I just generally know that if she writes something, I’m likely to enjoy it. But jumping on the bandwagon of feminists who can rant all day about right-wing ass holes not believing in global warming and other proven scientific facts, and 15 minutes later are closing their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears when someone says they ought to be informed and look for another form of birth control (there are a whole lot of choices out there, ladies and gentlemen) because this one is proven to be detrimental to most women’s mental and physical health, and also fucks with the ecosystem, is not progressive. Not in the slightest. And when they do acknowledge that all of those things can be true, they are very quick to claim that, regardless of all of the known dangers even to people who don’t take the Pill, we would have no right taking it away from the people who wish to continue using it.

Why not? We expect that once it was proven that cigarette smoke not only causes lung cancer in a smoker, but also in non-smokers via second-hand smoke, that cigarette smoking will no longer be allowed in an enclosed public space, in order to protect the people who are not choosing to do something dangerous to their health. In most Western industrialized nations, it is.

We expect that once we learned about the dangers of DDT to the workers who sprayed it, the people who ate what it was sprayed on, and the environment, that it would be banned. It was.

We expect that if it’s discovered that spinach has E.Coli, it’s recalled and stricter safety regulations are enforced. It generally is.

But feminists of the so-called “third wave” or contemporary persuasion, for some reason, love the crap out of Big Pharma. You can’t pry those precious prescriptions for all of their many problems out of their claws. They can’t seem to grasp the idea that many prescription medications are bad for you, and bad for the environment. If they can grasp it, they try as hard as they can to find a reason why it would be wrong, immoral and sexist to ban them. Or, how, Who cares if it’s bad, what you said made me feel fat!

Amanda discusses some study done somewhere that proved that while women were on the Pill, they were attracted to more “domestic” men than they were when they were off the Pill. She blows it off, eventually seeming to call people who are predisposed to consider what anthropologists have to say silly for believing what she clearly thinks is hogwash.

She also finds a way to make sure that it looks like someone is leaving out lesbians: “I’m also sure lesbians in the audience will be amused to hear their hormones direct them to this man or that, depending on their cycle.”

No. While the article is clearly hetero-centric and doesn’t take into account the fact that lesbians ovulate just as much as heterosexual women do, Amanda doesn’t take into account the fact that “domestic” and “rebellious” are not traits that only exist in heterosexual people. If the study is more or less accurate in it’s hypothesis, then lesbian women would be more attracted to more “domestic” women while on the Pill.

There was a thread on Feministe a while back, reviewing a book about all kinds of lefty-natural-green-save-the-planet things. Like how antibiotics in your system will kill fertile soil when it goes from your body to the earth. The author found this out by pooping in his yard regularly, and noted the difference when he pooped while taking antibiotics.

Everyone got mad at me, and the author or the post told me not to comment on that thread again, because I was too snarky for them (I was of the belief that there was nothing too snarky for Feministe commentariat) and “condescending” because of what I said in the comments about the reviewer’s criticism about the author’s claim that the Pill is bad for the planet. I heard all kinds of reasons why I should be just totally fine with toxic chemicals in my drinking water:

also your call for eliminating antidepressants and other drugs “for the good of the planet” is pretty damned ableist. i think my not committing suicide from uncontrolled depression takes priority here.

I think that if I am going to be called an ableist for understanding that many chemicals in anti-depressants are bad for those using them and also, eventually, for those who choose not to use them, then it could be argued that you could be labeled selfish for choosing to save yourself from the magnitude of your depression rather than the health of 6 billion other people.

he is causing MAJOR environmental issues by possibly introducing foreign bacterial colonies to local soil populations. VERY BAD idea to be eating things from ALL OVER the planet and then pooping them out on the surface of the soil.

“Foreign bacterial colonies”… Hmm. I guess hormonal birth control doesn’t count as something foreign to introduce to the local soil populations… I guess soil just evolves happily with synthetic hormones, but not with this guy’s poop?

Why are all of these feminists so reluctant and angry and unwilling to admit that sometimes, these things are bad, and that even if we think they’re bad, we should keep them around all the time for everyone anyway? Ok. Science knows nothing? Then why not let the religious right have what they want, and teach Creationism in schools? That’s a good idea, then, right? If we follow the proposed logic, anyway.

I get the concern about people who are dependent on prescription medication, and I’m not proposing that we make prescription medication illegal. I also think that it’s very important to consider that many people are dependent on prescription medications because of conditions caused by pollution, toxins used in our household cleaners, baby formula, and poor health decisions that didn’t exist 100 years ago. Do we want to eradicate this trend, or perpetuate it? Again, I’m not advocating forbidding medication to those in existence who need them, but there has to be another option. Am I willing to say that having the Pill is an even trade for the slow, inevitable death of our planet, if we keep it up?

No.

It’s time for feminism to get out of bed with the pharmaceutical companies and think about their health, the health of other women, and the health of the rest of the planet that we all claim to care deeply about.

The catch is that there are women who genuinely suffer from excruciating pain when they have their periods, who haven’t been able to find comfort in anything but hormonal contraceptives. This, I understand. I’m not trying to advocate taking your only comfort away from you. But that isn’t the end. “Some people neeeed them” isn’t a good enough reason to ignore the fact that Big Pharma, the FDA, and the rest of the government really don’t care about you or me or anyone else. It isn’t a good enough reason to keep up production and not demand regulations and absolute, 100% safety in these products. That’s what they are: products. Have we forgotten that we, as a users of oral contraceptives, are not people with a problem that you’re taking a pill to treat or “cure,” but a consumer of a product? I think we have. Consider, then, that manufacturers of these products are going to do what they can to manufacture these drugs as cheaply as possible, which will create the highest profit, which means the product will be sub-par in quality. A trend that has always led to adverse effects on our health, and everyone else’s that manages to inadvertently come in contact with it. Under-regulated drug designers are concerned with their profit, and only with their profit. They are in the business they are in, not because they care about increasing the quality of the lives of the people who purchase their products, but because they know that there is a demand for oral contraception, and they want to get in on the profit. Even the religious suppression of the Pill in the United States has never overcome its demand.

I was on The Pill for a few months. I figured I might as well, since I was in a monogamous relationship and it seemed terrifically convenient to pop a pill a day and say goodbye to condoms. I imagine that’s the way most women feel when they go on The Pill for contraceptive reasons.

My experience, however, was less than pleasant I grew incredibly depressed. My breasts hurt constantly, and I had cramps that were worse than the ones I got with my period. My doctor asked me absolutely zero questions and basically just handed me the prescription that she figured would be best, and I therefore had no idea what to expect or what to do, other than take the thing at the same time every day. I didn’t ask her any questions because I trusted that she knew best. When I got to the end of the first 3 weeks, and took the placebo pills, I started to bleed, as though I had my period. From Wikipedia, explaining the placebo pills:

The placebo pills allow the user to take a pill every day; remaining in the daily habit even during the week without hormones. Placebo pills may contain an iron supplement, as iron requirements increase during menstruation.

Failure to take pills during the placebo week does not impact the effectiveness of the pill, provided that daily ingestion of active pills is resumed at the end of the week.

I guess it just didn’t occur to me that I’d need to be reminded to do the thing that stopped me from possibly getting pregnant while I bled. Oh, but I didn’t even need to bleed:

The withdrawal bleeding that occurs during the break from active pills was thought to be comforting, as a physical confirmation of not being pregnant.[55] The 28-day pill package also simulates the average menstrual cycle, though the hormonal events during a pill cycle are significantly different from those of a normal ovulatory menstrual cycle.

So I took a pill so that I didn’t get pregnant. My breasts grew one cup size (permanently) as a result of the extra estrogen that my body didn’t need or want to produce or accomodate; everything hurts; I’m depressed as hell. Fuck this– there are plenty of other ways that I can prevent myself from getting pregnant when I don’t want to be. And don’t even think of telling me that one way to help the depression while still taking The Pill is to start taking an anti-depressant. Just don’t bother.

I know that my experiences are not the same as every woman’s, and I wouldn’t presume to tell other women that they shouldn’t do something simply because I had a bad experience with them. On the other hand, many women report problems with The Pill. Many women need their PIll’s estrogen level increased or decreased because what they’re doing is introducing more of one hormone (actually, two; progesterone is the other active ingredient in The Pill) into the body, that the body doesn’t naturally produce, that the body does not want. Since the body does not produce it and does not want it, it creates negative effects. Like depression, tender breasts, cramping (fooling your body into believing it’s pregnant, so it doesn’t think it needs to let you get that way), blood clots, breast cancer.

Once I realized that my depression was so severe and I couldn’t figure out why, I had a spark of curiosity and Googled The Pill. When I read about the depression, I stopped taking it. When I read about how my “period” while on The Pill was not in any way real (I knew something seemed quite off), I got mad.

It’s time to stop blindly trusting the corporations that produce toxic chemicals and tell us that they symbolize our freedom. It’s absolutely nonsense to allow these corporations to get away with it, just because we can’t think of a better solution. Let’s focus on a different way to help women with reproductive freedom; The Pill is clearly more detrimental than beneficial.

update: Lookie here! I’m already called an ableist because I write a post that dares to discuss the negative side effects of oral contraceptives!

Shocking! Heaven forbid we allow ourselves to consider the larger environmental impact of our rampant pharmaceutical usage.

Micro vs. Macro

by cacophonies

This is a post where I hope to see readers’ participation. I’ve devoted a lot of blog space lately to how I think feminism “ought to” be, but I don’t want any ensuing discussion to be yet another feminist echo chamber like so many blog posts we often see, and I also hope to avoid arguing for the sake of arguing. Hopefully we can learn something from one another and bring up some ideas for change– no matter how theoretical or utopian. Hopefully we can help elaborate on one another’s ideas and provide contructive criticism when necessary.

It seems that the majority of disagreements that occur between feminists and non-, or anti- feminists occur because the parties involved in the debate are not coming from the same place in their arguments.

One thing we all see repeated over and over in blogs, in discussions with friends and acquaintances when discussing social justice issues are situations where a discussion like the following occurs:

Woman: “Women bear the brunt of institutionalized sexism, are the majority of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and earn, on average, less money than their male counterparts.”

Man: “But my friend Tim, who has a doctorate, was turned down for a job he was more than qualified for because a woman applied. She wasn’t as qualified as Tim; they only hired her because of Affirmative Action. That’s blatant sexism, and it is sexism with men as the victim. Sexism is not only a problem for women.”

Woman: “But that woman may not have had another opportunity for that job. Where do you expect her opportunities come from? What about the countless women who are turned down for promotions that they are qualified for, only to have an under-qualified male hired instead, because the male boss didn’t trust that a female would have the necessary drive or intellect, even though she had more than proven her intelligence and worth to the company?”

Man: “The system that you are talking about is legalized sexism toward men and toward white people, plain and simple.”

Woman: “Think about it this way. A man, Bob, and a woman, Sue, work for a company. They do the same job, they started on the same day 5 years ago, they have the same level of education, they achieve identical results on their performance reviews. One day it comes out that Bob makes $60,000 a year and Sue makes $40,000 a year. Since they both perform equally as well, are identically educated, and neither has seniority over the other, Sue is rightfully angry. She confronts her boss, who states that he has exactly $100,000 in the company budget to pay the two of them. There is not a cent more they can squeeze out. He is under obligation to make their pay equal, or he faces a battle in court that he will certainly lose. He decides to do the right thing, and make Bob and Sue’s pay equal.

In doing so, Sue got a $10,000/year raise. Bob received a $10,000/year pay cut. They continue to perform the same job with equal skill and dependency.”

Man: “That is not fair. Bob does not deserve to have his pay cut just because the boss was sexist in the first place. The boss needs to figure out a way to please everyone and make things fair for Sue, but Bob should not be penalized for it. He did nothing wrong and was not involved in the decision to pay him $20,000 more per year than a woman of equal education, skill, and experience.”

Woman: “But there is no more room in the budget. Should Sue continue to earn less than she is worth because the boss is sexist, and because it’s not Bob’s fault?”

Is this fair?

Well, that’s hard to say. The man has a point when he says that it’s not his fault that the boss made a decision rooted in sexism, and that he should not have to pay the penalty for being favored initially.

The woman has a point when she says that it is not fair that the woman not be compensated equally for equal work.

The boss, however, made it clear (and let’s assume he is being truthful) that there is no room in the budget to put them both at $60,000/year. And furthermore, where does the equality that is missing come from? It doesn’t materialize out of nowhere; it must be redistributed from existing resources.

What is fair, then?

You could argue that if Sue is not earning what she deserves, which is half of the payroll budget for half of the work, then Bob is earning more than he deserves, since he does not have more experience, education, work ethic, etc. than his female counterpart. No, it is not his fault, but he has also done nothing to deserve more compensation than what was allotted in the first place.

Focusing on the fact that most women earn less than their male peers in the workplace is what often occurs in feminist discourse, on the internet and elsewhere. Focusing on Bob’s experience, and Man’s friend Tim’s experience with Affirmative Action is what tends to occur in non- or anti-feminist (or MRA) discourse– or, more often than not, their polarized arguments are yelled back and forth at one another.

Both have valid points, as we’ve explored already. Bob doesn’t seem to deserve a pay cut; he wasn’t a part of the sexist decision-making that caused the problem in the first place. But Sue is representative of scores of women who are systematically compensated inadequately and unfairly for equal work, education, experience.

The problem with feminist discourse is that no one is willing, apart from the outspoken critics of feminism, to discuss what happens when we try to dismantle the patriarchal structure from the top and watch everyone fall down. Would we benefit from working our way up, from the bottom, instead of scrambling to put the pieces back together after everything falls to the ground? I think we would be.

Most of us agree that “the patriarchy” as it stands is the root of many, if not the majority, of our social problems. Do you think that the current “macro” approach to solving these problems is beneficial? Would focusing on a “micro”approach yield better, or faster, results? What are your theories? Are there lessons from personal experiences that may prove beneficial if applied across a given populace?

Women & Friendship

by cacophonies

(as I’m talking mostly from personal experience, this post is pretty hetero-centric)

Throughout my adult life thus far, the women I meet tend to fall into two categories: those who are primarily friends with men, and those with whom I share absolutely nothing in common.

It seems to be a trend among women that I encounter these days. Women are primarily friends with guys, and the women who aren’t don’t even register on my social radar. This tends to happen because I am also one of those women, the one who historically tends to only consider men as prospective friends.

In my general observation and experience, the cycle goes like this:

Girl meets boy, they become close friends, she sees him as only a friend, and he secretly pines for more. She bitches about her current boyfriend to her boy-BFF, he listens and lets her cry on his shoulder. She can tell that he wants more than friendship, but is comforted by the fact that he says nothing, because she knows that if he did, she’d have to end the friendship. Ultimately, her relationship with her boyfriend dissolves, and she and boy-BFF start dating. She acclimates to his circle of friends, mostly guys, and hangs out with them and becomes, as she sees it, a solid member of their group. She meets some new guy from work, school, wherever, he becomes new boy-BFF. Her relationship with former boy-BFF dissolves, and as a result, so do her “friendships” with the guys in his social circle. Having no other friends to speak of, save for a couple stragglers from her childhood other school years that she still maintains periodic contact with, she quickly finds herself spending all of her time with boy-BFF and his friends. She and boy-BFF start dating.

The cycle repeats.

This usually begins with a slow severing of old ties with former girl-BFFs, and swearing off other women as close friends because of the alleged cattiness or back-stabbing tendencies of other women (of course, they’re different than those other women).

This, clearly, is not healthy. The men that this proverbial woman is finding herself in “friendships” with are also good friends with primarily other men. Most do not tend to have many girl-BFFs and stick with their core group of “guy friends” that they’ve known since they were 12. Not too many guys tend to hang around solely women.

In my personal experience, I have felt hurt countless times by friendships with men that I thought were strong and real dissolve because the guy confessed that he’d always been interested in me romantically, or because we started dating. It felt like there was no real friendship to speak of, that I was being fooled, like he was only hanging out with me and feigning this close bond because he wanted to be in a romantic relationship with me, not because he really valued me as a friend and person overall. I’m sure the guy was just as hurt, thinking I was just leading them on or something. I swore them off as friends, but quickly realized that I had no idea how to be friends with anyone other than guys that I suspected might have a crush on me.

imnotme and I were talking on the porch earlier tonight and the topic of friendship came up. It was mentioned because I no longer have an expansive social circle as I did in my single days, and it’s been affecting my mood lately. I’ve cut ties with many of those people, whether intentionally or circumstantially, and while I call a lot of people my “friends,” I’m no longer the social butterfly that I used to be. Most of my friends came directly as a result of starting a relationship with imnotme. My friends are the people he hangs out with, nearly all of whom are other men.

I love his friends; don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the hearty debates over beer and chain-smoking on our glorious 3-season porch, I love the rational yet sensitive way that they all interact with one another and discuss their girlfriends or children or jobs. I like how they seem to be fond of me, as well.

The thing is, though, they’re not so much my friends as they are imnotme’s. Obviously, right? I’ll call them “friends,” but I’m not likely to call up imnotme’s best friend to hang out when I’m bored if imnotme isn’t there, too. That’s pretty much the difference that I see. It’s not a big one, but it’s enough.

I mentioned that, while I like all of his friends a great deal, sometimes hanging out exclusively with groups of males can be… well, exhausting. I like hanging out with them because they’re nice, fun, and intelligent people, but I needed to relate to someone on a more basic level. Where I didn’t have to defend my emotional reactions to something or argue about why something is sexist or fucked up, where I could actually discuss whether or not I should cut my hair in whatever style without the response being silence and looks of utter confusion.

Now I’m making a concerted effort to make friends with women. I have female friends, a precious few of them, and I manage to leech off of those ones when I can to get to know more. Most of my female friends are stricken with the same affliction, though, and are also friends with mostly males. I guess we’re the only chicks one another can stand to be around. In the process, though, I have managed to meet and hang out with many intelligent, passionate women with a lot to say and who have taught me a great deal. I’ve also managed to be at a loss for how to interact with them. I’m so used to being around guys that I feel like I can’t read women’s signals, or their hints or cues. I find myself grudgingly accepting some stereotypes as true and unable to be completely ignored because, even if those behaviors are socialized and not innate, it is most certainly not acceptable for me to attempt to convert other women to my way of life or view of the world as it is. I used to find the whole idea of close friendships with females who call each other “sister” and love each other and hug a lot to be sickeningly unrealistic and fake; now I crave this kind of interaction and just want a real, genuine friendship with a like-minded woman. It feels like too much to ask, and I envy the women who’ve maintained strong ties with other women.

Try as I might, I can’t quite figure out why this would happen more often to women than men. Is it as simple as being a product of a society that tries to pit women against each other and create competition? For one, I’m not even sure I understand that theory. But what other reason could there be? Is it the extra attention women want? I would hate to generalize like that. Why wouldn’t men seek out the same attention, if it were that important?

Why do you think that is? What is the difference? Do you see the same thing in your social circles?

Such a Nice Guy

by cacophonies

I was at a party the other night, imnotme’s older brother’s girlfriend’s 30th. BirthdayGirl throws many parties and is a fabulous host, and the party was a great time, as usual. There was one guest, however, that didn’t quite jive with the rest of us.

For a little background information, the crowd that typically gathers at BirthdayGirl’s trendy Uptown condo parties are mostly white, mid-to-late twenties and early thirties professionals, with careers in design, advertising, or copy writing. They’re generally fairly comfortable financially and most have bachelor’s degrees, some have continued further in the pursuit of higher education. In fact, if they weren’t all so friendly, welcoming and talkative, I’d feel terribly out of place with my broke-ass, in-and-out of college every couple years self. But alas, I manage not to.

Anyway, as you can imagine based on the nature of my blog and the people that you would assume that I would willingly spend time with, everyone in the group is pretty left-leaning and feminist-friendly. In contrast to this general ideal, though, imnotme’s younger brother brought a friend along with him to this recent bash. “Jake” is not from our neck of the woods (Minneapolis, MN) and hails from Minnetonka, a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis known for… well, rich, bigoted white people, and a fairly large lake.

Jake is known amongst people who meet him as a “nice guy.” Everyone agrees that he’s a bit boisterous, a little too in-your-face sometimes, but you certainly can’t speak ill of a guy who’ll bring over an eighth of kind bud and tell you to help yourself, as he goes into your kitchen and selects a beer to bring to you, beer that he brought over.

In his circles, he’s just a Nice Dude. In ours, we make sure we’re tentative when we agree. But it’s unanimous, right? Dude is just Nice.

The problem lies in the fact that, while he’s generous and overtly (to the point of seeming ingenuine) friendly to you and your friends, he defaults to the lowest common denominator when in a group of people; especially new people, as was the case when YoungerBro brought him to BirthdayGirl’s party.

Lowest common denominator conversations in parties where yuppie-ish, progressive white people are drinking beer and socializing with people they barely know tend to gravitate toward one of two things: sex or sexism. The sexism part, of course, is never hostile or necessarily malicious (or even conscious), but rather a grasp at a common thing that you can safely assume that everyone’s thought about. Differences between men and women, girlfriend/boyfriend problems, what makes guys dump girls and vice versa.

So back to the main point: Jake, he’s kind of a “big dude.” You can tell that the majority of his weight is made up of muscle mass, the deliberate, obsessive kind, where he makes it a point to be as muscular as possible just so he can be as “manly” as possible. Most people probably assume he was a football player in high school and college. He makes a remark to YoungerBro about how skinny he is. YoungerBro, never one to admit that he feels insecure or insulted, pauses briefly and haughtily agrees with him. Jake says, after realizing that his comment could have caused potential uneasiness, hurries to “Hey, it’s a good thing. It’s better than–” (he lowers his voice and even crouches down a bit) “–being fat.” He pauses for a minute as the only people who presumably heard him, imnotme and myself, give no response. YoungerBro also elicits no response. Jake briefly measures the pauses on his Gauge of Social Awkwardness, and quickly attempts to apologize for the remark by muttering half-apologetically, half arrogantly, “Man, that was real shallow of me to say, huh?”

Well, no shit. The thing is, not one outside on that patio was “fat.” Plenty of people were “skinny,” including a few guys, and no one had anything affirming to say in response to his assertion that being skinny is better than being fat. Imnotme and myself were the only ones that presumably heard him, but the fact that no one even bothered to affirm his assertion seemed to spark his Gauge. Perhaps it had something to do with the underlying implication that, in order to be compared to fat people in the way that Jake did it to YoungerBro, you’d have to be what he (and his peers) would deem to be too skinny. You know, for a dude. Dudes can be big, chicks can be skinny. Dudes don’t get (relevant) shit for being big, chicks don’t get (genuinely negative) shit for being skinny.

One more glaring, obnoxious example of ridiculous expectations that men and women are faced with, perpetuated by someone that everyone thinks is such a goddamn Nice Fucking Dude.

There were other examples of the ways that Jake occasionally stuck out like a sore thumb at this party, but I can no longer remember them all. The point remains, though, that someone may be extra nice to you, and a real asshat to everyone else, and in Jake’s case, it likely has everything to do with where he grew up, and his privileged background. It’s really easy to grow up white, rich, and sheltered. It’s really easy to quickly pass judgment on the people you see every day who don’t look exactly like you. It’s really easy to assume that because someone isn’t like you, that they are somehow defective, unreasonable, or lazy. It’s really easy to be known as a Nice Dude when you don’t even notice what a dick you are otherwise. It’s so easily forgivable, right?

It’s hard to be in a situation like that, for me personally, and listen to people like him, voice booming, about things like how being “too” skinny is better than being fat. It’s hard for me to stay quiet, but it’s even harder for me to say something confrontational or to correct his arrogance. At least there’s a bright side. The bright side is that, 5 years ago, if I were to have gone to a similar party and a Jake showed up and started running his mouth, 90% of the other partygoers would have joined in. My social circles haven’t changed much– they include different individual people, but the ideologies shared in the various groups remained the same– so it’s not necessarily that I just started hanging around better people. Maybe we’re all just growing up, realizing that things aren’t as black and white as we thought they were before, and now, 90% of the people at the party will, at the very minimum, cringe.

I don’t think that Jake is not a nice guy; I will willingly allow him that label, but I will not feel comfortable allowing him the grace of being ignorant when it’s avoidable. Maybe that is the distinction; if a person is aware of their ignorance or arrogance, then they have enough sense to change their ways, and only pride or stubbornness is standing in their way. That is a choice, and therefore, in my mind, unforgivable. If one has the mental capacity to consider whether or not they are in the right or wrong about an opinion or statement that they made, then one has the sense to be a progressive and respectable individual. If they are not a progressive and respectable individual upon realizing that they have the choice, then in my mind, they are no longer eligible for my social forgiveness or good graces. That does, of course, mean that I am declaring that I have the “right answers”; otherwise, how would I even be capable of making a decision about this person’s societal worth? The problem is that I am perpetually annoyed by people or groups that declare, or at least believe, that what they think, feel, believe, etc., is superior to other ideologies, so naturally, I do not want to be one of those people.

I’m not sure that I believe that people can change who they are and what they believe in a matter of minutes, or based on a class or a conversation with someone who holds a different perspective than theirs’… but, I do believe that people can change their minds and I believe that anytime someone changes their mind, it’s probably a good idea.