At a party I attended tonight, a commercial came on the TV about HPV (Human papillomavirus) that encouraged women to get see their doctors and get tested. A fellow partier noted the recent increase in ads for the disease and was discussing possible reasons. I decided to offer up the irony of the lack of heart disease PSAs for women, even though heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America. Advertisements instead focus on reproductive and breast diseases such as ovarian and breast cancer. The first comment out of a proudly self-identified male marine's mouth across the room was "Yeah, it's the number one killer of men, too," in a noticeably annoyed and slightly hostile tone. This is when things got interesting. He made several comments about how men are attacked in women's studies classes at Purdue, and began discussing Political Science 222 (Women, Politics, and Public Policy), and how all the men in the class were "victimized" by the male teacher who always sided with the women's opinions and disregarded theirs. Dave, who was sitting right next to me, is taking that very class right now, with the same teacher, and pointed out that he had never experienced such behaviors in the class. "Well, I'm just saying that teacher is the most whipped I've ever seen?" this man says. To which I reply, "What do you mean, whipped?" Another man in the room says, "That means he has no balls, that women are dominant over him." "What's wrong with that?," I say. The room goes quiet for a moment. "Well, that's something that just doesn't happen in my classes," the marine says. "Well, I'm a women's studies major and I've never seen that happen in any of my classes, so I'm prepared to fight you on this." "Well I know it happens and I'm the biggest chauvenist you'll ever meet.," he replies with a smile. He went on to backtrack by saying that he didn't want to force his opinions on anyone, to which I retorted "Well, that's great, but society values your opinion a lot more than mine." And the conversation slowly died down from there. My point with all of this? Men love to provoke the feminist.
I've seen this happen over and over again ever since I began telling people that I switched my major to women's studies. In any situation where I discuss women's issues, I am systematically attacked or rebuffed by a man (except in my women's studies classes... oh the safe haven). What the marine tonight was trying to do was discredit the entire women's studies field, all the while using behavior and language that fuels its necessity. One of my friends the other night was trying to explain to me that all lesbians are feminists, and even when I attempted to rationally reason with him that that simply is not the case, he insisted on telling me that he was correct. Even though men know that I am in women's studies and heavily involved with feminism, I continue to get no credit for the knowledge that I have about those fields. I would never argue with an engineer about fluid mechanics - something I have no formal training in, but when I bring up instances of women's oppression or biases towards women, my thoughts are invalidated as though I am a child who knows nothing.
And the hostility at times with which I am recieved is striking, as I saw in tonight's interactions. Why anyone would admit they are a "chauvenist" is beyond me - though I think it is telling that that term is deemed acceptable to say in such a setting. He would never say "I'm the biggest racist you'll ever meet," but he wears the badge of "chauvenist" with pride. He might as well have said he was proud to beat his girlfriend.
I always get the feeling in certain circles that people are rolling their eyes at me when I present a topic pertaining to the oppression and abuse of women. An "oh here she goes again" scenario, if you will. I am convinced the marine tonight was doing just that - rolling his eyes at what I had to say about women and heart disease, women's studies, and women having the right to be assertive. I fear that feminism has become so stigmatized that these sorts of issues fall on deaf ears - that they are seen as "not that big of a big deal." Clearly the man in the room tonight did not think they were - his percieved victimization by women was much more important and bothersome. But not listening to the issues and concerns that feminism brings to the table, and being aggressive, defensive, and/or hostile about them, promotes the inherent danger of continuing the individual's participation in a violent, patriarchal system.
Tonight's encounter was a perfect example.