Words

Today, we saw change on a grand scale. DOMA was killed. Prop 8 was killed. LGBTQ folks can move forward with the struggle, with a little bit of it behind them. I am there too. Fighting for equality for ALL. Until we have it, there is no rest. Until we understad how our words pierce through others, we can never be fully equal. Until we move away from the garbage that is our past, we can never fully be one. Until we let go of the chains of the people that came before, we can never move forward. We must break free and understand each other within the context of the future, not the past. Stagnation is never a good thing. Evolution is the only way to go. Let’s evolve together and show that we can be better than we have been. We can have a bright future and stop recreating the past through oppression and dominance.

“Seeing the world through anothers eyes, is like bustin a window in a house of lies, and in the end you make up your own mind.” ani difranco ~ promiscuity

Last week was not so nice. Before the writer and I left for our favourite spot in Canada, we had an evening out with friends and family. Everything was going great until one guy decided, in his wisdom, to discuss how if he were married he would “never let his wife mow the lawn.” I am not quite certain how we got on the topic, or why we were talking about mowing the lawn, but the word ‘let’ struck me. I immediately barked back, “why do you have to go there?” He looked at me, confused, and asked, “what did I say now?” The defensiveness of his retort should have stopped me, but my feminist sensibility had taken over; I was off and running. Note: This entry is not meant to be an apology, as I have nothing to apologize for, but just a way to suss out exactly what I meant when I stated that the word ‘let’ was hurtful. To deconstruct a word or words. To better understand why one would choose this particular word. To understand how it sounds outside of the speakers head. These are the reasons for this entry.

“I search your profile for a translation, I study the conversation like a map. ‘Cause I know there is strength in the differences between us, and I know there is comfort, where we overlap.” ani difranco ~ overlap

Let – to hinder or prevent. I do not like to use dictionary definitions in my writing, however, at times it is necessary. In order to understand a word, fully, we must first see what the definition is. Using the word let, in the context that it was used Thursday night, is basically to prevent or not allow another person to do something. Not permit them to mow the lawn. He backtracked, after being called out on the word let, and said he meant he “wouldn’t want her to have to mow the lawn.” Well, if this is the case, why don’t you say it? Why would you say you wouldn’t let someone do something if you really meant you wouldn’t want them to have to do that thing? You wouldn’t. ‘Let’ was actually the correct word.

What this guy didn’t understand was what the word ‘let’ implies. In the context of a man ‘letting’ a woman do something, or not do something as is the case here. Using that word is a continuation of the power dynamics implicit in a patriarchal society. By saying, “I wouldn’t let my wife mow the lawn”, this guy might think he means well, when, in actuality, he is continuing the language that oppresses a whole group of human beings. He would say this is too big an idea, but that is the point. It is all about the big ideas. If we don’t look at the big picture, as mirrored through individual lives, we don’t see the consequences of our speech. We don’t see the trajectory of history and how using the language of oppression pushes a message of submission. The word let implies that this hypothetical wife will obey her husband, without question. This is not an egalitarian union. Although it is in his head, the language he uses forms his frame of reference for the future. This is the sad truth and why ‘let’ really does mean so much.

The next level of discussion was to turn it back around on me. I am a feminist, and, as such, I have the distinct pleasure of suffering fools. People call me names and talk about me as if I’m a mega-bitch, just because I believe in true equality. My striving for this equality has made me into a nemesis of those that rely on the status quo. By telling me that I’m over thinking or nit picking by calling someone on the word ‘let’, the patriarchy continues to thrive. By putting all the blame on feminists for the way the world is, the anti-feminists win.

After about 5 minutes of debate and argument, I thought we had come to a good conclusion. I explained why the word ‘let’ might be hurtful and he said he understood. I could tell he was appeasing me, but I also felt that we had reached an agreement. An empasse, yes, but an agreement nonetheless.

“I know the biggest crime, is just to throw up your hands. Say this has nothing to do with me, I just wanna live as comfortably as I can. You gotta look outside your eyes, you gotta think outside your brain, you gotta walk outside your life, to where the neighbourhood changes.” ani difranco ~ willing to fight

This time, I fought back. This time, I didn’t back down. This time, I continued to argue until I drove the other person to the point of name calling. That is where the debate ends. Devolving into argumentative, playground tactics is base and I will not give it time. We would not discuss this again. That is, until, I heard what he said behind my back, after the fact.

I have the decency to call people on their crap, to their faces. Anything I bitch about or mull over in private, I will also say to your face. That is not true for everyone and that is why it is so difficult to change hearts and minds. When someone that is a misogynistic pig tells you they understand, to appease you, don’t believe it’s over. After all, they will fight dearly for their way of life to continue. Change is difficult and, for some, it is never to be.

If you have a story about change, or lack thereof, please post in the comment thread. Or just rip me apart. Either way, debate is educational. It is the only true way to make change happen, so bring it!

Peace,
Chantale

Thank you to ani difranco for the continued inspiration. I am trying my best to be a Phoenix. It is a long and difficult road, but we will all get there someday. Together.

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