Sexism is often not a conscious thing. It would be so much easier to counter if it was always a case of asking people to stop doing something they are aware they are doing. I tend not to experience the overt sexism. No one whistles or shouts at me in the street. I’m occasionally mistaken for a man but it’s an honest mistake and they’re usually more upset about it than I am. The stuff I experience is a dull frustrating drag of people not noticing. I often have to decide if I’m the one who brings up that subject again. I need to find ways to make sure that women around me get an equal chance to have their say without being the one that brought that subject up again. Or more importantly without derailing the entire conversation. It’s a conversation we need to have.
Except I don’t think I’m the one bringing up sexism. The people bringing it up are the ones who talk over someone else. The ones who are so caught up in their own thoughts that they don’t realise someone else is trying to contribute, and the ones who’ve already dismissed that persons contribution without taking the time to hear it. The sexism that drives me from places is the sort of thing that the people doing it won’t even notice. They won’t be looking for it so it’s not something they’re ever going to see.
I know I get it wrong. I was brought up in this culture as well. I try and pay attention to the quiet spoken-over voice and I feel glad when I manage to get someone to wait and to listen.
There are people I don’t want to be near or to talk with. I find conversations with them exhausting because I have to talk through them. I have to hold my ground and shut them up so that they will listen to the end of my sentence. Group conversations are a nightmare. I get bored and people get annoyed because I’m not listening, but they won’t listen to me. It is exhausting and frustrating. It’s a bad thing in a hobby I enjoy. It won’t stop me doing LRP, but if I wasn’t so tied in to it it might stop me trying it in the first place.
It’s also about assumptions. People assume things about me, in the same way they assume things about everyone. They assume they know more than me. They assume that I’m not fully involved in Mandala. They assume that I’m not a competent person with useful skills, and sometimes it just feels easier not to fight for the right to do things myself. People are happiest when they’re engaged and useful. Sometimes people won’t let me do the things that make me happy because they assume I wouldn’t know how to do them.
I’ve had random people try to induct me to the workings of the monster tent at Empire at every event this year. I don’t know if I look especially lost or confused, but usually it happens when I’m in the middle of getting things rearranged so the tent will actually work properly. I don’t think of this as a time where I look particularly new and incompetent. It’s in fact one of the few times when I know I’m absolutely right about what I’m doing. I know fundamentally why I need to make those changes. Perhaps I just don’t have a memorable face.
It’s the Mandala assumptions hurt the most. It’s something I’m extraordinarily proud of. I can do everything we do there. It’s a business that I have run and developed and I know and understand it’s inner workings. It’s my place. The rest of my team know and value my opinion. Strangers talk about the Mandala boys and it is a smack in the face. Then people suggest that there isn’t sexism in LRP because it’s written down that women can be generals and they’re utterly missing the point. Grand gestures help, but being aware of the small things would make a massive difference to me. I love that the rules say that I have the right to be who I want to be, but some people still discount my opinion before they’ve heard it and they don’t even notice they’ve done it.
The big things are a problem. They’re an easier problem to see, to acknowledge and to counter. The people doing those things know they’re doing them and are choosing to cause those problems for people. The small things are also a problem. They’re a problem that’s clouded by probability, by experience (everyone has experienced all the things I’ve mentioned. They’re far more constant for most women). They’re not easy to address. When you tell people about these things they won’t be sure if they’ve done it. They might feel defensive because they don’t consider themselves bad people. They’re not bad people. They’re likely to be victims themselves. The little things are an endless source of frustration for people aware of them and are constant disenfranchisement for those that haven’t even noticed it’s happened. They matter. They really matter. They’re a huge part of the problem.