I’m femme, but I dressed more butch today. It’s cold, so I thought nothing of lacing up heavy boots to match my camouflage jacket. My lip gloss wore off an hour ago with my mocha. But I doubt it would have mattered if it hadn’t; I looked like a lesbian, and here I was, buying ‘femi-nazi’ propaganda.
I can read all of this because I’ve met, and purchased, from this clerk a few times before, on days when I was ‘cuter’, and ‘more approachable’. He was jovial and friendly then. He was today, too, before I reached the counter. Now, feminist magazines in tow, it’s clear that I’m not what he wanted me to be.
Now, he knows I won’t play with my hair for him, or giggle at his jokes (unless they’re actually funny). If he finds a way to get close, I’ll only waste his time. I wouldn’t fall all over him if he promised to whisk me away on a romantic getaway, or moon over the names he might have chosen for our imaginary children. I wouldn’t, and won’t, do any of those things that most women always tend to do.
He doesn’t look me in the eye when I pay, and mumbles about a bag. I know he can’t see past his disappointment. My inner dialogue wants to say “sorry”, but opts for a silent, “well, fuck you too.” instead. I need to stop apologizing for myself, internally and externally. Hence, the magazines.
Our interaction ends there. A month later, a review of Zadie Smith’s new book appears on Facebook and I share it. In it, Smith discusses independent bookstores, and how they can offer titles people didn’t know they wanted, or needed.
There are also titles people want, but have never seen. Smith uses books for children as an example, saying that some children fall into a demographic that is rarely represented in print, and even more rarely found in big-box stores. It becomes impactful when someone takes them on.
Having just discovered my feminist magazines, I don’t just like, I love this. I want other people to feel the same excitement that I do when I bring my indie purchases home. The more awareness, the better.
I see dots roll across the bottom “comments” section of my post. A male friend, someone I know from college, read the review, and writes that he doesn't see how that’s helpful at all. He comments that he could identify with any character as a child, so, why can’t everyone else?
He wasn’t rude in his tone, but I don’t understand why he doesn’t understand. He’s exceptionally well-traveled, and, while white, has been a minority as an international student. I don’t understand why he doesn’t relate from that angle.
I want to give more grace to my friend. I conjure several excuses for why, maybe, he doesn’t relate. Maybe our college was so loaded with international students that he never felt alone? Or, maybe, his travels have enabled him to fly over the problem? Maybe, those of us who can’t fly away to kinship feel its absence the most?
Well, except I’m a woman relating to other women, and I meet women every day of my life, everywhere. Never mind. As earnestly as possible, I write back:
“I used to think that way too. But, over the past two years, I've made a conscious effort to seek out books and media created by independent women, for independent women. I didn't realize what I was missing until I did this; my self esteem increased just because I found more examples of strong women to absorb.
It's helped me problem-solve social, and cultural issues that are native to my sex. It's been empowering. I can only guess how much more amplified that feeling is for groups of people who are more in the minority. I only wish I had stumbled onto this way of reading sooner.”
In turn, he replied with a list of children's books featuring female characters; books that I didn’t ask for, or say I wanted. Most of all, he skipped over my point to demonstrate what he knew. The two-faced irony lingered like a fart. “He meant well,” I think. “Fucker.” I logged off to read a magazine.
By Megan Wolfe