j: fighting

I wish that I had waited and written before reading S’s journal. I don’t want to respond to her here. I want to try and write about what I was thinking about.

I sat down and was writing notes as I was thinking. I’ll write from those…

“I can’t not get angry because she can’t handle it.”

We just got though really fighting. She and I were both very much angry at each other. I got substantially angrier in the middle of it because she stopped responding to me, Will, and started responding to me, her angry father.

There is this drama that she has that I always say that she is wrong. That my ego so needs boosting that I have to put her down to pull myself up. What got me angry was when she started in with that. The whole time that she and I were arguing I didn’t once say that she was wrong. I explicitly said that she and I were talking about different things from different perspectives and that I really didn’t know what I thought about her point. I didn’t just say that once; I said it once at length and then again when she first accused me of just trying to make her wrong and then when she started in with me trying to make her wrong again I really got mad.

I was really tearing myself up trying to support my positions and listen and argue and she isn’t even in this argument with me. I am sitting here pouring my heart out to the answering machine.

“I feel so helpless to get anyone to understand and respect me.”

There really is a drama that this touched on for me and that is of someone having an isolated vision that I can’t express to anyone around me. That I am being down trodden. That nobody will or can understand what I see. That people won’t care about me.

“I did not call her names.”

She said that I was trying to belittle her and make myself out to be bigger than her. I did curse at her. I said “fuck you” twice, “goddammit” once and “god damn you” once. I did not ever call her a name. Not only not a curse word, not any names. I never said something with the vindictive desire to hurt her. I know what it feels like to want to do that when fighting and I didn’t.

“I did not raise my hand toward her. I did not want to.”

Other than standing up I did nothing that could even be remotely construed as being threatening. The entire time that we were arguing I was never closer than 3 feet from her. I never could have hit her if I had the desire. I was not holding my body in an aggressive stance.

The first time that she told me to step back I did. I did because I have an almost gut reaction to someone establishing their boundaries; to give them to her. I did it because she commanded me to.

After I did it I felt guilty. I felt like I had been caught doing something wrong. Then I felt angry again because I saw that I hadn’t done anything wrong. We were more than 4 feet apart when she said it the first time. I hadn’t moved in a threatening way. I hadn’t done anything. Anything other than being angry and reminding her of her father.

She started saying that I was just like her father. That I was trying treating her like he does her mother. I looked at her and thought that my face was probably about as red as hers.

“It is like with the church where I felt like the world was so big and noone would understand if I tried to tell them.”

Religion was for me when I went through it much what gender is now. I keep thinking that I am seeing how everything feeds in on itself and we are trying to make headway, but we end up just creating more of the same mess as before because we don’t understand why the problems started in the first place.

I went around trying to get people to understand me and trying to understand myself and it was horribly frustrating.

"I don't know what I am sorry for. What are my options?
    For yelling at her
    For cursing at her
    For not staying calm
    For invading her space / making her uncomfortable"

In the wake of everything I was looking for how what I had done to screw up. It is reasonable to assume that with so much powerful emotion I would have been unmindful of something. I didn’t really feel sorry for anything.

I am not sorry that I was angry. We were fighting and being angry. That is how I was being then. It is not something to be ashamed of. The only times that I cursed at her were things expressing anger. The statement of “fuck you” does not mean “I don’t respect you in some way” it means “I am angry at you.” I did not curse at her anymore after she told me that she wasn’t taking my cursing well (I am almost certain.) I was not cursing at her to hurt her feelings; I was cursing because I was really pissed and it was an apt expression of my emotions. She has cursed at me before and I understood it as an expression of anger.

For not staying calm? I don’t know. Is a “wise” person always calm? Is having strong emotions like that immature? I don’t think so right now.

For invading her space. I added the “making her uncomfortable” because I don’t think that I was invading her space. I was not particularly close to her and I was not threatening. I was upsetting her and I knew it though. If anything I did wrong it was staying angry when I knew that we had really left what she and I were originally fighting about.

“I don’t feel like I have anyone who loves me. That I don’t have permission as a man to be lovable. That to get that I have to give my manliness up.”

This sort of came out unbidden. The first sentence especially. We had just gotten back from a talk by Allison Piepmier on third wave feminism and one of the thoughts I was carrying around is that it felt vaguely emasculating. That being an aggressive person or a sexually dominating person disqualified someone. That there is a truth in certain parts of manhood that can’t simply be cast off as barbaric and unenlightened.

Feeling marginalized is something that happens alot when I read feminist stuff. For me I want to live in a world where people don’t judge me based on my sex or my race or my class, and alot of the time feminism still supports discriminating based on sex, it just wants it to be fairer.

“That because someone is a man it means that they are the violent ones. I couldn’t be there because as a man I am part of the problem. I am a part of what you are learning to defend against.”

To actually talk a little about what we were arguing about. I mentioned Mary Daly who is a radical feminist who was released from her job because she wouldn’t allow men in her class. I read some discussion about her today and something that I hadn’t thought of before that is an interesting point is that almost every campus has a class that only women can take: women’s self defense.

S is of the position that it creates an environment where women are comfortable learning to be assertive. That putting men in there would make them more uncomfortable and reduce the effectiveness of the class. That in the end men would end up fighting with men and women would end up fighting with women. That the people who are going to be attackers are men, so it is twisted almost to put them in this place where women are trying to grow and get past their fears. That women are always going to be smaller than men and so long as there is violence it will be by men against women.

I am summarizing from what I understood. Some of that is arguments made while really angry and for me at least that means they might need some critical revision.

My position is that the class should be a self defense class. It should be stated up front the sorts of things that you will learn and that is is not a fighting class like karate or judo. If I am a small man though or a peaceful man or whatever and I decide that I want to take the class then I should be allowed to.

I think that what she is saying has laid pretty clearly within it that men are abusers and attackers. That the title of the class is really women’s self defense against men. That you by structuring the class like you are that you are supporting the idea that women need to learn to protect themselves against men.

I don’t disagree with that. I do think that women need to learn to protect themselves and that the overwhelming majority of their attackers are men. I am not trying to release men of their guilt. What I am trying to do is free the vast majority of men from being “men”. The 90+% of men that will never hurt a woman. That you support a dramatically false concept of what it means to be a man when you bar them from taking part in that class if they wanted to.

And that on the men’s side you support men seeing women off trying to build up their own world. A world separate and threatening to men (even if not consciously for many.)

Especially though that 1% or so of men that really see how badly these gender wars have wounded both sides I want to recognize. I am trying to find ways to create a world where everyone has the same opportunities regardless of what is in their dna and finding little support either from feminism or from the rest of the world. As hard as women have it, how many colleges can I go to where I could go to the men’s center and find a book group where I can discuss the Sam Keen book I am reading? Community is not only important to women; as a man though I have learned not to want it and now that I am learning to want it I feel absolutely ill equipped to form it.

“What does she think I should be sorry about?”

Going back to looking at how I felt. Trying to imagine what she saw as we were arguing and what she would be thinking.

“I think if she wanted to stop arguing she should have said so. Is this one of those things that A said I will regret having done? That I saw I was making her uncomfortable and disregarded it.”

I was thinking about the second time that she told me to get away from her. This time I was about 3 feet away and I didn’t. I was thinking about how I felt before and that I wasn’t doing anything to provoke her response. I started saying (well, by this time everything both of us were saying was yelling) that she wasn’t talking to me. That I had never hit her. That I had never acted like I was going to hit her. That I was sure as hell angry, but I wasn’t planning on hitting her or giving her any indication that i was going to hit her. I told her that I wasn’t in her face and that she wasn’t reacting to me at all; that she was reacting to her father.

She started talking about her father and actually seemed to be arguing that this was happening because he had seen how her father treated her mother and it made her scared. It was a little strange because we weren’t really saying different things; just she wanted me to get away from her and I wouldn’t move. She wasn’t backed into a corner or anything, so the fact that she wasn’t moving either shows that however bad it was for her it wasn’t bad enough to get her to give up any ground.

Eventually I turned around and left. We were at am empass as far as I could tell. We certainly weren’t arguing about the original issue anymore. I went into my room for 3 or 4 minutes and then came back and sat on the couch and wrote. I didn’t want to just let this die. I didn’t want to fight anymore, but I didn’t want to just pretend like nothing had happened.

I did know though that I was upseting her and I kept doing what I was doing in part because I was refusing to be manipulated. A told me last night that sometime in the future I am likely to have the wisdom to look back on my life and feel sorry for some of the stuff I put S through. I wondered if this was one of those times.

“She has been establishing boundaries well.”

Shortly before this argument she kicked me out of her room because I was getting loud. I actually admired the force with which she did it. She has a mom sort of command thing going on, with some personal empowerment mixed in. A real sense of “this is something I have a right to say.” She has been more confident for a while now, but this sort of assertiveness is cool.

“The stuff about foot stomping and getting loud is true about gender.”

When we were arguing she said that I always get louder when I am talking about gender stuff. I think she is right.

I can see where this ties in alot with childhood sorts of issues of being neglected and misunderstood. Of feeling alone and abandoned. I think in many ways I am throwing a mild grown up sort of temper tantrum.

I don’t know that the anger is that and I do still believe in my arguments, but I can feel the 10 year old in me now when I try. “Listen to me!” Stomp, stomp, stomp.

Well, that’s me. Verbose as always.

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