My feminism will be bullshit and it will be valuable

I’ve been afraid to write about feminism and women’s issues on this blog. When I’ve tried, I’ve been shouted down in ways I haven’t experienced on any other topic. (Including topics on which I’ve made serious mistakes that I’m now embarrassed by.)

And in a number of contexts, I’ve seen very vehement comments along the lines of “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”

And… I’ve noticed that other movements aren’t held to that standard. Especially, other movements aren’t held to that standard in terms of how they treat women. If they were, there wouldn’t be any movements left.

Everything people do contains bullshit. That doesn’t make it worthless. It means that there’s something that needs to get better.

I’m realizing now that I’ve been cowardly in not writing about feminism and women’s issues. So, from now on, I’m going to try to say more.  

As with every other issue I write about, sometimes people will disagree with me, and sometimes they will be angry. Sometimes people who disagree with me will be right, and sometimes they will be wrong. As with everything I write about, I will do my best to know what I’m talking about, and I will take the issues seriously. And I will make mistakes and my views will change over time as I learn new things.

Making mistakes is better than being silent about things that matter. Doing things imperfectly is better than neglecting them.

My feminism will (sometimes) be bullshit, and it will be valuable.

Women may assume other women have menstrual products and painkillers

If you are a woman (or others think you are a woman), women may occasionally ask you for pads, tampons, or over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen.

This is because most women menstruate, and periods aren’t always entirely predictable. People who menstruate can end up bleeding through their pants if they get their period unexpectedly and don’t have a pad/tampon. Pads and tampons are often not readily available (most bathrooms don’t have vending machines anymore).

Often, the only way to get a pad/tampon quickly is to borrow one from someone else who uses them. Since most women menstruate, often the best option can be to discretely ask a woman within a certain age range if she has one you can use. Since most women have been in this situation, most women are willing to share occasionally (with the expectation that others will share if they need them). So, if people think that you are a woman, they’re likely to assume that you have and are willing to share. 

Similarly, many women have migraines or cramps, and carry ibuprofen or other over-the-counter painkillers in order to deal with it. For whatever reason, it is often not readily available (office vending machines occasionally have it, but not usually). Being caught without ibuprofen when you need it is really miserable — and most women who experience menstrual pain have been in that situation and wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. 

So, it’s generally socially acceptable for women to ask each other for ibuprofen, and most women are willing to share from time to time. (So long as it’s not a situation where someone is regularly mooching off of them and not reciprocating.)

Tl;dr Most women of a certain age menstruate, and most people who menstruate are occasionally caught without menstruation-related things they need. (Eg: pads, tampons, ibuprofen). Often these things are not readily available, so most women share with each other from time to time. If you’re a woman or others assume you’re a woman, they may also assume that you have these things.

A post for men about creepy men



I wrote a post a while back about how some people are very good at getting away with doing intentionally creepy things by passing themselves off as just ~awkward~.

Recently, I noticed a particular pattern that plays out. While creeps can be any gender, there’s a gendered pattern by which creepy men get other men to help them be creepy:

  • A guy runs over the boundaries of women constantly
  • He makes them very uncomfortable and creeped out
  • But he doesn’t do that to guys, and
  • He doesn’t talk to guys about it in an unambiguous way, and
  • When he does it in front of guys, he finds a way to make it look deniable
  • And then some women complain to a man, maybe even a man in charge who is supposed to be responsible for preventing abuse in a space
  • and he has no idea what they are talking about, since he’s never the target or witness
  • And he’s had a lot of pleasant interactions with that guy
  • So he sympathizes with him, and thinks he must mean well but be have trouble with social skills
  • And then takes no action to get him to stop or to protect women
  • And so the group stays a place that is safe for predatory men, but not for the women they target

For example:

  • Mary, Jill, and Susan: Bill, Bob’s been making all of us really uncomfortable. He’s been sitting way too close, making innuendo after everything we say, and making excuses to touch us.
  • Bill: Wow, I’m surprised to hear that. Bob’s a nice guy, but he’s a little awkward. I’m sure he doesn’t mean anything by it. I’m not comfortable accusing him of something so serious from my position of authority.

What went wrong here?

  • Bill assumed that, if Bob was actually doing something wrong, he would have noticed.
  • Bill didn’t think he needed to listen to the women who were telling him about Bob’s creepy actions. He didn’t take seriously the possibility that they were right. 
  • Bill assumed that women who were uncomfortable with Bob must be at fault; that they must be judging him too harshly or not understanding his awkwardness
  • Bill told women that he didn’t think that several women complaining about a guy was sufficient reason to think something was wrong
  • Bill assumed that innocently awkward men should not be confronted about inadvertantly creepy things they do, but rather women should shut up and let them be creepy

A rule of thumb for men:

  • If several women come to you saying that a man is being creepy towards them, assume that they are seeing something you aren’t
  • Listen to them about what they tell you
  • If you like the guy and have no idea what they’re talking about, that means that what he is doing is *not* innocent awkwardness.
  • If it was innocent awkwardness, he wouldn’t know how to hide it from other men
  • Men who are actually just awkward and bad at understanding boundaries also make *other men* uncomfortable
  • If a man is only making women uncomfortable but not men, that probably means he’s doing it on purpose
  • Take that possibility seriously, and listen to what women tell you about men

tl;dr If you are a man, other men in your circle who are nice to you are creepy towards women. Don’t assume that if something was wrong that you would have noticed; creepy men are good at finding the lines of what other men will tolerate. Listen to women. They know better than you do whether a man is being creepy and threatening towards women; if they think something is wrong, listen and find out why. Don’t give predatory dudes who are nice to you cover to keep hurting women.

safer666 said:

It applies if you flip the genders too. Women undeniably have it worse, but they can be targetted by predatory women as well as men. If anyone tells you someone is being creepy and threatening, listen and find out why.

realsocialskills said:

I definitely agree that creepiness needs to be taken seriously regardless of gender. (And I also agree with you that this does not go without saying).

There are different forms of creepiness. And most of them are gendered to some extent or another. The pattern I described in this post is about a way that creepy men, specifically, tend to use male solidarity to get away with hurting women — and reasons that this may not be obvious to other men. That dynamic exists and it’s usually gendered. It’s also not the only kind of creepiness.

There are other patterns too. Some of which are gendered in different ways. For instance, here’s a post I made about Nice Lady Therapists who treat clients inappropriately. That kind of thing is usually much easier for women to get away with. (It’s also much easier for mothers than fathers to get away with posting inappropriately personal things about their disabled children on the Internet.)

tl;dr Creepiness always needs to be taken seriously, regardless of gender. Barriers to taking creepiness sufficiently seriously tend to follow gendered patterns. It’s important to talk about those gendered patterns, and also to acknowledge that there are exceptions.

Being wary of women isn't always misogyny

It’s completely normal for people who have had traumatic experiences with women to be wary of women. Or to have triggers related to women.

For instance, some people can’t tolerate being touched by women. Or don’t feel safe with female therapists. Or feel safer around men than women in general. Or need activities they participate in to be co-ed rather than single-gender. Or any number of other things.

Sometimes people with those kinds of trauma responses are told that they’re being misogynistic, or that they have internalized misogyny. And that’s wrong. Having a completely normal trauma response is *not* sexism, and it’s not a moral failing of any kind.

(It would be sexist to think that women are inferior, or inherently incapable of treating people well, or something like that. Being wary of women as a trauma response is *not* the same as thinking that kind of thing.)

tl;dr Trauma is not a moral failing, even when your trauma responses are politically inconvenient. If you have been hurt by women and have trauma responses to women, it’s not your fault and it’s ok to take care of yourself.

Women are not inherently safe

Sometimes people talk as though men are inherently dangerous, and imply that women are inherently safe.

Neither is true, because women are people, and people make choices.

Women can do anything that men can do. Including the bad things that men can do. Including abuse. Including violence. Women are people, and people can be dangerous.

It’s important to be able to acknowledge this. Women need to know that they have power, so that they can be careful how they use it.

People who have been hurt by women need to know that what happened to them matters, and that they are not alone.

Pregnancy is a sensitive topic

It’s usually not a good idea to ask a woman if she is pregnant. (And it’s an even worse idea to ask someone who is not a woman if they are pregnant).

Partly because pregnancy is considered to be private. People who want people to know they’re pregnant usually tell people; they’re not usually waiting to be asked. Asking can put someone in the awkward position of having to either lie or tell you information they’re not ready to make public.

It’s also a question that can go badly because weight is a sensitive topic for a lot of women. Because of the way our culture puts pressure on women to be thin, the thought of looking fat is humiliating to a lot of women.

And saying “Are you pregnant?” can sound like saying “So, I’ve noticed that you’re getting fat. Is there a socially acceptable reason?”. That’s likely to feel humiliating to a woman even if she is pregnant, but especially if she is not. And that’s true even if you don’t mean it that way, and even if you’re known to be a proponent of body acceptance. 

It’s a sensitive and often painful topic. So it’s probably better not to ask.

Is it unprofessional to not wear makeup? Because I have really bad sensory processing issues and wearing it is just super uncomfortable for me, especially eyeliner, but I have a job interview soon and I’m wondering if it would be best if I just tough it out for the duration of the interview and wipe it off immediately or…?
realsocialskills said:
That’s complicated. Makeup and other outward signs of gender conformity can help you to be perceived as professional.
It’s not an absolute requirement, though.
It’s also not all or nothing. I think the biggest thing that bothers people is visible acne, because it’s associated with being a teenager. So, for instance, you might use foundation to make your skin look smooth, but not use eyeliner since eyeliner really bothers you, and unlined eyes probably won’t bother an interviewer. 
If wearing makeup is going to make you extremely uncomfortable, it might be better for you to go without, even in practical terms. Interviewers don’t like it if you look visibly uneasy or on edge. Interviewers look at affect a lot. If you’re in pain from makeup, it will be harder to maintain the right affect.
Something that can help with coming off right to interviews is doing a practice interview with someone who knows how interviews work. This is particularly helpful if you have a friend who works for the same company or a similar one do the practice interview. Questions are easiest to answer if you’ve answered them before. It’s easier to maintain interview affect if you’re comfortable answering the likely questions.
Do any of y'all have thoughts about makeup and interviews?







Do you have any tips on how to figure out who is trustworthy and who is not? As in whether or not someone intends to cause harm to you, etc. I find that I never realize I’m being mistreated until it’s too late, and it makes it really hard for me to find good friend, especially IRL. Advice/tips?
realsocialskills said:
Here are some things I consider to be red flags:
Having a strong self-image as not being the kind of person who does bad things:
  • We all do bad things, even awful things, from time to time
  • People who think that they’re “not that kind of person” actively avoid noticing when they’ve done bad things
  • People who deal with one another regularly hurt one another from time to time, and it’s important to be able to acknowledge this and fix things
  • If you’re dealing with someone who can’t bear the thought of having done something wrong, you’re not going to be able to tell them when they’ve hurt you
  • Because they will blow up at you and hurt you worse when you try, or else they’ll cry and convince you that you’re a terrible person for making mean baseless accusations.
  • Either way, it will make it impossible to deal with problems, and you’ll end up tolerating things that hurt you badly
  • I wrote about that some here
Expecting immediate trust
  • Trust is developed over time
  • If someone wants you to talk about deeply personal things right away, and gets upset when you don’t, they’re not respecting your boundaries and that’s dangerous
Asserting that a deeply intimate relationship exists without considering your opinion on the matter relevant
  • Close friendship only exists if you *both* think it does
  • You are only dating if *both* of you think that you are dating
  • Someone can’t just decide that they’re close to you and that you have a deep close committed relationship; you both have to want it
  • If someone considers your opinion of the matter irrelevant, run.
  • I wrote a post about that here 

Wanting you to depend on them

  • If someone tells you that you couldn’t function without them, do not trust them
  • If they want you to fix your life, do not trust them
  • If they think your sanity depends on their loving understanding care, *seriously* do not trust them
  • If they get angry, or hurt, or cry when you don’t do what they want you to do in your personal life, don’t trust them

Being under the impression that they’re doing you a favor:

  • If they think that they’re doing you a favor by being friends with someone like you, they’re not likely to treat you well
  • Friendship is not a charitable act. It is a mutual relationship between people who regard one another as equals.
  • Similarly, when someone thinks they’re doing you a favor by employing you, it will probably end badly

If people you trust dislike them:

  • If you have people you know to be trustworthy, and they don’t like a new person in your life, it’s important to find out why
  • Sometimes they will be wrong, but often they will be right
  • It’s important to figure out what’s going on, and why they think that — then if you disagree that’s fine, but it’s not a good idea to dismiss it without thinking about it

I’ve also written a lot of posts relevant to this issue. It might help you to read through my abuse tag and my boundaries tag and my red flags tag.

myindustrialvagina said:

and also

1) people who suddenly take a shine to you out of nowhere then always need stuff (physical things like money or car rides) 

2) people who cannot deal with confrontation under any circumstances and either refuse to talk to you about your concerns or constantly change the subject or make it your fault

3) people who discuss others esp talking bad about them, because i guarantee they’ll do the same thing to you as well

realsocialskills said:

Yes, although talking bad is a somewhat misleading way to put it. Because people who’ve been mistreated a lot might have really legitimate reasons to say bad things about others.

I’d say it this way:

  • If someone violates confidences without any apparent reason, they will probably violate yours
  • If someone doesn’t seem to respect anyone they talk about, they probably don’t respect you either
  • If they go out of their way to humiliate other people, or talk about others in degrading terms, that’s a serious red flag

Also, if they tell hate jokes (eg: racist/sexist/antisemitic/disability hate/mocking children or old people) or use racial slurs, that’s a red flag for being untrustworthy. (And for being someone who is likely to make *you* less trustworthy for members of the groups they’re mocking).

barkrubbings said:

I’d also add:

  • People who talk in a matter-of-fact/jokey way about what a horrible person they are/how they ‘have no filter’ etc. This is often useful for them so that after they’ve treated someone badly, they can say ‘Well, I told you I was an asshole!’ like it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. (Of course, there are people who will talk about how crappy they are who just have low self-esteem and aren’t necessarily abusive, but it’s a thing to be aware of that *can* signal bad stuff.)
  • People who seem to have made enemies of many people/everyone in their life. Again this one can be hard to judge. It’s the guy talking about how all his ex girlfriends were [insert slur]. Basically it can be good to be cautious around anyone who constantly seems to be talking about how crappy all these people were and how they’re totally not friends any more. (With the proviso that there can be good reasons why people fall out etc - it’s just a thing to keep an eye on.)

realsocialskills said:

I agree with both of these.

I think having enemies is not in itself a red flag, but *only* having enemies is. It’s really, really common for people to be mistreated by multiple people, especially if they are members of a marginalized group.

But if it’s *everyone*, that’s a red flag.

sissacraft said:

I would add (and this is coming from a girl’s perspective)

Watch how they treat the other people in their lives (their friends and family, and especially the women). If they are frequently accused of abuse by others or you see abuse in their other relationships, it is very likely that they will eventually abuse you too.

Abuse of others is a HUGE red flag

realsocialskills said:

Yes. The best predictor of how someone will treat you is how they treat other people in their life. (And particularly, how they treat people they have power over).