Posted by mouthyb | Posted in feminism , gender , relationships | Posted on 7:11 PM
Part of the reason I'm so averse to traditional gender roles has to do with consent and verbal acquisition of permissions. I've talked previously about consent in a romantic sense, but consent also happens to be an important function of friendship and my work life. By implication, of course, I think it's the best way to deal with stuff ever (down, DOWN ego!)
I have a friend who checks in regularly with me in conversation. He'll ask, if conflict looms, if I'm okay, or if the subject is okay. If it looks like he's about to ask a personal question, he'll ask to see if that's okay. If it stays quiet, he checks in.
He checks in when he's drunk, as well. It's fucking adorable.
I'm relatively sure, from our conversations, that part of it is the fear of rejection. He has been rejected before for his checking in. I'm guessing they assume he's neurotic, or perhaps terminally shy.
This has not been the case, in my interactions with him. In fact, because he does check ins and is so explicit with permissions, I find him absolutely perfect to have deep discussions with: the check ins are a signal, along with the way we talk, of honesty.
Along with the mind reading act men and women are supposed to do (and the presumption that we are cookie-cutter alike in our responses) in dating circumstances comes the presumption that 'good' functioning in friendships is a bond which is mostly unspoken.
If you're in the least bit critical of culture or self-reflective, that bond falls apart, making you feel like a damn alien in most company. Is it really true that all men like women in bikinis and porn? Can we assume that all women like pink and want to be housewives?
Can I afford to live without the comfort of just being 'understood' because of group cohesion?
Breaking group cohesion by being critical and/or introspective can be very painful. It emphasizes the individual, in addition to exposing the more unpleasant things we have in common. Many feel that gap keenly, in a bubble of loneliness and silence which can make one feel as if one really is an alien of some description.
So what do we do with that gap? Do we go back to seeking group cohesion by subsuming our critical facilities and the observations these facilities have given us?
I don't feel as if that is an ethical action for me. Instead, like my friend, I feel that gap with words. I fill that gap by verbally acknowledging our differences and the observations which criticality and introspection have given me, always checking for not a mute consensus, but for the deliberate bridge of those differences to meet someone both as honestly as any social person can.
It also allows me to have more agency: consent means I can say no and that anyone who is ethical will respect that no.
While my friend will probably continue to be labelled awkward, or weird, as I have been labelled for insisting on consent and discussion in my relationships, I am his friend precisely because of consent. It is a bridge back to feeling like a part of a group, rather than an overly cerebral alien.
We'll never have perfect consensus, unison based on being so alike there is nothing to speak of, because of this, but those bridges are completely awesome. And, because they are explicit, they can always be adjusted.
Try using your words. Even if you fumble, this is a better form of consensus.
It's more honest.