When Intentions Hurt

Imagine for a moment that you are going to a coffee shop with a friend to grab a lovely caffeinated beverage to indulge in for the day. You don’t know me, but as you are walking in, I am walking out, and I end up spilling my beverage all over you.

Understandably, you are a bit shocked, and a bit upset.

As you stand there with your now wet, and most likely stained shirt, you use a few choice words to communicate your emotions. Perhaps something like an emotionally charged, “Excuse me?!

And my response? “Oh! I didn’t mean to bump into you! That was never my intent! I was just trying to leave the coffee shop!

You are still upset, you demand an apology. But I refuse. After all, it was not my intent to spill my drink on you. In fact, my day is now just as ruined as yours because now I have to either repurchase my $5 drink or go without. This is just as bad for me.

Sound a bit absurd? Of course it does. We all may understand that a clumsy mistake like this would of course be faced with embarrassment, shock, remorse, and apologies. And yet, there are so many scenarios where the response should be just as clear, and yet are just as absurd.

Intent vs Impact
From Paula Dean to Alec Baldwin to your annoying, bigoted coworker, we hear it over and over again: “I never meant any harm”, “It was never my intent”, “I am not a racist”, “I am not a homophone”, “I am not a sexist”.

People often attempt to deflect criticism about their language or actions by keeping the conversation focused on their intent. As long as the conversation is focused on their intent, they don’t have to face the reality of the impact.

But at the end of the day, what does the intent really matter if the impact only leads to hurting those around us?

If I say something that hurts my partner, it doesn’t matter whether I intended the statement to mean something else – because my partner is hurting.

If I make a joke in a meeting that offends my coworker, it doesn’t matter that my intent was meant as just a joke – because my coworker is offended.

If I am flirting with someone and they start to feel uncomfortable with my advances, it doesn’t matter that I was only intending to communicate interest – because I have made them feel unsafe.

I need to listen to how my language affects people. And I need to apologize when my intent doesn’t have the desired impact. Then I need to reflect and empathize to the best of my ability so that I don’t do that again.

It sounds simple, but our identities are so intertwined with our intent, and in turn so are our privileges and experiences. So when we start interacting with people who are different from us – gender, skin color, economic status, religious backgrounds – our negative impacts start to have an emotional charge to them.

Suddenly we aren’t just apologizing for our impact, but for our backgrounds and our identities. Sometimes when we are well intended but our impact has such a large disparity, we feel like our entire worldview is being challenged.

Think about the #MeToo Movement and how every woman has a story about being sexually harassed. There were two fairly common responses from men when they realized the full scope of the problem.

One: shock, horror, and remorse. They realized that this is actually a major problem, that women’s lives are impacted daily, and that they may even be contributing to it more than they realized. They reflected, asked questions, and changed their actions. They realized questions they thought were harmless were making women uncomfortable, that jokes they thought were hilarious were actually offensive, that there were small simple changes they could make with their intentions to completely change their impact on the women around them.

Two: dismiss and downplay. They aren’t doing anything wrong, women are just too sensitive and need to lighten up. It doesn’t matter how many women are saying it or how many ways we are saying it, some men are just going to refuse to acknowledge the impact, because they believe their intentions excuse that.

Privilege and Intent
This is why listening is so important. We all come from different backgrounds and have a different mess of life experiences influencing our intentions. And often time, the privilege of our circumstance can shield us from understanding the impact of our actions.

For example, I am white. As much as I may try, I will never fully understand the oppression that goes into being anything other than a white person. I will inevitably use language that is oppressive or dismissive or shows clear lack of understanding, even with the best of intentions. Because my background isn’t paved with the same abuse and oppression that a non-white person faces every day.

And while my intentions to be sensitive, inclusive, progressive, and kind may help me sleep at night, there will come a day when I inevitably say something that does not reflect those intentions. And when that moment comes, the impact will overshadow my intentions.

What we need to understand is that focusing conflicts on our intentions is inherently a privileged action.

Why? Because that ensures that your identity (and intent) stay at the center of the conversation, that your identity is dominant. Meanwhile the impact of your actions is dismissed. It changes the conversation from being about what you did, to making it about who you are.

Just because you did something sexist doesn’t mean that you are sexist. Just because you said something racist doesn’t mean that you are a racist.

When your actions, your impact, is called into question, it’s important to understand that that’s all that is being called into question – your actions, not your overall character. If the impact of your intentions is furthering oppression, then that is all that matters.

So Now What? 
Intention is not the same as impact. You don’t get a free pass on hurting people just because it wasn’t your intention to do harm. So we need to listen, reflect, apologize, and work to do better in the future.

What does that look like, you may be asking? Well, let’s start with an actual apology.

I think we can all agree that when someone “apologies” with something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I never intended to spill coffee on you” we feel less than satisfied. In fact, I would argue that apologies like that do nothing but escalate a conflict.

Whether it’s Paula Deen weeping on TV, Alec Baldwin asking us to simply trust that he’s not a homophone, or your coworker telling you to lighten up because he was just joking, those are not apologies.

When we are told the impact of our actions, inactions, words were hurtful, we start by apologizing without any caveats. Apologize earnestly, and take responsibility for your impact.

From there we can do our best to move forward by acting more accountably.

-Darci

A Year of Anger

It’s been one whole year of Angry Feminist. To those who have followed along since the start, thank you. To those who are just discovering me, welcome. And to all, I hope this has been as helpful to you as it has been to me.

I’ve been a feminist for a very long time. Before I even knew what a feminist was, I was a feminist. But these last few years, I’ve been an angry feminist. I think it was Brock Turner that really pushed me over the edge. Then Trump. And then #MeToo. By the end of 2017 I was raging. And I needed an outlet. My partner encouraged me to start a blog. And here we are one year later.

This blog has been a wonderful outlet for me, a form of therapy. I’ve been able to sort out my thoughts. I’ve been able to find my voice. I’ve even been able to share my platform. It’s become a place that I look forward to coming to each week. And I hope you do too.

I’ve learned a lot over this last year while writing this blog. I’ve learned that a lot of people actually like what I have to say. I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t like what I have to say. I’ve learned that a lot of women are just as full of anger as I am. I’ve learned that the more personal I get with my blog the more people read it. That one is particularly hard for me. I would much rather write about statistics and cite sources and make my cases than share my personal stories. But the problems facing us women everyday aren’t just a statistic, they are personal. So if I want to get peoples attention, if I want people to really listen, I have to get personal.

When I started this blog in January, my goal was to write once a week for one year. I was a little anxious about it. Would people read it? Would people care? Would I be able to come up with something to write each week? What would my family think? How much time would this actually end up taking?

But here we are, the last Wednesday of the year. And I managed to write something every week. I have more readers now than I started with. I’ve connected with some women in my life that I don’t think I would have engaged with otherwise. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with some very thoughtful men. I only had one commenter try and bully me all year long.

All in all, it’s been a good experience for me. As I hope it has been for you. And I am excited to say I plan on sticking with it for at least one more year. I hope you do too.

For next year, I hope to find more personal stories to share in explaining my anger. I hope to find more women to share my platform with. I hope to connect with more people through this shared discomfort in our society.

For this year, I leave you with this: thank you for following along. And for those interested in revisiting, this post was by far my most popular.

Enjoy! And I’ll have more for you next year!

-Darci

What This Administration is Teaching Our Children

The last two years in politics have been an utter shit show. It’s hard to keep up with all the shit going on. The key players change weekly. The plot twists happen so fast if you blink you miss it. And we have all had to face the harsh reality that we are a nation run by racists and sexists.

But this isn’t just about surviving these four years and hoping that we still have elections and a right to vote and that we don’t end up in a nuclear war in the meantime. There are very clear, very dangerous lessons we are passing on to the next generation right now.

The youth of our nation are watching, and we are teaching them horrible truths.

What our boys have learned from this administration:
-There are no consequences.
You can treat a woman however you want. You can violate her body and the law and openly brag about it. You can blame alcohol. You can deny. You can coerce. If you want it you can have it. And nothing bad will happen to you. You won’t go to jail. You won’t lose your job. You can even rise to the highest power of our nation. So what’s stopping you from taking it?

-Women are not credible advocates for their own story.
Look at Dr. Ford. She has advanced degrees, a prestigious career, and has multiple sources supporting her credibility and honesty. She was calm, poised, eloquent, and professional. And yet she was maliciously questioned, attacked, and told all the ways she had misunderstood her circumstances. Meanwhile Brent Kavanaugh can scream and cry and behave like a bafoon and his testimony is considered the credible one.

-If you don’t like the truth, you can just call it fake.
The new mantra any man can use now when someone is telling a story they don’t like: Fake News. And that ends the conversation. A woman accuses you of rape? Fake News. There is undeniable evidence that you payed hush money? Fake News. There is testimony from multiple sources that support claims of sexual assault? Fake News. Man can determine truth and lies based on what is most convenient for them. The reality they want they get.

What our girls have learned from this administration:
-When men yell, they are passionate and full of conviction, when women yell they are unhinged and discredited.
We all know the narrative. If a woman expresses an emotion she must be on her period. And if she is on her period we are not to take her seriously. Because being on your period means you are irrational, and more importantly incorrect. This narrative is pushed in every platform. Find me one sitcom that doesn’t push this narrative and claim it to be humor.
And we women have learned that because of this ridiculous narrative that we must remain calm, quiet, and patient when we are fighting for what we believe.
During the last two years our girls have watched countless men yell and scream because they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted how they wanted when they wanted. While a woman calmly and patiently stood her ground and told the truth. From Hilary Clinton to Sally Yates to Dr. Ford, our girls have watched powerful and intelligent women stand their ground while men yelled and screamed at them.

-What happens to you in your teenage years doesn’t matter, because what teenage boys do doesn’t matter. Boys will be boys.
Just as boys have learned there are no consequences for their actions, girls have learned there is no protection to be found when they are violated. There is no protection, no justice, and their bodies are not their own. And more girls are learning to fear coming forward.

-His future is more important than your body.
We can’t punish him for raping you because think about his future? It doesn’t matter that he was caught in the middle of the act by two sober men who will testify exactly what they witnessed. It doesn’t matter that there are multiple women coming forward with the same story. It doesn’t matter. Because his future is more important, and we must protect his future, not your body.

 

We have to change the message we are sending to our children. This isn’t about republican vs democrat. This isn’t about political parties. It’s about teaching our children to be honest, respectful, and good. Otherwise our children’s fate will be worse than our own. #MeToo won’t matter, #TimesUp won’t matter, women won’t matter.

Our girls deserve better. Our boys deserve better.

The Mid-term elections are almost here. Go vote on November 6th. And maybe we can tell a new story.

 

-Darci

 

After a Year of #MeToo, Has Anything Changed?

It’s been roughly a year since #MeToo erupted and the world got a glimpse into the reality of what life is like for a woman. Many celebrities and public figures started by simply sharing #MeToo, but others started to share more. Details, stories, encounters, emotions. Then women everywhere started sharing #MeToo. Your aunt, your old Sunday school teacher, your neighbor, your co-worker, maybe even your ex. They all started sharing their stories. And suddenly this wasn’t just some Hollywood publicity stunt, this was a real-world-right-in-your-face issue.

And to a lot of men, this was a jarring revelation. How could someone be sexually harassing my old college best friend? Could this really be about more than just drunk and crazy men on the street screaming at strangers? To most women, this information was just a normal Tuesday. Because women already knew the reality. We already knew that sexual harassment and assault is part of our daily lives. And that it comes from the men in our daily lives. It was just men who were shocked.

A lot of men in the public eye have fallen from grace and had to go into hiding (though not to jail) and some have been uglier than others. But not a lot of men in our day to day lives have had to face any consequences. Most likely the men in our daily lives haven’t even change anything about their day to day actions.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the last year. Despite all of the women in my life who shared their #MeToo moments, not one named names. Not even me. Despite sharing our truth, we felt this urge to protect the men who made us feel unsafe. Perhaps because we understand the harsh reality that no matter how calm, collected, eloquent, and convicted we are, we will not be believed. Perhaps it’s because we fear further danger by escalating the truth too much. Or perhaps it’s because we have been conditioned our entire lives not to embarrass men.

But also, none of these guys stepped forward. Not one man who I called out (anonymously) when I shared my story attempted to apologize to me. All were friends. All could and most likely did see my post. All would have recognized themselves in the story. But not one tried to make it right. And yet I still protect them.

Justice wasn’t the point of #Metoo. Tearing men down wasn’t the point of sharing our stories. The point was to show just how prevalent sexual harassment and assault is. That it happens every day to every woman. That it is a problem that needs to be address, and change must happen.

There are plenty of men who were shocked by the information and shared #IBelieveHer type things. But there are also plenty of men who are mostly concerned with how this past year will affect them. Men who are worried their “good intentions” will be misunderstood. Men who fear women will confuse flirting with sexual harassment and they will have to face unfair consequences (even though none of them have faced any consequences). But there are still no men taking responsibility. All of the change is either unneeded or some other man’s responsibility to make happen.

What if, and stay with me here, men started sharing #ItWasMe? What if men started sharing their stories owning their mistakes, taking responsibility for their actions, and continuing the conversation. I know it’s crazy. But what if the next step of this story is men owning up to their actions.

Things like:
-I used alcohol as an excuse to grope my friend;
-I used alcohol as an excuse to ignore boundaries;
-I coerced my partner into sex;
-I wouldn’t take no for an answer;
-I was only interested in a relationship with women if it turned sexual; or
-I considered being Friendzoned an insult;
-I laughed at stories about assault rather than calling people out;
-I knew things were happening and didn’t report;
-I refused to get help when I realized I had a problem;
-I wasn’t an ally when I was needed;
-I could have done more, but I didn’t.

And of course, I know why this won’t happen. It’s an admission of guilt. It could lead to consequences. Right now, we live in a world where men can downplay all of their actions, they can gaslight all of their victims, and spend their days doing what they want to who they want and nothing bad really happens to them.

And god forbid a man be confronted with his past, attempt to be held accountable, face his accuser, he can cry and be as hysterical as he wants denying his responsibility, and still rise to power of Supreme Court Justice, or even President of the United States. So there really is no incentive to take responsibility, to apologize, or make right. And little boys everywhere learn that nothing happens when you assault women.

 

Darci

What if Misogyny Were a Hate Crime?

Every woman has a story about sexual harassment. Every woman probably has a story from the last week about sexual harassment. Our entire lives revolve around avoiding harassment. It determines how we dress, what routes we take, when we go out, every time we leave our home harassment is on our radar.

And yet, despite how prevalent harassment is towards women, we have as a society chosen to completely normalize this dynamic. When we go out for a run, go to the grocery store, go to a bar, literally just step out of our homes, sexual harassment is just a reality we are forced to bare. Men are left unchecked, unchallenged, and absolved of responsibility for their own actions.  

If someone targets people based on their race or their religion they can receive harsh legal punishment. Someone who repeatedly targets women faces no such sanction. Are we okay with that?

And don’t worry, I hear you already: this #MeToo movement has gone too far! Catcalling is just a compliment, you should be flattered! I wish people complimented me every time I left the house! If we police all of our interactions men will never be able to talk to women again!

To you I say this, we’ve talked about this before. Flirting and sexual harassment are not the same thing, women know the difference, and if you don’t then you shouldn’t be talking to women. I’m not asking for the opportunity to charge every man who dares speak in my direction with sexual harassment. But the men who catcall me, the men who call me a bitch for politely declining them, the men who purposefully get in my way so I cannot get past them in the street, I want them to know there are real consequences to this behavior. That this kind of behavior is not flirting, it is harassment, and harassment is not okay.

And maybe if harassment were a crime, the difference would be much more understood.

Misogyny isn’t going to disappear by itself. Women are being raped, abused, and harassed daily and our instinct is to defend the man, downplay the crime, and find a way to blame the woman for her fate.

If we classify sexual harassment as a hate crime that can be reported and charged, people will start paying attention. They will pay attention to the statistics more, they will pay attention to the severity more, they will learn hard and fast what the difference is between harassment and flirting. And most importantly, women will feel like as a society we are finally listening. That we take the #MeToo movement seriously and are no longer accepting the status quo.

This isn’t about persecuting every cat-caller and creepy neighbor, it’s about telling our teenager girls who get harassed that their anger and fear is valid. It’s about telling the world that women are people and we must respect them.

 

-Darci

The Men of #MeToo Are Resurfacing

Perhaps you heard the news that Louis CK returned to the NYC stand up stage. Or that Aziz has been doing stand up since May, and Netflix says they are ready for him whenever. Apparently Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose have shows in the works.

It’s been less than a year since the #MeToo movement began. And even less time than that has past since these men and more got some very bad press. Only one has given a true apology and actually taken responsibility for his actions. The rest, well, haven’t.

And I find myself…disappointed.

How many women had to come forward with their stories of horrifying experiences for the world to even pay attention? And even then it was still dismissed, defended, downplayed. No woman’s story was horrifying enough for us to be done with these men. Even Harvey Weinstein was defended as “just being Harvey”.

And yet all it took was one man to take down Kevin Spacey. Don’t get me wrong here, what happened to Anthony Rapp was a travesty. But no one questioned his story, no one defended Kevin Spacey for just being Kevin, no one cried that what happened was too long ago to hold it against him. One man told one story, and Kevin Spacey is done for.

But Louis CK was welcomed with a standing ovation. Louis CK admitted to his crimes. And we applaud his return, as if he were the brave victim to rise from the ashes.

I’m disappointed because I thought maybe, just maybe, women were finally getting through to people that how we are treated, how we are seen, what we have to survive every day, needed to stop. That over sexualizing us, devaluing us, that assaulting us was not okay and forgetting that for even a moment has long lasting consequences.

What is so wrong with being done with these men? What is so wrong with saying that treating another human in a certain way means you no longer get to be rich and famous? Why is our moral standard so much more concerned with forgiving these men than valuing the women they exploited and abused? And what’s the worst that will happen if we are done with these men: we make room for new people. New people who don’t have a history of assault or abuse. And we set a standard that says if you treat people this way you are done, so people will stop treating others that way.

When we forgive, excuse, and downplay what these men have done, when we applaud their return, we are telling the world that this behavior is ok. That nothing truly bad will happen to you, that there aren’t really any consequences. And so more men will behave this way, more women will be assaulted and abused, and less women will come forward because they see how pointless and humiliating it is to seek justice.

I’m disappointed, because for a moment there I really thought change was happening.

 

-Darci

At What Point Do We Allow Someone to Grow?

James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 recently after old tweets were brought to light of him making inappropriate jokes involving pedophilia. A small but loud crowd were in outrage over these old but still horrific jokes, and Disney reacted quickly and swiftly. In the aftermath, it seems that perhaps hardcore right-wingers are going through outspoken liberals Twitters and exploiting old inappropriate jokes to crucify them in this post-#MeToo world. And Disney took the bait.

Ok. So it’s a lot. And I’ve been processing it all. And I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

My first gut reaction: I loved Guardians 2. It’s easily my favorite of the Marvel films. I was not expecting a super hero movie to be so genuine and relatable, especially when the story involves a baby tree that dances and a talking foul mouth raccoon, all while flying through space. But damnit that movie got real, and I was calling my therapist when it was over, and it was perfect for all of the right reasons. Seriously. I was in tears by the end of that film. And so I am sad that he will not be involved in the next film.

But then I started to wonder, is this justified or not? Is this part of the over correction and exploration of the #MeToo movement, or is this just the next phase of cleaning house? Overcorrection is going to happen. Everything offends someone, and now there seems to be a sounding board to scream about it all, and the higher up powers are finally afraid of the masses. But is this necessary or is this going to far?

So here is my long winded opinion.

I’ve never been a fan of Twitter. Free speech is wonderful, and having zero censorship is a privilege we should always value. But just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. And most people who use Twitter seem to think I can, so why not? Twitter is not censored or regulated like other social media platforms, which has lead many (not just celebrities) to say whatever crass, offensive, or shocking thing they want, simply because they can. And until very recently, no one was overly worried if there would ever be consequences.

Many times now celebrities have tweeted things that got them heat – and that was the point. They wanted the attention (all press is good press). But they didn’t get fired. Because we weren’t taking them seriously. Before  #MeToo no one has notably lost work due to something they tweeted, past or present. Now, full television shows are canceled, directors are being taken off big projects, actors or dropping out of films before they even start shooting.

And again, none of this is happening because of the crimes or bad choices they are making. Just like when #MeToo started, those men weren’t losing their jobs because people were trying to do right by the women coming forward, they were losing their jobs because overnight they became suddenly not marketable.

Now they are firing people and canceling full projects because of the feared fallout. For marketing. For profit. For bottom line.

James Gunn wrote and published those tweets almost ten years ago. Long before Disney hired him. They knew they were there, and they weren’t concerned about them then. They are only concerned about them now. Because the small group of loud shouting people have become a feared mob.

But here is my real rub. James Gunn apologized. Honestly, earnestly, apologized. He owned up to his mistakes, took responsibility for them, and agreed they were in poor taste at best. That is not who he is any more, and he hopes we will all let his work speak for itself.

And we aren’t.

So are people allowed to grow and change? What mistakes are forgivable? What actions make up for those mistakes? When is an apology sufficient?

Here’s where I may get some heat. Of all of the celebrity fall outs from #MeToo, I am willing to forgive Louis CK. I may even be willing to watch his future projects. And here is why: he owned it, he fully apologized, he didn’t make excuses, deny it, attack the women who came forward. He took full responsibly, he seems to understand the long reach of his actions, and he seems to genuinely understand he needs to learn and grow. And that’s why I can make my peace with him (does my opinion matter, no; does my forgiveness matter, absolutely not).

And that’s why I am ok with James Gunn. He’s not shouting from the roof tops defending his actions, he is not displacing the blame onto others or drugs, or justifying his wrong doing because others did it too. He knows what he did, he stopped doing it long before the internet decided to charge him for his crimes, and he hasn’t been that person for years.

I believe in repentance and forgiveness, blame my Christian upbringing. If James Gunn made those jokes today, that would be an issue. If he were to dismiss his actions or displace the responsibly on something stupid like medication or culture or someone else did it too so it’s fine, that would also be an issue. But these were past mistakes that he has already repented for. And so I believe he deserves forgiveness. And I don’t think he deserved to be fired, or have his career impacted at all.

We all have our dumb moments, we all have our blind spots, we all need to learn and grow. Making mistakes is inevitable, but owning up to them and apologizing for them is rare. We have to allow people to learn and grow from their mistakes. And we have to accept their honest repentance.

 

-Darci