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 homophobe”, “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 actions 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 women 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 homophobe, 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

The Economics of Relationships: When to De-Invest

A good friend of mine is a counselor. He is also a drinking buddy. Many a time he has graciously talked me through some difficult times while out for a drink, and his words always stick with me. I will find myself mulling over his insights for days, weeks, even months.

Recently, I asked him what was the right thing to do. Would this be wrong, would this make me a bad person? And his response was not what I expected. He started talking about economics. About cost-benefit analysis, this idea that you make decisions by comparing the cost of doing something with it’s benefits. As he went on, he explained that it wasn’t so much about whether it was right or wrong for me to do or not do something, but rather would it cause me more pain to do it vs not do it.

And I have been thinking about this a lot. It has totally reframed how I approach my relationships. How I view conflict, tension, and pain. It’s changed how I view my responsibility in my relationships, particularly those that have become unhealthy for me. So rather than wondering what is right or wrong, I am wondering if it will hurt me more to do it rather than not. Rather than wondering who is the villain or the victim, I wonder about the investment value.

So this week, I wanted to share my reasons for de-investing in relationships.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words
You’ve heard the saying before, “Actions speak louder than words”. And it’s true. People will say things and make promises that they have no intention of keeping. You can tell someone that you love them a thousand times, but until your behavior matches that, it’s just words. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day. Promises are nothing, words are nothing, without the action. We can apologize for our mistakes over and over, but if our actions do not change, the words become meaningless.

People may not tell you how they feel about you, but they will always show you. Pay attention. If their actions are telling a very different story than their words, and that story is hurting you, it’s time to start listening to the story their actions are telling you, and re-evaluate your investment.

You’re Constantly Defending Them
If you often find yourself in a position where you  need to defend someone, chances are there’s a consistently unacceptable behavior you are trying to justify.

A friend of mine was with a guy who was, to put it bluntly, an asshole. He was very rude to her in public, very rude to her friends, and very difficult in social situations. And she would constantly defend him. Explain that he was just insecure in social situations, that he had a rough childhood, that he just had some quirks.

As kind as she was, as compassionate as she was, as patient as she was, by defending him she communicated that his actions were also okay. And so they never changed. In fact, they only got worse. When we defend and excuse our loved ones bad behavior, we give them permission to continue that behavior. And more so, they have no motivation to ever work on that behavior.

Loving and understanding someones pain is a wonderful quality. But we need to be compassionate with ourselves first. And that means setting respectable standards for how we are treated.

They Constantly Blame You for Their Behavior
It can be quite difficult to recognize unacceptable behaviors from your loved ones when you are convinced that you are somehow responsible for those behaviors. You might tell yourself they don’t reach out to you because they are busy, or because they don’t want to be a bother. Or that those jabs and put downs are just jokes, that teasing is their love language. Or that they don’t take your emotions seriously because when you were a kid you threw a lot of temper tantrums, so they have conditioned themselves to shut you down.

In other words, you justify their mistreatment of you because they have convinced you that you are the “wrong one” or the “crazy one”. You defend their actions, because those actions aren’t changing, and so you must be the cause.

But there comes a point when you realize that people who truly respected you and cared about you would encourage you to grow, not resent you for your accomplishments. They would support you when you struggle, not use your past as a way to intimidate or disparage you. They would build you up, not tear you down. And when you told them you were hurt, they would want to change that.

 

 

Relationships are hard. All relationships. The longer the relationship, the more work they are going to take. And over time you may have to re-evaluate your cost-benefit analysis. Are you investing more than you are getting back? Is your participation hurting your bottom line? Has the relationship lost its value? Or do you just need to step back and take a break while you re-evaluate?

And then you need to decide, what hurts you more: leaving, or staying?

My final thought for you is this: Go where the love is.

 

-Darci

Things to Purge From Your Life

We all have goals, dreams, desires. We want to work out more, save more money, take better care of ourselves, find more fulfillment in our work. And yet we end up watching Netflix, wearing our yoga pants as pajamas, and working our 9-5 without much agency. With the new year approaching, it’s natural to start feeling self reflective. So it’s time to start making plans to create new positive habits and purge our not-so-wonderful habits. Here are some things you can purge from your life now so that by New Years you are ready to go!

Sexist Comments
It wouldn’t be an Angry Feminist post without a reminder that sexist comments are a thing of the past, and people still making them don’t belong in your future. No more calling your colleagues “honey” or “sweetie”, no more cracks about women drivers, no more comments about how women should or should not dress, no more catcalling, no more shaming women who reject your advances. No more. Purge those from your life immediately.

Self-Doubt
We grew up in the era of curriculums and block classes and testing and majors. All meant to prepare us for the real world. And then we were thrown into the real world where there is no schedule, itinerary, curriculum, or plan to follow. You have to make your own path. And it is daunting. Overwhelming. But the real kicker is this: now the only one stopping you from achieving anything is you. So you have to stop doubting yourself. It’s time to turn your dreams into plans! Pick your goal, make a list, and make a plan that’s all your own.

Workouts You Hate
Being active is so important. And not just for your waist line. The mental health benefits from activity are numerous. Regular exercise can have profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, stress, memory, sleep, and your mood. But the problem is you won’t see any of those benefits if you are forcing yourself to do workouts you hate. I love running, but running is not for everyone. You have to find your activity that you look forward to. Be it yoga, dancing, biking, sports, walking, what say you. The best part is that you get to do whatever you love.

Guilt 
It’s easy to feel guilty for setbacks in your goals, for not being able to be in two places at once, for not progressing or being where you “should” be in life right now. It’s time to nix that negativity from your life and focus on the positive. Think of all you have accomplished in the last year, and cut yourself some slack. Don’t undercut your small victories. Like those days you went into work when you really didn’t want to, or those times you got outside on a sunny day, or those small moments where you opened up to someone. Growth takes on different forms and paces. Spend more time celebrating your victories.

Clothes
It’s time. It’s time to clean out your closet of all of those old clothes that you have wonderful memories of, keep meaning to wear, will fit in again one day. Start small, throw out those items with holes or snags. And once you see how great it feels to start purging your closet, you will start throwing out more and more. You’ll have more space, you’ll feel organized and cleansed, and you get to shop for new things now. Get rid of the old to make space for the new.

Being Too Available 
Self-care is important. Let the trend of your next year be self-care. Plaster reminders all over your home, your car, your desk at work. Schedule it into your week. Baths, massages, reading time, alone time. Schedule it. And make it an unmovable option. If you get an invite to a shower, a happy hour, a move night, and it conflicts with your self-care time, you say no. Pick a time in your evening to stop checking work emails. Set your phone on your nightstand and leave it there all evening. I’m giving you permission to focus on you more.

Toxic Relationships 
It’s tough to cut people out of your life. It’s tough to set boundaries and enforce them. It’s tough to stand up for yourself. It’s tough to be the one to break the cycle. But breaking up with toxic friends, acquaintances, workplaces, family, and romantic partners will bring you a freedom you don’t realize you are missing right now. Stop reaching out to your one-sided friendships, stop indulging in toxic workplace gossip with your coworkers, stop putting up with poor treatment from loved ones, stop ignoring red flags. This is another part of self-care to focus on. Teach the people in your life how to treat you by not tolerating anything less.

Old Spices
Like all perishables, your spices have an expiration date. And just like your clothes, your pantry needs a refresher. Throw out the old and make way for the new. Cleanse your pantry closet just like your wardrobe and find inspiration for the future you. Use this as motivation to learn how to cook a new dish or spend more time taking care of yourself.

 

I am a big believer in self-reflection and self-improvement. I believe you can choose to be a better you at any time, not just at New Years or your birthday. So stop waiting and make productive healthy choices today. When you wait you are the one who suffers the most. So stop suffering and start loving yourself.

 

Darci

 

Navigating the “That’s Just How I Am” Dynamic This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again. The holiday blitz. Too much sweet, too much savory, too much wine, too much cheer, and, for some, too much family.

Perhaps it’s age, perhaps it’s the current political climate, perhaps it’s my job, perhaps it’s nothing to do with me whatsoever. But I find as I get older I struggle with the holidays more and more. I dread meals with my family, sitting around the table listening to their religious and political beliefs, their passive aggressive comments about my life, the micro-aggressions being passed along with the potatoes. Knowing all too well that engaging in conversation will only result in conflict, and setting boundaries will only ignite tempers. And so each year I feel a little more trapped.

How many times have you heard, uttered, or thought the words “That’s just how I am”? When you’ve been confronted because of behavior another finds off-putting, have you defended yourself with, “that’s just how I am”? Behavior is a fascinating science and there are dozens of major theories on personality development. Things from genetics, to caregivers, to potty training, to behaviors reinforced or not, and a combination of everything and nothing. According to many philosophers, to understand oneself is the goal of life.

Understanding why we behave certain ways can be very helpful. But is understanding sufficient? Explanations can be comforting, certainly. Knowing you are the way you are for these particular reasons or background can lead to self-acceptance. But, is the way you are behaving how you actually want to be?

There is a lot to be said for self-acceptance. Often the goal of therapy is self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is a worthy goal.

But when someone says, “this is just how I am”, what are they really saying? The preface is, “I can’t help it…”, viewing it as a cop-out. Or perhaps, more plainly, they are saying, “I don’t have the motivation to change this aspect of myself”. It communications a sincere desire to avoid change.

How many times have you wished you hadn’t said something? Or started to say something, and realized it was a bad idea? So much of what we say is triggered by our current interactions tapping into our historical interactions. Otherwise known as conditioning. We have all been conditioned in our life. Our sense of humor is conditioned, how we handle our insecurities is conditioned, how we view men and women is conditioned, our family structure and dynamic is conditioned. We may have no control of our conditioning, but we do have control of our actions. And we have responsibility in how we treat other people, regardless of conditioning, regardless of “that’s just how I am”.

Breaking this conditioning takes a great deal of effort. Understanding yourself is a big part of it, but understanding why you behave the way you do requires more digging. It requires one to be come more conscious, to act more intentionally. And that is easier said than done.

So this holiday season, I encourage you to do some self reflecting. Not just on what you believe and why you believe it. But also on how you react in your interactions and why. Find something about your own behavior and conditioning you would like to change. For example, maybe you want to be more patient. Consider how you would want that to present, and find ways to remind yourself daily of your new goals. Seek out others to help you be accountable for your changes, to encourage you in your growth.

And most importantly, the goal is progress, not perfection. Progress is a slow journey, and requires grace. It is a worthy cause.

-Darci

Ways Men Show Sexism in the Bedroom

Guys, it’s time we have a very real talk. We’ve talked a lot this year about ways that women are being treated poorly in big and small ways. We’ve even had a lot of talks about consent. But there is still one big arena that you are showing major sexism that we need to discuss: The Bedroom.

Now it’s not surprising. It is said that what happens in the bedroom reflects what happens in the real world. So if you are struggling to treat women well in your day to day life, it stands to reason you will struggle to treat women well in the bedroom as well. But you Guys have some very problematic behavior that us Ladies are getting pretty sick and tired of. Women are not sexual objects for you to masturbate with and you need to stop treating us like that’s all we are.

So let’s talk about ways you can improve your behavior – and performance – in the bedroom.

Not Bringing Your Own Condoms
It’s always best to be prepared. And Ladies, I definitely advise keeping your own stash on hand when you are single and mingling, because men are the most unreliable of people. Birth control is now available in many forms and allows us women to feel more in control of our body than ever before. Which has resulted in men assuming we will take on the responsibility of providing the goalie, and that they are off the hook. Despite the fact that condoms are still the only form of birth control that protect against STI’s, and are the only form of BC made for men, men are disturbingly unprepared when it comes to hook ups. And that is very concerning behavior! Guys, you need to be taking responsibility for your hook ups. You want to know what is crazy sexy? A guy who comes prepared. Do you know what makes a new sexual partner feel safe with you? Bringing your own condom. And take it the extra mile and wear it without being asked. Safe sex is super sexy sex.

And Guys, I get it. Sex with a condom just doesn’t feel as good as going raw. But do you know what else doesn’t feel so good? Chlamydia. You know what else sucks? Paying child support. So why aren’t you bringing your own condoms to your dates?

Step one in treating women better in the bedroom: providing your own birth control.

Receiving But Not Giving
Oral sex is wonderful. But Guys, you have gotten incredibly greedy when it comes to oral sex. Expectations for oral sex are high, pressure to get oral sex is high. But the worst of your offenses: not returning the favor.

Oral sex is a lot of fun, but if you want to get you better be giving. Everyone knows you give to get. So Guys, stop being selfish in bed and start going down.

And hey, don’t just take my advice. Lesbians know what’s up here too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1wveGujCrI&feature=youtu.be

 

Prioritizing Their Orgasm
I could write something witty and quippy here, but this Babe.net video does a much better job than I ever could. And should be required viewing for all men before engaging in sexual activity with another person.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFwG4yXLBAs

Sorry You’re on Your Period, Can you Get Me Off Though? 
Periods suck. But Guys, I promise they suck more for women than they do for you. There are few things more selfish in bed than asking for your partner to get you off when they are feeling the opposite of sexual. So suck it up for a few days and take care of yourself.

 

So Guys, try to think of your sexual partner as just that, your partner. Stop being so focused on your orgasm and your pleasure, and start focusing on your partners. Stop making sex all about you. You’re going to get your orgasm, don’t worry. Start paying more attention to whether or not your sexual partner is actually enjoying themselves too. Otherwise it’s not sex, it’s just masturbating with a body.

The rumors are true, we women do talk to each other about everything. And you have a pretty bad reputation right now.

 

 

-Darci

The Dreaded Man Flu

It’s cold season again. It happens every year. Your coworkers start sneezing a lot more. Everyone is drinking tea. Most of your emails are immediately responded with Out of Office replies. No one is safe. Cold season does not discriminate.

But for some, cold season is harder to weather than others. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “Man Flu” before. Probably from aggravated women in your life dealing with a sick partner at home.

But what is Man Flu?

Man Flu refers to the idea that men, when they have a cold, exaggerate their symptoms and believe they have something much more severe than a cold, perhaps the flu. The intention, whether conscious or not, is to solicit extra attention and care while he is under the weather.

There is a lot of argument on this subject. Several scientists hypothesize that men really do experience symptoms differently than women. Several women argue that their men need to toughen up. And honestly, both are probably true.

Now, I’m not here to tell you how real or unreal the Man Flu may be. What I have found fascinating over the years, however, is how men and women handle being sick differently.  How often have you watched a woman clean her house, care for her children, and cook family meals while sick with a cold? And how many men lay on the couch all day? How many women still go to work when they are clearly too ill? How often do men take a sick day at the first sniffle? How often do women downplay their symptoms and suffering? And how often has a man over exaggerated their symptoms and suffering?

Again, I’m not saying one is better than the other. I think both behaviors are problematic. I downplayed a cold for weeks and pushed through my responsibilities until I had pneumonia. So I know that “toughing up” can be a very dangerous way to handle things. But I have also observed a pattern in behaviors. And clearly I am not the only one.

So why is it that women have a natural ability to “toughen up” better than men? I have one major theory: menstruation.

From early adolescence, which for some women starts as early as 11, women have a monthly menstruation. On average, women spend five days a month in actual misery. Cramps, headaches, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, hot flashes, mood swings. Oh ya, and we have to deal with openly bleeding throughout it all.

And do you know what the craziest part of this whole monthly occurrence is: we are expected to suffer silently.

So many men are uncomfortable with menstruation. They don’t want to know about it, they don’t want to hear about it. It grosses them out, it makes them uneasy, it embarrasses them. And somewhere along the way, women decided to react to this selfish insensitive response to our suffering with accommodation?

We decided we will show up to school, to work, to social events, despite our extreme physical discomfort. We don’t take sick days, we don’t demand additional sick days to accommodate. We don’t suffer openly. We hide our feminine hygiene products. We pay taxes on our feminine hygiene products. We take over the counter drugs to ease our suffering. We settle for minimal and laughable medical research.

Women have to “toughen up” on a monthly basis. We’ve trained our whole lives to push through feeling awful and function normally anyway. So a cold just feels like more of the same.

So while you are nursing your cold this season, remember that all of the women in your life suffer silently all the time.

 

-Darci

GUEST WRITER: I Hate Men!

“I HATE MEN!!” <- That’s me, yelling at the television almost every night. Sometimes it’s Toby from “This Is Us” not listening to anything Kate says, as if he didn’t hear a thing she just said and totally speaks over/for her (the current season is much better).  Anytime violence against women is used as entertainment value – one main reason I can’t watch Game of Thrones (sue me). Or how about THE FREAKING NEWS. Women being murdered by ex-boyfriends for no reason. This fucking Boys Club that runs our country and elect’s rapists to the highest seats. HOW IS ANY OF THIS OKAY?!

My husband, sitting on the couch across the room from me either lets me have my angry moment or agrees with a nod.  I always finish the sentence with ‘of course I hate all men except for you’. But sometimes I wonder, do I mean it?

Since I choose to not live in ignorance to the world around me, it becomes more apparent everyday how men use, abuse, and hurt women. I see it in everything. How a white man walks into a room acting as if he owns it. How a man can go running at 11:30pm and make it home without even a thought to his safety. I once read about a woman who started walking in a straight line instead of moving out of the way for men walking the other way. I tried this at my gym. A small space, but I just walked in a straight line to the stretching room and noticed some men seemed totally annoyed that they actually had to move a little out of the way. It was eye opening to see this male privilege in action.

I met my husband 5 years ago and the thing that drew me to him was the way he listened to me. He believed the things I said, never dismissed any emotions. In 27 years, I had never had a man treat me like a person. He is so very aware of his white male privilege and always takes the side of the oppressed. But while he is an amazing man, he is still a MAN.

He is still representative of what feels like ‘his’ people. People born into a male heteronormative lifestyle. White male men who never ask for anything, they just take what they want and see no consequences. It feels like the more women speak out about these micro aggressions, the more it feels like ‘them’ against ‘us’. It feels so divisive.

On one hand, I am grateful to have open eyes and awareness of this, but maybe if I didn’t…
-I could love my husband better.
-I could not get so angry when he doesn’t clean the bathroom.
-I could not be so annoyed when I pick a tv show and ask him if he’s okay with it, but when he picks a show he just presses play.
-I could not look at him and only see the privilege he walks in.
-I could rant and not have to realize that while he tries his best to understand- there is no way he can feel what I feel.

I’m working this out. Every day I am trying to see him for the beautiful human being he is. The person who is my safe place to fall. Who loves every part of me.  I am l trying to navigate how to love him well, while constantly being bombarded with how his gender generally views mine. I basically think it’s my lifelong job to help him understand the difficulties women face and how we are represented (I cannot even imagine it’s 100x harder for women of color).

I don’t really know how to end this article since there isn’t any big revelation or anything I’ve had. Maybe it will resonate with someone else. It feels like until the world fully changes (I don’t have very high hopes it’ll be anytime soon) I will struggle with this. I think I should bring him into this struggle and not deal with it on my own. It feels very raw and vulnerable. While he may not be able to do anything to fix the world around him, he and I can continue to love each other the best we know how.

 

-Allison