If you’ve been around long enough in Feminist circles, you have no doubt encountered the term “micro-aggression”. For the uninitiated, a micro-aggression is a small action or statement that on the surface doesn’t seem terribly offensive. However, to someone who lives his/her life in the minority, these actions reveal nasty attitudes within a person. This is the sticky part of micro-aggressions. They seem innocuous, and people will get upset at you for calling attention to them, but they are still wrong. Not only do they put a persons assumptions and prejudices on display, but they add up quickly. As a slow leak in a water line eventually can exact a high cost, experiencing these small “innocent” actions on a constant basis at work or at home can add up to serious oppression.
I’m going to teach my daughters to recognize micro-aggressions. I’ll leave it up to them how they respond, or if they respond. If I had to guess, I would say CFd1 is about 10 times more likely to call someone out than CFd2… but I want them to be able to ascertain sexist attitudes and beliefs in a person. That is just basic awareness, and will help them to form quality relationships. So if you are going to spend any time around the CFd’s, here’s a handy guide to some attitudes you’ll want to check first. It’ll save embarrassment on your part, of course, but it will also help you interact with other women in a more wholesome and supportive way.
This should be an obvious one, but I’ll go over it anyway. A woman or girl is more, much more than the sum of her body parts. She is more than a pretty face. She is smart, ingenious, caring, funny, loving, driven, sensitive, calculating… all sorts of things. So in your interaction with her, please focus on more than her appearance.
I certainly hope that my daughters won’t encounter comments of a sexual nature from the people they interact with, but I can’t guarantee that. There are adult women everywhere who have to deal with men giving admiring comments about their butt. From co-workers. who are at least 20 years older than them. If you think it is acceptable to comment on my daughter’s derriere, or her breasts, or her legs, or any other part of her body that pleases you sexually, then there is really nothing I can do for you beyond referring the matter to law enforcement. And I will.
However, there is more to sexual objectification than a woman’s body. Reducing her to a sexual object is a terrible thing to do, but it is just as dehumanizing to reduce her to an “object of beauty”. Again, my daughters are more than pretty faces or dress-up dolls. There is a person inside that face, inside that body. In your interactions with her, make sure you keep that in mind. Can you maybe open a conversation with something besides “wow, you look pretty!”?
There are ways to objectify women besides sex, you know. I call this category “religious objectification” because in my experience it normally happens in religious circles. There are folks who will take the Bible, the Koran, the Torah etc, and claim that these texts teach a certain treatment for women. I’m not going to speak concerning the Islamic faith because frankly I’m not qualified to do so. What I can say is that my Christianity and my interpretation of the Christian Scriptures makes no room for objectification of any human being.
Religious objectification happens whenever a born-again, believing woman or girl is accounted as anything less than a human being, child of God, member of the Body of Christ and contributor to His work for His kingdom. It usually shows up as the assumption that a woman is going to submit to her husband without equal and reciprocating submission on the husband’s part. Women and their opinions are routinely ignored in religious environments because Christian men cherry-pick which “submission” passages from the Bible they want to follow, conveniently ignoring the passages that dictate their own submission. Generally, when a woman has been religiously objectified, she is reduced to a lower or less class of human being whose sole purpose is to contribute to the success of a man and his plans, whether that man is her husband, her father or (lacking either) some other man. Her duties and responsibilities are to have babies and stroke her man’s ego at every opportunity. Any activity beyond this is “rebellion”.
If you read through Scripture with the idea that God considers a woman less, smaller and weaker, I encourage you to read through this resource.
Haha! If you plan on referring to either of the CFd’s by names like “kiddo”, “dear”, “honey” or “young lady” without checking with them first, I want to be there to watch the withering glance you get. Honestly folks, if you wouldn’t refer to an equivalent-aged male with a diminutive, don’t presume to do so with my daughters. If you’re still doing this to one of them when she becomes an adult, I hope she takes you down a notch. Now, if you’re friends with her, and have a relationship of affection? If she has given you permission, or is ok with it? That’s different. But to assume this patronizing position at the onset really displays a lack of respect for her as a person. Here’s a great article on the subject
I want to dispel a part of your thinking right here and now. My daughters don’t rely on you to protect them from unseen danger. They do not need you riding around on your white horse while they blissfully go about their lives unaware of the danger you keep at bay. They may ask for your help, and if you are a friend you will provide it. However, they will not appreciate this sort of thing if they have not asked for it. Furthermore, if I see this dynamic developing between them and some man? I will do everything I can to put a stop to it. Why? because it’s insulting to her, not to mention extremely dangerous.
There is a fundamental difference in methodology when protecting a bag of golden coins on one hand, and a human being on the other hand. Gold has no soul, no capacity or right to make choices. You can lock gold up to keep it safe, and it doesn’t reduce its value or violate its freedom. A human being has the right to decide, first of all, whether one wants protection. Withholding this choice is a violation of basic human dignity. Furthermore, a human being has the right to decide who to trust for this protection. The problem begins when a man assumes the role of “protector” over a woman who either does not want his protection or does not trust him to supply it. Even more troublesome is the case where a man assumes this responsibility without even notifying the woman of danger. Not only does this treat the woman like a child, it really makes the man out to be a child as well. It places the woman in danger and makes you (as the self-appointed protector) just as much a threat as the one you are trying to abate. Keeping important information from someone about danger makes you untrustworthy. Period.
I call this Daddy-syndrome, because a man who does this is setting himself up in a father-type position. I say “father-type” instead of “fatherly” because really this isn’t even appropriate for the actual father of an adult (see this article for more on this). Am I saying you shouldn’t come to my daughters’ aid if you see they need help? No. However, You really should ask them if they need help beforehand. Setting yourself up as a self-appointed protector is a childish and sexist thing to do. Once my daughters become old enough, they have the right to decide how to keep themselves safe.
At any rate…
Really, give the links I’ve referenced a read-through. Try to recognize these behaviors for what they are: signs of mistaken beliefs and rotten attitudes that a man or woman(!) may not even realize he/she holds. We can change the way we think. That’s one of the benefits of intelligence. Let’s do it.