"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Sunday, November 09, 2014

My Boys.

Now Playing: How to Save a Life by The Fray (where did I go wrong, I lost a friend somewhere alone in the bitterness)

Have you heard 1D's new song?

Damn, is it catchy.

It's also super problematic, mostly because the lyrics revolve around the premise that 'everybody wanna steal my girl', but they have to 'find another one because she belongs to me' because 'I don't exist if I don't have her'.


I learned a lot about the ways of the world from men, partly because they're all I have much experience with and because most of the people who are genuinely comfortable with their own sexuality and sexual appetites are men (yay, patriarchy!) So I've probably inherited a couple of unhealthy attitudes that will, I'm sure, be corrected by my fierce dedication to feminism. But some of the criticism I get is pure double standards and misunderstandings.

It's been a running joke for most of this year that there are a few boys who I refer to - and who my friends started referring to - as 'my boys'. The joke was that I'm part of a charity thing and we were running short on boys, so I happened to recruit a good friend plus a couple boys I met at parties, but most of the joke is that they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, *my* boys. Firstly, anyone owning anyone else is...slavery...and also because these boys are my friends, and it's always been abundantly clear that there's nothing more between any of us; and regardless of anything romantic/sexual that happened between any of us, we've all led our own separate lives with other people, and we've all been cool with that. Because friends.

The men I referred to earlier often had girls they referred to as 'their girls'. Part of it was a joke, part of it was misogyny, part of it was that we were all so drunk everything suddenly became ludicrously funny. The thing is, though, is that a queer woman of colour doing something, especially in jest, can sometimes be fundamentally different to when a white man who has stacks of privilege baggage does something. I don't have that baggage. White men have never been institutionally enslaved, raped and oppressed by Asian women. When I refer to someone, or some people, as 'mine', I cannot mean it as any more than a joke, even if I wanted to.

But people weren't uncomfortable with me calling them 'my boys' because it was an untrue statement and they couldn't see the (admittedly very subtle and ill-conceived) irony/humour/sarcasm involved. They flinched at the idea that a woman of colour could be in a position of respect in relation to white men, and that I felt comfortable using an endearment rather than an honorific. That for once, in a passing comment, I was not subservient or subordinate to white men; they were my friends, my boys, just as much as I was their friend. Egalitarianism, or even a system of hierarchy that does not conform to systems of privilege, confuses people. We see oppression where there isn't any when white men are not given the automatic deference that I have been taught, since I was a little girl, that they deserved.

'My boys' was an endearment; a well meant one, and most people saw that. I had a great deal of love and affection for the boys who were considered 'my boys', But why does nobody bat an eyelid when some skeezy white guy drawls about 'his girls', but an Asian woman can't affectionately, sarcastically, refer to her friends as 'my boys'? I never saw it as a possessive statement. And clearly, as is evident in the popularity of One Direction's 'Steal My Girl', despite a history of female oppression and patriarchal dominance nobody sees a man calling a woman 'my girl' as a possessive statement.

It turns out someone was offended by my arrogance and presumption in calling them 'my boys', and perhaps they have a valid point. But instead of talking about it logically and working out the kinks in our relationship, they let it fester. When you have virtually no privilege aside from cis, and perhaps arguably wealth, you get in the constant habit of updating your friends and tactfully - but firmly - discussing things that aren't okay, or that are triggering. They're not fun conversations. Sometimes friendships break over silly arguments like that. But healthy relationships demand solid communication, and strong friendships endure even the most awkward, uncomfortable conversations.

People in positions of privilege are, as I've found out, not so used to having to talk about feelings. Apparently it is my burden to constantly read minds and decode feelings they refuse to talk about, and I've lost a lot of friends this way. As a friend, or as a partner - even as an acquaintance - you have the right to object to anything I do or any aspect of how I treat or care for you. BUT I HAVE TO FUCKING KNOW ABOUT IT OR I WILL OBLIVIOUSLY CARRY ON, IN THE SAME WAY THAT YOU OBLIVIOUSLY CARRY ON IF I DON'T CONSTANTLY PULL THE #CHECKYOURPRIVILEGE CARD.

I will inevitably end up doing and saying things that are problematic, or that rub people the wrong way. But we have gotten into the habit of monitoring and censoring the words and behaviours people who exist outside of hegemonic masculinity, we forget that those with the most privilege can get away with things that I apparently cannot, even though they carry all the baggage that makes something problematic, offensive, or uncomfortable.

I'm sorry if I have hurt or offended anyone, but I urge you to take a step back and consider what you were offended by and why, and think about the onslaught of microaggressions those who lack privilege deal with day in, day out, simply because we live in identities that do not have normalized power, and we do not enjoy normalized deference.

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