I AM FEMALE. I have been my whole life, and so all my experiences are from that perspective. Back when I taught high school, I used to explain that any real world examples I gave about growing up would be about being a teenage girl because that's what I used to be. I couldn't really talk about what it was like to be a teenage boy because I never was one. This always made them laugh, and seems fairly obvious. On the other hand, it is also kind of profound. I have experienced life from this one perspective and while I have the ability to consider things from a different point of view, I can't truly understand what that experience was like.
I try to keep this is mind when I'm dealing with the other humans. I can only get hints about what things are like from their point of view. I don't know anything for sure. That is really important for me to keep in mind. I tend to overthink things. Sometimes I even put this layer of what I think I know about other people's behaviors or feelings, but I don't know.
EXAMPLE: I used to think that if The Husband didn't pick his socks off the floor -- it was a message. I used to assume that it said something about how much he cared about me. I would put this layer of my own way of dealing with the world over everything he did. When in reality, leaving his socks on the floor had NOTHING to do with that. He leaves his socks on the floor for two simple reasons: 1. He forgets to pick them up and 2. It doesn't bug him to see socks on the floor.
We expect people to be like us; act like us, think like us and communicate the same way we do. They don't. They have this whole existence that has nothing to do with us. It can make relationships really complicated. It is why I try to listen to people and just hear what they are saying. I don't want to layer anything over the top of it and read into it. There is a part of my brain that will say things like, "She says she thinks it is a great idea, but really she thinks you are dumb."
Listening to people is really important, and I'm not very good at it, but I am trying to improve. It is essential. For example, when I look at the world around me, I see it from a my unique perspective. The only way for anyone to understand that perspective is to listen to me talk about it. And the only way for me to understand a different perspective is for me to listen to them.
That is why it is really important when a woman tells you that she thinks a guy is "creepy" or acting "aggressively" toward her, you need to listen. She is interpreting this woman from a woman's perspective. She is telling you what it is like to be a woman in that situation. Don't tell her she's imagining it or that she "misunderstood". You need to listen to her, and accept what she says to be true. I've had this happen to me from time to time, and it infuriated me. It not only denies me my right to my feelings, but also denies me my right to express those feelings.
Case in point, I found the second Presidential debate frightening. The way Donald Trump lurked behind Hillary Clinton scared me. I felt queasy and sick to my stomach watching it. I've been in situations like that, where someone uses their physical presence to intimidate and to rob you of your power. I found it very aggressive. I was tweeting with friends during the debate and they all mentioned the same thing.
Now, what is interesting about this, is that many of the reporters who talked about this, many of them male, seemed to think that the reaction to Trump's lurking behind Senator Clinton was either partisan motivated or an exaggeration. I expected there to be a lot more talk about it. Reporters didn't seem to think it was a big deal. Most women I talk to though, had a similar reaction; it was creepy and aggressive. Now, whether this is because most woman have a past experience dealing with an aggressive male who uses proximity and size to intimidate, or because Trump is genuinely creepy, I don't know. I only know that it was my reaction from my female perspective.
It is the same way I feel about people blowing off his "comments" from eleven years ago. There are some who say it is "locker room talk" and that "boys will be boys". I don't know about that. I've never been a boy in a locker room. All my experiences were in the ladies locker room, and we were mostly trying to cover up the fact that our bodies are imperfect. But I can tell you how it feels to listen to a man speak that way about women; it makes me sick -- not angry, outraged sick (although there is outrage, too) but mostly frightened, sick, knowing how easily I can be overpowered, and how one strong man can have tremendous impact on my life - just because his upper body strength is greater than mine. All women, except I suppose body builders, live with this fact. We can be overpowered. I am aware of this when I walk somewhere by myself. I am aware of it when I cross the parking lot and see a large man coming my way. It has nothing to do with not trusting men in general, or thinking the world is a bad place. It is simply a matter of math -- One strong man with evil intent can do me harm.
It is also why racial comments are so unsettling. On the surface, at first glance, you have no expectation that I would be no more sensitive on this issue than any other white, northern California girl, until you see our family portrait. It is a very BIG deal that Trump's corporation had to settle with families who claimed racial discrimination. That is no small thing. I live in a world of discrimination, and while I have it 10,000,000 times better than those who came before, the members of my family aren't treated the same way I am. This is why I tell my children to NEVER throw out their receipts until they are home - someone might accuse them of stealing and they must carry with them proof that they have not. This is our experience and that is the truth of the world I live in. You can tell me it isn't true but that is because you haven't experienced, I have.
It is also why I have great respect for Colin Kapernick and for the 49er Organization who has not punished him. He is attempting to make a statement about something that is real, and is part of our world. You may not come up against the wall of discrimination because it isn't part of your experience, but that doesn't mean it isn't part of other people's experience. Setting aside my own feelings regarding racial discrimination, I admire someone who is bold enough to express the idea that those who fight for our freedom, also fight for our right to protest - whether or not that protest causes uncomfortable feelings. This is America at its best.
Which is why I don't shy away from talking or thinking about the world we live in. So many of my FB friends say things like, "Ugh, I can't wait until this election is over." or "Don't post anything about politics on my page!" I understand that point of view, and am also tired of the emotional, name-calling, disrespectful behavior. But as my grandmother used to say, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because there are people who are simply name-calling and intentionally starting arguments, we shouldn't shut down critical thinking and discussion. I want to live in a world where we can try and sort out the world as we know and understand it and try to share that experience with each other.
I do not have everything figured out. I am trying to understand the world I live in, and carve my own place within it. I am trying to listen to you, and understand your perspective. I'm hoping that we can do this, and live side by side in peace and harmony, and build a better future.
Benjamin Franklin started each day by asking himself a question, and then ended each day by asking himself a different one. Usually his questions were, "What good do I intend to do today?" and "What good did I accomplish today?" I like to ask myself questions too, and lately I've been ending my day asking myself, "What have I heard? Who did I really listen to?" Imagine if we lived in a world where we all endeavored to do just that.