Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When sexism really hits home

This a guest post from Sheri of  O Filthy Grandeur

As some of you may already know, the past week has been a rough one for me. An unfortunate mistake on my part led my fiancé's parents to the discovery of my blog "o filthy grandeur!" and since then I've endured their attempts to silence me, and to (apparently) expose my "toxic" personality to my fiancé.

I should note that I'm a feminist who writes about feminist issues. I also write about homosexuality and homophobia, sexism, transgender issues and transphobia, racism, etc. I started my blog to analyze literature, and am pleased that I can do that as well as post about current issues.

Now, I'm not secretive about my blog. I'm always careful about what I post (within reason). I do not post names of relatives, and even when I discuss things about work I'm careful to keep it ambiguous. Many of my own family members are readers, my mother included, and I'm sure there are times when I post something which they disagree with.

That said, I've always been careful not to mention my blogging in front of my fiancé's family. I knew that if they ever should read it they would certainly find something disagreeable, given that their political leanings are exactly the things I'm often blogging against (see above).

This assumption didn't prove false, because the day they found my site, my fiancé got a phone call, and when he refused to play their game he got emails (thankfully we live in a different state than they do, which discourages "popping in"). And I got emails. Not emails directed at me, even, but exact copies of the emails sent to my fiancé with no introduction. It was simply a "Hey, this is what we sent to our son, and without actually communicating with you, we thought we'd send this--just so you know what we really think of you." The fact that they sent me copies is insulting enough, since it assumes that my fiancé and I do not communicate. Of course, I saw every email prior to it reaching my own inbox.

I won't bother reproducing the emails, but I'll give you the gist. The first one my fiancé received was a sort of "omg guess what that bitch you're planning on marrying has been doing behind your back!" They were kind enough to include a link, as if they'd stumbled upon some dark secret, despite that I share every post with my fiancé, not to mention that my blog is almost always pulled up on our shared computer, and I welcome him to read it any time he likes.

They also told him that I said negative things about him and his family (I challenged them to cite specific examples, which of course, they could not). Then they pointed out my use of "vulgar links, vulgar / disturbing videos, and vulgar / disturbing pictures," which I admit did make me laugh. But then there's this: "The books, poetry, and movie comments are chocked full of sexual perverse analysis." Huh. That's funny, since many of my book analyses describe homosexuality. And I'm assuming the poem which they're referring to is the lovely sonnet addressed to my vagina. Apparently there's something "perverse" in my being unapologetically open about all sexualities, and loving my own body.

They closed this email urging my fiancé to cut me out of his life. I particularly liked the question they posed: "This is the world of the mother of our future grandchildren?" And here I was thinking that they would be my children.

But, it gets worse.

They revoked their offer to pay for our wedding (which is just fine by me because now the only people I have to make happy are me and my fiancé). When that didn't make my fiancé kick me out like they'd hoped, they told him they weren't paying for his car or health insurance any more, as well as a few other things they'd agreed to take care of while he was still in med school.
Their email states (while to me, was still not to me--another copy):

Stop blogging and start working more……..THE REAL WORLD! [...]Two jobs and 60+ hour work weeks are not uncommon at all, especially for a young person. Necessity builds character and we feel she will be much more fulfilled knowing she is self sufficient and not waiting to be the doctor’s wife. Time to let her words of liking to do the hard thing take root. We guarantee you she will be proud of herself once she knows she doesn’t have to be homeless and can control her own destiny.

First off, if I was really waiting to be a doctor's wife, I would have gone and found myself a doctor instead of waiting for my fiancé to get through med school. Second, pretty judgmental words coming from a man who works, and a woman who stays at home to raise his kids (not that that doesn't count as work, but you can't condemn someone for doing the very thing you're engaging in). And third, last I checked I was an adult and didn't need someone to parent me (much less people who are not my parents). And I should note that my fiancé and I do not get money from his parents. I acknowledged that I appreciated the help my fiancé gave me so I may be privileged to have a roof over my head. The only things they used to pay for were things for him, such as his health insurance.

But now they've realized they've nothing left to take, and I'm not going anywhere. My fiancé and I have been together more than five years, and the fact that their revelation of who I am is just now occurring to them speaks volumes of their attempts to get to know me over the years.

At any rate, they sent an email directly to me, with a sort of apology in which they said they wished to open up a dialogue and get to know me. They asked that I answer every question, as if I were writing on my blog (hmm...okay...).

Every question cited an example from my blog. For instance, they mention my profile description (which, I might point out is a bit tongue-in-cheek, since I don't actually sit in the dark writing--I was going for typical poetic effect, but I guess I can't assume everyone will get that). Then they ask how this will affect how I will raise my children.

Then they reference this post, which was entirely a joke. Their question? Will this be my mindset when I'm at home raising my children?

In my blog I mention I'm not good at / don't like math, science, or sports. They wanted to know if I would accept a child who is good at or interested in these things.

I think you get the pattern by now.

So basically, what they sent to me was an application to marry their son, and produce their grandchildren under the pretence that they desired to (finally) get to know me. However, that desire only existed within the parameters of my future motherhood (I would like to also point out that none of this is their business--how my fiancé and I will parent our children is between the two of us).

It's certainly interesting that after a cursory glance at my blog they were offended. And it's interesting that they kept returning, sometimes several times per day (thank you site tracker). And it's interesting that they scoured the posts in quest of something that would shock my fiancé and make him dump me.

They read my posts and immediately deemed me unworthy to be their son's wife, and made assumptions about my potential motherhood--in short: I'm a bad, bad girl.

Now, I'm not perfect. I have been corrected in my posts a number of times, and I welcome that. However, I do not believe that I should have to tolerate obvious sexism (and that is exactly what this is) on my blog or in my personal life. I am extremely insulted and hurt that people who will soon be part of my family can only value me for my reproductive capabilities.

Needless to say, I have not yet responded to them. Nor do I even intend to. I also have no intention of removing the blog, or changing how I post (I will get back on track, eventually. For now I feel like my supposedly safe space has been invaded--I won't give in to their attempt to silence me, but I do need to take a step back). That they see me as an embodiment of a gendered identity rather than a person is insulting and hurtful. That they saw my blog and passive-aggressively attacked me, insulted me, called me awful and vile things in response, is unforgivable. They cannot unsay any of those things, and therefore I will tolerate them because they are my fiancé's parents, but I will not ever trust them again.

Each time I got another email regarding their being offended / pissed off / uncomfortable, caused by something they read on my blog (reportedly, they were unable to sleep after reading it) I thought of something which Renee often posts: "If this post isn’t about you there is no need to make it about you, however if it makes you uncomfortable I suggest you stop and think about why."

I'm just saying...