joreth: (Default)
Someone once asked me what behaviour in myself have I altered because of my experience with cis men. I think it might be illuminating for some men to hear about the kinds of things that at least one woman has changed about herself because this change was easier to make than to deal with men unaltered.  Let me repeat that:  it was easier to actually change myself than to deal with the shit men do when I am me.

And I feel that I have cultivated a space and enough armor that I can share these things publicly to make this lesson.

Other people who are not cis-men can contribute their own stories of alteration if you want to, but I'm not asking anyone to share this vulnerability in public. Because that's what this is - many of these alterations are protective behaviours and rely on the typical willful ignorance and deafness that men have towards women's emotional labor.

What I don't want is for cis men to tell me their own stories of altering themselves for women.  Everyone makes changes to accommodate the other people in their life, sometimes willingly, sometimes coerced.  This is a personal illustration of a gendered trend, and I don't want to get sidetracked with Not All Men or But Men Too.  I also don't want cis men to express more surprise at the efforts I or other women go to. At this point, nobody on my friends list should be surprised by these kinds of things - not knowing specifically what any given woman does, sure, but that we do it? Not any more.

So if you are surprised, I don't really want to hear yet again how blind men are to all the work that women do to manage men's emotional reactions.  That is part of the problem.

I also don't need to hear criticisms or anyone suggesting that the alterations were not necessary, that I was overreacting, or that I shouldn't have to do this with all men. Because you have no idea what the consequences for not altering are and also because fuck off.



I have to always cut the loaf of bread served at restaurants before dinner, and I have to do it discreetly.

I do this because I've dated too many guys who just mash the entire loaf by grasping it too tightly and using too much weight on the knife, and they grab the loaf first, ruining it for everyone else.

I do it myself because I've learned that suggesting a different way of cutting bread (as a person who used really soft bread loaves in my demonstrations as a cutlery salesperson) hurts their feelings and they respond angrily to the implication that they are not master bread slicers nor master knife wielders (whereas, I actually am).

So I just grab the bread first as if I'm really hungry (and my love of bread is usually well known), slice it about halfway, and take 2 of the slices for myself, leaving the rest of the slices for anyone else at the table who wants them. Somehow, they don't seem to notice that as a commentary on their slicing abilities.



I have learned to not ask to drive the car when I share a vehicle with a man who has access to his car. Doesn't matter if we're dating or not. I LOVE driving. I take great pride in my driving. I suffer anxiety on the scale of mild to panic attack when I'm not the driver.

And yet I do not request to drive, because I've learned that it's not worth the fight that comes from asking *the wrong man* to allow me to drive.

I've also learned how to have a panic attack silently and to hide the fact that I can't always look out of the window when I'm in the passenger seat.  Because then I have to do emotional labor, placating them that it's not because they're bad drivers, but because I'm "broken" in this way.



I never leave the house unarmed. I have had to pull a knife on 3 separate occasions in my life to warn off aggressive men - only one of whom was amorous.



I have learned how to go out alone even though I'm terribly shy because I've had so few romantic partners who are willing to do the things that I enjoy doing. If I want to go out in public with a romantic partner, it has to be for things that he enjoys, not for things that I enjoy. So if I want to do things that I enjoy, I have learned how to do them alone.

And I have learned how to deal with the feelings of loneliness that always accompany these outings without showing them "too much" to my partners because then I have to do more emotional labor in comforting them about how "hard" it is for them to do the things that I like.  For some reason, it's always a challenge, it's always difficult, it's always a sacrifice for them to do the things that I like, so my complaints about feeling lonely, feeling neglected, and feeling dismissed turn into soothing them about how much pain and hardship they're under when they accommodate me.

Sometimes they will insist that I do their things and not understand if I don't like them or not see how their feelings of rejection aren't comparable to mine when they don't like my things.  Sometimes they will be fine with me not accompanying them to their events, and then use their acceptance of me not attending their events as leverage in the arguments of why I shouldn't feel hurt when they don't attend my events.  And occasionally they actually don't have any interests outside of the home or us or the relationship, so if we don't go do my things, we just stay home and do nothing.

Even if I can drag them to an event that I like, they will inevitably take out their phones and ignore the thing that is the reason I want to be there and the thing I am trying to share with them, so sometimes I'd rather they not be there anyway.



I have developed a rather annoying habit of cutting people off and speaking over them because I've found that it's the only way I ever get to say anything when men are talking.



I tend to treat the men in my life like helpless blind people, becoming hyper aware of the space that they take up, and very gently, physically guiding them or maneuvering myself in such a way as to manipulate their own movements, to prevent them from having the sorts of accidents that so many men have - walking into people who will not get out of their way, walking in front of people because they don't notice other people are there, blocking aisles and walkways, stepping on toes, hitting people with overly large gestures, etc.

I stand between them and other people so that their large gestures can't reach the other people.  I hold their hand when we walk so that I can tug on it and hold them back from barreling into the street in front of cars just assuming that the cars will stop for them.  I take shopping carts from them so that they won't park them in the middle of the aisles.  I lean towards them when we walk so that they will be forced to veer to the side when other people are sharing the space and they would otherwise insist on maintaining their trajectory, forcing everyone else to go around them or bumping into people as if they didn't even see those people blocking their path.



I started holding my romantic partners' hands (back when I still did not like displays of affection - more on that below) just to keep them from sprinting ahead of me when we walk together. No matter what speed I walk, men keep walking ahead of me, and then complain that I'm always trailing behind.

So I hold their hand and tug on it when they go too fast.

Now that I have a knee injury to blame, I can get men to stop and wait for me when they get a significant distance ahead, and most will no longer complain about my slower speed, but the only way I can get many men to *pace* me is to hold their hand and then literally hold them back.

(Meanwhile, I have never walked with another woman or non-binary person who didn't automatically adjust their pace so that we walked together unless there was a significant reason, like a power imbalance, or someone was racing ahead to catch something for the slower people in the group, like a door or a vehicle that was about to depart.  Dancers, however, I'm discovering, are much better at keeping pace with their companions, regardless of gender, which shouldn't be surprising given the spatial awareness and the automatic body-matching that dancers do.)



I thought I disliked physical affection entirely because I did not realize at the time that all physical affection I'd had up until that point was entangled with displays of possession. I didn't know why I didn't like physical affection, just that I didn't. So I refused all physical affection except for sex in private.

It took until my mid 20s to figure out that I did actually like physical affection, and to deliberately use a relationship (with his agreement) to work on this. And, not only did I actually like physical affection, but it's one of my Love Languages, and because I had been denying it to myself for so many years, I was touch-starved, even with an active sex life.

To this day, I still have issues with instigating physical affection and from disentangling it from sex, so I am still touch-starved.



I stopped living with other people. Even though I don't make enough money to afford to live in a "safe" neighborhood, or in a building that isn't literally falling down around my ears, I choose terrible places to live because that's what I can afford on my single person's income.

I stopped living with other people because I can't handle being the Household Manager. Project Management is a full time, upper level position. I don't have the energy to do it as a second (or third) job, to do it without pay, or to do it in relationships that are not supposed to be business relationships.

And I have never had a romantic relationship with a man that didn't put me in this role by default. So I minimize it by making my living and sleeping space my own and not subject to Managing other people. I have other reasons for wanting to live alone as well, but I have tried cohabiting in the past in spite of those preferences, and it's the Household Management problem that made me alter my behaviour and stop living with partners.



I have started asking questions that I already know the answer to because I see men around me doing the wrong thing, they won't ask what the right thing is, and they ignore me when I tell them what the right thing is or they get upset with me for correcting them, and then I have to go behind them and fix it.

So when a supervisor comes along, I ask "wait, what am I supposed to do here?" or "how is this done?" or whatever, where the man in question can hear so that the boss can tell me within their earshot the "correct" way to do something, that I already know.

And I HATE that it makes me look like I know less than I do. I'm wicked smart, and I pick up on things quickly. But I have to look like I'm still a beginner at shit because men won't listen to me, so they waste my time and theirs and we all end up doing double the work.

Date: 2/7/19 02:17 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] lovepeaceohana
lovepeaceohana: Eggman doing the evil laugh, complete with evilly shining glasses. (Default)
I have learned how to go out alone even though I'm terribly shy because I've had so few romantic partners who are willing to do the things that I enjoy doing. If I want to go out in public with a romantic partner, it has to be for things that he enjoys, not for things that I enjoy. So if I want to do things that I enjoy, I have learned how to do them alone.

This entire section. It's frustrating too, because on the whole I don't actually think it's necessary for my partners to share/attend/invest in every single hobby/activity/event of mine and vice versa (the time cost alone given multiple relationships would make that an unreasonable standard, but it's one of the expectations I deeply resented in monogamy, so). But at the same time, you're absolutely right that there's a gendered gap in the expectation of whose events/activities/hobbies get prioritized within a relationship, and whose are dismissed as frivolous/unimportant -- the old double-standard that women will go see action movies, but dudes won't be caught dead enjoying a 'chick flick' -- and also that there's absolutely an expectation that afab partners will do emotional work around preventing their amab partners from having to ever feel too upset over the discrepancy.

(Generally too, there's the expectation that afab partners will do emotional work around preventing their amab partners from ever having to feel too upset over anything, but especially afab partners' feelings/needs/expectations, and that's even more frustrating, and I've yet to figure out really good workarounds for this.)

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