Underneath my yellow skin

Oh for the confidence of a mediocre white dude

all locks simultaneously slam shut.
My key will open one of these locks, surely!

A few months ago, my taiji teacher and I arrived at the studio at the same time. The door was already unlocked, which was weird. We went in and there was a guy doing something in the corner. It’s a kettlebell studio, and he presumably was a teacher if he had a key. Or someone who was in a position of trust, anyway. He had KQ blasting (classic rock station), and he didn’t stop when we went in. My teacher informed him in a very icy voice that we had a class, and he said he would be done soon. Which he wasn’t, btw. He did magnanimously inform us that we could change the music to anything we wanted. My teacher told him we didn’t use music in our class and turned off the radio.

As I was watching the exchange, I was thinking, “I wished I had a tenth of his confidence.” I mean, he never even questioned that he had a right to stay there during our class which takes a hell of a lot of chutzpah, but that’s one of the hidden benefits of being a white dude in this country*. What you want, think, do is the norm/acceptable, and you don’t even have to think about it. As a weird example, most medical studies are aimed at white dudes. That’s a gross simplification, but it’s basically true. When I tried sleeping pills, for example, the low end of the standard dosage was still too much for me. One pill knocked me out for fifteen hours, which, as you can guess, was not optimal. I cut it in half, and it didn’t help. A fourth, and it still kept me asleep for more than twelve hours. I finally gave up. I still haven’t found an answer to my sleeping problem except taiji, and that’s a long-term solution.

I was listening to a Dr. Nerdlove podcast about who has the power in a relationship/dating, and one of the points the good doctor brought up was how some men** whine about women having all the power in dating because we get to say yes or no to being asked out. We are the gatekeepers, and we can cruelly break their hearts by saying no for no good reason!*** Why can’t we just give them a chaaaaance? They think they need to figure out the code to unlock the dating lock we’ve wrapped around our pussies, and it’s one reason PUAs have such success when they claim they know how to gamify dating (and by extension, women). If you’ve never gone down the rabbit hole that is the PUA mindset, consider yourself lucky.

The good doctor rightly pointed out that men make choices all the time, especially given that they are the ones who are (still) expected to do the asking. Which is bullshit, by the way. As a woman who dates men, I’ve had very mixed results asking out men. Because it’s still the norm for men to ask out women, a woman who breaks that norm runs the risk of seeming desperate, slutty, more interested in the dude than she actually is, or a weirdo. Also, since it’s still so much the norm that the dudes ask out the women, it’s quite likely that if a dude you see on the regular hasn’t asked you out, he’s not interested.

The doc hit many valid points as to how the power in a dating is, well, if not equal, then everyone has access to it in the process. The one thing he didn’t emphasize, however, is why some men feel angry at being rejected in an outsized proportion to what actually happened. If you dip your toes into the toxic swamp that is incel culture, the sense of entitlement just reeks from their every post. It’s not just, “I can’t get a date, and, gee, that makes me feel lonely.” Which, you know, I can relate to that and empathize with that. No, it’s, “These bitches won’t even give me a chance because they’re just gold-digging bleep bleep bleep bleeeeeeep!”

I read the manifesto from the….hang on….Isla Vista killings, Elliot Rodger. I had to Google it because there have been so many. It was filled with such disturbing misogynistic ranting (and internalized racism up the wazoo) that I felt physically ill. His mom was Malaysian Chinese, and he clearly hated his Asian side. He talked up his white side and was filled with rage when he saw men of color with white women. He called the men many ugly words, and he exalted the white women to the point of uncomfortableness. He grew up in Hollywood, which didn’t help, and he grew up with an outrageous sense of entitlement coupled with a crippling amount of low self-esteem.

The bottom line, though, was that he felt he deserved the attention of a hot blond woman because he had money and he was half-white. That’s why he was so vitriolic to other men of color–he blamed his lack of success on being half-Asian, and he thought his white side should level him up above other men of color. Yes, there is a ton of negative and bizarre assumptions on his part, but it does show how much ‘white is right’ saturates our society. Rodger raged for pages about his predicament without once thinking, “Hey, maybe it’s me?” I know he’s an extreme case, but the underlying tenor of his thoughts are very common among men. The idea that a man is entitled to the attention of the woman of his choice just because he wants it.

Any time there is pushback on catcalling or men greeting women in the streets, there is a pushback to the pushback. All these menz with the hurt feelings about why is it such a big deal to say hello to a woman on the street/ask her to smile/call her a hot piece of ass/etc?!?  When you flip it on them and say if it’s not a big deal, why did they insist they had to do it? I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer to that. On a micro level, demanding a woman take ten seconds to say hi to you and getting pouty when she doesn’t shows the base assumption that a woman’s time is not her own. If some rando dude wants ten seconds of it, she has to give it to him. It sounds ridiculous when I put it that way, but that’s because it IS ridiculous.

There is envy on my side, I’ll fully admit. I have a hard time believing I have the right to anyone’s time or that anyone gives me a second thought when I’m not around. It’s partly because of my childhood and my parents’ culture, but it’s also being a woman in America. Women’s appearances and voices are scrutinized more closely than are men. You could see it during the Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton’s outfits and voice were criticized whereas Bernie Sanders could show up looking like your grumpy Uncle Joe with hair that wasn’t brushed and a voice that was cranky and grating, and it was rarely mentioned.

Women who are too assertive are stone-cold bitches. Women who use a softer approach to interactions are manipulative and/or passive-aggressive. In the Ask A Manager column, it is interesting that when a female commenter/letter writer doesn’t use the normally softening language that women use, i.e., “I think”, “It could just be me”, “In my opinion”, there are always people saying she’s too brusque or rude or self-aggrandizing. There was one letter in which the LW admitted she was jealous of one of her reports and made it amply obvious, and the report told the LW’s boss that she thought the LW was jealous of her (I think the boss asked the report about the friction), and there were several women in the comments who were harshly judging the report for saying the LW was jealous of her. “That sounds arrogant of her!” was a common refrain. “That’s quite a presumption” was another. Except, the LW stated she was jealous and that she was treating her report in a markedly different manner so much so that other people had noticed.

It was really interesting because it showed how ingrained it is in women to downplay yourself. The women in this comment section are very aware of sexism, but they still fell into the trap of ‘who does she think she is?’ because the report dared to name what was happening as jealousy. More than one commenter asked, “How would she even know it was jealousy?” I was glad to see other women say they knew when someone was jealous of them. I mean, it’s not hard to notice, even if it’s not something you’re supposed to mention out loud for some reason. I always know when someone is jealous of me and why they’re jealous of me, and people aren’t as subtle as they think they are. In addition, the LW fully admitted she wasn’t hiding it!

In the update, she’d been fired because a client complained about her. The report sued and won, and the LW took the time to work on her own issues (including alcoholism, if I remember correctly), and there were still women in the comment section saying the report was out of order for noticing it was jealousy, saying it was jealousy, and for suing. It was really bizarre to watch, but it just underscored how endemic sexism is in this country.

My fantasy would be to walk into a room and not immediately think, “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here!” I don’t think this will happen any time soon, but one day, maybe.






*Or a man of any color in some circumstances, but that’s not the focus of this post.

**Men who date women.

***As if you need a reason other than ‘I’m not interested’ to turn someone down.

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