Who It’s For

It’s a Saturday night.  I’m all dressed up: high heels, polka-dot tights, red lipstick, the works.  I could be going to The Cubby Hole, or Hot Rabbit, or a house party in the Village.  Instead, I’m in an auditorium full of scholars, holding a shiny silver trophy in my hand.

I’m not usually a huge fan of competitions, but this time around, I thought I’d give it a try. The Threesis Competition is a chance for master’s students to share their work with people outside of their fields.  Three minutes, one Powerpoint slide, eighty competitors, one winner.

Apparently, that winner is me.

My cheeks hurt from smiling so much.  I’m trembling.  I’m shocked.  I’m nervous.  I’m excited.  I can’t wait to have a big glass of wine in my hand.

I’m on my way to the reception, and just as I’m about to walk over to my group of friends and give them all big hugs, an older man approaches me, and takes my hand.

Not shakes.  Takes.

He’s holding it there, in his sweaty palm, like a scene from one of those crime dramas where somebody is making an illicit deal in a public place and they have to keep smiling even though they’re about to kill each other.

“I’d love to get coffee with you sometime,” he says, before asking me my name, or congratulating me, or asking me how I feel about winning.

“I’d like to talk to you about the fact that men can be feminists too,” he says, “the boundaries are porous, it’s not just about women…” blah blah blah blah blah

He goes on like this, holding my hand hostage, mansplaining man feminism to me for about five minutes.  Once he’s finished, he looks up at me as if he’s forgotten that the hand he’s holding belongs to a person, and says, “What’s your name again?”

This, after I had just given a presentation on radical lesbian feminists and their fight to smash the patriarchy. Oh, the irony.

If this had happened to me a few years ago, I probably would have smiled, and nodded politely, and thanked the man for his thoughtful feedback, and explained that of course men can be feminists too, that everyone should be a feminist, that we were so happy to have him join our ranks, that I was just so grateful to be here in the first place, so lucky to have the support of men like him.

But instead, I took my hand back where it rightfully belonged and explained that there’s a difference between being a feminist and being an ally, and that if he had more questions on that topic, he could consult any number of resources on allyship, and that I really needed to be going.

Thirty minutes later, I was happily holding a big glass of wine in my hand, discussing intersectionality, workplace discrimination, and astrological signs with a group of fellow queer feminist scholars, grinning from ear to ear.

Dear mansplaining faux-feminist, I want you to know that my research, my life choices, my red lipstick, and my activism have nothing to do with you.  I don’t do it for you, and I don’t give a shit about your approval.

I do it for my mother, I do it for my best friend and the baby she’s carrying in her belly, I do it for the friends who cheered me on from the front row, I do it for every girl who walks down the street with her eyes down and her keys between her fingers, I do it for every queer kid who’s ever thought they were the only one, I do it for all the women who could never have stood on a stage and announced to the world that they loved women, I do it for my friends, I do it for my lovers, I do for my family, I do it for myself.

And if you, mansplaining faux-feminist, happen to be in the audience while I’m speaking, rest assured I won’t be paying any attention to you.


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