Monday morning, I awoke to a dastardly email: there lurked, it seemed, a nasty post about Undecided on the other side o’ the blogosphere. Now, I’ve been a writer for years–I’m not unfamiliar with hate mail or criticism. You do this long enough, and you develop a pretty thick skin. People can be mean. To each her own.
Except. The damn post began with this admission: I haven’t read the book that I’m about to rip apart, based on nothing but my assumptions of what it might possibly say.
Okay, I added that last bit. But the writer did start off by announcing she hadn’t read the book.
This, dear reader, crosses the line. Hating on something one has not even bothered to read? Really? One question: Just… why??
Now, while I could pick apart every last sentence of her post (seriously, I could), that’s not what I want to write about. What I want to write about is why, time after time, and regarding issue after issue, for so many of us women, the de facto position is one of Us versus Them. You may remember the Mommy Wars, which pitted stay-at-home moms against working moms. Today, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Attachment parenting? Co-sleeping? Breastfeeding? What if you don’t want kids? What if you don’t even want to get married? Where do you stand on Botox? Boob jobs? What about gluten? Recently, Slut Walks have offered yet another chance to pick sides. And if you don’t care about that, perhaps you’d like to claim Team Jennifer or Angelina? Or weigh in on what today’s Scorned Political Wife should be doing about her marriage? Do you call yourself a feminist? Why? Or why the hell not?
Okay, while many of those examples are meant to be funny, I’m guessing you catch my drift. To return to an earlier post, here are some choice words on the subject of Either-Orism and Us-Vs-Themmery:
Why is it so difficult for women to allow their sisters a little nuance in their identities?
…I have a theory.
We like our people simple. Our women especially. Easily defined. Simply categorized. And, when it comes to women, the less threatening, the better. But also: this thing about women having all kinds of options, all sorts of ways to structure their lives, to cobble together their own reality made up of some parts work, some parts fun, some parts family–well, it’s new. And nothing’s perfect–and when we’re having One Of Those Days, maybe we start to question the way we’re doing it. And maybe one of the easiest ways to reassure ourselves we’re Doing It Right is to clobber anyone who dares to do it differently.
What sucks, of course, is that the more we buy into this sort of Us vs. Them thinking, the quicker we are to file everyone else away into one camp or the other–which is bad–and the less able we are to allow ourselves a little bit of nuance–which is worse. And it’s sad. Because each of us is loaded with nuance–that’s what makes us special, as individual as a snowflake.
An important point, if I do say so myself. We all have our moments (hell, months!) of insecurity over what we’re doing with our lives: lives that, for women, are defined by the choices we make. But when we hear (or read) one word (or quote), and allow our mind to spin a great tale of what else that might mean, and how She is clearly being judgmental about how I’m choosing to live my life, well… where does that get us? It certainly doesn’t help to advance the conversation.
But there’s more to it than that, even. Did you know that women are technically the majority of the population in this country? But when we’re busy tearing each other down, keeping ourselves divided, well, it’s a hell of a lot easier for the powers that be to continue to treat us as though we’re some fringe minority… and our common interests (equal pay, affordable child care and medical care, flexible work options, careers that would allow for time for a life outside of work for starters) as though they’re individual quirks, and therefore not worth addressing structurally. Divide and conquer, isn’t that how the saying goes?
So, I’m again inclined to make a plea that we all allow each other the same nuance we know to be true of ourselves. Rather than seeing our sisters as “other,” why don’t we seek out what unites us, rather than what divides us? And if we can calmly allow other people to just be who they are, no matter how it might not fit with our own ideas, maybe we can allow for that same kind of nuance within ourselves.
Oh: you may wonder why I’m not including a link to the aforementioned critique? Well, I suggested to its author that perhaps she might consider reading the book. She said she would. I’m hoping she’ll like it.