So, the other weekend, Squisher and I were having a lie-in, reading the internet on our phones, as you do. I was quietly reading whatever it was in my blog feed when he came out with some assinine comment about women ruining a monumental scientific achievement – landing a robot on a comet – by complaining about a shirt a guy wore to announce it, when that shirt was made by his female* friend as a gift.

I’d seen something about Philae on the google homepage but wasn’t fussed enough to follow it up. I’d seen something else about a sexist shirt being worn by the guy annoucing the robot landing in one of the link roundups I follow but had ignored it on the basis of “whelp, there goes the internet – someone’s been an unthinking sexist douche again, women are rightly pissed off and teh mens are attacking them for having the teremity to stand up for ourselves”. Been round this merry-go-round before, thanks!

I’m aware that lots of bad things happen as symptoms of larger issues of living in a kyriachry, but I had to cut down my direct exposure to it in the feminist blogosphere because it wasn’t doing me any favours and I’ve got enough on my plate to worry about.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that when Squisher made that comment, I inwardly died a little. I knew where *this* was going. I half-arsedly pointed out that it was likely shit was going down regarding #ShirtStorm because that shirt is symptomatic of the problems women face in science (and technology, and politics, and the arts, and the media, and, and, and… any sphere of life women are in that’s not “the home”), and said that I really didn’t want to get into this debate because I didn’t know enough about what had gone on. I literally hadn’t even seen a picture of the shirt at that point**, and I didn’t. want. to. know. thanks.

He insisted on trying to provoke a debate and goad me into agreeing with him, or at least acquiescing, so I got out of bed and left, because fuck that.

I went and made myself breakfast and a cuppa and went upstairs to find my epic novel (Written in my Own Heart’s Blood – the most recent book in the Outlander Series).

Eventually, Squisher came to find me.

I didn’t have much to say to him, in that deadly quiet, royally pissed-off way but eventually he proddded me into talking. I can’t say we really got anywhere. We’ve had this argument about feminism things more times than I can count, and it’s always ended up with me outwardly backing down but ever more convinced he’s got a lot to learn. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to educate him about it. When he brings feminism up, it’s usually in the context of “look at those women getting upset over nothing again”, and either I don’t care due to a lack of mental spoons, or I do care, and it’s really damn personal, at which point I get upset and lose my ability to form an argument. So frustrating!

His concern is that I’m being led astray by those angry, man-hating feminists online.

My concern is that he has very little clue about how women’s lives are fundamentally threatened and harmed by those men who, although they are not vocal mysogenists, let incidents of sexism pass by unnoticed and unmarked, because they don’t see them as examples of a larger system that is built on oppressing anyone who is not a cis, hetero, white, able-bodied, middle/upper class man.

It’s stupid really, because he agrees that women should get equal pay and that parental leave should be equally split between both parents, and he gets that women are under-represented at the higher levels of just about everything you care to name. It’s the other stuff, the daily grind, the microagressions, the division of labour in the home, nevermind the outright terrorism women receive for being outspoken on the internet, that he doesn’t seem to get.

Anyway, I sent him this article over at Women in Astrology, titled “It’s Not About that Damn Shirt”, in the hopes that he might read it and see that feminism, generally and in this particular incident, is about that bigger picture – the one where nearly all of us are culpable in maintaining a broken social system that serves a very limited few, based on a flawed understanding of who exactly is important and worth caring about, and who isn’t.

You should go read it too.


* Because obviously if a woman made that shirt, it couldn’t possibly be problematic, because if one woman didn’t find it an issue, any other woman who does must be in the wrong.

** When I finally did see a picture of that shirt, I was amazed about how he could possibly have thought it was a good idea. Wearing “sexy comic book cover/pin-up art” to work is just, ugh. I can’t even words today.

2 thoughts on “#ShirtStorm

  1. Good luck with this. It’s good that he wants to talk about it, at least (although not great that he wants to talk about when *you* don’t want to…). I hope he’s receptive. Ignorance is an excuse only until someone explains it to you (or even says “You do not understand this, please look it up”) – then, it’s on you to know better.

    And that “man-hating feminists” thing is SO OLD! Tell him he sounds like an old man, maybe that will help motivate him?

    I’d be interested to hear what his reaction to your assigned reading is, if you’re willing to share. Another intro-level bit of writing (which I’m sure you’ve heard of, but just in case), not specifically about this but relevant (and written by a successful white male, which – sigh – can affect the palatability of the message to other white males) is John Scalzi’s “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is”.

    • Thanks.
      Ooo yeah, it hadn’t occurred to me to share that Scalzi piece. I remember reading it a few years back and it is good. We’ll see if he does read the first article. If I get a response, I’ll share if I can.

Comments are closed.