How can a gal reconcile her personal ideologies with the professional world?
I understand that this world is filled with humans, and I sometimes hold people to higher standards than any mammal should be held, but there comes a point where the actions of others are frustratingly incomprehensible.
Within Feminism (and surely all “isms”), there is shaming, ostracizing, and hypocrisy. I am having a difficult time reconciling the actions of people I know, love, respect, etc. and their ideologies. I often separate the person from the behavior because not every person is a complete sum of all their behaviors; we have crazy moments, weepy moments, self-conscious moments… I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
I am not “political” in that I cannot pretend or be disingenuous on any level for any end. Staying entirely true to my morality is of the utmost importance, and things born of denying myself must be inherently bad or not worth it. My honesty and loyalty are a large part of my identity.
I need help understanding whether my anger is coming from an unhealthy need for people to be perfect (or live up to the OCD standards I hold myself to), or an actual inconsistency that I am picking up on. Either way, something needs to shift.
Sincerely (Pardon the Pun),
Dear Hopelessly Idealistic:
I think your letter found me at the right time. Now, normally I’d be a bit impatient with you, because a huge part of growing up is realizing that people suck, no one is who they say they are, or even who they would want to be, and we’re all just a half-assed version of the person we thought we’d one day become. But I’ll confess something: lately, I’ve been feeling much like you. It’s not that I expect people to be good or admirable all that often, but I expect them to at least try to hide it when they’re not.
Part of my malaise has to do with the news. Watching the news is ruining my life. I can’t fucking take it anymore. Every day some asshat that the populace somehow chose to elect is taking away my right to my own body, taking away food stamps from hungry children, trying to block the right of two consenting adults to get married. Sure, people will tell you about progress, and there’s certainly been that, but there have been just as many setbacks, and it is hard to watch a decaying morality all around you. I get that. In a country that seems to worship vapid celebrity and money above all, it is hard to hold true to any selfless ideology.
I had drinks recently with a group of women writers, feminists all. We talked about books we’d recently read, what a terror Rick Perry is, the lack of free time in all of our lives. And then, do you know what they wanted to talk about? How so-and-so thinks she’s so hot and thinks everyone should be a size 2, and about how they wish their partners would do more around the house even though they haven’t actually asked them to do more, and about – yes – the Kardashians. I mean, what the fuck, right? Fury was, well, Furious. What the hell kind of feminist gives a crap whether Kim Kardashian will allow herself to be photographed before she’s “lost the baby weight?” I felt sick then and I feel sick now. I give up.
But wait. Who are we to judge? We know (hopefully) our friends and colleagues to be mostly decent, thoughtful, feminist women and men, right? So we need to be more careful not to dismiss them because of some bad decisions.
When I was younger, I lived with a partner who was violent towards me. I also spent many Wednesday evenings at a women’s group where, for a while, we’d use our time and effort to raise funds and supplies for a local women’s shelter. We wondered what was wrong with these women that they often went back to their abusive mates. And the thing is, I really did wonder. I really did know it is wrong to harm a person and I really did know that it was stupid to go back to a person who would harm me. The logical part of me knew all this, and could easily explain the sociological and psychological reasons and effects of all this stuff. And then I’d go home.
By which I mean: humans are complicated. Humans are weak and desperate and forgiving and resilient and all these foolish and remarkable and complex things. Humans screw each other over and talk crap about each other and want one thing one minute and another thing the next. And, guess what? Unless you’re the first monkey to learn how to send an email, you’re human too, and you, at some point, have been guilty of all of this. I frankly don’t believe that your “OCD-like need for perfection” makes you perfect in any way. It might make you really difficult to be around, though. I admire honesty and loyalty, believe me. I’m a Scorpio. To us, loyal is pretty much the only acceptable way to be. But, even then, I cannot say that I have led a completely loyal existence. I’ve fucked people over. Of course I have. Of course I have. And my guess is, so have you.
So, you ask, is your anger coming from some need for perfection or from some unforgiveable behaviors? I suspect both, I suspect both of these things are happening and it’s all just adding up to outrage. That’s how I feel when following the news lately. It’s making me into a very angry human being. I think, like me, you need to spend some time figuring out where you draw the line. What behavior is human and what is unforgivably monstrous?
In a professional context, there are times we have to suck it up to keep ourselves employed. This is unfortunate and soul shrinking, but it’s only the truly privileged among us who can afford to jeopardize our salary, regardless of the issue. Awful, but true. However, if the situation is not income-related, there is nothing wrong with lines being drawn. It’s our obligation, I think.
Last fall, I was recounting a horrible story to a novelist friend of mine about a mutual friend of ours who had been sexually assaulted at a party and had, years later, only just started speaking about it publicly. My novelist friend laughed it off, asserting that she believed the revelation was all for attention. Needless to say, I had a lot of thoughts about this sexist, dangerous attitude. There are certain behaviors that will never be acceptable. I made my friend apologize for her cruel doubt, and she did, and we moved on in conversation, but, honestly, I’ll never forget that she is the person who would think and say those things.
Fortunately, most of the time, we human beings trudge through the world as honorably as we can. So, if you don’t want to walk around angry all the time (like me –although I did land an advice column out of it…) I suggest you cut everyone, including yourself, some slack, and just concentrate on being the best person that you can be.
People suck, but they’re wonderful too.