What I am Doing and Why

This is an actual conversation, transcribed verbatim to the best of my dodgy recollection (with names changed). You should know that it takes place at my daughter’s martial arts class with a friend of mine, “Mac D.” April has just thrown Mac’s son (Conn) and Mac took a picture of it.

Mac to April: Look, here’s a picture of you throwing Conn! You can show it to everyone and tell them that you threw a boy.
April: Thank you? (runs off)
Dame B: We’re a third-wave household. It’s kinda assumed she can throw a boy.
Mac: Huh? Third-wave?
Dame B: First wave, suffragettes. Women are not property. Second wave, burn-your-bra baby boomer stuff. Women are just as good as men. Third-wave, me. Women and men are equal and we have to call you on the systemic and subtle sexism.
Mac: I like third-wave. I’m okay, you’re okay, just don’t be a dick.
Dame B: Yeah, I mean I get where second-wave came from, but I like third-wave better, too. But, you know, we have to call you out when you say sexist shit like you just did.
Mac: I did?
Dame B: Yeah.
Mac: But I was being nice! I was saying she could throw a boy.
Dame B: Which is sexist.
Mac:  …..
Dame B: Listen, being impressed that she can throw Conn isn’t sexist. He’s a rank higher than she is and two years older. Saying she can throw a boy, like it’s a big deal, it’s implying that girls can’t normally throw boys. Do you see?
Mac:  But it wasn’t.
Dame B: It wasn’t intended to be sexist. But it really was.
Mac:  …
Dame B: It’s okay. it’s a complicated thing. You’re trying.
Mac: It is complicated! I was trying to be nice, like, yay, strong women, you can throw a boy!
Dame B: I know, I get it. But third-wave feminism just assumes girls can throw boys. Implying otherwise is sexist.
Mac:  This is hard.
Dame B: But you’re trying and we’re so damned grateful for that.
***
If you had asked me fifteen years ago, if I was a foodie, I would have said “Yes.” I could cook competently, liked to eat good food, I was a foodie.
Then I got pregnant and realized that while I was pretty OK to order at a French restaurant, I didn’t know a lot about the food I was putting my body. Suddenly my interest in food became much more intense. I started learning about nutrition and farming practices. I started reading books about mercury in fish and fetal development and how different methods of feeding animals influenced the molecular nutrition of their byproducts. I began putting my eating habits in a larger context, environmentally and economically and culturally. I got serious about it. And I thought I knew my shit.
And then I started trying to teach a five year old how to make bread one day. And I realized I needed to up my game to a whole new level.
The same thing happened with my feminism. If you’d asked me, fifteen years ago, if I was a feminism, I would have said “Yes.” Women and men are equal, don’t be a dick, an answer not unlike what Mac said. But then I had a daughter and I realized I didn’t know a lot about actual feminism. I needed to learn about it the same way I had learned about food. I read books and blogs and I talked with smart people and I thought I knew my shit.
And then I met Mac.
Mac and I became friends at the martial arts class. We started chatting because we’re both geeky and like geeky authors. He’s a lovely man, married to a lovely woman. And though he’s never really investigated feminism, (the way I hadn’t until April was born), he’s smart and wants to learn more. And so, sometimes,  he asks me questions about feminism. Serious questions that require serious and thoughtful answers. Answers I wasn’t always sure I could articulate clearly.  And I realized I needed to up my game.
 So here are my conversations with Mac. Some are the actual conversations. Some are just me practicing for when he throws a huge complex question at me. I’ll try to note the difference.
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