I have never considered myself a genius. There are plenty of subjects I know nothing – or almost nothing – about (physics, political science, economics, breastfeeding, The Game of Thrones – to name just a few), which means that if I find myself in the middle of a discussion regarding any of aforementioned subjects, I have to either keep my mouth shut, or at least be very careful about what I’m about to say.
On the other hand, I have never felt that I was an idiot either. I mean, being able to learn a second language to the point that one is able to get her education in a foreigner country (with a GPA above 3.5 ever since the beginnings in a community college, I should add) must count for something, right? And being a huge nerd, I have a lot to contribute when a discussion involves subjects I have a background in (history, anthropology, literature – to name just a few).
All in all, I have always been happy with the level of my “smartness.” My strengths and weaknesses seemed to be well-balanced; I never took the IQ test, but what does that say about a person anyway?
Yet during past couple of years it’s been pointed out to me so many times that I was dumb that I’m starting to believe that I was perhaps too optimistic in the self-assessment of my abilities.
What’s been happening is that there are some people out there who have such a difficulty to accept that someone might have a different opinion/philosophy/belief that, when facing such a person, their immediate conclusion is that said person must be a) stupid, b) uneducated, c) dysfunctional, d) all of the above.
I already wrote a column about some people’s astonishing responses to my decision to remain childfree. It’s a personal decision that doesn’t affect anyone but myself, so it’s been something of a mystery to me why so many folks feel obligated to convince me why I should become a mother even if I don’t want to. I’m not going to get into details here, but let me just quote one Czech woman (a former coworker of my father), who, upon hearing that I had no intentions to get married and have a baby, said to me: “When we started talking, I thought that you were an intelligent woman, but now I can’t believe how stupid you are!”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what you get for defending your right to do with your uterus whatever you see fit!
Fundamental Christians are another typical example. Every now and then my path crosses with one who is concerned about my immortal soul and tries to convert me. I used to be nice and polite to such people, because I appreciated that they were trying to save me from Hell (which they believed in and I didn’t). So I would explain to them that I didn’t really need to hear their testimony about Jesus, because as a former Christian I was already well familiar with His teachings. I read the Bible in both languages, participated in Bible studies, went to church every Sunday, and read as many books on Christian theology and philosophy as my brain was able to absorb. (There was a dark time in my life when I even tried to restrain from premarital sex. I still shudder when I think about it.) When I decided that Christianity wasn’t the right path for me, I knew perfectly well what I was rejecting and why.
Do you think it helps?
No. Because fundamental Christians are so convinced that their truth is the only truth that they won’t accept any explanation. If I had a dollar for every time when I was told that if I “talked to the RIGHT person”, “read the Bible in the company of TRUE believers”, “went to the RIGHT church” or simply “got to know Christianity BETTER”, things would be very different for me!
And the sad thing? Nowadays the same shit is happening with people talking to me like I’m an idiot because I dare to express an opinion that modern feminism no longer represents me and my values, and that, while I still stand for “world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all” (the 6th principle of Unitarian Universalism), i.e. for men and women equally, I don’t identify as a feminist.
The responses of some people, including some of my close friends, are such that you would think that I announced a plan to become a serial killer specializing in babies!
I’m a little alarmed by how few of my “multiculturally sensitive” friends actually bothered to ask WHY I felt the way I did. If they asked, we could have a discussion, and maybe, just maybe, we would end up perhaps still disagreeing with each other, but at least respecting each other’s opinion (which, believe me, I’m fully capable of).
But the sad truth is that, just like fundamental Christians or fundamental Czech mothers, people feel that they don’t need to ask, because they already know.
“You just don’t know what feminism is.”
If there is something I don’t know, it's whether to laugh or cry every time when I hear this condescending statement! Because, you know, that’s how I roll – rejecting things I know nothing about just out of sheer ignorance! It’s absolutely impossible that I decided to disengage from modern feminism PRECISELY because I have studied it a lot and that’s how I found out that it did NOT represent how I felt like a woman in modern society! I couldn’t possibly know what feminism is because I didn’t spent years reading up on it, from the early feminist movement all the way to the third-wave feminism and postfeminism. I have never even heard names like, say, Betty Friedan or Simone de Beauvoir, leave alone Jessica Valenti or Annie Sprinkle. I know nothing about different branches of feminism based on their fusion with another social/spiritual movement (black feminism, eco-feminism, Marxist feminism, Muslim feminism – you name it). In fact, now when I think about it, I don’t understand how I can have the nerve to open my mouth in public at all, considered my level of ignorance and lack of education!
Oh, well, what can I say?! My problem is that I’m always so damn sure that I have the right to choose what to do with my body, which spiritual path to pursue, and what philosophy fits best with my values and beliefs that it gets me into trouble every time!
But here is a message I have for all the politically correct folks in my life who apparently feel that not being a feminist is close to a crime: One of the multiple definitions of feminism I heard over the years is that feminism liberates women and allows them to make their own choices. However, the diversity of human experience considered, allowing women to make their own choices inevitably means that some of them will make choices different from yours. If you can’t deal with the fact that some women might have different views than you, then what kind of feminist are you in the first place!?
Because you know what? If you insist that only your path is the one and only true path, then you are no better than the chauvinistic society you are supposed to fight against. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there will be women around you who simply don’t like it.