If I remember correctly, the last women-centered event I went to was a tech conference for women. It didn’t say women-only, mind, it was just women-focused. Men were welcome but I didn’t see any there, and almost all the sessions were about being a woman in the tech community(ies).
I felt really uncomfortable. Like I didn’t belong.
Somewhere back in the day, all-girls/all-women stuff didn’t bother me. I was in Girl Scouts, I had girls’ nights out, etc. I can’t really pinpoint what happened or where or when, but now, if I’m in a group of all women, and it’s brought to my attention that it’s a Women’s Event ™ in some way, I clam up. I feel like a spy. I have massive passing privilege, and I feel guilty and shitty as a result.
Even just hanging out with a small group of friends — if it’s me and two gals and we’re just being gals, it’s all good, but as soon as someone says it’s a “girls’ night out” I feel like I should go home.
This is on my mind right now because yet another creative mind on the internet I adore is having a women’s event. This happens often enough that I’m unsure whether to force myself to identify “properly” and just go, or stop reading things that are ostensibly for women.
I mean, things that affect women affect me — I’ve had sexist jokes made in my presence in the workplace (and managed once to speak up and make the person feel like the shit he was being), people talk down to me in some circumstances because I’m female (like when my boyfriend and I went car shopping for my new car, the salesfolk mostly talked to him, even when they learned the car was for me), the presentation of women in pop culture affects me because they’re closer to my physical body than the men are and most people assume I want to look like them, etc.
So I read a lot of things aimed at women, and find them thought-provoking and helpful and interesting and and and.
But then these awesome people have retreats or conferences or whatever and the description sounds great until I get to the “like-minded women” or “safe space filled with women like you” or whatever and I just close the tab and try not to fall into a funk.
It’s like they hung up a “Girls Club – Everyone Else Keep Out!” sign, like Calvin keeping Susie out of his treehouse.
Boys clubs exclude me because of my outsides, girls clubs exclude me because of my insides.
I’m sure the lovely people running these events would want me to come, would be horrified and sad if I said I felt excluded, but that’s not the point. They’re welcome to draw whatever boundary they want around their event. I know safe spaces for women are vital in a sexist society, and I don’t want to infringe on that. Hell, a part of why I feel so bad is that I know on some level I would be infringing if I went, and I feel guilty for wanting to go.
I feel sad when it seems like I don’t belong, and I feel confused and distressed to know that they would say I belong even as I know in my gut that I don’t.
Shit like this makes me wish I could just be normal so I could go to the damn retreat.