Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Girly girls

On Friday I was in Waterloo for the annual Back To The Lounge day.  We sat around playing board games, chatting, and remembering being young and stupid(er).  I got involved in a 'high stakes' barbu game for ten cents a point and felt pretty confident in my ability to clean the table out but I ended up only slightly above par.  Regression to the mean takes more than thirty two hands to kick in it turns out.

Much of the game revolved around mockery, taunting, and trash talk.  One must, after all, strongly encourage others to double you when you have a strong hand and the best way to do this is to call their fortitude, courage, and very worthiness to live into question.  My favourite tactic for this purpose at the moment is to shout "Wussy wussy wussy!" at extremely high volume and high speed at my opponents.  Then Rummy started calling people girly girls for refusing to double.  I told him that I really didn't think that was appropriate and he responded that he wouldn't say such things in front of his kids.

I totally understand where it came from.  Back in the day we regularly called each other girly girls in that sort of situation.  Heck, it wasn't even just the men doing so as the women in our gaming crowd did the same thing sometimes.  We weren't mocking women so much as it was a pretty egalitarian group in most regards - we were mocking femininity.  That of course doesn't make it better but it is a slightly different thing.  I don't do that now because I think that mocking femininity is a huge problem in all kinds of ways.  I certainly wouldn't do so in front of Elli but I also won't do it anywhere else.

Rummy isn't some sort of woman bashing knuckle dragger - he and I have lots of talks about how we teach our kids about social justice issues from feminism to queer rights to environmentalism and I know he doesn't believe negative things about women or femininity.  I totally get the desire to reconnect with the good ole days and shout the things we used to shout while we play the game we used to play.  Finding that space that is associated with so much joy is a wonderful experience.  I do feel like even in that space though we should recognize what we screwed up in the past and correct it.

This clearly isn't the biggest thing in the world.  It is a good lesson though about how there are many simple ways in which we push people to the margins without any intention to do so, or even with explicit intentions to the contrary.  We are the educated straight cis white dudes and if anyone needs to suck it up and set the best possible example it is us, even when it involves burying a bit of our past that we treasure.

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