2012-08-30

Why I am still friends with Frank

It's frustrating that a single interaction, like yesterday's, can take on such enormous proportions. Part of me is ashamed that I am "such a girl", needing someone else's, a man's, Frank's in particular, approval and validation. The other part of me is busy trying to boil it down to its components, the facts: which are: Just as positive interactions can make me feel intensely elated, negative ones can suck the life out of me.

Last night was bad, I was so raw, crying for the first time since I can't remember when. This morning I woke up and it was as if my skin had been put back on.

At my psychiatrist I yet again had to justify my continued friendship with Frank, and it would be ok if it didn't make me feel so flustered. I start to think of myself in terms of a battered woman, which in not really how I'd like to define the relationship I have with Frank.

My psychiatrist asked if he was a misogynist and if I wanted to rescue him, help him through to enlightenment.

And I guess it's all true, but it's such a trope, woman wanting to fix man. It's like standing there saying I am a moron. Because yeah, Frank feels that it's ok for him to question if sexism and experiences of sexism are "true". He seems to think in terms of, and tends to make comments based on, gendered behavior. He seems to think physical strength sets men apart at some fundamental level. For example, he thinks that women should have to pass the same physical requirements as men in the military, but doesn't have the same strong feelings about different requirements based on age.

He seems to put more weight on a single woman's opinion, http://jezebel.com/5923584/dont-put-women-in-combat-says-female-combat-veteran, when it aligns with his own, than a group of women's, http://servicewomen.org.

In this case the single woman was arguing that combat is harder on women than on men. Women got hurt more, got worn down faster, and were generally more frail in the long term. She used a bunch of BS to bolster her case. For example, that the attrition rate during training is much higher for women than for men. I tried to point out that there are other reasons for that, such rape, limited career options and just the generally female-hostile environment of the military (as evidenced by all these other women), but he figured that somehow the single woman had adjusted her numbers to account for that.

He may be right. It's not easy to find statics about the military, or in general, for that matter.

I am not sure that there is a correlation between strength and endurance as such, but beyond stuff I have read that at the extreme end of endurance events the gender gap diminishes I wouldn't know how to prove it.

This kind of discussions are always uphill battles. Usually because I feel that the burden of truth is on me. I found many, many examples of sources and people with other opinions, but none of them appeared to cast any doubt whether her opinions were worth considering.

I am indifferent to whether women and men should be held to the same physical standard. If the number of push-ups you can do is relevant to your ability to do the work then it is. A popular argument, which Frank never used, is that you should be able to carry your fellow soldier off the battle field. But it's rather disingenuous since a small man, or an older man, wouldn't be able to carry a very large man either. Perhaps everyone should simply be required to be able carry the average American for a mile. That would settle the fire fighter thing too.

Personally, I think sports should be gender neutral, and I had a discussion with Frank about that long ago. He disagreed quite passionately, but I couldn't figure out quite why.

I think that Frank favors the idea of equal but different, men and women are equal but suited for different things. It's a school of thought I am perhaps irrationally suspicious of, but the cold hard truth is that any work that's predominately female is paid less.

In general he doesn't seem to see the correlation between sexism and racism. He felt it'd be ok to keep women out if the military "for their own good", but not African Americans. I suggested that African Americans be barred the military becauae of the raciam they'd face (that was the argument used at the beginning of time). It was not at all the same thing, Frank said, because African American men are equally strong, and the debate was about supposed female frailty. Women are faced with a threat to their health, so it's ok to exclude them.

A thought that occurred to me at the time was that one might argue that because African Americans are on average poorer (this is not quite true, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/30/speech-lies-and-apathy/), therefore possibly eat less nutritious food, and may not, in fact, score equally on fitness tests, but that would have lead to a discussion about potential and genetics and biology. Women are supposed to carry the young and men are supposed to protect them while they do, and that this division is static. The problem with this line of thinking is that it presumes that there is a maximum of physical strength, or else that nature hilariously, keeps the ratio between women and man constant as new world records are broken year after year.

He also doesn't quite seem to recognize racism when it's not directed at African Americans. As an Hispanic man, George Zimmerman could not possibly be the victim of racism himself. This came up when I was pondering the odd tendency of the media to treat people as either white or black. Absolutes are easy, I guess. Ted, whose parents are Greek, had to face a fair share of "go home!" Frank found this rather bewildering.

I spend a lot of time and effort on looking for and providing proof, or at least support, for my point of view. But he doesn't, and maybe that's my fault for not requiring it. I should probably start.

The problem with racism and sexism is, of course, that it's not very clear cut. It's always going to be somewhat subjective. There are statistics and general trends, but for someone hellbent on denial there's always the fallback of "you can prove anything with statistics" and the possible bias of the studies and organizations doing them.

Frank likes to tell me that what I say is illogical and/or irrational, and he likes telling me that I only read and take in stuff I agree with, and by extension that I only critique and question stuff I don't. This is often true, (and quite human), and unfortunately usually the death-blow to anything I say. I am not dishonest about this which makes anything I say questionable.

I read recently that you cannot convince someone by simply saying they're wrong, you have to give a reason. And it's true that Frank never convinces me that he is right, but he does effectively invalidate everything I say.

So, yeah, I guess I want to save him, make him more aware. He is capable of a more nuanced view, and when in person he is rarely as abrasive and single-minded as he is on IM. And it gets worse, of course, like it does for me as well, when he feels attacked.

That being said I am rarely is right as I think I am, but that just makes it all the more costly and dangerous to be wrong.

It's also easy for me to sit here and break down Frank's arguments, when it's on it's not the same. As things get more antagonistic we both get less flexible and more prone to gambits. This post being the biggest gambit of all. When I was I school I was taught that it's easy to critique from behind one's computer, much harder to ask the tough questions.

In the end I am friends with Frank because he is quite a lot more sophisticated than I give him credit for when we argue, I have known him for a long time, I don't have that many friends, and I like him.











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