I was having an after work beer with a colleague. The conversation somehow divulged into feminism. I could see from the expressions on his face and the tone of his voice, the emotions that arose within him each time he mentioned the word were not too positive.
He told me, ‘You’re probably a feminist – a third wave at that’.
I had never heard of this label and asked for him to extend the definitions to see what exactly it meant to him. In his mind, when I was talking about the lack of empathy that was shown to a woman at work, this came across as me as being feminist.
I further asked, what else makes a feminist a feminist? Statements came out such as;
‘Women being raped, sure it was wrong but to have a strong opinion about it was over the top’
‘Thinking that women are entitled to equal pay is unreasonable’
‘Being strong minded and assertive wasn’t feminine, just women trying to be men’
It then went down to darwinian theory and the yin and yang of balance and the statement ‘That’s just how it is’.
Rather than my previous blood boiled reaction as a result of being labelled or lack of understanding – I simply replied ‘If that’s what you think I am, that is what I will be to you’.
We then went on to have an exchange of words. A conversation.
If I were to have said ‘no, you’re wrong’, or anything that dismissed his views, that would be trying to control the view of the exchange or even accepting that I should be offended by something that is in this discussion (feminism) is percieved as a stigma.
The exchange doesn’t have to follow the same language, agreeable understanding or use the same view of the topic. Essentially we ended up talking about our views on feminisn, literally from all quadrants, 1st person perspective, to 4th perspective.
In my current view, stigmas (whatever the label) are something apathetic types will not want to admit to falling under the spell of – whether it’s to avoid feeling shame in acknowledging their lack of empathy or being associated to the infliction of pain on others.
By having someone listen to themselves during a conversation and feeling the dissonance within themselves on how it doesn’t feel right, might be all that is needed to find understanding or realisation for lack of empathy.
There is no need to control how someone sees things about a stigma, that is up to them and that it their world. They also cannot control your thoughts and feelings unless you allow them to.