I took a Theater class where my TA (a cis white male who was younger than me) kept telling everyone to shut up. I told two of my girlfriends after the fact, because I could not believe that I would be in that situation at Oberlin, a place where answering a question in order to construct a dialogue is something to apologize for if one is “taking too much space.” One of my girlfriends asked me what happened after he told us to shut up. I said “We shut up. For about 20 seconds. And then it started again.”
Now, I was not participating in this foolishness when I was told to shut up, I was more or less a bystander (I tend to claim that identity a lot). So I just stood there in silence and rolled my eyes, and thought about all of the times a guy (cis or trans) has told somebody to shut up. I thought about how a man telling someone to shut up is seen as hot or commanding in TV shows and movies. Like, have y’all watched Scandal? Fitz tells people to shut up and sit down all the time. Admittedly, sometimes I like it. Guess that means that I internalized my oppression.
I’m not friends with a lot of guys, and the few I am friends with are a bit more passive than the stereotype of the “aggressive, assertive man.” Because these guys I’m friends with are straight (I actually want to do a post about why I don’t seem to have any queer male friends), I think they struggle with that so-called “toxic masculinity” a lot. Especially being friends with someone like me, who will call them out any time they do anything “bro-like” or “sexist.” I figure that there are so many people who would just secretly hate them for being stupid, so I might as well tell them to their face that they are stupid. It’s my charity work, if you will.
I don’t think I want to date a guy that stupid. That would be “settling.” And I settle a lot. I wonder if I would date a guy who would tell me to shut up if he was angry. I don’t have a lot of relationship experience (not that it really matters), so I don’t know how I would handle that. Would I break up with them right away? Would I stick it out and try to “change him?” Would I find it hot that he “asserts” himself in such a way?
Unless the guy is a friend of mine, the way I deal with guys like my TA is by rolling my eyes, staying silent, and then making snarky comments to my friends. The passive-aggressive cycle continues, I guess. I work at my school’s dialogue center, so I tend to wonder what classes and relationships would be like if people were mature about their emotions and earnestly communicated their intentions. I try to lead by example with my male friends, but maybe I’m also just displacing my feelings and emotions about all the other bullshit in my life on to them.
I joked with one of my girlfriends that a guy we knew was doing some typical bro behavior and got in trouble for it, mainly because he went to a school like Oberlin. If he had went to a school that had an acronym that ended with a ‘U” (OSU, MSU, etc.), maybe he wouldn’t have gotten into trouble. But he went to OC, and he has been seen (you see that word play I did there, that’s from years of speech team y’all). There’s a lot of stuff that people can’t get away with because we go to a school like Oberlin, especially white cis men. And now that I have 78 days until graduation, I wonder what type of world I will be entering once I leave this Twilight Zone. And I wonder what type of male friends I’ll make once I leave. I wonder if I’ll have to constantly check them the way I have been for years. Or maybe they’ll check me. Maybe we’ll all tell each other to shut up. And then we’ll just keep talking anyway.