An open letter to the dude I punched in the face:

I don’t know who you are, because I haven’t punched you yet. But once you press charges, you might google me and find this. So I want to take this opportunity to explain while I have the capacity for verbalization rather than the blind rage that lead me to sock you in the jaw.

Sorry, by the way. Punching you in the face was the wrong thing to do. I was just… SO MAD. I usually channel that rage into exercise or work or writing or cleaning or shopping… yeah, look, I have a lot of outlets for my rage, but it’s always a game of catch-up to keep purging it productively.

You probably called me “honey,” or “little lady.” Or you said “all lives matter,” or “white men have it hard, too.” And, though that does make me cringe, you did not deserve to be punched in the face for that.

I just want you to understand that I’ve been hearing things like, “you had a great audition, we just thought he was a better fit for the ensemble” on a regular basis for my whole career. Over and over. And those ensembles don’t know that they are part of a larger pattern shaped by social, unconscious implicit associations between white men and authority. But I’ve seen the pattern because I’ve been part of it so many times. (And if you  just had the thought, “maybe you’re just not as good a conductor as they were,” then that is exactly why I punched you in the face.) None of those ensembles think they are sexist — they support equal rights and Planned Parenthood — so if I pointed out that this may have had a role in their decision-making, they would be offended rather than reflecting on the unconscious, thoughtless, unintentional nature of systemic sexism.

More actively, as a grown woman, I’ve been called “sweetie” by colleagues and hardware store employees more times than I can remember. I’ve been casually belittled under the guise of well-meaning (if condescending) “friendliness” constantly for almost forty years.

So, I probably punched you because you addressed me using adjectives or tone that you would never have used with a man.  Your voice crooned with exaggerated inflection like people do with babies. You dismissed my complaint about being treated differently by responding that you only meant to be polite. You told me I should be grateful to you for maintaining a basic level of civility. You have no idea why I want to be treated the same as a man, because men aren’t necessarily treated better… but that difference over and over all day every day adds up to mountain of sexism.

Maybe I punched you because you rolled your eyes and asked “ugh, why do you talk about sexism all the time???” Since I punched you instead of telling you the answer, here it is: “Because I experience sexism all the time.” Don’t believe me? Because you’ve never experienced it… which is how you know it’s sexism.

Or, on the other hand, maybe you commented to your friend about the body or clothes of a woman near you. Maybe you thought she should take your objectification as a compliment, or that she clearly wanted that kind of attention.

Maybe you made a joke about someone fat or old or non-white or gay. You think those people don’t matter as much as you do, think that “just a joke” makes it okay to demean and insult and objectify someone.

So, yeah. I punched you in the face. Not because you deserved it for that one infraction of genuine compassionate decency. But because I’ve lived in a simmering soup of sexist, racist, sizeist crap for four decades, and you happened to be there when the simmer reached a full boil. Sorry. It was just a matter of the wrong place at the wrong time.

What’s that you ask?

Why, yes, I have been working out. I know, it’s a hell of a right cross, huh? My lats are pumped from conducting. Building useful strength is all about a small amount of weight and a lot of reps.

Just a little weight. A lot of reps. That’s how it builds.

Sorry, though.

 

 

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