Hi Pepe, I appreciate that you understood the spirit of my story better than Martin did. Respectfully, I stand by my assertion that it was not sexist. While I did say that misogyny, sex-negativity, and religion all influenced my personal choices and that sometimes these influences can intersect for certain people, nowhere did I say that sex-negativity or religious values ONLY affect women. Nowhere. Men who’ve accused me of sexism for mentioning misogyny, religion, and sex-negativity as simultaneous influences in my personal experience are projecting their own biases about the language of abuse.
In fact, you even acknowledged that you didn’t bother to re-read my story before you singled out some supposedly “sexist” details — so I’ll assure you. Feel free to re-read it if you need.
That said, there were additional factors that contributed to my remaining with this man: my history of having been sexually and psychologically abused by a previous partner, my pre-existing body image issues, even the profound influence of my own white guilt. (My partner grew up in a society where machismo was the norm, and I felt it was my “responsibility” as an educated, light-skinned person from a more egalitarian place to be forgiving of his disrespect.) But I didn’t mention these things here because it’s normal — and completely fair — for memoirists to hone their focus. Particularly when they’re writing a short essay, rather than a whole book. In my case, I opted to focus on broader, more relatable social issues involving sexuality overall, rather than tangents about my body or my race — and there was nothing disingenuous about doing so. Memoirists can be balanced, fair, and honest without dissecting every detail of their lives.
It is no female memoirist’s responsibility to try to explain how men experience the world. To accuse a woman of being sexist simply because she reflected on how her gender has shaped her life is absurd. The suggestion that I should’ve padded a micro-memoir with asides about male victimhood is unnecessary. Let’s be honest: people who write memoirs about injury or illness aren’t obligated to add asides about how much more serious other illnesses and injuries might be. People who write about how their local climate influences their hobbies aren’t obligated to offer a nod to other places where the climate is similar (…or different). People who write about the pain of divorce aren’t obligated to discuss the pain of widowhood. People of color who write about their struggles aren’t obligated to acknowledge the struggles of white people. And so on. The idea that women are wrong to write about themselves without shining a spotlight on men is sexist in itself.
All of this is why anyone who thinks I’m “cherry-picking” my understanding of my own life, or being sexist for acknowledging how misogyny disempowered me — while they disregard my gender-neutral mentions of religion and sex-negativity as additional societal influences — is misguided.
Bottom line: I wrote a micro-memoir. If a woman writes a memoir and her gender is relevant to her experience, she’s not biased for mentioning it. Least of all when she expressly mentions gender-neutral influences; uses gender-neutral language to talk about abuse/abusers/victims more broadly; and peppers her story with gender-neutral resources.
I really can’t make that any clearer. Thanks for reading.