Cynicism as a survival tactic: “Baby, who hurt you?!”

Sometimes I think the biggest thing that puts people, especially women, off of feminism is — it requires constant critical engagement with the world, it requires that we unlearn that suspension of disbelief we are all taught since childhood. And once someone critically engages with their world all the time, once someone refuses to suspend their disbelief, that someone is branded a cynic.

And women are not supposed to be cynical, or in fact critically engaged with anything: we are supposed to be eternally sparkly-eyed and new, our arms open to the world. When we aren’t, it comes across as ANGER!! and BITTERNESS! and OMG WHO HURT YOU?!

This is by no means a new revelation for me, and it won’t come as a surprise to any other radicals either, but I’ve been thinking about it recently because I constantly think about everything. For instance, my roommate was recently telling me how great her new boy toy is, and she knows he’s so great because, duh! He works with kids! … and my first thought was, “So did Jerry Sandusky.” 

Which of course I could not say aloud, because she would have then replied, “We can’t talk to you about anything! You’re such a cynic!”

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though. In fact, I think cynicism can be good, that it can keep people informed and keep people safe.

Take this instance: the boy toy was, unsurprisingly, a creep (although not necessarily with kids; I don’t know for sure, and I hope very hard that he is not, but he did treat my roommate like she was a disposable masturbation device). My roommate was totally blindsided, but I’d known from the moment I met him that he was an asshole — maybe no more so than the typical sex-entitled male supremacist dude, but an asshole nonetheless — because I am a cynic. 

On the other hand, with my new and improved high standards and super rigorous screening processes, I have not personally dated a creep in over two years. I have also been known for having terrible luck and a self-destructive bent, so if I can avoid creeps by screening everyone through a very fine filter, there is promise for all women in that field of research.

The fact that I have dated only one person in those two years, and she was also a woman, could be passed off as irrelevant … although it isn’t. Women can do some devastating things to women who are their partners, but in my experience, the devastation is largely emotional and borne out of the pain someone feels when they have to watch someone they love do something to hurt herself. I’ve never been raped by a woman. I’ve never been beaten by a woman. I’ve never been stalked or threatened by a woman. I’ve just had to watch women I’ve loved, deal with the fallout of living in patriarchy. Those things (‘physical violence’ vs ’emotional pain’) do not really compare in the long run. No woman could ever do the staggeringly egregious things that men have done, even though television would really like to convince us otherwise.

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3 Responses to Cynicism as a survival tactic: “Baby, who hurt you?!”

  1. SheilaG says:

    Thanks for this really great article. I think what people mistake for cynicism is actually critical thinking.
    I think women are expected to be sparkly and open minded, to not question anything men do. Women are taught to fit in, to not confront, and to not really analyze. You were able to see through your room mate’s boyfriend, because you were actually thinking critically. It’s why women become so domesticated to just accept boyfriends at face value. Oddly enough, there are always a few women who try to warn others. A psychologist wrote a report over a decade ago warning the police that Sandusky was a very likely preditor– she put it in writing as an official report, but it was ignored.
    I get to see all kinds of delusions that women live in, and it’s not fun. We want the very best for our friends, and for women in general. We see the denial het women live in 24-7, and we see the damage that lesbians live in. It’s hard to see lesbian life so damaged, what happens to so many lesbians who are older now. All of that oppression built up. You can see it in the behavior, in the emotional shut down, in the indifference. So many women can’t handle the truth, they’d rather wear rose colored glasses and take their chances, until denial is no longer an option. Until Sandusky finally gets caught. It’s hard to be the one who thinks critically, and wishes all women would wake up.

    This article so clearly gets to this point, and it’s one of the best I’ve read in a long time. It really helped me a lot!!!

  2. Jennie says:

    “A disposable masturbation device.” Yes that is basically what men treat women as when it comes to heterosexual sex. Think about it-intercourse-anal-by mouth-by hand-all ways of men essentially using a woman’s body to jerk off! Sexxxay hmmm?

  3. KgSch says:

    This is a good post and I think being a cynic can be a good survival tactic. Plus, every once in a while other women will actually listen.

    I do think that feminism can be difficult because you are seeing the world the way it really is, and it’s especially difficult if you want real radical feminism and not the cheap knock-offs. As for being a radical lesbian feminist? Tons of hate; it’s a very unfriendly world for lesbians out there.

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