Saturday, 12 April 2014

A Woman In Your Own Right

During a collective moan about clients missing appointments, someone said something which I thought at the time I understood but on reflection probably misunderstood, concerning assertiveness.  It was that many people have issues about women being assertive about anything. This is clearly the case, and it's interesting that they said "people" rather than "men" and I wonder about that too. Leaving that aside, I thought at first that they were referring to me as a woman but later "realised" that they probably meant my friend.  But, thinking of it as being about me changes things.
In 1983, a book on the subject of assertiveness called 'A Woman In Your Own Right' came out.  The early editions had a mirrored cover, so if a woman picked it up, she would see herself reflected, both there and in the text of the book.  At the time, even picking up the book seemed wrong to me, like I was trespassing on female territory.  I was, I thought, at the very summit of the social pyramid:  white middle-class able-bodied male in my youth - choose a category of privilege and I was in it.  Oh, here's a link to it incidentally:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1390287.A_Woman_in_Your_Own_Right

Consequently, reading a book on assertiveness would simply be a white male gathering yet another tool of privilege to himself and using it to bludgeon his way even further up the greasy pole.  So I didn't read it.

Years later, I decided to do assertiveness training.  This was a good idea, as it turns out, although nowadays I have less faith in assertiveness than I had back then.  I found, as usual, that I had made a decision which resulted in me being in an almost completely female group.  I learned a variety of worthwhile techniques but later found that I was unable to apply them because in any specific situation, I saw it as an exception and couldn't bring myself to use them.  A better answer might have been counselling, which I pursued to no avail, partly because they weren't transphobic enough for my tastes and I didn't want to let anyone into my mind who didn't hate what I was.  Not hate me, mind you, just what I was, if that makes sense.

Now I imagine that cover again, and imagine my horribly masculine face framed in that mirror with 'A Woman In Your Own Right' printed above it, and I think that maybe I am.  I also think it may be a big factor in my failure that I didn't accept this fact.  Having said that, this all seems a bit "poor me".  However, there's a problem with that attitude just as there is with its opposite.  If I am in fact in some kind of group disadvantaged because of a shared identity with them, either as a woman or a trans individual, I probably should stick up for myself for their sake, so if I don't do that it's possible that I'm letting them down too.

This was all a lot clearer last night, sorry.