Episode 110: Sexual Journey
Published September 15, 2017.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. We're still kind of on vacation but . . .
Aminatou: What do you mean kind of? We are deep in the vacation now.
Ann: [Laughs] So we are pre-recording this episode with a delightful grab bag of listener questions and prompts. Are you excited?
Aminatou: I am really excited because I love listening to questions and I love giving advice.
Ann: Is that true? [Laughs]
Aminatou: JK, JK. That is not true. Nothing gives me more anxiety than giving advice.
Ann: Before we start what's up?
Aminatou: Shout out to all the Midwest divas. We are coming to you.
Aminatou: And we're going to be in Minneapolis on October 21st and we're going to be in Chicago on October 23d. So go to callyourgirlfriend.com/events and all of the links are there. Also here's my favorite thing about all the Midwest divas. They're like "Will you come to all these other cities? Otherwise we're driving to Chicago." I forget that the Midwest is like one big village and you guys will always drive to somewhere that like . . .
Ann: The other thing you forget is Midwest ladies love a good road trip, shout out to my fellow Midwest divas, and we're willing to road trip for what love.
Aminatou: I know! Ann, it's like . . . it's literally like hundreds of ladies like you asking the same questions. So for those of you who want to know these are the last two shows that we're doing in 2018 so if you don't catch us -- if you don't catch us this time you'll catch us sometime next year.
Ann: Also, LOL, our last shows in 2017 because we are not all living in 2018 like you.
Aminatou: Oh my god. You know what? It's our last shows for 2019.
Ann: [Laughs] Okay.
Aminatou: [Laughs] If I have my way the last for 2020 also. But anyway, so this is the last chance you'll have to see us this year so we'll see you October 21st in Minneapolis and October 23rd in Chicago.
Ann: When we get letters from listeners I think of them more as prompts for issues they would like us to discuss on the show and less like "Ann and Amina, fix my life." Because you know what? After one email that is not enough email to give like really specific . . .
Aminatou: Yeah. I'm like listen, everybody should do their own research. [Laughs] It's just like I'm not trying to get sued. I'm not going to tell you leave your boyfriend. Like I can't do this.
Ann: This is like at the end of pharmaceutical ads where it's like "Ann and Amina cannot guarantee results. They will not tell you to leave your boyfriend. This is not direct advice that should be followed in any format. This is just . . ."
Aminatou: That's right. And if you have diabetes or blah, blah, blah, do this.
Ann: If you have hypertension do not listen to this podcast. [Laughs]
Aminatou: I love how the pharma ads are basically like take this medicine but you'll definitely die of something else always.
Ann: No question.
Aminatou: That's how I feel about advice-giving on the Internet.
Ann: "I appreciate that you don't really talk about relationships or sex on the podcast. I really do."
Ann: "So I'm going to go ahead and ask you about both. I'm a 22-year-old straight woman in my first real job in the media field. I am very driven, confident, and creative, but always learning. But there is one thing about myself that I'm embarrassed about, I'm a virgin and I've never had any romantic or sexual experiences save for a few brief courtships that didn't go anywhere. I'm constantly trying to understand myself, to explain myself in a culture that tells me I'm a freak. I say to myself that I'm extremely independent, I'm an introvert, and I hate people."
Aminatou: [Laughs] Did I write this email?
Ann: "I don't need . . . [Laughs] I don't need or want a relationship right now but it is impossible not to feel shame. I know there are many young women out there in similar situations. Right now it feels like a big deal that I don't have these experiences. There's a logical side of me which says it will happen when you're ready and when you're really happy with your life how it is. Then there is the overshadowing message that I don't fit in, that I'm a freak, that there must be something wrong with me. I joined Tinder about six months ago and I've chatted briefly with a few people but I've never met anyone in person. But yesterday I matched with this guy and he wants to get a beer. First time anyone has asked me out. Cue my existential dread. All the evidence points to the fact that going on a date would be a good thing, but as someone who has never dated before it makes me super-nervous. It's the societal expectations. I've messaged every one of my close friends today asking if I should meet him. Really I was clamoring around for enough yeses to potentially push me over the edge and actually go out of my comfort zone. So now I'm emailing you. I honestly try to channel both of your energies in my daily life to give me confidence, honesty, and a sense of humor. Do you have any sex-positive literature to recommend to a feminist who hasn't started her sexual journey yet? Do you have any advice for a feminist who despite loving herself can't seem to shake the shame of being a total virgin at 22 in 2017? Could you give a pep talk to me and other people who are in similar situations as they start their dating and sexual life at a later age?"
Aminatou: Oh my gosh, I love this listener so much. I don't know her but I love her.
Ann: I love the phrase sexual journey. I love the idea of like . . .
Aminatou: I know.
Ann: Some of . . . I will say that some of the framing of this seems so healthy to me. Like I understand that this listener is working through some stuff, but as opposed to being like defining virginity as penis in a vagina sex or something like that, she's like no, no, no, it's just that I haven't started a sexual journey. That framing is broader and I think healthier and more in tune with reality and what I would like to see more people characterizing their sex lives as, especially early on. You know?
Aminatou: This is true. So there's a lot to unpack here.
Ann: So much.
Aminatou: So first of all, to this listener, if you're around anybody who makes you feel like a freak for being a virgin just know that that person is an idiot. Like an actual fucking . . .
Ann: That person is the freak.
Aminatou: Yeah, that person is the freak and an idiot. There is nothing wrong with being a virgin at 22. Or like an actual baby child and . . . this is not a real thing that you're supposed to lose your virginity at a certain age and whatever. Like that is just . . .
Ann: There is no supposed to. Yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah, there's no supposed to. It's like you lose your virginity when you're ready to do it, hopefully. You learn to have great partnered experiences. But here's the other thing. I think you need to figure out a couple things. Well, one question I have, have you embarked on a sexual journey with yourself? Because there doesn't need to be two or more people to have sex. You can have sex by yourself.
Ann: I mean my longest, most reliable sexual partner, my right hand and I, would agree with you.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Truth. You know? But I think that there's something really powerful about learning your own body and knowing what turns you on and what you like and really just feeling confident with your own body before you set out meeting other people. That I think can be really helpful, especially if you have anxieties about being older or not knowing how it works, you know?
Aminatou: I think that that's . . . I think that that's really important. But secondly, also, you need to figure out if you want to have sex with someone. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to do that. There is absolutely nothing wrong.
Ann: And there's definitely nothing like anti-feminist about not wanting to have lots of sex with lots of partners.
Ann: Like feminism and virginity are totally compatible if that makes you happy. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah. Some of my favorite feminists are virgins. It's true. And, you know, I think this question of whether you want to have sex with someone is so important because there's no shame in having a low sex drive. There is no shame in being asexual if you are -- not saying that this listener is -- but a lot of people are and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There's no shame in wanting to be celibate for a season or forever. And I think it's all about figuring out what you want to do and then figuring out ways to get there. Also there was kind of implied this idea that nobody has asked her to have sex yet, which sure, but have you asked anybody to have sex yet if you want to? This is the only part of tough love that I have for virgins and for pretty much anybody else is if you want something what have you done to get there? You cannot wait for people to ask you around all the time.
Ann: Yeah. And I think that what's hard about answering this in letter form as opposed to a conversation, which I think again, is what we were saying earlier about why this is more about the issues it raises than about specific advice, is it's not clear to me exactly whether this listener is like I want to be having partnered sex and I'm not, or whether it's like I don't really want it and I feel like society is making me feel like I should. All of those things aside, just being clear that if there is a desire you feel to experiment with something -- or to not -- being proactive about acting on that, or being proactive about feeling good about your choice not to, either of those things is fine.
I also think about one of my favorite lines from Clueless which is I'm not prude; I'm highly selective. [Laughs] And I feel like that applies -- that's like a very operative description of my early sexual journey where I was like maybe I am a prude. And the truth was I was like no, the problem was I was heterosexual and heterosexual men in their early 20s are not the most appealing sex partners all of the time.
Aminatou: This is also true. This is like 100% true. I think I'm a little bit of a prude. Hmm, that's not true.
Aminatou: I like pretending that I'm a prude.
Ann: When you're just highly selective.
Aminatou: I know, except for when I lived in San Francisco I was definitely the prude in town. I so identify with this person too because I'm the like need to do research on everything. I need to figure out the mechanics of everything before I put myself out there. So one book that I would recommend to you to read is The Guide to Getting It On. That is very comprehensive about all of the ways that you can get it on. Like for me it was a very formative experience. Thank you. [Laughs] And thank you to the lady who bought it for me. I think that like if . . . because there's a little bit of anxiety there. Like let's be real, I was a real nerd. There was no way I was going to embark into a sexual journey without much, much research.
Aminatou: So I think that's one thing that'll probably make you feel easier about the whole thing, and if you do decide that you actually like -- yes, after doing all of this research and whatever you decide that you really want to go out there and meet people, then go out there and meet people. But it is real work. You definitely have the leave the house. You definitely have to take a shower occasionally. You're definitely going to have to talk to people that you don't want to talk to. That's my description of dating. I'm just like here are all the things. Here are all the things that qualify as dating.
But here's the upside of going on all of these online dates. Like I always joke that nobody has gone on more first dates than me. Here's the thing: it's like even if it doesn't materialize into anything it's really good practice and you need to cast a wide net, you need to meet people, and you need to learn how to be in situations where you can materialize that for yourself.
Ann: Yeah, and I think that there's also some good resources about not just guidebooks or mechanics but things about helping you tap into what you might be interested in and with whom. The sex coach Myisha Battle who we've had on the show in the past, she has a resources page on her website that we'll link to in show notes that has links to some feminist porn and sex toy shops she recommends and sex coaching resources. And so it's a good jumping-off point. I also recommend there's a book by friend-of-the-podcast Jacklyn Friedman that came out a few years ago called What You Really, Really Want and in it she has a bunch of quizzes and creative exercises and prompts to help you think about what you might be interested in doing. And I think there's something very valuable. I should also note that Jacklyn has a new book coming out too called Unscrewed which is sort of on similar subject matter, which is taking all of the messages you're given about your sexuality or what you're supposed to want or what you're supposed to feel ashamed of and reconciling those messages with what you and your body and your desires want to be doing and with whom.
I think there's a lot of power in that period between feeling like you want to be doing more on your sexual journey but maybe while or before you are out there meeting lots of people or meeting more people or you can spend some time articulating and thinking about and exploring what you're into for you. Because that is also part of the journey as you label it. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Totally. You know, and also figure out if you have any hang-ups about having sex with someone that you're not in a relationship with or if it's really important for you to know that person better. This is like -- the good thing about being alone right now and figuring this out is that you can kind of . . . you can think about this kind of stuff and make boundaries for yourself.
Aminatou: Instead of being thrown into situations where you're like I don't know what's going on. What am I supposed to do? And blah, blah, blah. And here's the other thing. It's that you're not alone. Like you're literally not alone in this. There are so many late bloomers around you, it's a shame there's a stigma around it because . . . most because we don't talk about it. But also all the people I found in our early 20s that were really big about talking about all of the sex that they were having, I'm so eye-rolly right now where it was like really? You were having . . . hmm. I'm not sure about this.
I think everybody puts on a lot of bravado and braggadocio to talk about this stuff but really we're all trying to figure out. So like you're not alone in trying to figure it out. Sex is fun but it's also awkward and it's also kind of ridiculous and it is . . . there's so many things there, and I think that if you can articulate -- like if you can figure out what your boundaries are now, articulate them, and find somebody who will meet you halfway there, you will have so much more fun.
Ann: Yeah. And also articulating those boundaries will help you figure out if someone is going to meet you or not, you know? Knowing your baseline. So good luck to this listener on your sexual journey. Good luck to you and your right hand, or your left.
Aminatou: I know. You've got this. Learn how to have sex with yourself and then decide if you want to meet people and when you do do it holler at us.
Ann: 100. Ugh.
Aminatou: You know what's worse than not having sex? Having bad sex. So like . . . it's going to be fine.
Ann: I mean statistically-speaking if you are someone who's interested in having sex with other people you're probably going to have a lot of bad sex in your life. Like it's just going to happen. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, especially if you're having sex with men you're definitely going to have a lot of bad sex in your life.
Ann: It's just guaranteed. Like I mean yeah. Straight ladies . . .
Aminatou: Straight lady problems. You meet him at a bar, you're going to have problems. You meet him through a friend, you're definitely going to have problems. [Laughs]
Ann: Different types of problems but yeah.
Aminatou: Different types of problems.
[Music and ads]
Ann: Okay, next email.
Aminatou: "I'm trying to find some not fast fashion basics but I'm plus-sized and I'm having a really tough time. Can you guys recommend any stores? Also I'll have to ship them as I do not live in the US." You have to ship them in the US too. I really like stores like Gap and J.Crew. Basically lots of stripes and pretty simple shapes. I love this question for many reasons because it's literally like can you do my shopping for me? Which secretly I want to do. But we don't have enough like . . . we don't have enough information, like knowing what country we have to ship to would be helpful.
Ann: I like the idea that you think we have time to start a personal shopping service on top of everything else. That's cute.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Are you kidding me, Ann? That would be like the best way for me to channel all of my procrastination, you know what I'm saying?
Aminatou: Like oh, Amina, ten projects are due next week. I'm like sorry I'm running a personal shopping consider service out of my podcast. I don't have time for this.
Ann: You keep that excuse in your back pocket.
Aminatou: I know. So this question is like -- this question is really tough and I've been thinking about it for a while because here's the truth: even for people who are not plus-sized, shopping at a not fast fashion place is hard for many reasons. One being that usually those clothes tend to be more expensive and if you're plus-sized they will definitely be more expensive. And also you just have to do . . . it requires both a monetary investment but also a seriously onerous time investment because it means that you're going to have to do a lot of research about designers that you want to support. And also I think that we're not always on the same page about what we think about as fast fashion. Like Forever 21 is definitely fast fashion but even some stores that don't get labeled fast fashion like Gap and J.Crew that you mentioned sometimes have not great environmental policies or labor policies and things like that.
Aminatou: So getting clothes at a price point that is fair where people don't die making your clothes and the planet is not dying is -- it's a very hard endeavor.
Ann: That could be your full-time job.
Aminatou: Yeah and it requires being really, really fastidious. There's actually -- I saw a trailer for a documentary on Netflix about this that was like really . . . like the trailer was really scary. It was like "So you can have cheap clothes, women in these countries literally die and cling on to life." And I was like ugh, but also it's true. So in terms of like stores or whatever my best advice to you, not knowing where you live, is to start close to home and think about like who are smaller designers that you can support? So whether that is like Etsy which ships all around the world pretty much, whether that's like doing Etsy or doing a search for some cool designers in your area, and really just emailing them, you know, and talking to them about stuff.
One of the things that I really appreciate about starting to think more consciously about your clothes is that you're going to have to have a relationship with the people who make your clothes. And so thinking about emailing them and asking them for recommendations like if you can't afford what they're making. If they have time to get back to you, that would be amazing.
Ann: There is some research that you can do as well on . . . like I know specifically this question is about plus-sized clothing. I mean I have a body that is not very well-represented by a lot of just off-the-rack clothing and I feel like one thing I've learned to do is know my body's actual measurements pretty well. Like okay, if it's stretch, this is what the size needs to be. This is roughly what the different lengths are. And then if I'm shopping online I can look for actual dimensions on a piece of clothing as opposed to trying to judge by a picture on a body that doesn't look like mine at all.
That's also something when you mentioned having a relationship with a clothing company, you can email them and say like "What are the dimensions on this thing that looks like it might fit me but I'm not sure?" And so some of this is interesting because it starts with knowing your body a little bit better and, you know, it's not . . . not in the sense of I normally wear a size whatever, but like no, actually what are the dimensions of my body? Which I think for me has always been a way healthier way for me to think about my bod. It's not like oh, there is this progressive series of round numbers that you fit into or you don't. But it's just like okay, this is the size and shape of the thing I live in. It's almost like a clothes-making point-of-view even if you're not going to make them yourself. I think it's helpful.
Aminatou: Totally. You told me that amazing Virgie Tovar quote about this.
Ann: Oh my god, yes. When I interviewed Virgie Tovar for a phone-a-friend episode a million years ago she said now -- and she likes to say on her Instagram in public -- the tag says no, but the stretch says yes.
Ann: So the materials the things are made of really matter too, you know? We all know that if some jeans are built with a little bit of stretch they fit differently. You know, if it's 100% starched heavy cotton that is going to feel really different than 100% spandex. We all know this, but paying attention to some other types of materials and how they stretch, so if you have a shirt in your closet that you love looking at the tag and being like oh, this is made of rayon and whatever and I like that and then paying attention when you shop for things that are made that way too.
Aminatou: Yeah. I mean ever since you gave me the hot tip about measuring yourself I feel so much less intimidated also about going into stores that are just straight sizes. And in my closet right now there is everything from a size 10 to a size 18 and all of it fits because the number on the tag is a lie and you should really just try it on for yourself.
Aminatou: One store that I really like right now that has a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny selection but it's also why I like it is called Mei Smith, meismith.com. And one, they have amazing customer service. I had a package get lost at UPS and they totally made it right and fixed it and it was great. And, you know, it's a small designer and the fact that she took so much time out of her day -- like she's a small boutique owner, and that she took the time out of her day to do that over a couple of days I really appreciated.
But the thing that I like about the store the most is the selection is really small which has really forced me to focus on specific basic looks. I like a minimalist closet even though I fail at it and I like the fact that it's also introduced me to a lot of designers that I normally would not have gone to.
Aminatou: Because 1) I would think that it was out of my price range, or 2) That they just simply didn't make clothes that fit me. And so looking at like . . . looking at Mei Smith has been really good for me. You know, we've talked about Miranda Bennett so many times on this show.
Ann: Oh, woman-owned, plant-based business.
Aminatou: Exactly, like another smaller independent designer who you would also not think would cater to plus sizes. Like I don't think anything in Miranda's store says it would fit in my size. But here's what's good about it: she makes a lot of sack dresses and like great wrap shirts and pants and whatever, and because it tells you the exact measurements you can decide for yourself whether it fits or not.
Ann: I know, which I appreciate so much.
Aminatou: I know. Another store that I'm really into is Hack With Design, H-A-C-K W-I-T-H Design. And these are also really simple pieces. They're really beautiful and they fit in a range of sizes. And the thing that I appreciate about, honestly, Mei Smith, Hack With Design, and Miranda's store is that they focus on pieces that everybody should have in their closet. And once you have that figured out you learn how to mix-and-match.
Because I think that the lie of fast fashion is that you need to do every trend. You need to own ten different colored jeans. You need to own 17 going-out tops. You need to have a lot of stuff to look good. Whereas if you just slowed down and you were like "Hmm, what's the best dress that I can get? What's the best shirt that I can get? What's the best pair of denim I can get? What's the best palazzo pants?" or whatever and then just start building your closet that way and actually learning what works for your body and what makes you happy and dressing for the moods that you're in, I think that's a much healthier approach to buying clothes.
Ann: Totally. I also want to shout out when we had our merch maven Carly Knolls on the show back when we were launching our shop she talked about Garmentory which is -- I kind of use it as a directory for local shops and boutiques. And I don't say this because I think that everything on it is sustainably sourced or comes in a wide size range, but I do say that because I think a lot of independent retailers are happier to help you when it comes to selections of size and material. They often know the designers they stock. And so using that as kind of like a browsing tool to get to know okay, maybe if not in your town, in your region who are some of the smaller independent clothing companies? Getting familiar with places that are close to home. So Garmentory is a great research. It's not cheap but if you're expecting to meet all these criteria about sustainability and a better supply chain and still pay $7.99 for a t-shirt you're severely delusional. So I mean . . .
Aminatou: Yeah. I mean the not cheap thing, I think it's really important to talk about because we all have this like, you know, super consumerist approach when it comes to clothes. But the truth is if you want to support rad business practices and you want to support the people -- it's like when I think about even the people on Garmentory or some of the women that we've mentioned like those stores, their margins are razor-thin. None of them are becoming millionaires off the clothes that they're making you, you know? And I think that's something that's really important to think about. But also thinking about the quality of clothing you get, it's like that $7.99 t-shirt is great but that's not a shirt that's going to be in your closet five years from now. That's just not going to happen.
Ann: Right. And to that end I just -- I think that if you do want . . . I mean because this listener is like "Listen, I like Gap and J.Crew. I like basics and stripes." My advice to you is to scratch that fast fashion itch, or if you're like for whatever reason I just want a new t-shirt, get it at a thrift store. Like these days thrift stores are full of Gap and J.Crew and honestly lightly-used fast fashion because it cycles so quickly. And so if you don't have a billion dollar budget and you do want a few basics I really encourage you to develop a thrift practice. And it's not quick either.
Aminatou: Yeah, I buy all of my J.Crew on eBay.
Aminatou: Like I don't remember the last time I went into J.Crew the store. Also they don't make the clothes like they used to so you have to buy them on eBay but that's a separate story. They moved their production from Italy to wherever else they moved it.
Aminatou: That's like a really hot tip. And also eBay ships all around the world. You know, like if you don't have a thrift store near you that is helpful. Etsy will ship all around the world. Definitely a higher price point than eBay but if that's what you want, that's what you want. But I would say this is another thing too where it's like tap into the local plus fashion scene in your area. Plan a clothing swap. Like everyone will love you if you're the one that plans a clothing swap and I guarantee you you will go home with some nice things. And just start talking to the people who make the clothes near you and people who sell clothes near you. Like you could probably convince some really cool boutique owner to start importing the clothes that you want.
Ann: Yeah. And sometimes the way I think about this too in terms of the time to put in, because also I spend my time as well looking for things that are off-season or on-sale from some of those designers who do things better because let's be real, I can't afford to buy a whole closet full of full-priced, super, super-expensive clothes. The research time that goes into buying one piece of better clothing, how is that different really than spending your kind of stoner in front of the TV time scrolling through 25 pages of ASOS results? When I think about the time that goes into doing this sort of shopping it's time differently spent as opposed to spending a million more years looking for things that are made better. And I do think that being a size that the market does not cater to makes this more difficult but it's a trick for everyone. They do not make this easy for everyone. [Laughs]
Aminatou: It's definitely not easy and I think it also sets you down a path of really thinking holistically about how you spend money on clothes regardless.
Aminatou: And what that does to you, you know? And that's the problem of being woke. Like once you open one eye you kind of can't go back. [Laughs]
Ann: Being woke's so expensive.
Aminatou: Yeah! Being woke is expensive, but also supporting people in your community who do good, like they should be rewarded for that. And so I'm even uncomfortable sometimes, you know, saying that the clothes are too expensive. It's like no, actually the clothes cost exactly what they should cost. We were just addicted to buying clothes for no money.
Ann: Mm-hmm. Good luck. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, good luck to you. Hopefully you don't live in an embargo country where you can't get anything shipped to you. [Laughs] But hopefully that'll work out. That's my favorite thing to see on ASOS, you know? Where they're like "We will not ship to Cuba, Iran," and then there's always random ones where I'm like what? Why can't you ship a pair of denim to Dubai? I don't get it.
Ann: I don't know.
Aminatou: But, you know, I don't set those laws so good luck to you.
Ann: We don't make the laws.
Aminatou: We do not.
[Music and ads]
Aminatou: "Thanks for sharing the point that Wesley Morris made about the trap door of racism. I realize that I'm about to do a very white lady thing and make this about my experience. Sorry! But I wonder if you agree that something similar exists for white women."
Ann: She actually -- you just added white women. She just said "Something similar exists for women."
Aminatou: [Laughs] I just said for white women?
Ann: Yeah. I mean fair enough.
Aminatou: Something similar exists for women. Ugh, I'm like . . .
Ann: I know. It was a warranted edit but go on.
Aminatou: I'm just trying to breathe through this. "In your episode with Myisha Battle," who's already come up once today, "you mentioned how since the election many women experience a kind of resentment and distance from men in their lives. I now strongly have this feeling that even the nicest or greatest guys among my friends and family and partners, there will eventually become a day when the other shoe drops and they say something hurtful and sexist that shows how little they understand women and this experience. It's made dating more challenging for me since the election and I'm not ready to accept what most of my friends say which is that this is literally how all men are. You're going to have to end up educating your partner if he's worth sticking with. Thoughts?" [Laughs]
Ann: Uh . . .
Aminatou: I am just rolling my eyes.
Ann: I mean there is a level of self-awareness in which whiteness is acknowledged up front, and yet . . .
Aminatou: Ann, but that's why white women are so dangerous is that they acknowledge it and then they just like forge ahead.
Ann: I mean, okay, let's try to unpack this a little bit.
Aminatou: Unpack. Unpack. Unpack.
Ann: I think that saying upfront that these are somehow comparable or parallel experiences is not true. I mean it's like -- and I don't know that . . . I guess that this listener is using the same metaphor for what I think are fairly different phenomenon for a lot of reasons. Like some of them . . . I think most of them related to the fact that most people live their everyday lives in contact with people of other genders. They do not -- statistically most white people do not live their lives in close personal relationships with people of other races. So there's something going on too about how common this experience of being hurt by someone across like -- you know, someone with more power and privilege than you, who you have a personal relationship with, that just is not parallel.
Aminatou: I think that's fair for sure.
Ann: So I don't know. I just want to say that part upfront. But I also hear this, within this question, as like how much patience do you have if you're a woman with men in your life who you don't feel are politically caught up to where you want them to be? Is that -- is that also what you were hearing in here?
Aminatou: I think if anything this question is really making me think hard about how . . . you know, it's like family you're kind of stuck with when they believe shitty things. Well, not that you're stuck with them, but it's like you didn't choose that. But with friends and partners really thinking hard about low-key what are my litmus tests so that I'm not sleeping with a Hitler youth one day?
Ann: Oh, totally.
Aminatou: And figuring that out. And I like to think that I have some of that down, you know, where I'm like "What do you think about school vouchers? Who is Sister Souljah? What's going on?" [Laughs] Where I do that. But the truth is that stuff -- like all of the -isms are traps. It's like you can love someone really hard and they will say some fucked up shit and you're like what? This is bananas.
And it doesn't even have to be . . . it doesn't even have to be like, I don't know, like a ten-fire alarm to really destabilize you. I think that's the other part of this question too that's so interesting to me. It's like what counts as something that's actually a trap? Because when you do take it personally it's like anything can be a trap, you know?
Aminatou: Even a casual disagreement can turn into like a deal breaker whereas when you look at issues systemically it's like well, like all of my white friends, definitely potential racists. All of my partners, definitely potential sexists. But we're going to navigate through all that. But, you know . . . like it's a shitty way to look at the world but for me I'm like . . . like, you know, what's that advice? It's like prepare for the worst, hope for the best or whatever.
Aminatou: [Laughs] I'm like that's how you deal with this shit. Here's the rub, right? Like we keep talking about racism and sexism but the truth is any time there's a power imbalance, in like any kind of relationship whether it has to do with money or it has to do with access or fame or whatever, all of these traps are the same.
Ann: Totally. Yeah, and I think that, you know, it's a hard thing to articulate because you're right. These things are big and systemic and in some ways it's not personal but at a certain point if say . . . you can recognize patterns, right? This is why journaling is such a good practice. You can recognize patterns and be like oh, so it's not actually -- it is systemic, and, you know, something that makes . . . it feels like . . . something that feels really surprising or threatening and the moment happens, you know, of the kind of experience this listener is describing once every couple of years. It's like okay, that's because this is systemic. I mean if this is like a weekly occurrence, look at your life and look at your choices, you know what I mean?
Ann: Like it's a hard thing to really put a hard line on.
Aminatou: And it's also one of those things that, you know, at the end of the day the trap is not so apparent as much as like you're right, this stuff has been manifesting for a while.
Aminatou: Especially with partners where, you know, the whole thing about like being in a relationship with someone is you move closer and closer to a middle point that you're both like uh, this is not where I live. You know, and for me maybe that means listening to a little bit more Swedish metal.
Aminatou: And for him maybe that means read some fucking books written by women like all year. You know, and that's the thing. It's like if your partner is not making an effort for you and you're making an effort for them, whether it's about social justice or it's literally like, I don't know, picking up his fucking clothes, then you should really decide if this person is somebody who is working hard to be in a relationship with you.
Ann: Oh, I love that so much. That is like 100%. I'm glad we talked our way -- or you talked your way to an answer where I'm just like that's the answer. You're so right, everyone needs to be working. Everyone needs to be working.
Aminatou: You need to be working on every level. It's like if your partner says "I'm not going to do this. I know that this thing drives you crazy and I'm not going to work at it," whatever the thing is, whether it's taking out the trash or it's like, I don't know, not saying racist things, then they're just not worth it.
Ann: [Laughs] Oh god, I just like . . .
Aminatou: It's literally not worth it. But here is like the last point that I will make, which I know that I've made to you multiple times, is when I think about the work of getting free and being liberated I remember Heather Heyer so much who lost her life in Charlottesville.
Aminatou: And it's not to say that everybody has to die in this project that we have to make everybody equal but the truth is that people die all the time. Like people die all the time and it's like that's the ultimate price to pay. And so when you think about your own choices and weighing that, it's like what are you willing to lose? And a lot of times, a lot of people are . . . they pay a lot of lip service but they're literally not willing to lose anything. And it's like well, that's fine too, but realize that then we are not engaged in the same project.
Ann: Yeah, and if the risk at play in this listener scenario is potentially destabilizing a romantic relationship or something, like I would argue that it's already been destabilized if somebody has made a comment that is hurtful and damaging to you, that is like -- you know, that is causing you to question these things. Like they already created that breach. And so it's sort of pointing out that problem and like taking -- it can feel like furthering the risk, right? And I think in some ways it is because letting it go is certainly easier. But those are the stakes at play here. And in the grand scheme of like, yeah . . . in the grand scheme of liberation, like destabilizing a personal relationship that should be able to weather a storm like this is not the biggest risk you're ever going to undertake, hopefully.
Aminatou: Whew. Good luck listener. [Laughs]
Ann: Good luck. Good luck everyone. Good luck heterosexual. Good luck heterosexual white women. Good luck everyone.
Aminatou: Yeah, here's the other thing. We're just like straight people. We're the worst. We're the actual worst like -- the worst. It's just bad.
Ann: Well, I'm glad we solved that. [Laughs]
Aminatou: [Laughs] I'm glad that we solved sexism, racism.
Ann: Interpersonal relationships. Yeah.
Aminatou: Fast fashion and virginity. We like solved every problem today. I'm definitely going to need a massive nap now because that took everything out of me.
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: I'm going to text all the men in my phone about what they're doing for equality today.
Ann: Yeah. Level up everyone.
Aminatou: Oh god, I'm going to be like "Hello, bozos. What's going on?"
Ann: [Laughs] All right.
Aminatou: "What did you do for somebody that was not you today?"
Ann: I anxiously await your mass text to your white friends. I'm waiting for it.
Aminatou: Ugh, listen, my white friends need to start paying my phone bill if they were serious.
Ann: I mean reparations.
Aminatou: I know. Let's just put it out there. Just put it out there so it's real. [Laughs]
Ann: All right. I'll see you on the Internet and in your inbox. [Laughs]
Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can tweet at us at @callyrgf or email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook -- look that up yourself -- or on Instagram at callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voice mail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn. All other music you heard today is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs and this podcast was produced by the beautiful Gina Delvac. My white friend, I will see you hopefully in person soon.
Ann: Oh my god, so soon.