He interrupted us to bestow his assertive advice and opinions upon us. It’s interesting when someone thinks it’s their job to teach others. It shows that he was under the tunnel-vision assumption that he knew what I needed to learn. If you really were someone who I wanted to admire, then I would choose to admire you. Don't patronize me on how to be like you, when I'm just having a civil conversation with my friend, and frankly not interested. I find the patriarchal teachings of boys in our society play out in nearly every way of life, including regular conversations. I can hear it in his condescending tone and see it in the way he aggressively stands up and wafts his hands in the air when talking over me. I can feel it way he disregards my positions, no matter what they are. I want to laugh because he has no idea how unaware or unwelcome he is. But I don't laugh because I am tired of letting people act this way without being challenged. I am not your stage to stand on. He bursts into our conversation aggressively sharing stories of his heroic battles teaching people who are obviously not as smart as he is. His stories and methods are rooted in aggressive assertion and ego. I calmly ask questions like, “well, why do you think you reacted so strongly?” Simply advocating for the person that wasn't there to share their side of the story is met with personal and strong retribution. Mine and my friend's sweet conversation about consciousness had swiftly been hijacked by a testosterone-driven-conversation-dominating male into a hostile and unwelcome lesson on life.
I read an article today about how cis men act aggressive in conversations because that is how we are taught men are supposed to be. The article is titled 5 Common Behaviors Cis Men May Not Realize Are Abusive (And How to Stop Them) and it's a good read. It was written by a man who recognized how he unconsciously found himself using the aggressive male role in an argument with his girlfriend. This kind of attitude is something women experience from men on a regular basis. It’s good challenge for me to know how to verbally respond and disarm this aggression, although I really don’t want to engage in battles I don't care about. When people who I haven't chosen to admire insist on bestowing their all knowing wisdom upon me, it is humorous more than irritating. Usually these kinds of people are macho men who see me as a young-and-far-from-equal girl who ought to listen to them. But they never ask for my time or interest. The truth is that I don't feel like it's my responsibility to correct them because who am I to know what lessons they need to learn? (A perspective I wish he had taken in the first place) I'd much rather let them learn their own lesson at their own pace. But I can choose not to listen. I do not want to give you my attention despite being culturally taught that I should always offer it when spoken to. Both males and females are inadvertently molded into the norms that teach us that it’s proper for a girl to be nurturing, always offering consolidation and comfort, and carrying others (especially men's) burdens. But that’s not right and that's not why I’m here. You are intruding on my conversation. I'm not an emotional dumping grounds for you. I actually am going to pick and poke at your egotistical tribulations to remind us both that you are not in a position of authority between us.
Knowing how to call him out on his aggression is good practice for me because despite this negative encounter, he is my friend. But the people who I’ll see do this in my life wont always be. I need to know how to logically shut down these behaviors without personally getting hurt by the aggression. I need to be able to carry on being who I am despite someone else being who they are. That entails emotional stability and verbal clarity. This is easy now because I know him and love him even with his macho-ness. I can look him in the eye and tell him why he's being so ridiculous. I can separate the patronizing tone from the person that he is. But the battle to fight is much bigger than just him and I. This kind of attitude seeps into all sorts of microaggressions that are not just ridiculous, but dangerous.
So what do we do? Sit calmly, and use our wit. Fight the battle with as little words and energy as you need. Too often I see women losing their voice because they are taught that it's more feminine to not fight back or vocalize what they are thinking. But one of the greatest human powers is our voice, and there's no chance that I'm not using it.