Saturday, 16 June 2012

NNAF Conference 1: In which I do not chew my own tits off

I arrived home from an eight hour flight, having started my journey thirteen hours and several time zones ago, jet-lagged, confused, and utterly exhausted, to my housemates:
Dave: "Hello fuckface."
Debbie: "I've fixed the shower, and painted the bathroom."
and Kate: "I'm training to be a GLBT helpline volunteer and they've given me loads of paperwork about rimming!"

I have the best housemates ever. How can I leave them? My gentleman friend is very nice, but will he be able to meet their high standards of affectionate swearing, DIY expertise, and long chats about BDSM and buttfuckery?

The big red one says "mind your own uterus"
So where have I been? Chicago is where I have been! Because I chose to spend my holiday time at the National Network of Abortion Funds conference, learning about fundraising, self-care, abortion stigma, volunteer recruitment and retention, and Appalachian clog dancing. (This last was during the talent show, which also featured such songs as "Don't Stop Funding", to the tune of the Journey classic, and a reworking of Miley Cyrus entitled "Abortion Funding In Eastern MA".)

Also: there was a Catholic priest conference taking place in the same hotel. For real.


Sometimes I am so socially awkward I want to chew my own tits off. Then I think that maybe social situations are awkward because I use phrases like "chew my own tits off".

So I was thinking about male privilege. (All my best stories start this way.) Specifically, the 'dominating conversation' aspect of it: the innate confidence that what you have to say is important, accurate, and worth listening to, and that everyone else will agree on this.* And after four days being the only English person around - and a reserved and shy English person, at that, albeit one who favours phrases like 'buttfuckery' and 'chew my own tits off' - I realised that the above description could pretty much apply to most Americans.

Which is not going to descend into some kind of xenophobic snobfest about how terribly uncouth those bloody colonials are, what ho chaps anyone for tea - I envy that confidence enormously. If I could get out a sentence without prefacing it with a self-defeating apology, "this is probably completely wrong, but..." or "I'm so sorry to presume to interrupt your very important life with my inane and frivolous pointlessness, but...", I would give myself a medal.

And clearly not all Americans enjoy such a happily high estimation of their own self-worth. And this particular expression of male privilege affects American women as much as it does their English Rose counterparts, if the dozens of blog posts I've read on the topic are anything to go by. But the scales are calibrated differently: a confident English woman would be shy by US standards. Even when we're using the same language to describe the same dynamic, it's easy to forget how different the US is. It's familiar to us from a hundred TV shows and a thousand movies and a million songs, but in deeper and important ways, it is utterly foreign to the UK.

* Yes, this is a generalisation; no, not all men have this; no, I don't think it's a genetic thing but rather the result of people generally paying more attention to men and encouraging them to talk more and have confidence in their own opinions.


  1. Did Kate really say GLBT or have you become Americanised? Lesbians come first HT! xx

  2. I was paraphrasing, I already knew what she was volunteering for as we have had many entertaining evenings reading her guidebook aloud. But henceforth the ladygays will ALWAYS be first on my list. x

  3. Cause Americans use GLBT and UKians use LGBT isn't it. Which helpline is it she's gonna volunteer for, the Lesbian & Gay Switchboard?

  4. I did not know that, thank you for the edumacation. Aye LLGS - the training docs are seriously ace, it's all "Section 1: FUCKING!". Fun times.