on being mean
I rarely see my (much older) older sister. it’s kind of a weird experience when I do because she is unquestionably taller, broader, brasher, more aggressive, bossier, wittier, snappier, more given to inflammatory unqualified hyperbole, and more easily and vocally irritated than me — but I am all these things as well, assuming adequate sleep and food, and in fact these are the first terms people who know me well tend to reach for to describe me. basically, she’s more like me than me, minus “fringe leftist” and “bookish”. but I usually also describe her as “kind of mean and petty”. (I am also sometimes mean and petty.)
it’s unsettling when I clash with other women because I think they’re kind of mean and then see aspects of myself in them. it happens a lot. sometimes I think it’s internalised misogyny and I’m exaggerating their flaws or their flaws are not flaws, sometimes I’m thankful for the insight and the consequent opportunity to correct my own behaviour. it’s probably often both: you’re harsher on the flaws you see in others that you perceive yourself as successfully fighting, you forgive less. regardless. I’m grateful, at least, that I never believed my mean streak to be a victory for feminism. I think it’s more of a spitting cat, a teacher howling at an out-of-control class, coming from real frustration but the opposite of real power, the kind that builds.