Mean Girls
What I Can Do

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It's so hard to call someone on rudeness or meanness. It's so open to interpretation. And often our mouths don't wait for our brains to catch up. It's almost as bad as telling a guy that he just made a pass at you, only to have him deny it, to your absolute mortification. Maybe Other didn't really mean to be mean or rude, or even clueless. Maybe I did misinterpret.

SO, what do we do? Ignore what we feel, and then be accused of complicity? Gee, humans are supposed to be smart. Kind of clueless in interpersonal relations though, aren't we.

How about a real CREATIVE suggestion. How about we let Other say, "Oh, that's mean," which Other has every normative right to do, given answerability and feminist theory of social organization. And what about if we answer: "Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to hurt you. What did I say? I'll try to remember to not do it again." And what about if Other 2 were to say, "I'm sorry, too. I didn't hear it. What was it that hurt you?" And what about if Other 3 said, "Oh, I heard that. I kinda worried about it, but I thought no one else noticed. I'll try not to say that either."

What's this CREATIVE suggestion I'm offering? Nobody took what Other said as "bad." Everyone listened, and made a note of it, and some noticed and some didn't. Nobody asked whether Other had a right to feel that what was said was mean, or whether it really was mean. Everyone acknowledged and respected Other's answer. That's answerability. And that helps avoid complicity. If we try to settle issues like whether Person or Other is right or wrong or good or bad, we'll never get anything done. But if Other says she hurts, Person could take her at her word. That's what Catharine MacKinnon called feminist methodology way back when she wrote a Feminist Theory of the State. Just take the other at her word. Where did we get the silly idea that we had to prove everything we say or feel or do or think . . . and where did we ever get the idea that we could live with Others without occasionally stepping on each others' toes?

Women are used to brawling children. Womanists know that we all accept each other and go on to new activities. Womanists know that saying "I'm sorry" is a kind of caring, and that it makes the Other feel better when it's sincere. Womanists know that being in love doesn't mean never having to say you're sorry, but always wanting to say it, and quickly, and easily. And Womanists know that when Others hear our caring often enough, they begin to care back. They may not say "I'm sorry," but they may find it less rewarding to mean to others.

A young woman I knew hated the words "I'm sorry," because whatever she did, she insisted, her mother MADE her say she was sorry. Now maybe that's kind of "I'm sorry" they were talking about with falling in love. And I could deal with that. Falling in love means that being sorry if you hurt the Other comes naturally, and no one has to force you to say it. Of course, in my world, no one ever should. Love comes faster when you let it decide on its own. Remember the Little Prince and the Fox, and the little Prince telling the fox to just sit over there, sit quietly, and each day, come just a little closer. Pretty good idea. Hard to hurt me, if you approach me that gently and caringly.

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