Thursday, August 30, 2012

disconnect

I recently had a disappointing discussion with a young biochemistry student from UW. At first glance, she seemed to be a person with whom I could have a very interesting discussion about the current state of science for profit, chemical companies owning the dominant agriculture businesses and patents, and the need for humans to consider themselves above the future of all other species.

I find sciences to be utterly breathtaking.  The things we have learned- the metropolises we have created- technology, satellites sending a photo from my phone in the kitchen to my laptop in the living room-  we are amazing.  Humanity has created awe inspiring feats through science and architecture- and despite the myopic quarterly profit motivated lack of ecological sustainability I am still proud to be of the species that figured out how to discern the elements, mass and state of matter on the moons orbiting a planet a billion miles away from us.  Brilliant!!  I look upon the city of Seattle from the ferry and am always impressed with her skyline- despite the "Qwest" tattooed on her ass.

So, as a proponent of the field, I felt that I was coming from a place of love of science when the topic turned to GMO's.

At first glance, she seemed to be a little rebellious, a free thinker with her piercings and funky hairdo.  I had heard her talk about gaming on a previous occasion, and assumed some level of geek ( I adore nerds, geeks- recently rediscovering my demographic was wonderful- I had forgotten for so many years how open minded and warm the envelope of the science fiction crowd - how could I have forgotten?)  She reminded me of myself in the 80's rockin' the Robert Smith hairdo and trying to tattoo a boy's name in my knee with a safety pin.

I was shocked when instead of having a thoughtful discussion about Monsanto and canola farmers, that instead, she repeated no less than seven times how GMO's area miracle and for the betterment of humanity.  She told me that creating cats in a petri dish which would not trigger a histamine reaction is a worth while task and that scientists are human and didn't mean to make the mistakes that have caused negative results in the field. She had never heard the name "Monsanto" and instead of listening to me, told me she could find that information on the internet and completely dismissed the part of the conversation where I could speak and be heard.  Every time I opened my mouth to explain my perspective or to support it with evidence, I was met with her louder voice, repeating the above statements, exactly in the same regurgitated manner as the first time.

I actually had to say to her that if I was interrupted another time with the same argument that I would discontinue the discussion, that it was in fact NOT a discussion at all, but rather a one sided argument in defense of something that did not exist because I had yet to open my mouth on the subject.

How could this be?

It started me thinking about myself at that age.  Long before I had a chance to go to college, I was pushed out of my family, so I had to go back a little farther to when I wasn't forced into survival mode. I was fighting for my right to have an opinion so much that the opinion I had was mostly a regurgitation of partisan politics.  By the time I was 16 though, I had shed the idea that political parties could define me, although I spent some time considering libertarian perspectives.

One of the things I have been curious about over the past year as I participated in social media for a "social movement" is- why the hell can't we pull support from young women?  Highschool and college aged women are over-represented in social media, as well as in the population, outnumbering men in a 54% to 46% ratio.  I have spent many hours pouring over statistics from many sources and was still completely perplexed.

Until I had this conversation.

It reminded me of a quote from an article I recently read- I referred to it in my previous post.

"Most women fight wars on two fronts;
one for whatever the putative topic is,
and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged,
to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, 
to be a human being"

So I have come to the conclusion that most women at this age (and indeed at any age) are struggling with a handicap- fighting to have an opinion as well as forming an educated opinion at the same time is difficult to say the least. I think it takes two or three times as long for women to be heard than for men.  

This theory was proven in a social laboratory at Westlake Park last night, when a man asked me what I thought about "the republican war on women". I began to tell him about how I believed it was subterfuge, it is the "hot topic" the politicians are using during this election in order to shock the mainstream into becoming distracted from the larger issues of the time- such as the complete unsustainability of our current global business practices and socioeconomic policies. I began to describe the current media has created an expectation of which the bar has been set by Jerry Springer and Reality TV.  

Another brilliant woman joined in the conversation and began to describe the current state of the democratic stance on women's issues and gave examples about how both parties support a culture which subjugates women and measures their contributions with dollars instead of by quality of productivity.

At this point, I began to notice that the man who had asked the opinion was now speaking with two other men and had completely stopped listening to us. I quietly pointed to the three men who initially had seemed sincerely interested about the topic. The other woman nodded her head knowingly as I shook mine in disbelief.

I raised my voice a bit and began talking about the general problem women have with being heard, and how even men who consider themselves to be feminists, or feminist allies have to do a lot of work studying and acknowledging their privilege, teaching themselves to come to the table without any firm opinions and spend a great deal of time listening.



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