May 29, 2008

Feminism and housing

In the apartment hunt, I've been encountering the issue of Gender in Roommates.

Currently, due to Leverett individual rooms having locks, towers can have mixed gender suites. I love both my male and female roommates and don't consider anything weird at all.

However, I am finding myself more anxious about living with guys than with girls, particularly about making sure to meet them before deciding.

I found a place that is *delightful* today and I practically would have taken on the spot. Then, I find out that the roommate who is not there is a middle-aged man. I immediately balked. He was subletting to someone else for the summer, so I had two days to meet him before he left. I got nervous, upset, and decided that it would likely be totally fine if I got to meet him, but if I couldn't I wouldn't take the chance and just wouldn't take the place.

It's not that I would necessarily be less comfortable with an older guy than a girl my age, for instance. The idea of it is more uncomfortable, and it's quite possible that person to person it would be fine, as all prejudices and stereotypes are wont to dissipate in the individual.

However, with only the demographics to go on, I am not keen on this one. I tried to explain it to my boyfriend: As a girl, while a guy isn't more likely to be bad to live with than good, I feel like there is more statistical chance of awkwardness/powerplay of emotional or physical sorts to happen. At an extreme level, while most guys aren't sexual predators, most sexual predators are guys. I feel like this goes up with age too, although that might be wrong.

So I'm trying to explain to my boyfriend: obviously I won't draw on these biases if the guy is fine, but I'm going to use them to propel me to make sure to meet him before I decide. In my opinion, the mistake would be to have these statistics and biases override his characteristics as an individual, and that it is ok to play it safe and still make decisions based on them when they are all I have and am not able to meet him.

I told my boyfriend this, that I of course wanted to meet him and I'm sure everything would be ok, but I throw out those fears and statistics, the experience of a male temporary roommate last year possibly having had sex on my bed while drunk, etc. And I get completely pinned for being a bad feminist, judgmental, and prejudiced.

As a friend said, this boils down to: If feminists don't want women to be judged as a group, are we allowed to judge men as a group? But seriously: how do we deal with gender politics feministically (?) in terms of safety? The same friend pointed out that even while he may seem harmless in the rote extreme fears, that he is both male and older gives two positions of "power" over me, which could be used even in things like who gets to use the kitchen or whose fault it was that the living room is so dirty. Can I call myself a feminist and still try to avoid living with men because of feared potential situations like this? I think deluding myself that we are in a totally feminist world and that none of this stuff will happen just because he is a guy is the wrong course of action. What do you think?

1 comment:

emily0 said...

Enh, I've been hesitating responding because I know what you mean... and I don't know what to say. I pretty much don't want to live with men, but I have made quite a few exceptions. I worry it is sexist... but I still don't trust men without serious vetting (like, uh, I know them already).