The Politics of Being an Asshole

In all sincerity, I want this blog, in addition to being a snarky indictment of far-right extremism, to be a place where womyn can find some validation, healing, and support, particularly womyn who, like me, are opinionated, decidedly leftist, and have been through some shit in their lives. I want it to be a place at the intersection of the personal and the political, where we can see how the personal and the political connect, and where we can figure out what the fuck to do about all of this. That’s why, today, I am taking up the admittedly distasteful topic of assholes. In the figurative sense, of course.

Because seriously though, this needs to be addressed. We’ve all known more than our fair share of assholes. Some of those assholes are our relatives, co-workers, and bosses. Some may even be our friends, or partners.

Connotation is way more than half of meaning, so let’s start with one of the major connotations of the word “asshole.” It’s used to refer to men, right? I’m not sure that I have ever heard a womyn called an “asshole.” Although, calling a man a “bitch” is common place now. And of course, using a term that specifies females for the purpose of disparaging a man automatically impugns that man’s masculinity, which is fucked-up and sexist to begin with. As if being a womyn is a bad thing.

The politics of the word “bitch” are something I think we are probably all well aware of.

But, the dictionary definition of “asshole” doesn’t specify gender at all. Yet, I only ever hear it being used to refer to men. Why?

Not that I want the word to be equally applied to womyn. I certainly don’t. I mean, who wants to be an asshole?

But like “art” and “pornography,” the word “asshole” can be difficult to define. We may not be able to tell you exactly what makes someone an asshole, but we know one when we see one.

And sure, everyone has their assholish moments. If you snap at someone in a moment of high stress, if you get pissed and yell at someone for something that was legitimately rude or hurtful or fucked-up, if you are rude in the course of standing up for yourself against an honest-to-goodness bully, then you are not, categorically, an asshole. However, if your default setting, your go-to behavior, is to be rude, pushy, loud, domineering, selfish, intolerant, and cruel, then yeah, you qualify.

I’m not trying to be gross here, but if we push the analogy to its logical end, an “asshole” is someone who shits all over everything.

And the power to shit all over something is a considerable power to hold over that other entity, is it not?

Remind me again of what kind of cultural power structure wields its power so abusively over others? What is that called again? Oh yeah! Patriarchy. It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

I’m not going to dig into the many other connotations of “asshole” right now. I have a more important question. We’ve established, more or less, that “asshole” is a connotatively gendered term used to refer to men, right? So then, does the concentration of men who are assholes increase, decrease, or change at all as we move along the ideological continuum? Are there more right-wing assholes than left-wing assholes? More left-wing assholes than right-wing assholes? I’d like to think that there are fewer men on the left who are assholes, but my own personal experience kind of contradicts that. Or maybe there are fewer, but “fewer” than what? Like 99.9%? That ain’t saying much.

But, here’s the thing that I think is at the root of a lot of our problems right now. I’m sure you’ve had the experience where you’re with a bunch of friends, and maybe they’re a group that you are kind of on the periphery of, but there is always one dude in the group who is just a complete asshole. So, you mention this when you’re with another member of that group, alone, away from everyone else. You say something to the effect that this dude who always hangs out is a real asshole and you don’t like him much and he’s been kind of a dick to you. And this other not-so-peripheral friend says, “Oh, yeah, that’s just the way he is.”

“That’s just the way he is.” As if this is an acceptable thing. As if it’s cool that this dude is an asshole, and we’re not going to stop hanging out with him just because he’s an asshole, ya know?

I’m all about accepting people for who they are, but there’s gotta be a limit.

If there isn’t a limit, I would argue, that’s how you get Donald Trump as the president. It has taken millions of people over the course of years and years being like, “Oh, well, ya know, that’s just Donald being Donald. We don’t like it, but that’s just the way he is. What are ya gonna do?”

No! Fuck that shit! It’s bull shit! He’s an asshole! And that is not okay! It’s not! It means there is something wrong with him, be it mental illness or just a fucked-up, abusive attitude, but something is seriously wrong!

It is not okay to be disrespectful, to disregard the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of others. It is not okay to be rude. It is not okay to put your selfish needs and desires over and above everyone else’s. It is not okay to intentionally inflict pain and suffering on someone else, to torment them, to bully them, to harass them, to wield your fucked-up power over them. It’s not okay and we need to stop accepting it as “just the way he is.” No matter who “he” may be.

It’s up to us, sisters! Do not suffer an asshole. Do not. Do not allow an asshole to get away with being an asshole. Call him what he is.

Stay safe. If you can’t safely call out the asshole, then don’t call him out. But, if you can do so safely, do it.

But, the next time you’re with friends or family and someone excuses another’s assholishness by saying “that’s just the way he is,” I want you to say loudly and emphatically, “Fuck that! Fuck that! Fuck that!” Because it’s bull shit.

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