Yesterday, my best friend showed me a vlog of someone reviewing Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I replied to him that I really liked the vlog, for a very specific reason: the vlogger was very honest about having trouble with reading Woolf. He struggled getting into the story and throughout the book he kept getting distracted, suddenly realizing that he hadn’t been reading for a few minutes.
What I liked so much, is that he didn’t present this as being a bad thing. It became part of the reading experience, something that the book called for itself. This was new to me. I can have trouble focussing on a book as well, and I completely understand his experience with Virginia Woolf (I struggle with her so much). But I always blamed myself for my reading experience: it wasn’t right to get distracted, I should focus more, I am a bad reader for not being able to appreciate Woolf enough by paying enough attention to her stories. I told my friend about this to which he reacted: “Again, you’re being insecure about something very human.” Apparently, this is a very normal reaction, even amongst experienced readers and it does not say anything about me not being good enough because it’s something everyone experiences now and then.
I do this which many intellectual things. I often assume people are able to function on a higher level than I can and I blame myself for not being able to compete. In my experience, this is also gendered: I trust my male friends’ intellect a lot more than that of my female friends (sorry gals). Men tend to make claims with so much more confidence that I am prone to believe them, where women are conditioned to formulate their ideas more insecure: “I think this and this might be the case possibly” instead of “It is”. A very good friend of mine, which whom I have discussed this subject several times, keeps reminding me that most of the time he is just bluffing when he says things. He also says he likes to think out loud, or to explore his own ideas through dialogue and then he will adapt them afterwards. I would love to work that way as well, but I feel that where for him it is accepted to do it, when I am caught doing that I get put away for not knowing what I’m talking about. And so it becomes hard to break the chains of comparing myself to people who bluff their way through life while feeling incompetent whenever it seems I’m not able to keep up with the highest standards.
Well, that’s all nice and well to notice, but I also like to think in solutions:
- I need to call men out for their bullshit: “Why do you think that? Could it be different? Are you sure or are you just thinking out loud?”
- I need to start putting more trust in women’s knowledge. I need to encourage my female friends to formulate their own ideas and take a stance on subjects.
- I will stay an advocate against bluffing culture, as I think it is harmful to more aspects of our society than we think: it harm our emotional, social and intellectual lives.
And all of this because a male vlogger admitted he had a hard time reading To the Lighthouse and still enjoyed it.