What is it about beekeeping that encourages so many dudes to mansplain and publicly shame other beekeepers? Particularly natural beekeepers. Particularly female natural beekeepers? In my Facebook group a female treatment free beekeeper selling honey at a local market was recently approached by a very aggressive and strongly opinionated male pro-treatment beekeeper who talked AT her while she just sat there. What the hell dude? If this was an isolated incident, I’d say it was a guy having a bad day, but do you know how often women write me asking how to respond to the [insert shitty behavior descriptor] men at bee meetings/classes/online forums etc? I know mansplaining and aggression is everywhere, but non-beeks, let me tell you, it’s seriously bad in the beekeeping world. I’m also super passionate about music, food, hiking, travel, and wellness and in none of those areas have I experienced or witnessed the level of shaming from men.
Pause to acknowledge: yes, men and non-gender binary beekeepers also experience shaming from men, women and non-gender binary folk.
Double pause to acknowledge: all the amazing men who are not like this at all and possibly suffer from same types of experiences.
Resume: I’m not here to bad mouth all men, but the question stands, what do we do as women when we are being aggressively shamed by men in our field? I wish I had it in me to tell someone to just eff the fuck off, but that’s *generally* not my nature. So what else? Is the person lecturing me on how I’m the reason bees are dying really going to pause and thoughtfully listen to my counter argument? What if I do say something? Will the situation escalate? Because underneath the lack of response from women like me who have learned to be nice, and patient and not too “emotional” there is fear of violence.
Fear of violence pervades even if we know it’s highly unlikely that Angry Bee Man would be violent if we politely asked him to leave us alone. It’s the fact that the fear it there, under the surface (or on the surface). It’s not logical. It’s not based on reason, but it’s there because well…look at history. You could come from a community of the kindest, bravest, most nurturing men and history still has: the Burning Times, genital mutilation, child brides, sterilization of Native American women, women as property of men, honor killings, and of course domestic abuse and rape.
Hey, kind, loving men, are your hackles up because none of this describes you? Anybody wanna tell me I’m over-generalizing? Choose love over anger? Love over fear? Anyone wondering how on earth do I get from Angry Bee Man to rape and murder? Am I being too emotional? We live in a time when the transgressions against women, the earth, people of color, and gender non-binary folx are being dragged into the light by everyone in those groups. We’re living in a time where women are exercising their voice, which was silenced for centuries. Is STILL being silenced. But there’s more room. There are walls that are crumbling to the many tiny hammers eroding the walls of Patriarchy.
Is there a connection between Angry Bee Man and inherent violence? There is. Will he be violent? No. Not likely. He’s just abusing his power. Turns our he’s the product of a system. He’s probably really passionate about saving bees. You’re treatment-free way threatens him. It’s not an excuse to warrant bad behavior, but he’s just doing what the men before him did. The problem is, typically when a woman raises her voice and yells at a man, it doesn’t come with the potential threat of life threatening violence. But regardless of how unlikely it is, when a man is aggressive with a woman, that fear can and often does lurk beneath the surfae. Why? Because of frightening statistics like in the U.S. “The rate of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents rose by 11 percent between 2014 and 2016.” (UNICEF)
I’m getting off topic. Well no, it’s not. Not really. Violence against women. Violence against bees. Violence against the Earth. It all comes from the same place of gross imbalance perpetuated by over 2000 years of a world view that sees women as inferior and/or property of men. The same view sees the Earth as inferior and in need of dominance by man.
I’m not pointing a finger at all men or saying you don’t have a right to your opinions and your anger. I’m saying women are learning not to tolerate bad behavior. Women also have a right to their anger, especially when centuries of violence and oppression sit behind it. The ways to stop women-shaming behavior are manifold, but they include women’s anger. There is a kind of anger that arises out of fear of something you have (power) being taken away from you. This can be especially frightening if you are a man (especially a white man) who has experienced your privilege as the norm. There is another kind of anger that arises out of refusal to continually be abused by a social system that suppresses your voice, especially if you are a woman (or anything else that’s not cis gendered white male). Obviously there are degrees of extreme to what people endure at the hands of others. That being said, until women have an equal voice, equal right and are equally safe in their own bodies, men are going to have to get used to new rules.
Women are learning to use our voices to say no to dominance over us. There’s a difference between explaining something in a conversation and patronizing a woman, talking over her, and telling her how it is without asking (and listening) to her opinion. Until women’s voices are regarded as equal to men’s voices, men are going to have to deal with the sting of our words.
So what do you say to the Angry Bee Man who wants to know why you don’t treat your bees you naive-irresponsible-hippie-witch? Here are a few thoughts:
“I’d love to have an adult conversation, but since that isn’t an available option at this time, I decline further contact.”
“Did you know Saint Brigit sent a host of bees to defend against men trespassing on her land?”
“This is a great topic to bring up with someone else.”
And my personal favorite:
“Have you heard of the goddess Lilith? Persephone, per chance? They made me do it.”