Tag Archives: equality

Women Are Human Beings, A Brief Investigation

23 Feb

Men, am I right?

The thing about men, as an overarching group, is that they basically suck. Especially white men. Because white people as a group also basically suck. My math is as follows, feel free to follow along and check. Keep in mind, however, that math was never exactly my forte. Honestly I am not entirely sure that what follows even qualifies as math but I’m going with it.

 

       If Men = Bad
       And White People = Bad
       Then Men + White People = Bad x 2

And then actually I can continue on this path of logic a little bit further and say that people on The Internet are pretty awful. But especially men. And most especially the white ones. And so it follows:

       If Men = Bad
       And White People = Bad
       And Also Internet = Bad
       Then Men + White People + Internet = Bad x 3

QED, right? I think so, too.

***

Yesterday I made the mistake of interacting with a man who I don’t know on The Internet. This always ends in tears. Or, in this particular case, me shaking with anger and having to pour myself a wee nip of wine to calm myself before heading off to work. (I work in a bar so this is entirely acceptable.) The gist of what happened is as follows:

  1. Dude comments on a link posted by a friend concerning the controversial Oklahoma Bill that would require women to receive permission from the man responsible for the sperm that helped create a fetus before being allowed to obtain an abortion. Dude claimed although the language was “objectionable” that what the legislator, Justin Humphrey, said is not entirely absurd. (Dude was nice enough to state that there should obviously be certain times when this rule doesn’t apply such as rape and domestic abuse.)
  2. I responded that the statement is in fact entirely absurd and then explained why, starting with assumptions I believe are made on behalf of the anti-choice camp and continuing on to highlight, quite rationally I might add, all of the financial and lifestyle changes that women alone have to endure in order to grow and then deliver a child oh and also our seriously fucked up national, and international, history when it comes to dealing with rape and domestic abuse.
  3. Dude said I needed to make a rational argument.
  4. My friend chimed in to tell Dude he ought to read Casey vs Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court decision that actually deemed laws such as these unconstitutional.
  5. I said that I had, in fact, made a rational argument.
  6. Dude responded that I had “ranted incoherently” and then decided to give me “pro tips” on how to behave in the future.

I bowed out at this time but not before a bunch of other people weighed in. The interaction went on and on and on. And on. At some point my friend Nick said the following:

No, you received a comprehensive breakdown of reasons why “because it’s my body” is a perfectly legitimate position. You didn’t want to confront it, called the woman voicing them incoherent and then tried to shift into a pointless rhetorical argument that you’ll just pursue until people get tired of it and move on with their lives.

Then you’ll feel comfortably superior… for some reason that only you yourself will ever truly understand.

As correct as that statement in fact was, it is really only the tip of the iceberg. So before I really get into it, let me just address a few things so that we can set them aside and move on. Myself and many other women, and certainly all the women I know, are incredibly sick of seeing old white men, and young white men for that matter, attempt to regulate our bodies through archaic, paternalistic legislation. We are also tired of having men tell us this legislation is actually not that bad and then, in an archaic and paternalistic manner, tell us exactly why. So let me say this here and now:

Abortion is necessary. Equal access to safe abortion services is needed. It is a right that all women should have, regardless of race, religion, income level, geographic location or circumstance surrounding the pregnancy. Women are not hosts, women are human beings. The argument that pregnancy means that we should somehow lose autonomy over our own bodies, our own lives, is not only absurd it is dehumanizing, disempowering and dangerous. And it is especially dangerous for low income women of color because wealthy, white women will always, I repeat always, be able to gain access to a safe, private abortion regardless of what the law says.

Women are tired of having to explain to men, over and over and over again, why exactly it is that we should have autonomy over our own bodies and why our feelings about a pregnancy necessarily matter more than theirs. The fact that this conversation continues tells me that the overarching norm concerning this issue is that women’s bodies should not be self-governed but that instead our bodies exist in the public sphere. This is simply not so. The fact that this conversation continues also tells me that women are not heard. Full stop. And that, friends, is the point of this post.

 ***

I am here to tell you right now that what exists inside of my skull is not a lady brain. It is a brain. A fully formed, fully functioning human brain capable of reasoning, of critical thinking, of debating, of retaining, analyzing and dispensing of all manner of complicated information. But what I hear, and what other women hear, is that what we have to say is simply not as valid as what men have to say. And that our space to say those things does not belong to us. We have to fight for that space every single time. And when we  occupy that space, we have to be as direct, as accurate, and as quick as possible in using it because any misstep becomes the meat of what we said. And even if there is no misstep, if we simply state a dissenting opinion, we are dismissed as ranting, as incoherent, as harpies, as cunts.

This has been happening to every single one of us since the day we were born, whether we realize it or not. And it happens much more to women of color than to white women because white women do it to women of color. The thing, though, is that it does not only happen at the hands of legislators in Oklahoma or anywhere else, or at the hands of random men on The Internet, but also at the hands of our friends and family. I have said this before and I will say it again: misogyny is insidious. And because it is insidious, it is internalized not only by men but by women as well. I left that interaction yesterday feeling as though my sanity had been taken from me. Feeling as though, for lack of a less “in” term, I had been gaslit. I made the argument to this person that just because he refused to engage with my analysis does not mean that my analysis ceased to exist. But the fact of the matter is that again and again men define the terms. This person was only willing to have an argument on the terms that he delineated, that fit snuggly within a set of rules that he had written and that could potentially change at any time. Any deviation from the desired debate or conversation was deemed irrational, incoherent and rambling. That is the reality in which myself and all women live.

Plain and simple: we do not control the conversation even when we’re the subject of it.

This ill-advised interaction I had with this Internet presence is actually symptomatic of a much larger issue, larger even than women’s right to control their own bodies. It is symptomatic of a world in which a woman’s voice matter significantly less than a man’s. It is symptomatic of a world in which men have the power, through sheer force of will and institutional misogyny, to dictate the terms of conversation and to require women to either fit within those confines or feel like a hormonal, crazy, rambling bitch. It is a world in which we second guess our own thoughts, interpretations and experiences. It is a world in which I say about men on the regular:

He doesn’t like women. Yeah, he likes to fuck women. But he doesn’t like women.

That is where I live. That is where we all live. So seriously Internet Guy, I am going to do to you what you did to me. I am going to silence you. You ready?

Here’s the deal. You are, quite simply, wrong. Making an argument other than that women should 100% be in control of their own biological processes is illogical. Whatever way that you choose to defend your ill-conceived position, is incoherent, irrelevant and a waste of your time and mine. You do not know how to argue. And you do not get to determine the terms of this discussion. In conclusion, the reason that you, and men like you, work so hard to keep women down is that when it comes down to it we are, in fact, superior specimens. We can make life. And we also have the right to choose not to make life. Get with it. Your opinion on this issue does not matter.

***

Post Note: If any of you are doubting this analysis, if any of you think that the way our world works is not in large part dictated through a lens of misogyny, then explain to me how Donald J. Trump is our President. And if you tell me that it’s because the DNC screwed Bernie Sanders over, think a little more.

 

 

 

Dear Francis

5 Dec

The other day I made the grave error of engaging with a troll on The Internet. I know, I know, rookie mistake. But in my defense the only reason I got involved in the second place was because this guy (who we will call Francis) posted something I didn’t like in response to a (rather funny, if you ask me) joke that my uncle posted in the first place. I get irritated when people say things I don’t like to my family and close friends. And so, after some thought about the nature of my response I held my nose between my fingers and dove into the depths, responding to Francis with a clearly thought out and argued historical analysis about the Electoral College’s roots in the era of slavery and how, even today, it gives largely white states undue power in terms of the election of our President and that (among other reasons) is how we ended up with a racist, misogynist, ableist, white nationalist sympathizer in the White House. Well, wouldn’t you know it, my response was met with all kinds of assumptions about who I am and what I believe. And then he said that the election of Trump had nothing to do with racism and that Hillary lost because she was a smug, elitist bitch, but misogyny didn’t play a role, and that I “don’t understand (my) condition as a woman.”

My condition as a woman.

I pretty much tapped out of the conversation at that point but I would just like to say, right here right now, that I am perfectly aware of my “condition” as a woman. It is impossible for me not to be. Here, Francis, let me tell you a little something about it.

Every single month I bleed like crazy. It is like a goddamn flood. I bleed so much that the first two nights I have to sleep with an ultra tampon AND a pad and I have to get up at least once, but usually twice, to change my tampon because I will have bled through it. And, while we’re talking about that, a few years ago they stopped making the tampon that I needed because the OB company decided that, rather than throwing ladies with a heavier-than-average flow some sort of a bone, they would instead discontinue the tampon we relied on and tell us we should go to the doctor because our flow was unhealthy. We were unhealthy. Yeah okay great. Funny enough they only stopped offering the ones I needed in the United States so I had to have someone in Europe buy them and ship them to me so that I wouldn’t have to get up 4 times during the night the first two days of my period. So, Francis, you try forgetting about your “condition” when you’re dealing with that nonsense every 27 days.

And then there is just the day to day business of going out in the world. A few months ago I was heading home from my friend’s place after having dinner. It was warm out and I was wearing a floor length dress that I felt really pretty in. The guy I was walking with was on my left side. Two men approached us. As they passed on the other side of me one of them leaned in and, loudly enough for me to hear but in a low enough volume that my companion wouldn’t, he said “you look good without a bra.” In about a fraction of a second I went from feeling human to feeling like an object. Just like that. Just because some dude felt like pointing out the fact that he was staring at my tits and he liked what he saw. Stuff like that happens to us on the daily. Makes it hard to forget our “condition.”

Oh and then there were the two times that the same dude spit on me while I was running. And that time the delivery guy grabbed my ass as he rode past me on the sidewalk on his way to drop some food at someone’s house. And the time some asshole threw a glass at my face and gave me a black eye all because I dared to tell him I wouldn’t serve him a drink. Oh, man, and that one time I went out to drinks with someone I thought was my friend and he spent the entire time trying to fuck me. And how could I forget that Christmas night that I was reading in a bar and some dude informed me that women only really write about shopping? That was a great night. Oh and the one time I went bra shopping and ended up realizing how ashamed I feel of my own body because I have been disallowed from defining my own sexuality. And, of course, a few weeks ago when we elected a man who, in a recorded conversation, had admitted to repeated sexual assaults. Shall I continue? Because I can. I can go on for days, Francis.

But I won’t.

Honestly, if you don’t get the picture by now you never will. Honestly, Francis, I wish I could be a little bit less aware of my “condition.” Because maybe if I was less aware I could just, you know, live. I could just live like how you just live. Only if I could do that, I wouldn’t spend my spare time telling people about themselves.  I wouldn’t use my energy to talk about things I don’t know and could never hope to understand. I wouldn’t say that misogyny wasn’t a thing all while dismissing someone based on her gender. My stars, if we could be less aware of our “condition,” if we had that luxury, imagine what we could do. Imagine what we could do if we weren’t working as hard or harder for less; imagine what we could say if we weren’t constantly being talked over and talked down to; imagine what fun we could have if we weren’t constantly policing our drinks or concerned about some drunk asshole raping one of our friends; imagine what we could accomplish if people would just see us as equal.

So, you see, I am more aware of my own “condition” than I could possibly put into words. It is made apparent to me day after day after day through my own experiences and through the experiences of my friends. And so Francis when you and people like you dare to tell me what my own experience is, dare to try to explain to me that misogyny isn’t a thing, that this country wasn’t built through an incredibly sexist system, that I have all the opportunities as you, that Clinton wasn’t the victim of the patriarchy, that I should feel lucky for what I have, well you’ll have to excuse me for laughing in your face. Because you are so deeply intrenched in your own damn world view that you have no space for anyone else. And there are a fuck ton of us. So shut up, and get the hell out of our way. We know our lives. Your penis does not make you an expert.

These are scary, scary times

10 Nov

Friends. As many of you already know, today I am embarking on a journey. Today I leave, my trunk full of clothing and books, my heart heavy, and head down to New Orleans for a short but important new chapter. A time when I can reflect on who I am and who I want to be in this world. I time when I can just sit back, far away from family and many of my friends, far away from where I have called home for my entire adult life, and start building. I want to start building a me that makes active choices and decisions for where I want my life to go and becomes a more vocal person within my community, where ever that community may be. This is more important now than ever.

I thought that I, along with one of my closest friends, would be driving South in a different America than the one we find ourselves in today. I thought we would be driving in the spirit of celebration and safety, not feeling as though we are in a high-speed train, breaks failing, hurtling into the darkness. Clearly we, along with millions of others, were out of touch with the degree to which people are hurting all over this country, to the degree that people feel ignored and left behind, to the degree so many disdain the cities and the people that live within them. And I get it. Shit is hard. And I am sure I am going to be seeing a lot of hard shit on this ride – a different kind of poverty and destitution than I see day after day in my beloved New York City. And that is unfair. I truly believe we all deserve opportunity, that we should all feel as though we matter. But more than anything else, I feel as though we should all feel safe and at home here in our America. In our beautiful, diverse, America. And so, in keeping with my post from yesterday, albeit with slightly less swearing, I have just a few things to say.

I am having so many feelings right now. I am angry, I am shocked, I am saddened, but more than anything I am afraid. I spoke on the phone with my father last night and he who lived through America during the Vietnam War, through the assassinations of JFK, RFK, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, through the on-air killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, through the resignation of Richard Nixon, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the horrors of the Cold War and September 11th and everything that has come before, in between and after, he told me that he has never felt so unsure or afraid for and about the future of our country. These are scary, scary times. Scarier than ever before. And I remember speaking to my mother in the days and weeks following the 2001 attack on our country, myself in tears and her with a strength she always manages to find, and having her assure me that there are always these moments, always these times, that give us uncertainty but that we must have resolve and move forward and know there is more good than evil out in the world. That although things will never be the same, we will adjust and we will learn and we will get better. When I spoke with her at 10pm on election night, as we were understanding the reality of where we stood, her voice cracked. These are scary, scary times.

And in the past few days since Donald Trump’s election, things have become clear: we are living in a moment where people are angry and this outcome has, for some though certainly not for all, legitimized their feelings of closed-mindedness and has emboldened them to behave in ways that openly threaten those around them. My friend Ashlie shared this story:

Tonight we were at a bar, celebrating Leon’s fantastic film screening. A man came up to our table behind my seated friend and proceeded to, without greeting or warning or any words at all, put his arms around her, hug her, and kiss her cheek. We all assumed it was an old friend, and she squirmed around to see who it was, and it was a complete stranger! I said, “Do you know him?” and she said “no! Not at all!!!” We all started telling him in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t get to do that, just touch and kiss anyone whenever he feels like it, and he responded, “but Trump just won the Presidential Race.”
I am not kidding, lying, or being even the slightest bit hyperbolic. That is what happened, and that is how he defended his actions. So, know that.

Reading through the comments on her post revealed to me that there were many women who had the same exact experiences. Men walking up to them and touching them, grabbing them, kissing them and saying that because now that we have a President Elect Trump it is within their rights to do so. And then, of course, there was the one man, the one white man, who called all these women liars. These are scary, scary times.

And my younger sister, a graduate of Wellesley University, shared with me a story recounted by Sydney Robertson:

Today, Wellesley women, like a lot of America, were in mourning.

Edward Tomasso and Parker Rander-Riccardi, two students at Babson College, decided to drive around our beautiful campus with a Trump flag in a pick up truck. They laughed, screamed and sped around campus. Then, they parked in front of the house for students of African decent, and jeered at them, screaming Trump and Make America Great Again. When one student asked them to leave, they spit in her direction.

This is not my America, this is Trump’s America filled with hatred and bigotry. This is what he has provoked. Please help us get these faces out there, they cannot get away with this.

And this is just the tip of the ice burg. There are women afraid to leave the house in the hijab; women making appointments at Planned Parenthoods to get IUDs before our access to birth control, and our rights to choose, are further threatened; one member of the North Carolina LGBTQ community woke up to find a note on his car that read “Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. Trump 2016.” And this is just the beginning. This is just 36-hours in. These are scary, scary times.

And so I head south. Away from a New York that no longer feels safe and into the unknown. I’m sure I will be fine but still, the nervous butterflies in my stomach are a little more active than the were just 2 days ago. Things seem less certain, more foreboding, and just, I don’t know, more treacherous. We all need to be more careful because a dragon has been awoken and that dragon has found his and her voice within mainstream media and our government, on the streets of our cities and our towns, and things will be a lot less safe for all of us. Every single one. Because if there is a Trump supporter who is reading this blog, and if that Trump supporter happens to be a white female (as so many maddeningly were) or a person of color, let me just tell you this:

Your vote will not save you. You cannot wear your vote as a badge of honor or protection as you move through your life. You might feel as though you are one of them but you are not. You are not part of their America. You are not equal. You are not free. And you are not safe. And so, though I might be angry and though I might not be ready to try to love you and embrace you in order to move forward, I hope that this horror blows over soon for all of us. Although honestly I doubt it will. We have a long uphill battle. And though on November 8th and the days immediately after you never thought you would be walking alongside us, you will be. Your pussies are just as grabable, your ethnicity and patriotism just as questionable, your skin color just as threatening.

I know that not all Trump supporters are awful or full of hate or voted for anyone else but who they believed would be the best person for the job. But the loudest ones, the ones in the corners of the internet, the ones touching women and threatening people of color, they are full of hate. Those are the bad ones. And so for those who voted not from a place of hate but from a place of fear and hurt, a fear and hurt that so many of us have been experiencing, you know what? We will be here. We will be here waiting for you because no one, no one deserves to be treated as lesser than. And we are, truly, stronger together.

So I’ll be seeing you, New York. Stay safe out there everyone. No matter where, or who, you are.

One Day…

27 May

A few weeks ago, over some post-run sushi in the park, my lunch companion asked me what my dream job was. I thought about it for a moment.

You mean like, for real for real? Like if I could have any job in the world what would it be?

Yeah.

He said it so nonchalant. Should I admit that I had spent the better part of my adult life agonizing over this very question and felt no closer to an answer? Probably not. Lucky for me, and for him I supposed because an angsty Rebekah is not the best Rebekah, I had recently come up with something that seemed like a thing I would like to do. Without going into the long, drawn-out backstory that involves my Master’s thesis I told him about how I had always been interested in post-disaster reconstruction work. I feel somehow drawn to being one of those people who goes to places after horrible things happen and then sticks around long after many of the first responders leave. I want to be there to help communities rebuild, after the international aid ends and our global conscience moves on to the next thing because there is always a next thing. I want to be there to shame the disaster tourists. Of course I have absolutely no medical knowledge and, truth be told, get queasy rather easily. Recently at work I had to take a 5 minute sit-down because a piece of glass protruding from my thumb made me so nauseous I turned green.

Back to the drawing board, perhaps.

But, of course, my thinking about it didn’t end there. It never does. The hamster that occupies the wheel in my brain has a never-ending supply of energy, that little bastard. And in the time I spent thinking I realized that, sure, I have all sorts of lofty goals. I would like to have something I write published somewhere that people have actually heard of and be paid for it; I would like to be on the Ellen Show (don’t ask); I would like to perform at The Moth and maybe one day, one wonderful day, be featured on The Moth Radio Hour on NPR that plays on Saturdays from 7-8pm and hear myself on the radio and just be in the car all alone and be like, wow, there I am and just smile to myself; I would like to travel so much that I need new pages for my passport; I would like to be part of a group of women (and some men) who make feminism an inclusive part of the conversation rather than something talked about as its own issue. It effects us all. All those things, though, sort of exist on this other plane separate from where I am right now and so let’s bring it back down to reality, back to the present. And so now I will ask myself:

Rebekah, what is your dream job?

And here is my answer, in list form.

  • I want a job where I am respected.
  • I want a job where people aren’t constantly telling me what I am doing wrong and how to do it better even though they have never done what I do a day in their lives.
  • I want a job where people don’t throw objects or insults at me on a regular basis.
  • I want a job where people don’t whistle at me, clap at me, hiss at me, snap at me or flash their cellphone flashlights at me to get my attention.
  • I want a job where no one ever calls me “ma” or “beautiful” or “sweetie” or “baby.”
  • I want a job where I can go to the bathroom and there isn’t piss all over the seats that I have to clean up because people are animals.
  • I want a job where people don’t ask me, while I am working at my job, what else I do because I can’t possibly just be a bartender.
  • I want a job where photographs of me taken without my consent do not end up on Yelp. Or better yet…
  • I want a job where people don’t take photographs of me without my consent. At all. Ever. End of story.
  • I want a job where people don’t hit on me or ask me out and then refuse to tip me when I say no.
  • I want a job where my awesome male coworker doesn’t have to step in and deal with people who treat me like garbage because I am a woman.
  • I want a job where I am not treated like garbage.
  • I want a job where I don’t have to keep my relationship status secret, when there is a status to keep secret, because it will likely effect the amount of money I make.
  • I want a job where I am respected. Wait, did I say that already?

Here’s the thing: my job could be all those things if people would just learn how to act because, if you noticed, nothing on that list had anything to do with my job, really. There was nothing about the weird schedule and late nights (though that isn’t my favorite), nothing about being on my feet for hours and eating the majority of meals standing up, nothing about looking up and seeing eyes upon eyes upon eyes on me all needing and wanting something when I only have two hands, nothing about coming home smelling of the liquor that I didn’t drink but has saturated my clothes and my skin over the course of a busy night. Those are all parts of the job and they are okay. They are how it is. And there are a lot of really cool things. I have met some amazing people, both customers and coworkers; I have learned a lot about myself and others; I think I have become a better, more understanding person. I think that my job, although it isn’t responding to a disaster and helping those having the absolute worst days of their lives, has some amount of value and, to be honest, I think I am pretty good at it. I don’t know. It’s all relative I guess. And maybe the job I want, the job described in that list above, doesn’t actually exist. Maybe it isn’t out there. Maybe my realistic dreams are just as lofty as one day being on the Ellen Show or normalizing feminism. Maybe this is another project my hamster needs to spin her wheel about. And so, until then….

Hi, what can I get for you?

Are You Married?

17 May

No.

But sometimes I say yes.

Right now my entire neighborhood is under construction. There are actually two construction projects currently under way on my block. One of them is particularly annoying to me. So much so that I wrote an open letter to the developer of the site and posted it on this blog. I also call 311 on them at least once a week. You know me: always putting too much energy into things that yield absolutely no results. So here is the thing about this construction site. They start work at 7 on the dot every morning except Sunday. It is like clockwork. And I know that city regulation allows them to do that (because I did my research) but it doesn’t mean that I can’t be mad about it. Especially because them starting work actually means that one asshole climbs up onto the second floor of whatever personality-less piece of crap building they are erecting and bangs a mallet against a metal stud for like 1/2 hour. No joke. He gets up there and he bangs metal on metal. And then once I have been awake for long enough that the overall quality of my sleep diminishes ten-fold he says

Yeah, that’s enough mallet banging for today.

And he stops. I hate him. He might be a perfectly nice guy in real life, but by design his job makes him an asshole.

The reason I am going into this is that every time I walk by the construction site – which is like 10 times a day because it is two doors up from my house – I get mad. I glare at the site. I shake my head disapprovingly. I have ill-fantasies about drawing pictures of penises all over the shoddily-built scaffolding. Sometimes I snarl. I try to give nasty looks to the man I know to be the guy in charge of it for single-handedly ruining my quality of life. He knows I’m coming for him. I have even called him on the phone on more than one occasion although I am not sure he has put two-and-two together. I have become that person on the block. (Although to be fair I have spoken with a lot of other people on the block who have also reported the site to 311, snarled and reached out to the developer guy  who by the way calls himself Ryan although I don’t think that is his real name. None of us do.) So just this afternoon I was walking by the construction site, glaring, when I noticed there was a meeting of construction workers right there in my path. Uh oh. This is never an ideal situation. I have been yelled at by so many construction workers in this city over the years it’s absurd. Construction workers whistle at women so much that there was a site on 4th Avenue above a laundromat and the laundromat had parrots and the parrots learned how to catcall. Not kidding. I would be running down 4th and get catcalled at the construction site and begin to descend into a blind rage when I would realize I was being harassed by a pair of mother fucking birds.

BIRDS!

As I was saying, there was a construction-worker meeting happening directly in my path. I knew something was going to be said. I concentrated very hard on drinking my iced coffee and staring at my feet. I hate that I do this but I did it. I thought maybe if I pretended not to see them they wouldn’t see me. That approach failed, obviously.

Construction worker: Hey.
Me: Grunt.
Construction worker: How are you today?
Me: I’d be better if you guys didn’t wake me up at 7 in the morning every day. (ZAMBO!)
Construction worker: Are you married?

Okay, what?! I am so confused as to how this happened. So let’s recap and see if maybe I missed something. I clearly did not want to speak to him, hence the grunt. Then I basically told him that he was ruining my life. And then he asked me if I was married? And what if I said no? Was he going to ask me out on a date? Was he going to see if I wanted to meet him at the site at 6:57am, climb onto the second floor and, at exactly 7 on the dot, take a mallet and bang it as hard as I could against a piece of metal? You know, just to fuck with the neighbors?

I told him I was in fact married by calling out a sing-songy

Sure am

and continued on my way. I pretend to be married at least once a week.

So what I have noticed is that as I have gotten older, the line of questioning from random strangers on the street or assholes in bars and at parties has changed. They used to ask me if I had a boyfriend and when I said yes they would respond, like clockwork (I totally accidentally typed cockwork and it made me laugh…had to share),

Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to know.

And that always made me mad because it was like, what the fuck? I don’t want anything to do with you and your statement completely takes me out of the equation. There is that assumption that I absolutely want to suck your dick in the bathroom but the only thing that is stopping me is that fact that my boyfriend might find out and then who will I be? I will go from being a somebody with a boyfriend to a single nobody, sad and alone who probably picked up some nasty disease from putting your cock in my mouth. Now that I am in my 30s and clearly cannot just have a boyfriend, I must either be married or single (AKA sad and alone and diseased from aforementioned interaction). So the line of questioning has changed. Now people always ask me if I am married. If I say no, all hell breaks lose. If I lie and say yes, just to get them to leave me the fuck alone, they then follow it up with

No you’re not. You’re not wearing a ring.

And it’s like

I wasn’t wearing a ring when you asked me in the first place, dipshit, so if you’re so goddamn observant why didn’t you notice that before?!

But then do you know what happens next, when I don’t actually audibly call the person a dipshit?

Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to know.

AAAAAH!

But I mean, really, what is the expected response to this? Or, I suppose more accurately, the hoped-for response? I came up with a few possibilities:

  1. You’re right! I know a motel you can pay for by the hour down on 3rd. You down?
  2. You’re right! I’m not wearing a ring but I’d like to be and I know a guy who can perform weddings!
  3. You’re right! I live two doors down and my imaginary husband won’t be home for hours!
  4. You’re right! (Swift kick to the genitals.)

My money is on number 4 for sure.

Anyway, I never claimed to have all the answers. But I’m gonna go for a run and think on this. I’ll let you know if any moments of clarity follow.

When Persistence is Rude

4 Apr

I heard a scuffle and realized there was a fight. Again. It’s almost as if a weekend night cannot pass by without some sort of absurd and unnecessary shake-up. The warm weather only makes it worse. That reality causes my life to be sort of at odds with itself. I’m a summer baby so I spend pretty much all my time either being appreciative of the heat or counting down the days until it returns. You’ll almost never hear me complain about being too hot. But when a spring or summer weekend rolls around, my love for the heat morphs into an acute sense of foreboding. Hot days lead to hot tempers. Mix those tempers with close quarters and lots of alcohol and you’ve got yourself a party.

It was about 1:30, maybe 2 in the morning. Apparently some guy tried to go into the bathroom with his girlfriend because he “didn’t want anyone seeing her in there.” I’m not entirely certain what that even means, to be honest. I don’t know whether he has some sort of disbelief in these things we call locks or he thinks people somehow develop laser vision when they get within two feet of a bathroom when his girlfriend is inside. Whatever the reason it turned into a whole big fiasco. (By the way, I am fully aware that he wanted to go into the bathroom with his girl for some sexy time, but I refuse to truly engage with that thought because the bathrooms at my bar, especially late on a warm weekend night, are straight out of a horror film. I have to pee in there on the regular and it has changed me. No joke.)

Upon hearing all the noise I obviously made the poor choice to walk out from behind the bar to go investigate. I did this under the guise of trying to usher those not involved in the fight to safety. You never know when an elbow, or a glass, might go flying. So I gathered intel while I let a few dudes out through a second exit. As I turned to go back behind the bar some guy grabbed my hand and got in my space. If you know me at all you know that I hardly like to be touched by people I love, let alone some asshole at the bar I work in. At first I thought he was going to say something about how I should stay behind the bar where it’s safe and not get too close to all the yelling, especially considering that just moments before the guy who was trying to join his girl in the bathroom violently grabbed her by the neck for “running her mouth.” (Have I mentioned recently how much I hate everything?) Dude probably would have been right but I still would have been miffed about some guy essentially scolding me for not staying behind the bar. But no. He didn’t say anything about my safety or the fight or share in my horror about the way a man so casually grabbed a woman by the neck in a public place, under the watch of cameras, without any pause or remorse whatsoever. Made me nervous about how he behaves in private. Instead, while holding onto my left hand, he whispered in my ear

Why you gotta be like that with me?

Anger shot through my entire body. Why was this person touching me? Why was he in my space? Why the fuck was he whispering in my ear? And where the fuck did he get the idea that he was at all entitled to my time or an explanation as to why I wouldn’t give him any of it? I’d love to say that this was the first time such a question had been hurled at me but that would be a lie. People regularly ask me why I am “like that,” whatever “that” means. From what I can gather, they think I am pretty but I don’t flirt with them. Because guess what, I don’t flirt. Not my jam. Not that there is anything wrong with being a flirty bartender, it totally works for some people. But I hate when people ask me for my phone number at work and I hate how some people get possessive over a girl who they think is interested, even if all that girl is interested in at that moment is an inflated tip. My dream is to be the efficient half of a bartending team. Making drinks and putting them over the bar quickly, the conversation limited to an economic transaction. Let my partner be the personality. I’ll be support staff. But I couldn’t respond with all that so instead I said,

Be like what? You come in here for beer. I sell it to you. That is my job.

He held my hand a little tighter. I shook it free.

I told you before I liked your vibes.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to be like

Oh! You like my vibes?! Well why didn’t you say so??? Please! Grab my hand again! Please! Whisper into my ear like a total fucking creep! Because now that I know you like my vibes I am totally down for whatever you’re down for. I hear they have some really clean bathrooms up in this joint. With locks that work, even.

But I didn’t say any of those things. Instead I turned and looked him in the face and said

Don’t you ever put your hand on me again.

My night continued. But then the next morning I got to thinking, once again, about entitlement. About how men feel entitled to touch women and how we as women are not even entitled to autonomy over our own physical presence. I cannot walk through a space, even a space I work in, with the assumption that I will not be touched in either a sexual or aggressive manner. And, when that happens – not if but when – there is virtually nothing I can do. Sure, I can make a smart remark, assuming I feel safe doing so, but there is nothing intimidating about me. I cannot, by sheer force of size or movement, make someone back off. I can shoot them down, but that does not necessarily result in a change of behavior. This is something like the 4th time this same guy has tried to, I don’t even know, get me to pay him more attention than pouring him a Smuttynose and taking his money. It’s as if he thinks persistence is key and let me tell you something, I find his persistence insulting. His persistence completely ignores a very important part of the equation: my interest, or lack thereof.

To me, when someone isn’t interested, they aren’t interested. Back the fuck off. Life isn’t like the movies where the guy likes the girl and she isn’t interested but by his sheer will to get what he wants, what he deserves, he is able to convince her to be his. He is able to, for lack of a better term, break her. This dude can tell me every single fucking day for the rest of time that he “likes my vibes” and I will still tell him to go take a walk in the ocean. Because the thing is, he isn’t listening to me because what I say, and what I feel, does not matter to him. In his journey to get what he wants, I am incidental. What I want is incidental. My feelings are incidental. What matters is him, what he wants. And he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with his persistence. Maybe he thinks I should be flattered. More than likely, he doesn’t think about how I should feel, or do feel, at all. That can be overcome. I can be broken.

Being female can be a real mind fuck.

 

Men are from Mars

15 Mar

Almost a month ago now I wrote a post called “I Thought We Were Friends.” It was something that had been knocking around in my head for quite some time. In publishing it I felt somewhat relieved but also, and perhaps more powerfully, exposed and anxious. I was afraid that some people who read it would, rightfully, feel implicated in my words. I was concerned about shedding light on something that I had been hiding for a very long time, something that I tried to act as though I was somehow above. Let me explain.

I am a feminist. I wear that badge proudly. And as a feminist, albeit one that understands her feminism more off of a general engagement with the world around her and the ever-important conversations with peers as opposed to a deep understanding of the theories of various feminist waves, I go through the world with a certain understanding of myself in it. That feeling is, in part, one of a want for safety and equality, with a deep understanding that I cannot, currently, expect either of those things. It is also a feeling, self-imposed perhaps, that I ought to be strong. That I should be beyond all of the trappings of being raised female in this culture. That I should somehow be a finished product, beyond it all. How absurd. But even in the knowledge that I expect miracles from myself, I cannot help but feel like something of a failure when I fall into old habits. Old habits that are examined and discussed ad nauseam but that I never feel entirely capable of kicking.

I remember back in high school and on into college, having conversations with girl friends about boys. I remember so many conversations, more than I could ever count, about guys being so persistent that we just went along with things. We went along with things because it seemed easier to say okay than to stand up for ourselves not because it would necessarily be horrible in the moment  – although we all know it could have been – but because maybe those boys, those boys that were pressuring us into things, even things as harmless as a kiss, might not like us anymore.

They might not like me.

And who am I kidding? I still have these conversations. Regularly. And what’s crazy about it is that no matter how many times I have these conversations, it still takes us a while to get to the inevitable part, the part where we went along with something we weren’t into. And it’s like, a lightbulb goes off every single time. That feeling of

Oh, shit, you too?!

And it’s surprising but it shouldn’t be. And it’s embarrassing but it shouldn’t be. The idea that all these years later we are still doing what we used to do as teenagers. The idea that we haven’t learned anything, gotten stronger, gotten to the point where it isn’t about what is easy in the moment, but what we can live with tomorrow and the next day and the next day. The belief that we should be immune to the social forces that swirl around us from birth. That we should, in our feminism and in our knowledge about power dynamics and the patriarchy and the support from our friends and (if we’re lucky) our families, be above it all is so overwhelming but can also be disempowering. Every failure feels so much more monumental because it’s like,

Fuck, I should have known better. I’ve been here before. I know how this goes.

It’s like a regression. I woke up a strong, self-reliant, intelligent woman and somehow, through the course of the day, became someone unwilling to rock the boat. I somehow became someone who went from speaking her mind to sparing someone else’s feelings at the expense of her own. And for what? So he can wake up with his ego in tact and I can beat myself up about an unwanted encounter, and my weakness in the moment, for months? Because, in all honesty, my anger and disappointment with myself goes on for months. But at least he still likes me, right? Give me a break.

I guess I am writing this because this experience is somewhat universal. I am not even close to the only one. And I am not saying that this is solely a female experience, either. Just that the forces that surround us daily mean that our experiences as women, as a “minority,” are tied into social and institutionalized forces, forces that keep us from separating ourselves as individuals, as people deserving of respect, from the learned feeling that we should accommodate others, especially males. That we should protect their feelings and their egos and then we should keep quiet because this is not a conversation we have out loud. Because we are taught, on the other end, that it is shameful. Don’t rock the boat, but don’t be a slut. If you find yourself there, you have no one to blame but yourself. You gave him the idea, you should go along with it. Don’t be a tease.

And what’s crazy is that a lot of times it isn’t his fault either. We are masterful at keeping quiet in the moment and licking our wounds alone. He might never even know. He might never even know that he read the moment wrong because we will never tell him. And for so many people if we were to say what we say to our friends, that we did it because it seemed easier and less awkward and less hurtful than saying no, he also would have wished it never happened. He also would feel some amount of shame. But we are selfish and we keep all the shame for ourselves.

I wrote this because, following my last post, I got two responses. One response was from women and one response was from men. Overwhelmingly, the women in my life were like

Holy shit yes! This! I have been there!

And the men, all well-intentioned people that I love, were like

I am worried about you. I don’t want you to become bitter. It’s because of the career you are in, the bar that you work at, the people you surround yourself with.

But it isn’t any of those things. It is because we – men and women – occupy such different worlds. So much more different than I knew previous to the publication of that post. My experience is not unique, not by a long shot. It is universal. But the fact that men overwhelmingly had no idea that it happened, that it was real, spoke volumes to me. That because I wrote it it became about me rather than about us was huge. I felt some sort of comfort in the fact that I am not alone. But the chasm is so overwhelmingly huge! Because the men I spoke with were people who I love and who were willing to have an open conversation, people who entered the conversation ready to listen and absorb. They weren’t trying to teach me, they were trying to learn. And people, not just men, but people in general, aren’t all like that. Which makes this even crazier. I can’t imagine what people unwilling to listen thought, how wide the gap is between us and them. Sometimes I feel like we have been quiet for so long that no one can hear us anymore. And I honestly don’t know how to begin to fix that.