Tag Archives: patriarchy

The Complexities of Shame

28 Apr

I learned something about myself this week: I am ashamed of my body. Now this isn’t a fishing expedition. This isn’t to get people to come out of the woodwork with all kinds of positive reinforcements. That isn’t what this is about. And, honestly, it has nothing to do with how I look in a lot of ways. It is, I think, largely about the fact that in my never-ending intellectual quest to understand my role in this world as a female, I have neglected to take care of myself…or, I guess more specifically, to engage in self-care…by which I mean to place importance on my own sense of empowerment, my own autonomy over my sexuality, and, perhaps most importantly, my own definition of it. Let me explain.

Earlier this week I was at a store buying a bra. As you ladies know, buying a bra is no easy task  – especially when it involves procuring support for a pair of boobs that have not been sized in years in advance of wearing a backless dress. Wearing a bra in the right size for you is a life-changer. Believe me. I feel like a brand new woman today. That’s not the point. So there I was at this fancy lingerie store with my good friend. I have never been to a fancy lingerie store as the main event; I’ve always been the sidekick. I have never thought that fancy lingerie was really “my thing,” whatever that means. We were in the changing room and the lovely woman who was helping me kept bringing me in all these different bras to try on. I kept putting on bra after bra and while my friend kept looking and telling me how good this one looked, or how pretty that one was, or how sexy I looked I just stood there, staring, feeling like I was wearing a costume. I felt like a little kid dressing up in her mom’s high heels and lipstick, prancing around the house like an absolute diva. (I never actually did this but I feel like it’s a thing that happens?) I just kept standing, staring at myself in these beautiful things, understanding that if I saw someone else in them I would think how incredibly beautiful and sexy she looked. How in control of her sexuality. But when I looked at myself I just felt…silly. I felt like I was trying to be someone who I am not. It was like, if there was a touch of cleavage showing then I had undone all the hard work I had put in over the years. All the effort of getting people to see me as a human and not a sex object. But part of being human, I think, is sometimes feeling sexy. And understanding that it doesn’t always have a negative connotation.

So obviously I got to thinking about it.

And thinking.

And thinking.

And it dawned on me. All of the years of the wrong people calling me sexy for all the wrong reasons, in all the wrong places, with all the wrong intentions had eroded my ability to understand that being sexy can, in theory, be empowering. I see that other women can do it, and I don’t look at them and think that somehow they are doing something wrong, that they are abandoning the cause, or whatever. I just don’t get how they do it. But this isn’t about women at large. This is about me. This is about me and the ways that I have internalized all the years of being a woman, or, I suppose more accurately, all of the years I’ve spent feeling like a sex object. And this is not to say that I feel like that all the time. That is by no means the case. A lot of times I just feel like a person. But often, not always but often, when my being female is made apparent to me, it is made apparent in a disempowering and hyper-sexualized manner. To the point that sometimes I just want to throw down everything I have, grab a bullhorn, and scream, for everyone to hear,

I AM NOT HERE FOR YOU! I DID NOT WAKE UP FOR YOU! I DID NOT GET DRESSED FOR YOU! AND I AM CERTAINLY NOT WALKING DOWN THIS STREET FOR YOU!

I would love it if my experience, and I can only speak for myself although I imagine there are plenty of other women out there who feel similarly if not the same way, was less like this. I wish I could brush off some of the bullshit and find my sexuality empowering. But I think the thing is that my sexuality has for so long been used as a weapon against me, been used as a way to make me feel small and less whole, that I don’t even know how to trust it. It’s like a separate part of me, almost. Like a lot of times when my sexuality is pointed out, I become less Rebekah the  Woman and more Rebekah the Object. And surprise surprise, I don’t like to be Rebekah the Object.

I mean, okay, so get this. Just now, I decided to look up the word “sexuality” on the Internet to make sure that I was using exactly the word I wanted and this is the definition I was given:

a capacity for sexual feelings

And its use in a sentence:

she began to understand the power of her sexuality

The power of it.

That is what I am talking about. Sexuality as a weapon. Or as something that is not easy to control by its posessor. Something that can, if not properly tended to, control her. Either use it to your advantage or it gets used against you but there is no opting out of the game. You can’t just say

Nah, I’m cool with just being in the world, going through my day and then unleashing my sexuality for the person, or people, I wish to share it with.

And, as I am sure you have all guessed, the significance of the “she” in that sentence was not lost on me. Of course she began to understand. And you know how she figured it out? Probably because someone showed her by using her sexuality to disempower her in some way. She realized the usefulness of it. What she could do with it. And that’s where I get a little bit lost. Somewhere in here, in all of this, to me, reads something of a manipulation. I try to go through life as something of a straight-shooter. People more or less know where they stand with me. I don’t keep my feelings quiet, and when I do manage to keep my mouth shut my facial expressions and body language always out me. So my issue is that there is something slick, something calculating, something unsavory about the way we talk about sexuality.  I know it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t always have to be a con. But sometimes it feels like that’s the way we talk about it to such a degree that it just becomes what it is in practice. And it’s like, sexuality is its own separate being as opposed to a part, with so many other parts, of a complex human.

But back to the dressing room. There I was, in that dressing room, trying to find a bra that wouldn’t draw more attention to my chest. A bra that wouldn’t give me more cleavage. A bra that wouldn’t undo all the hard work I’ve done to prove that I am well rounded. Hard work that has made me everything but. And, it’s like, I know that now we say that

strong is sexy

and

smart is sexy

and somehow sexy is supposed to be empowering, and meanwhile everything about high school dress codes and cat callers on the street and rape victim blaming and sexist comments and rape as a fucking war crime tells us that our sexuality, our sexiness, is something to be hidden and contained and something we should be shamed for, or hurt because of. Except for sometimes. Mostly in private. And how do we balance that? How is it our best friend and our mortal enemy all at the same time and how do we, on so many occasions, not have ownership of it? It’s like this weird, fucked up commodity that we can trade in, but only on occasion and with permission, and people may or may not try to make us feel badly about it. And sometimes that just seeps in. And some of us feel like maybe it’s best to try not to trade in it at all. But we’re not allowed to do that, either. It’s almost like we can’t do anything right.

So I don’t know. Maybe shame is the wrong word. Maybe feeling shame just plays into the whole damn thing. I guess what it is more than anything is that I just want to feel whole and autonomous and in a world where we have control over very little, I would like to be the only one – barring tragedy – with control over my body. And of course, it isn’t that I don’t want people to find me sexy. It’s just that I want the idea of being sexy to feel less unbalanced, less like something I use to get something, I want it to be more holistic. I want the idea of sexy, from the jump, to extend beyond just the physical rather than that having to be an add-on. And I know some of you are saying that it can be, and maybe you have found a way, but I don’t know. I just think it is too complicated, and so many of those complications  don’t stem from us. Rather they are learned behaviors given to us by society at large.

Clearly I’m still working this out.

I remember someone, after watching me do something kind, told me how sexy he thought that was. And for the first time in a while, since my ex was around probably, I felt good about being sexy. I felt like it was because of who I am rather than what I look like. And that’s something I can get behind. It’s about sexiness as a whole being, rather than sexiness as an entity apart. And I guess I wish it was always like that. Because I think my friends are sexy and, while they are all beautiful and handsome in their own ways, it is more because they are caring and smart and giving and funny and complicated and team players and all those other things that make them incredible humans.

I guess, in short, I like it when it feels well-rounded, all-inclusive. Because what I find sexy is someone who is smart, with a big laugh and a bigger heart, who is engaged in the world around them and also in a constant state of self-improvement. Because the physical stuff fades, eventually. Gravity does its work. But the rest of it, that takes longer to erode if you put the work in.

But for me, and as it concerns me, when it is just the physicality of it – that just doesn’t feel like mine anymore. I don’t feel like I own that. It’s been taken from me too many times. And maybe that’s why the shame sneaks in.

(And please, don’t anyone send me text messages saying you think I’m sexy. That’s not the point. And then I’ll feel like a shitty writer and that would ruin my day. Don’t ruin my day. It’s nice out.)

I Thought We Were Friends

2 Feb

Sometime in the late spring, early summer of 2010 I rode the B63 bus down Atlantic Avenue from my bartending job towards home. I was drunk. I was drunk a lot that summer. I was heartbroken and in complete free fall. I sat staring out the window, tears silently streaming down my cheeks as they often did, wondering what I had done wrong, how I could fix it and when the pain – so emotionally present that it turned into physical hurt – would stop. I was pretty sure it never would, that the pain was my new normal. The bus stopped and a man, probably around my age, appeared in front of me. He smiled and gave me a hand-written note before he walked off the bus and into the night.

You’re beautiful when you cry. Call me.

The tears stopped. I held the note in my right hand between by thumb and fore finger and stared blankly out the window. I took it with me as I exited the bus and looked at it as I made my way home. At the first trashcan I found I spit violently on the small slip of paper – imagining it was the man’s face – crumpled it up and threw it into the garbage. Being mad at him and all the other strangers who seemed to smell my vulnerability that summer was so easy. It felt as though men – anonymous men, not the men I knew – were all dogs.

The pain eventually dulled. I fell in love again.

***

Going on two years ago my most recent relationship ended. We were together for almost four years. What do they say in all those articles about break-ups, that it takes half the length of the relationship to get over it? Maybe there is something to that because I am just now about back to normal and by normal I mean that the idea of being involved in the dating scene makes me want to scream. This guy at work last night asked me how I meet people to date and my honest response was that I don’t. I just don’t.

I could chalk it up to my work schedule. That being almost entirely unavailable on weekends makes it near impossible to meet someone. I could blame modern dating and the rise of internet dating sites. As someone who works in a social setting with already precarious power dynamics, the idea of some guy seeing me on the Internet and then walking into my bar and thinking he has some kind of leverage terrifies me. I could blame my most recent dating experiences and the assumption men seem to have that if a date is going halfway decently it’s their cue to try and come home with me. Good fucking luck. But the reality is that I blame my friends. Or, more accurately, people I thought were my friends. I blame the people that made me feel like my only value is in my body and what it can offer them.

Let me quote an article from Salon that finally gave me the strength to write this post, this post that I have been writing over and over again in my head but never wanted to actually put to paper, so to speak, for fear of hurting the feelings of people who never had any consideration for mine.

When the bad things that happen are normal, you become tough. It’s devastating how tough I am.

So, as a 30-year-old woman who has been through a range of horribly exploitative sexual and emotional experiences—you know, just like pretty much every woman you know—I really don’t want to know anymore if a stranger finds me attractive. Not right out of the gate. Hell no. There are so many more interesting things about me than my body… This is why I cherish my friendships with straight dudes who would never try to fuck me even if we are trashed, and is probably part of why I hang out with a lot of queer people. 

This is why I’ve gone home in tears after someone I respect says they think I’m smart and funny and interesting and they’d like to have a drink and rap about the world, and then just tries to fuck me after I patiently dodge their advances all night. Were they not even paying attention? … I am still, as a grown woman, trying not to mentally respond to that situation by thinking: “Well, that person just wanted to fuck you. Maybe you are not really that smart or interesting.” That precise feeling is one that I don’t really think straight dudes can fully relate to: You are invisible, but they still want to fuck you. They do not see you or hear you. They still might rape you. This is why somebody putting their eyes all over me or immediately telling me they like the way I look is no longer flattering. Because it makes me feel fucking invisible.

The woman who wrote this article is a bartender in her 30s, like me. And she, too, is fucking exhausted by how much she is sexualized at work. This past week, I have been given 2 phone numbers, been told by a customer that he has wet dreams about me, had a coworker hit on me by alluding to the version of 50 Shades of Grey that we could make together, and had to tell someone that my tits could not pour him his beer so if he would please look at my face when requesting service it would be appreciated. Sometimes I leave work feeling like a pair of boobs and a hole to fuck, with arms conveniently attached to provide liquid courage. The thing I make my money off of is the same one that empowers men to disempower me and managing that disempowerment, that power dynamic, is tricky. It is intertwined with my ability to earn a living. And it is exhausting.

When I leave work at 4am, I try to leave all of that behind me. I try to reenter a world where I am valued for more than my body and my ability to pour liquid into a cup. Of course, I want people to find me attractive but I want that to be attached to the fact that I am smart and funny and interesting. Those are the things I value about myself. So when I read this line — This is why I have gone home in tears after someone I respect says they think I’m smart and funny and interesting and they’d like to have a drink and rap about the world, and then just tries to fuck me after I patiently dodge their advances all night. Were they not even paying attention? — I was like, finally, someone else said it. Because I, too, have gone home in tears. I have spent the better part of the last two years thinking my taste in (male) friends sucks because one after another after another after another of my straight male friends have tried to fuck me. I barely have any left. To those who have been my friend all this time I value you more than I can really say.

Somewhat recently I met up with an old friend for a drink. We hadn’t hung out in awhile because life took us in different directions but I was happy to catch up. It took him about 2 hours to try and fuck me. I told him about my life, what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been thinking about. He told me how he always thought I was so hot. He thought he was flattering me. I have never felt so cheap, so misled, so socially inept. How did I not know? How did I ever think this drink was about us catching up as friends? How did I not see this coming? How stupid can a person be?

I, like the well-trained woman that I am, blamed myself. Over and over again.

My ex-boyfriends all knew that the best way into my pants was through loving my brain, not lusting after my body. But of course, they were listening. There was more in it for them. I was visible. Me. I was more than just  a conquest, or the fulfillment of a long curiosity. I was a human being with unique value. And I am done feeling as though I did something wrong to mislead people about what I was looking for. I have always been clear. So be my friend or don’t be. But if you’re just looking to fuck, move along. I’m not interested. Stop wasting my time. Stop making me feel like garbage. Because after all these years it takes me more and more time to rebuild myself after work. If you’re really my friend, you should be supporting me. So stop tearing me down.

The Dreaded Question

24 Jan

Why are you so angry?!

 

I get asked this question a lot. Infrequently when I am actually angry. A few weeks ago my coworker and I had a little bit of a rush. Nothing serious, but enough for me to put on my “make all the drinks as fast as you can” face. That face is blank. That face is not making jokes, it is not having pleasant conversation, it is making you your tequila and pineapple (ew, gross) while taking an order and checking an ID. That face is efficient. In the midst of taking an order and alerting someone that I would be with them in a minute, this dude who is a friend of my coworker tried to hand me his cell phone attached to the charger for me to plug in for him. I looked at him and, quite politely I thought and while wearing my can’t you tell I am working?! face I said to him,

Sure. Just as soon as I finish all of the tasks that make me money.

He looked stunned. I walked over to the register and said to my coworker

I think I might have scared your friend.

We looked down at the bar and there he was, sitting there holding his cell phone with the charger still attached looking forlornly at the place where I was previously standing. I have to admit I felt a little bad. Not badly enough to go talk to him about it because (a) I was busy, (b) you all should know better than to ask a busy bartender to plug in your phone because none of us actually give a fuck as to whether or not you can receive text messages and we also are not your secretary and (c) don’t they sell those little external chargers and don’t they cost roughly the same as the bar tab you just ran up? My coworker and I had a little chuckle and when it calmed down a bit I figured I would smooth things out with his friend. I cleaned the area around him and made a few smart and witty observations about some idiot wearing a pocket protector as part of his Saturday night get-up. He seemed more or less amused. I got a smile out of him, anyway. I skipped back to my coworker to tell him about how I had made everything great again at which point he giggled and said

Yo he was like, why is she so angry?!

UGH! So here’s the thing. It wasn’t like, why was she so angry that time when I acted as though I was the only person in the bar and requested she do me a favor that I wouldn’t pay her for when she had like 15 orders in her head and was, in fact, at the very moment that I asked her in the midst of actually taking one of those orders? Because I wasn’t actually angry in that moment, if we’re being accurate. I was ever-so-slightly irritated (it takes a lot more than that to register on the anger meter these days). But I can see why he would perhaps perceive it that way. What he was asking was why is she so angry. Like, as a person, all the time. And it made me think back to all of the other times people, read: men, have asked me why I am so angry when I was simply telling them no. Here are a few times when I have been called angry when I have, in fact, not been angry:

That time I said no to an invitation to go out to dinner. I am simply not interested and besides, you asked me out after your 5th whisky neat and I am at work, sober and I am thinking about being in my bed, alone (okay, fine, my cats will be curled up at the bottom of it but whatever).

This one time I refused to serve this smarmy asshole a drink. I was angry the last time he came in when I was standing at the bar in my running clothes talking to my friend and, without recognizing me, decided to sit practically on top of me and drape his arms all over me. That was not the first time that happened, either. And if we’re being honest I was actually quite happy to ask him to leave. I’m pretty sure I was smiling.

And while we’re on the subject, all the times I am not smiling. I like smiling. I do not, however, smile all the time. First of all, I am fairly certain my face actually would freeze like that and how awkward would that be if someone told me something horrible had happened and I was staring at them with a stupid grin on my face? And secondly, no one smiles all the time. People smile when they are laughing and having fun. They do not smile when they are doing things like taking out the trash, walking to the gym, or serving the never-ending wall of people in constant need of beverage refills. And just because a person is not smiling does not mean that person is angry. They could be feeling all sorts of other things: sadness, non-smiling happiness, contentedness, nothing at all. They could be thinking. They could just not give a shit about you one way or the other. And please, while we are here, never say the following thing:

Smile, sweetie, it’s not that bad.

Maybe it wasn’t that bad before but it is now.

Here’s another important thing, though. Sometimes I am angry and that is okay, too. There are a lot of things to be angry about. But the way that men ask that question

Why are you so angry??

Reads the same as

Why are you so emotional??

Or better yet,

Why are you so irrational??

It is disempowering and makes it feel as though our lived experience is somehow less important, less real, or as if we are less capable of engaging with our own lives. What we are angry about is petty. It is a woman’s problem, not a real one. (It goes without saying that any extreme response to something means we are on our period and therefore can not be taken seriously.) I was actually one time put in real, actual danger involving a man with a gun and then, weeks later when recapping fallout from the experience was asked why I am so angry. Why?! Why am I angry?! Because I could have been shot! With a gun! And died! Fuck yeah I am angry! I am angry about that experience and why it happened and what happened after but that does not make me angry as a human being all the time and it also is a completely and totally rational response to a really scary experience that is in the past and is therefore not something to be actively afraid of. I mean, what? Am I supposed to be all

Nah, it’s all good, bro. No worries.

Now that is what I call irrational. Because it is decidedly not all good and there are worries.

So let’s just recap: Just because I am not smiling does not mean I am angry. I might just be busy, or thinking, or whatever. When I tell you no, it does not mean I am angry. It simply means no. Let’s move on. And when I am angry, there is good reason for it. And you shouldn’t have to ask why I am angry because I will tell you in no uncertain terms exactly why. It will be very clear. And it will be just as justified, or unjustified, and rational, or irrational, as when a man is angry. Crazy, right?

This Just In: Girls Only Write About Shopping

26 Dec

“What are you reading?”

It was 2am on a Friday night. Christmas, it so happens, and I had managed to get out of work incredibly early. Apparently a dance party wasn’t on many people’s agendas for the evening. Especially considering we were without DJ.

“Nothing. Just some brain popcorn.”

That’s a phrase I picked up from an ex-boyfriend of mine and it perfectly defines what I was reading. It’s a totally unchallenging mental vacation. Nothing to write home about. Nothing to organize a book club around. Something perfect for a late night when you’re too wired to sleep but too tired to think critically.

“Brain popcorn, huh? Well who’s it by?”

I am always sort of confused about what it is about a girl at a bar immersed in a book that screams please talk to me but whatever. I will just file that under Mysteries of the Universe.

“It’s really nothing. A Stephanie Plum novel.”

This was not my attempt to be coy or to disparage my reading choice. This was me trying to respectfully hint that I did not come to this bar to talk to anyone other than the person working behind it who is a friend of mine. He was busy so I was using my book <first> as a way to occupy myself until he could grab a few minutes to catch up and <second> as a way to communicate that I was not looking to make friends. Clearly the second part of that was not coming across.

“Oh, well, can I read a paragraph of it? Just whatever page you’re on. Just let me read one paragraph so I can get an idea of what it’s like.”

I practiced some deep breathing exercises and pushed my book towards him, avoiding looking over at him as I did it. I am very practiced at coming across politely disinterested and moderately dismissive. It’s a professional necessity. He picked the book up and went about reading. About a minute later he handed the book back with a chuckle.

“Funny. I just read a paragraph of a book written by a woman and it’s all about shopping. So classic!”

More deep breathing exercises. Someone else’s shift on Christmas is not the time for a feminist take down.

“Well, actually, Stephanie Plum is the character in the book and right now she is taking a man grocery shopping because his apartment got firebombed and he doesn’t have a car. And that is an absurd thing for you to have said. Let me guess…you’re single?”

He turned towards me and cocked his head to the side like a confused puppy. I wasn’t sure whether it was in response to the part about the apartment being firebombed or my incredible ability to accurately guess the state of his love life after only having sat next to him at a bar for 10 minutes. He turned back to his friend, I turned back to Stephanie. A few short moments of blessed reading time followed.

“What’s your favorite quote from literature?”

I sighed. I knew this line. Clearly this dude had some quote memorized that he figured would impress upon me his intelligence and vast knowledge of literature, both classic and obscure. I thought about him, sitting alone in his bedroom with flashcards, memorizing quote after quote to foist upon unsuspecting victims at cocktail parties, job interviews and bars on Christmas at 2am. I should have looked down at my book and recited the following lines:

The door flew open and Carol stood in the doorway, holding a bag of Cheez Doodles. Her hair was smudged with orange doodle dust and stood out from her scalp like an explosion had gone off inside her head. Her mascara was smudged, her lipstick eaten off, replaced with orange doodle stain. She was dressed in a nightgown, sneakers, and a warm-up jacket. Doodle crumbs stuck to the jacket and sparkled in the morning sunlight.

That probably would have handled the problem. Instead I politely declined to answer his question at which point he rattled off a few lines from something or other. To be honest with you I wasn’t paying any attention. I was mostly focusing on keeping my left eyebrow in place and my eyes from turning steely.

“That’s from Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Have you heard of it? You probably haven’t read it. It’s really long.”

At this point I lost control of my eyebrow and shifted focus to holding my temper. I decided the best course of action was to just say nothing at all. Maybe he would get the hint and stop talking. No such luck.

“I took this English class in college with this professor who was a feminist” — he spat this last word — “and she made us read all this stuff. And she talked about how women never got their due and were sometimes overlooked or completely forgotten just for being female. Well, I raised my hand and explained to her how Herman Melville wasn’t appreciated in his time, either. She couldn’t argue with fact. He didn’t make any money off of his book or get any notice or anything. I mean, come on.”

I sat there imagining this dude as a student in the back of class, carefully and demeaningly explaining to his university professor all about this unknown and underappreciated author Herman Melville. And then I thought about how, because every now and again white men aren’t celebrated for their contributions to society during their lifetime, clearly that means that any claim that other groups are systematically omitted from history is absurd and can be debunked. Nothing like one example to disprove racism and sexism, you know?

“Wow. That must have really changed everything for her.”

Sarcasm. It’s totally my thing. I love it.

“Pretty much, yea.”

Except for when people completely miss it. I shook my head in disbelief. Clearly a lost cause. I went back to reading my lady book that was clearly  all about shopping, entertaining my simple lady brain with pretty, sparkly images of credit cards and shoes. Whales? What are those? He went back to making thinly veiled sexist commentary about the world in general, quoting outdated, offensive stand-up skits from the late 80s. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me. Sometimes I just want to be a girl at a bar, reading a book, without feeling the need to educate every neanderthal I come in contact with about the patriarchy. The stupidity is just too much sometimes. It’s exhausting.

 

A Bit About my First Twitter Altercation

22 Aug

So this is one of those instances where you, fair readers, are just going to have to bear with me on this little adventure through my mind.

So have you all heard about this incident involving an Irish girl at an Eminem concert at Slane Castle in Ireland?  No?  Well, let me give you the run down. So this past weekend Eminem gave an outdoor concert at Slane Castle.  At some point during the show, some guy (who it turns out is from Belfast) took a photograph of a girl giving head to some other guy and then posted the picture online.  As you can imagine, the picture went viral within hours and people all over Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and whatever other social media the kids are using these days came up with two (that I know of) different hash tags to allow them to discuss how much of an immoral slut she is.  This shit was everywhere.  (To their credit — and because the girl is 17 which, depending on the country, makes viewing images of her in a sexually explicit context equivalent to viewing child pornography — Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have done what they can to remove the photograph from users’ pages.  We will see whether going forward they will track down and report those who have distributed the images over the past few days.)  Following the incident and upon finding out that the image had gone viral, the girl had to be hospitalized and sedated to calm her down.  I hate to think what this girl is going to have to endure in the coming months.

According to the internet, she is a slut.  And according to one Jamie Glavin with whom I had my first-ever Twitter altercation,

“People defending the actions of that fucking #SlaneSlut need to be fucked into a bag, drowned and burned. Fucking stupid Useless cunts”

Okay, so first of all I don’t actually know what that means.  How does one get fucked into a bag?  And once one was drowned, why would it matter that one was then burned?  Or are some of us “fucking useless cunts” drowned and others burned?  Is it an every other?  Do we pick out of a hat?  And where does this Jamie (a) find the energy to fuck all the “useless cunts” and (b) track down all the bags into which he fucks us?  I wanted to ask him all these questions but unfortunately the character limit on Twitter would not allow me the pleasure.  I did, however, report his behavior to Twitter which will likely do nothing.  I still felt slightly vindicated.  He then posted the following status on his Facebook page:

“I have an awful feeling that if I make a slane girl related status I’m gonna end up on the news and eventually in court for hate crimes. I can’t handle that kinda publicity. However, I will let slip that I am more than willing to slowly kill, gut, skin and cook any of the stupid cunts that consider defending her as they are truly the proverbial fucking cherry on top of the fucking miserably disgusting cake that this country and its people have become. I’m a burn this motherfucker down.”

Obviously I have been having a lot of fun cyber-stalking this guy because I have way too much time on my hands.  Also, Jamie Glavin is just a perfect example of someone who is an idiot.  Also, a perfect example of someone who believes that women exist for public consumption. These people are, sadly, everywhere.  Just yesterday, while standing outside of a bar on 1st avenue with two guy friends while they smoked, an old dude walked up to me and said “you really shouldn’t dress so sexy.  It’s making it difficult for me.”  To which I obviously responded, “the way I dress is none of your concern.  Don’t talk to me.” Me being a female in shorts and a tank top in the middle of the summer in New York City makes me a consumable sex object.  Because I am in possession of breasts and a vagina, people have the right to come up to me and comment on how I am dressed and how the way that I am dressed impacts their day.  Me calling people out on that fact makes me a bitch, makes me unable to take a joke, means that perhaps I shouldn’t dress the way I dress because I am “unable to handle the attention” that my behavior generates.

So let’s put this into the context of this incident in Ireland.  So the photo of this young woman giving head goes viral.  As does the photo of her kissing the same young man and the one of that young man with his hands up her shorts.  There is never a time, however, where the young man is accused of being a slut, of being immoral.  His behavior is never questioned.  Him having his hands up her shorts is a demonstration of him accessing that which he deserves, while her “allowing” it to happen makes her a whore.  He is still pure and good and dominant.  She is a slut whose defenders are all “useless, stupid cunts.”

Let’s take this even one step further.  About a year ago a photo of an Irish guy named Eamon Keegan licking a woman’s breast at a soccer game in Poland spread like wild fire through the intersphere.  According to Keegan, this incident came about because, “We were all in Poznan, with all the Irish fans at the game and these two Croatian girls walked through and everyone started singing ‘Get your t*ts out for the lads’ and they actually did.”  The photo went viral.  The Ireland defender Sean St. Ledger starting a Twitter campaign to make Keegan a Twitter sensation.  Keegan even won the “Irishman of the Year” award run by the popular website balls.ie.

So you know what? The problem is not the women and men who defend the honor of yet another teenage girl who unwittingly became infamous online.  The problem is the people who take these photos and share them, immortalizing moments that maybe we wish we could forget because, honestly, we all have them.  The problem are the people who think that the victims of these online bullying campaigns deserve to be criticized by people all over the world.  The problem is the attitude that “lads” should be celebrated for public sexual acts while the women are lambasted.  Eamon Keegan is a hero while this young lady is a piece of of garbage who opened herself up to public criticism because she dared engage in sexual behavior at an outdoor concert.  It is people like Jamie Glavin who think it is their right, no, their responsibility, to denigrate a young woman that are the “the proverbial fucking cherry on top of the fucking miserably disgusting cake that this (world) and its people have become.”

Because Women are Defined Forever by the Politicians they Fuck

24 Jul

I am an avid reader of The New Yorker.  For the first few months I received the weekly magazine, I awaited its arrival with baited breath.  I was riding the train to and from class in Manhattan on a near daily basis and had plenty of time to rip through the half dozen or so articles, the Talk of the Town, the book and movie reviews, the satire.  When I first started reading it, I read it from cover to cover, making sure not to miss a thing.  I was almost compulsive about it.  As time went on and I stopped going to and from the city as often, I began to fall behind.  I now have issue upon issue filed away that I have yet to touch and still I save them, sure that one day I will return for all the valuable information I didn’t have time for in the past.  I refuse to intentionally discard any of them, so consider myself slightly lucky for the loss of a few issues over time.  (Of course, the obsessive side of me is agitated by the holes in my carefully organized collection.)  I am actually half convinced that one day I will be found dead in my apartment, crushed under the weight of piles and piles of back issues of my favorite magazine.  

Recently, I have been in a slight New Yorker rut, toting around unopened issue after unopened issue.  Today I decided all that would change.  I grabbed the July 22nd issue that has been wrinkling in my shoulder bag (a shoulder bag that, by the way, is imprinted with an old New Yorker cover, how predictable) and decided to quickly read through the Talk of the Town so I could more quickly get to the article I was really interested to read, an article by Rachel Louise Snyder called “A Raised Hand:  When domestic violence turns ugly.”  Well, I got waylaid by a Lizzie Widdicombe piece called “On the Couch:  Comeback” that touches upon the return to the political scene for two disgraced New York politicians:  Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner as comptroller and mayoral candidates respectively.  I have actually been thinking about how to address this exact topic for some time and Ms. Widdicombe, whom I normally enjoy quite a bit, gave me just the fodder I needed.

Just today I was ranting about the return of Spitzer and Weiner, lamenting the fact that if a female politician were to “sext” someone a photo of her tits or use the services of an escort, her career would be over.  There would be no comeback attempt because there would be no chance of anyone taking her seriously.  She would be a whore.  She would be a bad example for our children.  People would be digging into her past, looking for any sexual deviance.  If she had made an allegation against someone for sexual misconduct, it would be dredged up, analyzed and mocked, more so even than at the time it was filed.  She would go from being a respected politician, to being maligned by the newspapers in the same way as was Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the “call girl” who’s mere existence brought down Spitzer,  a woman who was, after all, simply doing her job.  Dupre, as it turns out, is more than just her job.   According to the assistant editor of Rolling Stone Andy Greene (as quoted by Widdicombe), Dupre was a singer with a voice “not much worse than Britney Spears.” But, he continued “it’s a really tough road for her to have a music career because she’s a prostitute.”  Apparently, her time as a sex worker makes it near impossible for anyone to imagine her as anything other than that.  Dupre is a prostitute, Spitzer is someone who gave in to temptation; Dupre lacks morals, Spitzer is merely weak.  For many Americans, being a paid participant in the sex trade devalues a person, and yet high powered men who pay for the services of women like Dupre can get their lives back in order with a few well-timed apologies and maybe a publicized visit to a therapist. Spitzer, after all, was given two shots at being a talk show host.  And now he is back in politics.  None of this is to say, of course, that people utterly forget what happened, that the offenders aren’t mocked ruthlessly (I mean, Weiner, really? The jokes write themselves!), or that a return to the political scene is easy.  The point is that a return is possible, which it is not for women.  Until recently, Dupre wrote a sex column for the New York Post because once you’ve been a sex worker that’s pretty much all people want to hear out of your mouth.  Anyway, back to Widdicombe’s article.

In her short piece, Widdicombe talks about the entrance of these two men back into the political scene.  She takes the approach of analyzing their “infidelities” using the perspective of marriage councellors, making the argument that these two men need to salvage their voter-politician relationship much in the way they had to salvage their marriages.  (Granted, this is going to be much harder for Weiner given the recent release of more information about his sext-ploits.)  In conversation about Spitzer’s return, one therapist she spoke to, a Doctor Jim Walkup, said that voters “remember the look of that woman” (italics mine), referring to Dupre.  And, a Doctor Christina Curtis added, “his wife” — Silda Wall Spitzer — “having to go up to the podium, and the humiliation.”  She is remembered for, and defined by, her humiliation.  The New York Post, oh-respectable publication, called her “the first door mat” and I think I read somewhere that she blamed his visits to Dupre on herself.  Patriarchy at its finest.

I actually don’t really know where to go from here.  I guess part of it is that I would expect for The New Yorker to have a more nuanced discussion, even in a short piece, of the roll that gender plays in all of this.  The writers have been known to say much more with much less words.  These men have taken advantage of their power and privilege and although they were forced to resign their seats at the time, they are still relevant.  But what about Dupre?  She is just “that woman.”  And despite her high powered career, our national memory of Wall Spitzer is best captured in these words by Katy Waldman of Slate:

“Silda Wall Spitzer impressed herself into our collective memory when she stood, chalk-gray, beside her husband as he resigned from the New York governorship in 2008. It was a wrenching image of devotion or delusion, depending on your take…”

I guess what I am looking for is a simple admission that when these high-powered men take their dicks out, there is collateral damage and that the damage generally has a female face.  Monica Lewinsky, after all, is remembered for little more than that stained blue dress but the reality is that she wasn’t simply an exploit, she was and is a person.  Furthermore, despite the fact that Bill Clinton earned himself the unfortunate nickname “Slick Willy,” his opinion still matters.  His support of Barack Obama makes a difference.  He is still respected.  And yet the only thing that matters about Lewinsky, even all these years later, was that she gave the President head in the oval office.  These women are all human beings.  They deserve our respect and they deserve to be acknowledged for something more than simply their involvement in some dude’s temporary political undoing.  We have to acknowledge the power dynamic that exists between a well-established, well-respected, powerful man and the oftentimes much younger women that get wrapped up in, and brought down by, their after hours activities.  We have to acknowledge that men of power, and specifically straight, white men of power, get a pass from us when they fuck up, even when they fuck up over and over again.  Sure, give Spitzer and Weiner another chance, but lets not use it as an excuse to unearth topless photos of Dupre.  The women that get caught up in all this are simply living their lives, and they deserve to go on living it outside the shadow of some powerful guy.  They also deserve a second chance.

Everyone Loves an Ike

13 Feb

DISCLAIMER:  I made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to temper my anger in the following post.  The result is rambling. Proceed with caution.

So I know people have been all over this but I just can’t help myself… seriously, Grammys?  Chris Brown?  There aren’t plenty of other performers that you could have gotten to perform last night?  Other performers that, say, aren’t girlfriend beaters?  Especially considering that when Chris Brown was arrested on a felony assault charge three years ago it was at the pre-party for this very same awards show?  I am not arguing that the Grammys should be some sort of moral guide for how we should all behave out in the world, but this one sort of seemed like a no brainer.  So I thought to myself, self, you actually know nothing at all about the Grammys other than that it happens once a year and there is a lot of fanfare and you never watch it because you find award shows boring.  So, I decided to go on the Grammys website and see what it’s all about.  What follows is their official Mission Statement:

The GRAMMY Foundation was established in 1989 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture — from the artistic and technical legends of the past to the still unimagined musical breakthroughs of future generations of music professionals. The Foundation accomplishes this mission through programs and activities that engage the music industry and cultural community as well as the general public. The Foundation works in partnership year-round with The Recording Academy to bring national attention to important issues such as the value and impact of music and arts education and the urgency of preserving our rich cultural heritage.

So the Grammys achieves the mission of advancing the “contribution of recorded music” by engaging the “cultural community” and saying “hey, cultural community, we here at the Grammys have absolutely no problem with performers who beat up their girlfriends.”  This sends the message that not only is it okay to hit your girl and that the world will forgive you your misstep, but also that being beat up by your boyfriend actually isn’t as bad as you thought!  I mean, if the Grammys, and the music community, accept Chris Brown back, why shouldn’t you accept your boyfriend back?  And, while you’re at it, why don’t you go on one of your social networking sites and tweet or update your status to reflect the our societal acceptance of wife beating by making the point that “hey, Chris Brown, you’re sexy.  You can beat me up any time you want.”** Because apparently if the face is pretty then the fist must be, also.

According to their statement, the Grammys also works to bring to the forefront of conversation important issues such as “the value and impact of music.”  I would really like to ask the Grammys how they define the word “impact” because I would imagine the “impact” of a fist to your face would qualify as an important issue in the music world especially when that fist and that face both happened to belong to big new stars in the music biz.  But, apparently not.

I then decided to look and see who is on the board.  I had a sneaking suspicion that the board was made up largely by menfolk and wouldn’t you know it, I was right!  Of the 18 people on the Board of Directors, only 5 of them are women. (In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that the Grammy Foundation Executive Staff is split evenly by gender, with two male executives and 2 female.  The president, however, is male.)  Anyway, so now I have this image of these 18 board members sitting around this huge marble conference table (much like the one Kanye West tweeted about) and one of them goes “hey, guys, you know what would be an awesome idea?  Let’s have Chris Brown perform at the Grammys this year!  I mean, it’s been long enough, right?”  And after a little mild deliberation, they decide that, yes, 3 years is plenty of time for everyone to either forgive or forget that whole unfortunate “Rihanna incident” and, besides, she’s “over it” anyway so why shouldn’t we be?

Well, you know what?  I am not over it.  If Rihanna wants to forgive him for what he did, that is her decision, her prerogative, and hers alone and I have no judgement one way or the other.  But for a mainstream event, one that is watched by millions of people, many of them women, many of them young, to basically declare that smacking your girlfriend around is a forgivable offense, well that just makes me eyeballs itch.  For an organization that claims to prioritize the “impact of music” and the “urgency of preserving our rich cultural heritage” to condone this behavior through its approval of Chris Brown is disgusting.  All the Grammy Foundation has managed to preserve is the tendency for our “rich cultural heritage” to further reinforce our uniquely American breed of patriarchy.  Shame on you, Grammy Foundation, I will continue to not watch your award show.

**This post was inspired by my loving boyfriend who enjoys getting me riled up by sending me links to sites and articles that will raise my blood pressure, all from the safety of his desk in midtown.  The tasty nugget today featured a link to a list including the following actual status updates and tweets written by real women who some how exist in the world:  “call me crazy buttttttttt I would let Chris Brown beat me up anyyyy day” and “I don’t know why Rihanna complained.  Chris Brown could beat me up any time he wanted to” and “Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as he wants to, just as long as he kisses it.”  This then sent me on a downward brain-spiral during which I lamented that the society in which I live is one where women actually play into, and make light of, situations that are clearly detrimental to their well-being.  Because, apparently, tweeting about being beat up by a good-looking man is reasonable.  Hopefully none of these women will ever be in the position that Rihanna was in but, if they are unfortunate enough to be a victim of domestic violence, let us hope they are met with more support and compassion than they, or the Grammys, have shown.