Tag Archives: patriarchy

Let’s Do This Right

12 Nov

This has been a hard week for a lot of us. For most of the people who read this blog, I suspect. Expecting to walk into the ring and come out victorious, we got TKOd in the 9th round and found ourselves lying on the mat surrounded by friends asking if we were okay (we were, and are, not) staring up at a glass ceiling that we all expected to be shattered and yet there it remained, in tact as always. And we were angry. And we lashed out on blog posts and in conversations with our friends and families, at protests in cities all over the country, and we promised to be united and to work. We promised to combat this regression with positive change. We poured over the internet at stories of harassment, of people afraid to leave the house, and we were incensed. This was not our America. And then…

And then…

We started coming across posts by our friends, by our supposed allies. Posts of Melania Trump, the wife of the president elect (I still shudder when I say that), in the nude. Because yes, she was a model. And yes, she did occasionally pose nude. But what does that have to do with anything? Why are people posting photos of past First Ladies in conservative dress and then one of Melania Trump, naked? I’ll tell you: because people are sexist as fuck.

And honestly, in a lot of ways, that is a large part of what this election came down to. And that is what this election, or post-election I suppose, is still in part about. Misogyny. And if you think it isn’t as bad on the left then you are kidding yourself. If you think I’m wrong, just look at how much time it takes for you to find a naked picture of Melania on some “progressive’s” timeline or website. Or how long it takes one of your male friends to conveniently forget to mention the role sexism is playing in the aftermath. See him omit comment about his female friends when he talks about all the groups reporting abuse or those afraid to leave their homes in the past few days. In a world where a lot of us are looking for safety and support, photos of the future first lady meant to degrade her, meant to make her appear immoral or dirty or like a whore because she, at one time, was a model, are not safe, they are not supportive and they should not be welcome.

But then here’s the other thing. Female modeling, especially in the 1980s and 1990s when Melania was in the business, was about pleasing men. (I hope the industry has gotten better?) Do you think those photos of her were meant to make women want to buy something? No. So now we have a woman who was directed and photographed by men in order to please men being shit on by men for being a whore. Oh, okay. So it was okay when you liked it but now? Now somehow her having her photograph taken is some sort of moral flaw? Are you kidding? Melania was doing her job and, as far as I can tell, she was doing her job well. She has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and we should not be using the fact that she took advantage of her height, kickass body and good looks to pay her bills as a way to demean her. There is nothing wrong with what she did.

So let’s get this right, friends. Do I think there has to be something wrong with Melania if she married that asshat? I sure do. I mean, gross. But also, who fucking cares. We have bigger fish to fry. We are looking at four years of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani and an empowered GOP. They are going to fill a seat on the court and undo a lot of the good Obama did. The good he was forced to accomplish through executive order because our government is chock full of cry babies. We have a lot of work to do. And, as far as I am concerned, and sure, call me elitist, we have the moral high ground. We have a nominee who incredibly graciously conceded the presidency to a someone with absolutely no experience or relevant qualifications because, democracy. We have a sitting President who, despite his obvious dislike for the man, had a long conversation with him in the Oval Office and tried with the strength of his compassion and his conviction to make a pitch for the preservation of the Affordable Care Act. And we have at least some percentage of the population who wants social change, who wants equality, who wants safety, who wants equal opportunity for all. (Pst….thats us.) So let’s do this right. Stop slut shaming. And seriously, check yourselves. Language matters. Silence speaks volumes. Let’s all climb this hill alongside each other and let’s not shit on each other on the way up.

What is it that the First Lady said throughout Hillary’s campaign?

When they go low, we go high.

Go high, friends. Stop posting those photos. Stop shaming women, even if they do have terrible taste in husbands.

Turn Down the Microphone

27 Sep

I was driving down Hamilton Avenue listening to NPR when I heard it, the thing I’d been anticipating since I woke up this morning: The Excuse. And it wasn’t The Excuse I had been mentally predicting since the middle of the debate last night, that Lester Holt had asked him unfair questions, although that was certainly on the list of ways that Donald Trump believed he was the victim of a biased moderator. (Never mind the fact that Lester Holt was simply fact checking Trump’s responses and trying to hold him accountable for any of the countless inflammatory and incorrect statements he has made through his campaign and before. His deep participation in the birther movement, comes to mind, but also the fact that Trump has not yet released his taxes – something that presidential candidates have done for decades.) The Excuse was actually much more absurd. On Fox & Friends this morning, the day after the debate in which, I would say, he got trounced, Trump complained that his microphone was defective, that it wasn’t as loud as Hillary Clinton’s.

o_O

Let us just reflect on this for a moment. Many of us watched the debate last night and I am going to go out on a limb and say that none of us had a hard time hearing Donald Trump. Did we have a hard time understanding him, what with his reliance on incomplete sentences and his incredible overuse of the word tremendous? Certainly. But could we hear him? Loud and clear. We heard his arrythmic breathing – he sniffled 37 times during the debate. We also heard him when he interrupted Clinton – 51 times by some estimates. We heard him when he said that not paying taxes makes him smart. And again we heard him when, in response to Clinton bringing up his long history of misogyny, he said that this well-documented history simply was not true. Except for in one particular instance.

“Somebody who’s been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it, and nobody feels sorry for her.”

The supposedly justified “tough things” that he said? He called her a “loser,” a “fat pig,” a “mental midget, a low life,” a “degenerate” and a “slob.” She deserved all of these insults, though, because she had the gall to opine that his bankruptcy and extra-marital affair perhaps made him unfit to be a moral arbiter for a potentially wayward Miss USA. Rosie O’Donnell made that statement in 2006. And here we are, 10 years later, on the main stage of American politics, in a debate thats purpose is to help the American electorate decide who is best fit to have the fucking nuclear codes, and one of the candidates is so butthurt about a more-or-less harmless comment made by a daytime talkshow host that he brings it up. And, in an effort to not sound like the misogynist playground bully that he is, he blamed the victim.

But while Trump makes the rounds talking about how unfair everyone is in the face of his tremendous ability to make money and respect women, I just want to discuss one simple thing. I want to discuss the fact that last night myself and millions of other people tuned in to watch as one of the most qualified presidential candidates in history patiently waited her turn as an uninformed, unqualified man yelled over her time and time again. And that, friends, is what it is to be a woman. Hillary Clinton had so many opportunities to deliver the kill shot in last night’s debate. There was the issue of misogyny, the taxes, national security, among others but she resisted. She was measured and restrained. It was frustrating as hell but it was smart. It was the only way for her to play it. We live in a society that normalizes sexism. Where women make less than men for equal work, where we have to work harder and be more qualified, where a group of young female athletes win the Olympic gold medal in gymnastics and their excitement is likened to girls hanging out in a mall. We are underestimated and infantilized. And god forbid we succeed. Because success means giving up our only intrinsically valued trait: our femininity. But don’t get it twisted: that trait is valued in that it makes us controllable and unthreatening. And even when we reach the pinnacle of success, when one of us is at the brink of becoming the first female president of the United States of America, still she must demure. Still she must wait while her opponent rattles off a series of untruths, knowing full well that if the roles were reversed, if he was the prepared policy wonk and she the temperamental dunce, she never would have gotten this far. She never would have gotten anywhere. She would have been thrown into the pit along with Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina and Michelle Bachman, resurrected only when her specific brand of stylized politics and nifty glasses were deemed useful to the man she was helping to support. Hilary is smart. She knows what world she lives in.

And now today we have to listen to Trump talk about how his mic was bad. And how that was probably intentional. But how he won anyway. And we have to listen to political commentators say that he came ahead in the first 25 minutes despite the fact that he barely said anything and that what he did say was sprinkled with questionable grammar and overused qualifiers. And we have to remember that she stood there, calmly, hoping that he would self-destruct on his own because it would be unladylike for her to take him down, and being ladylike still matters. Playing by the biased rules of the game has gotten her this far and she is too close, too goddamn close, to let it all go.

So I guess what I am saying is just remember this moment. Remember this moment when the most qualified went up against the biggest blowhard and she had to play it cool in the face of his mansplaining, his insults, and his inaccuracies. Because that is what we as women do. That is what we do every single fucking day. And I honestly hope that if Hillary wins, no, when Hillary wins, that younger generations will see a woman as the leader of the free world and realize that women, all women, regardless of their religion, color, class, job, sexual orientation, physical abilities or whatever else, deserve the same respect, the same opportunities, as men. Because what Hillary endured last night was absurd. It was the patriarchy rearing its ugly head. And mark my word it will continue to do so throughout the next 6 weeks up until election day, there is no getting around it. It’s the patriarchy that makes Trump a viable candidate, and the patriarchy that makes Hillary not a shoe in.

So, no, your mic was working. It’s your privilege that needs to be checked.

 

 

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.

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.