Tag Archives: sexism

Enough is Enough

21 Sep

I don’t know how you all have been feeling recently, but I have not been feeling good. I have been feeling really angry, really anxious, really sad, really depleted. I have been feeling like all the sexism that I have always talked about has just been pummeling me, dragging me down, and then telling me that it isn’t what it appears, that it isn’t sexism at all.

Let me just tell you a little bit about how this last year and change has felt. Take it for what you will. Feel free to disagree with my recollection of events, but please keep your opinions about how those experiences have led to a specific way of feeling to yourself. Because the way I feel is weak, powerless, unimportant and fucking exhausted. Let me tell you why.

It has always sucked a little bit to be a woman. Sometimes it has sucked a lot. It sucks to be catcalled, to have men try and run alongside you when you are out for a few miles, to have people question your experience and opinion. It sucks to read about backlogged rape kits that could have stopped countless serial rapists but were never tested because the cost – $500 – $1500 per kit – was deemed prohibitive. Because our lives, our sanity, our safety is not worth the money. It sucks to read about sexual assault and rape and, inevitably, have some asshole dude bring up the Duke lacrosse team. I cannot tell you how many times I have been instructed to read “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case”  or “The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of our Great Universities.” I don’t need to read those books to know that a false rape claim was made against a group of athletes and that that one false rape claim made it harder for every other victim to make her case. Every single damn time a woman makes a high profile rape allegation someone brings that damn case up. Enough already. But if you need proof, just look at Brock Turner, the swimmer from Stanford University. The woman he assaulted was found unconscious behind a dumpster while he was humping her, after he manually penetrated her, and that was barely enough to convict him; it wasn’t even nearly enough to send him to jail for any reasonable amount of time. The cards are stacked against us. I mean, I don’t know how else to put this other than by saying this: rape means that someone stuck a foreign object or a piece of their body, like their penis or their finger (depending on the laws of the specific state) inside the body of someone else. Just let that sink in, really think about it. When it comes to the criminal justice system and how it deals with rape allegations, the victims are guilty until proven innocent, not the criminals, and you just try and prove to me otherwise. I have stats on stats. I dare you.

And the thing is that it isn’t just about sexual assault it is about everything. God forbid we have a female superhero without a bunch of dudes getting their panties in a bunch about her being too sexy, not good enough at fighting, too easy to jerk off to, not super not hero enough.  Was she perfect? No. Could she have been better? Of course. But the reality is that male superheroes have been in movies for a long time and the casting still isn’t perfect, the storylines still could be better, the fight scenes still could be more convincing. But I have never, in all the times I have read reviews of superhero movies where the men are the stars read quite so many complaints that this person or that person was cast specifically to be jerked off to. That is not our problem. That is not the problem of the casting. That is not the problem of Gal Gadot. That is not the problem of her and all the women who played the Amazons in that movie who worked their butts off for months to prepare to be picked apart by you for being too this or not enough that. That is your limitation. Yours and yours alone.

And while I am on about that, don’t act like your criticism about Wonder Woman isn’t based in sexism. Ask yourself if you would make the same critique if the lead were a guy. And then think about what you are so afraid of. Because this isn’t about the movie, really. It is about challenging your own perspective, taking a step back, thinking, and then stopping yourself and saying “if I have to specifically say that I am not being  sexist then maybe I should rethink this.” What is it they say about people who say “I’m not racist but…?” Because the same thing applies here. There are, as I said, multiple legitimate criticisms to be made about this movie. The fact that Gal Gadot is too easy to jerk off to is not one of them. Honestly, most people I know – male and female – would fantasize about that woman if she was wearing a potato sack.

Let me just put this into perspective a little bit. This movie came out over the summer, the summer after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in a contest between him and arguably the most qualified presidential candidate ever. This man is racist, he is anti-semitic, he is an elitist schmuck masquearading as a man of the people, and he is an admitted sexual abuser. He grabs women without their consent. That is assault. And he was elected president. How do you think that made a lot of us feel? And how do you think it made us feel that white women, who have drank the Kool-aid of their own oppression, helped put him there? And how do you think it makes us feel now to see people, women and men, tell Hillary to “shut the fuck up.” Well I will tell you how it makes me feel, it makes me feel like shit. And seeing Wonder Woman, watching Gal Gadot kick some ass, made me feel just a teensy bit better and honestly, at this point, I will take what I can get.

Because here’s the thing: I honestly don’t care if you like Hillary or not. I don’t care if you voted for Bernie in the primaries and still think he is some sort of savior. (If you voted for Trump instead of Hillary for whatever bullshit reason, kindly fuck right off because I have exactly zero time for you now and in the future.) What I care about is that you think about this critically. Since the publication of Hillary’s book, people have been saying that maybe she should do something good for the country rather than write a book that no one cares about, that Bernie is still working to make a difference. Bernie, I will remind you, wrote a book already and is still in government. Hillary is a private citizen and therefore can do what the fuck she wants and if she wants to write a goddamn book about what it was like to be the first woman to run for president as a major party candidate then fuck yes she should do it. You’d better believe I would. Because whether or not you like her, her story matters, she matters, and her experience will help shape the campaign of the next woman to run for president, the next woman who might have seen Hillary get so close and thought to herself “you know what, I could do that.” And i the same way, Wonder Woman has made little girls, and some of us grown women, think we could grow up to be a super hero too.

And so for me, every time I hear someone say Hillary should shut up or go away or disappear, I take it personally. Because honestly, I don’t remember seeing countless front page articles in major publications telling Mitt Romney and Al Gore and John McCain that they don’t matter. And it fucking sucks. Because, no, Hillary wasn’t perfect. No one is. But the treatment that she has endured since the beginning of her presence in the public eye, but especially in the months leading up to and following this election has been disgusting. And we should be ashamed. I know I am.

So yeah, I am tired. So in the future, don’t come at me with your opinions about Wonder Woman or Hillary Clinton or Leslie Jones or whatever other woman you for some reason think is undeserving. Unless you really think. I think before I speak because I have to. I’m a woman. I have something to prove all the time. So does Gal Gadot. And so does Hillary Clinton. Just remember that. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt, we get your bullshit.

Bye Bill, Bye.

20 Apr

Yesterday afternoon at work a message from The New York Times appeared on my phone. It read:

Bill O’Reilly Out at Fox After Harassment Allegations

I threw my hands up in the air and hissed a quiet “yes!” to myself. Then I looked around the bar to see who I could share this moment of sheer glory with. The only other person behind the bar was a dude who I have not been overly impressed by. But, I thought to myself, perhaps I have been a little judgmental. If you know me it will come as no surprise that I have a tendency to be slow to forgive the poor behavior of new men that I meet. I am even slower to forgive the poor behavior of new white men. It’s my belief that they more often than not get the benefit of the doubt by default and are therefore allowed to get away with bullshit other people cannot. Not only can they get away with it, but they oftentimes benefit from it. However in this particular moment I decided, selfishly if I’m being honest, to set my pre-conceived notions aside and invite him to join in my celebration of the demise of one of cable news’ biggest pieces of shit. (And that’s saying something.)

So I walked over, still grinning from ear to ear, and told him about the news.

Bill O’Reilly got fired by Fox!

He looked at me, cocking his head slightly to the side.

Oh? For what?

I let out a slight exhale of annoyance. But I calmed myself. It’s okay, I thought, not everyone is up on the news. Not even HUGE news that is being written about almost constantly. Some people just like to live their lives and surround themselves by the things that matter to them and that’s totally cool. I surround myself by gymnastics, current affairs and institutional sexism and racism. That’s not everyone’s thang though.

Allegations of sexual harassment. Fox has settled for like $13 million with 5 different women and I imagine that is only the tip of the iceberg. Dude is a piece of shit.

He smiled.

Well, that’s good. Although I thought it would be something bad.

He thought it would be something bad. I stared at him, realizing that my suspension of previous judgements was clearly a mistake. The times he talked down to me and snapped at me for no reason. The time he scolded me for stirring rather than shaking a vodka martini by sneering

You’re stirring vodka? Shake vodka; stir gin.

And then walked away and joked with one of the male bartenders, leaving me stewing and feeling tiny in the corner. Because that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes you end up working in a boys club. Where (white) dude after (white) dude talks down to you and scolds you meanwhile your male coworkers do the exact same things as you and they get a slap on the back. And so of course he wouldn’t think that sexual assault allegations dating back decades against the highest grossing cable news anchor in history is that bad. Of course not. Because treating women poorly is just part of life. It’s just the way things are.

Sometimes I want to look at someone like him, some doughy faced boy, and just tell him about himself. I want him to know I am smarter than him, better informed, kinder and more responsible. But that doesn’t really matter because he can go out and get hammered and not worry about getting raped on his way home and he can routinely show up to work 2 hours late, still drunk from the night before, and be up for a promotion. Meanwhile Bill O’Reilly has gotten far, really far, my mistreating women and the only thing that actually got him ousted was Fox’s bottom line. And no, not the $13 million, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what O’Reilly brings in. It was because of the loss of advertisement dollars. It was because O’Reilly had to start doing 8 more minutes of show daily to make up for the shortening of commercial segments. And everyone can say that this is a win for the idea of corporate social responsibility, that this is capitalism at work, that large companies do in fact care but the fact of the matter is they care about where the money is. Meanwhile the true heroes are the women who are strong enough to take on one of the biggest men who works for perhaps the most misogynistic company in media today. That shit takes ovaries. Big fucking ovaries. Because you better believe that the die-hard O’Reilly fans are taking to the internet to harass, shame and threaten these women for bringing their idol crashing down. No matter that he did it to himself. And no matter that, although he won’t be returning to Fox News, he will be fine. These men are always fine. Look no further than Tucker Carlson who just took O’Reilly’s spot. He might not have racked up sexual harassment allegations but he is no stranger to treating women like garbage.

I had that moment of happiness, and although I am still happy about it I no longer see this as a win. Sure, O’Reilly is gone (for now) but what will replace him? Will the culture change? Will Fox, and the people who watch Fox, start asking themselves the tough questions about their behavior and their privilege and their opinions that are founded in ignorance rather than fact? Or will they just turn an angry eye to the accusers and the liberal scum who support them and retreat deeper into their hole? Because the truth is that O’Reilly might have lost advertisers but he did not lose many fans. And that is a problem. And it’s a problem that runs super deep because as offensive as my co-worker’s statement was, it was an accurate reflection of a normalized viewpoint. Sexual harassment against women isn’t that bad. Misogyny isn’t that bad. Rape isn’t that bad. The patriarchy isn’t that bad. And for those of us who believe the opposite, it is like living in an alternate universe. And it makes it hard to even celebrate the demise of one of the most hated men. It is hard to relish in his downfall. Because this is all a distraction from the bigger conversation. Bill O’Reilly’s ouster does not change the culture; he is just another scape goat for it. He will find himself another microphone. We have not seen the last of him. And in ways it feels as though we are no better off today than we were yesterday.

Women Are Human Beings, A Brief Investigation

23 Feb

Men, am I right?

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

 

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

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

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

QED, right? I think so, too.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

 

 

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.

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.)

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.