Media, Sexism, Street Harassment

Nobody Cares

My friend sent me this video yesterday with the following message: “Song about cat calling. It makes me twitch.”

I’m going to give Austin (who just turned 18 this month! Yes, I looked it up, we were all wondering) the benefit of the doubt here. The one thing I can really say for this song is that he is clearly writing directly from his (and if Mahone didn’t write the song himself I’m sure another ‘him’ wrote it on his behalf) perspective. There are admirably a lot of I statements. He describes a personal experience.

When I saw her
Walking down the street
She looked so fine
I just had to speak

I ask her name
But she turned away
As she walked
All that I can say was

Mmm mmm yeah yeah

Turning the other cheek on his failure to pick a tense and stick with it.

Personal. This is what I did, what I saw, what I said. And all I can think is (I’m a medium, if you were wondering)

This ‘experience’ he’s having is one of entitlement and privilege and is a perfect example of how boys are taught that everything that pops into their minds is worth sharing while women are taught to apologize for having an opinion. Nobody cares about your stupid boner. Shut up and go finish your homework.

We don’t care what you think. If we did, we would ask. So keep your equally stupid penis and opinions to yourself. No one asked you.

Street Harassment

Kill All The Spiders

Amazing article over at The Stranger. Street harassment is never your fault but here are a few options to consider when they’re enjoying making you feel cornered and helpless. Scare him.

You won’t always feel safe talking back to a harasser and you shouldn’t feel guilty about backing out of a situation instead of barreling into it if that is what feels right. But harassers are counting on your vulnerability and kindness, your willingness to keep things polite at all costs even when they’ve broken that social code first.

So maybe try rejecting the need to do that.

And if all else fails:

Ladies, as much as we all love scathing comebacks, chances are you’re not always going to be prepared with the perfect response while being harassed. But here’s something you can practice saying in front of a mirror: “Stop harassing me.” It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it signals everyone within earshot—including your harasser—that you’re uncomfortable and you need help. And if the harassment doesn’t stop or you feel like you’re in any immediate danger, call 911 immediately.

And guys: We don’t want to hear any horseshit victim-blaming about women these days not knowing a compliment when it jumps out at them from a dark alley. Here’s a good litmus test for compliments: Would you say it to your mother or niece? No? Then don’t scream it at the woman who’s just trying to catch the number 8 bus. And if you find yourselves justifying any of the behaviors mentioned above, practice saying this in front of a mirror: “I’m a sad, delusional trap-door spider who repulses women with my words and actions.” And then knock it the fuck off. [x]

Bodies, Confidence, Street Harassment


Local FG celebrity, The Yankee himself left a comment on this post the other day that made me think.

I’m sorry that you feel like women look better without make-up. Post Second-Wave feminism there have been lots of dudes (and some ladies) who try to establish either their supposed feminist ideology or “good guy-ness” by labeling makeup and other tools of self-presentation (e.g. clothing, accessories and jewelry, style) as tools of oppression. Unfortunately, most of these tools (and they are tools) are linked to a femme or female identity, and criticism of them really comes from an anti-woman place. You don’t hear as much folks telling dudes that “You’d look so much better without that beard or muscles”, or “I think men look better without penises”.

Femininity is criticized in our culture as inauthentic, and dismissed as unserious. Why? We all do things to affect our self-presentation. Sometimes wearing makeup is a tactic that women choose to gain some form of power in an unjust world. Sometimes wearing makeup is done for pleasure or to emulate other powerful Femme women (think Dolly Parton, who embodies femininity but also maintains a ton of real world power in most every sense). No decision to wear makeup makes a person less serious, less authentic, or less powerful.

Maybe you really do have aesthetic reasons in your brain for preferring women without makeup. But those reason don’t exist in a vacuum. They come from socialization and a culture that dismisses Femmes, and has for a long time.

And I’m making no assumptions about you as a person, but I will say that in my own experience I have been in lots of non-mainstream communities where dudes use aversion to makeup, or porn, or sex work to prove their feminist street-cred as a means to sleeping with women. I’ve done it myself. And I think it requires a lot of self-examination to stop doing it.

Having women in my life is a privilege, and with that privilege come the responsibility of looking at where my ideas about their appearance come from, and often criticizing my responses.

It got me thinking about what I use makeup for.

Last summer when I fell of my bike and tore half the skin off my knees I enjoyed walking around in the least attractive outfit I could wear. Some awful khaki shorts and a fantastically clashing green shirt. My color-blind-camp-counselor look.

Similarly when I’m nervous about something at work I’ll load on the mascara and wear actual lipstick. The same way football players put black streaks on their faces to intimidate their enemies, I bust out the liquid liner when I want everyone to know I’m a badass.

The problem of course comes in when men assume that whatever choices I make are purely for their benefit. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes they are. The dress I wore to opening night, with the matching undergarments and heels, that was purely for the benefit of my date to that event. And no one else. And he knew it. Which in turn benefitted me of course.

Pro tip: If you don’t know very clearly that it’s for your benefit then it’s not.

And if you like my choices for the day, or if you dislike them, I still don’t care. I like them. And I matter me to me a whole lot more than you matter to me.


Do You Think I’m Not Afraid?

Do you really think I’m not afraid of men? Why? Because I speak as loudly as you do? Because I took the train up and walked here alone at midnight? Because I’m sleeping at your house tonight?

None of these things mean I don’t fear men. I spend time every day being afraid of men. Inside, outside, I make choices about where I go and what I do based on it. I loathe myself a little bit every day based on it. I write a blog because of all the feelings surrounding it. And you think that just because I’m brazen none of that exists?

Loving and being afraid of men in this world is like cleaning wax off this candle. You want the pleasure of it but you know that you’re playing with fire. The heat is always there, sometimes it’s a draw but you never forget how quickly it can turn on you, not even in it’s warmest moments do you forget the damage you’ve seen it cause. So you touch it because the pleasures are great, but you watch it carefully because the fear is great too.

If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.
-Chris Clarke, How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide For Men

Street Harassment

Must You Really?

Today on my morning commute a young guy with a purple mohawk got on the train and asked for food. I carry protein bars in my purse so I gave him one. He opened it up, bit into it and asked me

‘Hey, will you be my girlfriend?’
I said No, thank you.
‘If I can’t make love to you I’ll kill myself’
‘I don’t negotiate with hostage-takers.’
‘Do you want to go to a punk rock show with me tonight?’ (Have I mentioned that I was listening to Taylor Swift at the time?)
‘Definitely not’
‘What kind of music do you like?’
He grimaced and left the train

When he got off the train the little old lady next to me told me that when she worked at Macy’s one day one of her colleagues asked her to get security because there was a pantsless man asking her out on dates.  He asked her to breakfast, she said no, ‘What about dinner instead?’

I looked at her a while longer, trying to get the punchline.

‘I just thought this was similar.’

After she finished and got off the train I looked around, thinking about how every woman on the train probably has a similar story.

And I just couldn’t help but think, Why?

I’m sorry for being so awesome and distracting.  Or actually wait, no, I’M NOT AT ALL. Leave me the hell alone, my body is not here for you.  It’s here for me.  It’s mine.  Leave me and it alone and go live out the rest of your miserable life without me.

You’re welcome for the protein bar.  I know, it’s delicious and filling.

Street Harassment

street harassment


I’ve been thinking a lot about street harassment lately.  I’ve been getting a lot of it lately.  So much so that I started keeping a log of every encounter.  For the first two days I wrote down locations, times of day, what I was wearing and the specifics of what was said.  On the third and fourth days no one said anything to me and I couldn’t really write down “gawked at at 4pm.”

On the fifth day it was a Friday night and walking past the bars gave me such anxiety that I started tuning out everything that was said instead of mentally trying to jot it all down for later.  I considered taking a side street but the side streets were darker than the main street with all the bars on it, making my choice a)walk on this street which will make you incredibly uncomfortable but probably keep you physically safer or b)walk on the other street which will probably have fewer drunk guys but also fewer people to notice if anyone should touch you.

I walk fast.  I’m fine.  I always am.  But if you’re a man who is still under the misapprehension that street harassment is a compliment I’d just like to tell you that you are very very wrong.

Street Harassment

Even Stoya Needs A Tourettes Break

The other day a friend referred me to an article that made me cry.  I would copy/paste the whole thing here but I won’t.

It’s written by adult performer Stoya about how the treatment she receives as a porn star tends to be less cruel than the hostility of common street harassers.

First she counts off the times she’s been harassed at a trade show.  The harassment is creepy but sounds not much worse than Bridget Jones’s family reunions.

The following bit is what made me tear up.  It’s too familiar.

They say I have a sweet ass, nice tits, a real pretty dress. They say I’m their future wife, or I’d look good with their dick in my mouth. They try (and probably succeed at times) to take pictures down my shirt. They ask if they can get my number, they ask where I live, why I’m not smiling, why my boyfriend lets me walk around by myself. Then they ask why I’m such a bitch, if my pussy is made of ice. They say that they never do this, as though I’ve somehow driven them to inappropriate behavior and deserve it. They say they’re just having fun, trying to pay me a compliment. Pretty frequently they get mean, slipping into a loud tourettes — like chant of bitch-whore-cunt-slut.

Street harassment is not a rare or isolated occurrence. It does not only happen in America. It does not only happen to young or traditionally-considered-“beautiful” women. It does not only happen on public transit or in low income areas.

We shouldn’t have to have a big angry dog named Funster to protect us. We shouldn’t have to carry Mace or a knife, hoping that we’ll be able to use it properly if necessary or investing hours of our lives in self defense courses (something a lot of women have neither the time nor disposable income to do). We shouldn’t have to travel in packs to feel safe (again, something that isn’t really feasible).

I don’t know what more I can say about this other than it makes me want to die.

They say that 1 in 6 women will be raped in her lifetime.  And based on the number of friends who have told me about their rapes I’d say that’s a conservative estimate.  Well, then I would say that at least 5 in 6 women “has at least one truly terrifying story of street harassment and a whole bunch of other stories that are merely insulting or annoying.”

Can you imagine if 5 in 6 men had a story of being harassed in the streets for being a man?

What if all women were bigger and stronger than you? And thought they were smarter? What if women were the ones who started wars? What if too many of your friends had been raped by women wielding giant dildos and no K-Y Jelly? What if the state trooper who pulled you over on the New Jersey Turnpike was a woman and carried a gun? What if the ability to menstruate was the prerequisite for most high-paying jobs? What if your attractiveness to women depended on the size of your penis? What if every time women saw you they’d hoot and make jerking motions with their hands? What if women were always making jokes about how ugly penises are and how bad sperm tastes? What if you had to explain what’s wrong with your car to big sweaty women with greasy hands who stared at your crotch in a garage where you are surrounded by posters of naked men with hard-ons? What if men’s magazines featured cover photos of 14-year-old boys with socks tucked into the front of their jeans and articles like: “How to tell if your wife is unfaithful” or “What your doctor won’t tell you about your prostate” or “The truth about impotence”? What if the doctor who examined your prostate was a woman and called you “Honey”? What if you had to inhale your boss’ stale cigar breath as she insisted that sleeping with her was part of the job? What if you couldn’t get away because the company dress code required you wear shoes designed to keep you from running? And what if after all that women still wanted you to love them?”

– For the Men Who Still Don’t Get It, Carol Diehl. (via theseasonofthewitch) [x]

I just don’t believe so few people would care.

We are not asking for a right to the streets, we are taking them; we are not asking for advertisements that do not objectify women, we’re destroying the commercial mechanisms that objectify women; we are not appealing to male power for an end to rape, but threatening: ‘If you touch me, I will fucking kill you.’

For once, the mechanisms that create and maintain identities of womanhood were refused, and our desires were our own, our bodies were our own, and our violence was our own.

– We’ll Show You Crazy Bitches (via trill-wave-feminism) [x]


Need I Be Pretty?

The other day I fell off my bike and lost a great deal of skin from both of my knees.  For the next two days I walked around with two great big gauze bandages taped to my knees like deranged knee pads and wore my ugliest pair of shorts to avoid unnecessary fabric-knee touching.  Instead of putting on make up before going to work I chose to stay in bed a little longer, basking in the soothing effect of inactivity.  This meant that I left the house each day looking like the least intentional woman in New York City.

But also feeling like the absolute strongest.  I kept thinking about Ashley Judd’s claim that by wanting men to think I’m pretty I give them the power to deny me approval.

Pretty?  Screw pretty, I’m walking and I’m kicking butt at it!  I didn’t care to notice if anyone checked me out, for once in my life I just lived in my body instead of seeing it through the eyes of (male) strangers.  And (aside from the physical pain) it felt amazing!  I wish I had the words to describe the feeling of not seeking anyone’s approval.  Imagine someone you don’t like handing you a pie but instead of eating it you just throw the pie in their face and then laugh your head off.  It sort of feels like that but minus the residual guilt a pie to the face would probably elicit.

Patriarchy offers us a bargain.  ‘Be beautiful for me and I’ll reward you with a ring, a house in the burbs, a career maybe.’

For many women the answer is to take the deal first and figure out how to be happy with it later.  With varying levels of success.

But this commodification model isn’t the only option. You can choose to buy into it.  Spend the money on the makeup, the clothes, and the botox.  Or you can decide that instead of paying for the space you take up with prettiness you can ignore the completely asinine demand and make up rules that make you FEEL good.

This was my first real experience truly feeling in my every pore “You think I need your approval?!  HA!”  and it was more freeing and amazing than a thousand “you’re hot”s have ever been.

I don’t know how to reconcile this with living in this world and enjoying sparkly nail polish but I do know that on the third day when I switched out the stark white gauze for the slightly less obnoxious band aids and even in my ugly khaki’s and wife beater I got a catcall I’ve never felt so intruded on in my life.  Suddenly my body went from being a symbol of victory to a public statue for homeless drunks to piss on at night.

I won’t tell you to go without makeup if makeup is something you use to express yourself.  I’m not going to dare you to quit shaving your legs or wear Birkenstocks.  It’s not anyones place to tell you how you should or shouldn’t look or dress.  However, I will say that those two days where I didn’t care what ANYONE thought of my appearance, I felt more in control of my world than I have since before puberty in my entire life.

I owe you nothing.