Thursday, August 29, 2013

Invasive Maneuvers

Me being  me, I had to search for
one with braille
I had a dream last night I need to share  because, well, feminism.

I was in a bathroom, set up more like a women's locker room (there were, in fact, lockers and benches). While about to exit the stall, I heard a woman on the other side of the door say, "What are you doing here?" in a semi-frightened tone.

"Men's bathroom is full," a male voice said. "Principal said we could use this one." He sounded pleased with himself.

"Yeah," another male said, "it's not like we're going to cause any trouble." His tone was very, uh, insincere. 

My dream-self thought, "Aw, HELL no," and as I flushed the toilet, I undid my jeans (well, capris, but not that it matters too much) and pulled them down a little so the bright pink of my panties showed through the opening made by the button and zipper. I unlocked the door, jammed my thumbs in my poockets, and stepped out, doing  my best gorrilla impersonation, complete with kind of sticking  my jaw out a little as the first guy told a woman he liked her necklace in a way that makes my real-self's skin crawl as I think back on it, now- he obviously  wasn't talking about her necklace.

The two guys were standing right outside my stall. I very slowly looked both up and down, head to toe, letting my eyes hover over their crotches and shoulders. I did this until they looked confused.

"Hey ladies!," I shouted in my best cat-call tone, "there's MEN in the house!"

Taking my cue, a bunch of other women started whisling and ow-OWing and oo-la-laaing, and a crowd assembled. 

One said, in what I recognized as the first voice, "Yeah, that's right." He stared at the top of my panties as he went on to say, "And we like what  we see." 

"Honey," another woman said, "you have no idea." And she stared at his ass. 

The next few comments are kind of a blur, but basically, the other women helped me cat-call these guys and  make the same kind of comments to them that women get tossed at them all the time. Some highlights I do remember, though:

"I love your pecks, can I motorboat them?"

"That hair, it's silky enough to pull."
"It's a good thing you have permission to be in here, otherwise I'd have to force myself on you... in a citizen's arrest."

There  was also this one kind of hilarious moment where the second guy said to a gal in a hoodie, "And  what, are you planning on hooding me?"

Her response was, "Please, I wouldn't stick my hood in something that nasty, gonorrhea ain't my style."

There was also a moment at which I said, "Mmmm, I looove objectifying men!" and the other women cheered and whistled their agreement.

So then the next thing I knew, I and a bunch of the other  women were at group interview with some news crew in a classroom (because apparently I was back in high school?), and it seemed to be going okay. The interviewer, a dude in a suit, asked why I started the whole thing, and I kind of monologued at him. The  exact wording is gone, but  here's basically what I said, in conjunction with a remark  by the guy about unisex bathrooms.
"I use  unisex bathrooms all the time. This isn't about that. I use those when  I feel like  it. When I go into a women's restroom, it's because I want to be in a safe space, away from men. Sure, gender is a social construct, but so is the violence  against women that's so normalized in our culture. A women's restroom is like a safe haven from that. So I was enraged when two dudes came in and invaded that safe space. I mean, I get objectified the moment I step outside those bathroom doors, I don't need it in there, too. So I thought, why not show them why their arrogance is exactly why they shouldn't be there? Give them a taste of their own medicine?" 

Then at some point, Hoodie Woman was singled out, presumably for her "biting wit," and I added, "And I'm glad you handled it that way, especially."

"Whhy?" the interviewer asked.

"Because," I said, "given that the other guy  had been so overt in staring at my underwear and saying he  liked what he saw, I had absolutely zero expectations of him, and if she hadn't said something, I would have in order to avoid him making a tasteless Treyvon Martin joke."

The interviewer seemed flabbergasted. "You really think he'd do that."

"I had no reason not to."

"Well," the interviewer said, "that's the perfect chance to bring the two men in here," and he started to turn around and gesture, but I interrupted as a bunch of the other women  tenssed up around me.

"Stop right there!"

"I beg your pardon?" he said, confused.

"Are you seriously going to bring those two in there without  even asking if we're comfortable with it?"

"Well, I don't see why it's a problem?" His tone  made it sound like a question.

I sighed exasperatedly and said, "Because that would be  a total repeat of the bathroom. We were in a safe place, when some dude on high gave some other dudes permission to invade it, without even mentioning it to us. Right now, we're in what  was moments ago another safe place, where we were expressiong some deeply personal, sometimes traumatic stuff to you, and you, a dude, want to call in the same dudes that violated us before? How can you possibly think that's okay?"

"But aren't you the person that said you, quote, 'Love objectifying men?'"

"Wait," I said, 

"hold the goddamned phone. I see what's actually happening, here. You're intending to villify us, and make those two assholes out as the victims here, as if we all sought them out and bullied and intimidated them of our own design. Fuck that. They invaded our space with every intent to belitttle and objectify us and make us feel small. All we did was prevent that from happening by doing the exact shit they intended to do to us. If you want to call us the baddies, here, if you're going to defend them, you're doing the exact kind of stuff men do whenever they defend that kind of behavior toward women when they get called to the carpet. What, did they mean to compliment us? Make us feel good about ourselves? Let me guess, they love women,  so why would they evver be intentionally disrespectful  Why  is  it okay for men  to so overtly express their appreciation for women's bodies but women can't?"
"Well, isn't this situation different?" he said.

"You're Goddamned right it is. They came into our safe place with ill intent. On the authority of a male principal. These dudes have no idea what it's like to have those things said to them when they're alone at night, trying to get to their car or their home. They have no idea what it's like to be afraid to walk  their dog. They have no idea what it's like to have threats to their physical safety made casually, as if it isn't a big  deal, or to be told to calm down or they're overreacting if they express upset at it. They  have no idea what it's like to have their own safe place invaded like that- because when the fuck was the last time you heard of some executive order to let women use a men's restroom when the women's is overcrowded? How often do you see women's restrooms with lines out the door and men's almost empty? If a woman went in there when it had a bunch of men in it, she'd be shamed, possibly even sued or something by some fanatical MRA afraid she was going to cut off his penis. So maybe we assumed the worst of them off the bat, but a man would assume the worst of a woman in his restroom, and besides, the way they were talking, as if they owned the place, they  gave no indication they  just wanted to do their business and get out."

"But you showed them your underwear, didn't you?"

"Right, so that gives them cause to treat me and any other woman like shit?  Then I had every  right to treat them like shit, since one of them had on a tank top that showed way  too much arm for polite company, and the other had one too many buttons undone on his shirt. Please, spare me. You've heard of rape culture, haven't you? Or slut shaming? You wanna call me a tramp for having the top of my underwear exposed, then call them tramps for showing too much skin."

"But there were a dozen of you and only two of them."

"Good. Now they have an inkling of what it's like for us every Goddamned day. Because women feel vastly outnumbered because the system is bent in a direction that leaves us at the bottom and isolated. We feel helpless, scared, and when a place we usually feel safe gets violated, we'll defend it. Because we aren't alone. We're all in one."

And that's pretty much it.

Yeah, I know, it got a little corny, there, but hey. I'm kind of a walking bottle of high fructose syrup sometimes. 

I'm glad I defended our actions, but the thing is, I think, of anything in this scenario, that is the least likely thing to happen. I'm pretty sure if some dudes did go into a women's restroom and they got cat-called and stuff like that, they'd definitely get portrayed as victims of some awful, awful bullying campaign. And the women involved would be portrayed as deplorable, horrible people, and not given a chance to defend themselves. Sure,  objectification of anyone  is bad, but guys going into a space filled entirely with women and intending to be douchebags would be defended by society, and if those women tried to defend themselves, they'd be depicted as the ones doing wrong. 

The fact that the dudes started off as rude is important,  here- there's this horrible tendency for lewd men to get defensive when called out, as if women should thank them for painting scenarios of assault in their heads. When women say something back in defense, they're a "bitch" or a "skank" or whatever else- we have no right to respond, we're supposed to, literally, lie back and take it.

That's rape culture.  

And I gotta say, dream-Me is pretty  damn clever- the thing with showing my panties was perfect, really. Because as indicated by my monologue, yeah, one of the dudes was in a tank top that exposed his muscles very overtly, and the other guy had a button-up shirt on that was half undone, exposing his pecks and part of his stomach muscles. Yes, the dudes in my dream were attractive- flat-out gorgeous, really. But that isn't the point. It would be entirely inappropriate for me to shout something at them if I passed them on the street, but they had entered a women's restroom on the pretense of leering and staring at the women in there. And they had no shame in it, were open about it. So I was criticized for having my jeans partially open, but nothing was said to them about how they were both only partially dressed. The double standard there is exactly the kind of double standards in reality. When women are objectified, their wardrobe  and even why there were in the space in the first place is questioned- but we're supposed to feel sorry for dudes with ill intent. 


I have stuff to do, but let me end by saying I hope that last part in my last speech matters. I'm so sick of slut shaming and double standards and being afraid to walk River by myself. Society needs to change, and men that think it's okay to whistle and say they want to pull my hair need to be put in their place. Not necessarily by being scared shitless, but at least by  being made to realize their behavior is damaging. And that they're huge assholes for thinking it's okay.

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