Avast! Feminist Conspiracy!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's the big deal about a "Butt Slap" ?

I want to start off by saying that I think labeling these kids as sex offenders is overkill, and that jail time is overkill too.

Now, let me rage.

I'm fucking sick to death of the harassment of women and girls being minimized like this. I'm sick of the "boys will be boys" attitude that pervades our culture. I'm sick of people using cutesy words like "butt slaps" instead of "groping" or "assaulting". I'm tired of the assumption that teenage boys are hardwired to act like assholes, and the people who refuse to believe that boys do this shit because they know they CAN- that they can shame girls into silence by threatening to call them a slut, or by threatening to do worse things to them, or tell people that the girl liked it. I'm tired of girls being told that they have to look the other way or wait for guys to grow out of it, and that they're overreacting, or worse yet, telling an adult that a boy grabbed your breast and hearing "That just means he likes you! (chuckle) You should take it as a compliment!"

THIS SHIT IS HOW IT STARTS. The groping and bra snapping and comments are the first concrete steps of teaching girls that their bodies are not their own, that they have to put up with unwanted touching, that even people they don't like can touch them and there's not a damned thing they can do about it.

I can recite a whole laundry list of incidents like this that I went through - the earliest starting in 5th grade, and stretching through college. Nowhere was safe: the school bus, the skating rink, the hallways in class, during classes, out in the neighborhood, at parties, even in my own home with my brother's friends. And I bet every woman reading this has their own stories.

This is one of the things that scares me about raising a daughter. I know some day, she'll be faced with this shit, and I hope to god that she will trust me enough to tell me, and that I will have the strength to help her deal with it like a grown up (and not pull a Molly Weasley, "Not my daughter, you bitch!" KABOOM!, which would be my first inclination). I want her to be confident and know she doesn't have to tolerate it. I want all girls to know that. But most of all, I want the boys to know it too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On radar and identity

I think it might be time to cut off my hair.

When I was with toad, she loved my hair short, and that worked for me, because I had always worn it short, and when I came out as a lesbian, I did what all the baby dykes were doing at that time in that area, and I got my hair cut with a one-guard. I wore variations of that cut for years.

I have a life-long issue with my hair. It’s thick and coarse with enough body to hold a curl and piss me off, but not enough to be called “curly” by anyone whose hair is actually curly. When I was about two, my family went to visit my grandfather’s sister, one of my favorite people in the world, and I was taken to a studio for photos. When my mom set me down on the carpet-covered boxes, the photographer said, “Don’t you want to brush her hair first?” and my mom, who’d already spent a bunch of time on my hair, did so, taking out all of her irritation on my hair, again. In the photos, I’ve still got tears in my eyes.

Having my hair washed was no better—it took a very long time and a lot of water to get the shampoo out and no matter how careful we were, I still usually had soap in there, which led to itching and general pissiness for one and all. Combine all of that with the fact that I was fairly certain my mother was trying to kill me when she washed my hair, and you can imagine how my hair looked most of the time.

Shortly after my brother was born, I found some scissors and cut all of my hair off. I have photos from the end of July in 1973—on the 20th, I had long, wavy hair; on the 23rd, my hair was maybe an inch long, with jagged edges everywhere. I loved it. My mom cried.

My memories of the rest of my childhood are that I had very short hair for the rest of my life, though the photos don’t reflect that. I spent a lot of time on ball diamonds and courts, and hair was a thing to be dealt with and kept out of the way as much as possible.

When toad and I split up, I started growing my hair. I have it cut and/or thinned regularly, because there’s a lot of it and if I don’t do that, I get headaches. I wear it in a ponytail most days because I don’t like it getting in my mouth. It’s about shoulder length, now, and I love the way it catches the light, the weight of it in my hands when I’m doing things with it. I love it that the Small Friends always want to play with it and put fancy hairdos in it.

I’m getting to the point, though, where I might need to be done with it again for a while. All the way through my early 20s, I had no breasts to speak of, really. By my mid-20s, I was a solid B cup, and stayed there for quite some time. A few years ago, I was suddenly a C cup. Now, I’m a D, and in addition to the hair changing the way men are looking at and treating me, I’ve got these breasts that seem to make guys think I’m theirs to cat call in a way I never have been before.

I miss flying under their radar. I miss being recognized by other lesbians as family—right now, I look like a straight chick. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are straight chicks, but it’s not who I am. I’ve always said that when I get pregnant, I’m getting my hair cut off because I want people to know that I’m a pregnant lesbian, not just a pregnant woman. But I’m running out of patience and I’m tiring quickly of being approached by men on their terms.

It’s time for things to be on my terms again; I just don’t know if changing my hair will be enough to make that happen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh no, O!

Being back in Canada for me means clothes shopping - since I don't exactly conform to the Korean ideal shape (or the North American one, but here I'm not quite so far off, I guess). Which also means lots of lovely afternoons drinking coffee and reading magazines in Indigo for free. I should start being a little more discriminating, perhaps, because I read O Magazine and I wasn't impressed.

July's issue is all about losing your inhibitions. All the women are writing about accepting and appreciating your body: "If you feel self-conscious without clothes, let a smile be your sarong" writes Amy Bloom. So why is Oprah letting Adam Glassman convey the exact opposite in his column?

Adam starts out by answering the question Is it worse to dress too boringly or too young?" His fabulous answer, that encourages love of differing body types and losing inhibitions?
It's off-putting to see a short, body-flaunting dress on a woman with an older face, even if she has a good shape...This season everything on the runway was very short, even landing at midthigh. Ignore this. A long, gauzy skirt is sexier.
First off, women should wear whatever they want. If we shouldn't call Buffy a slut for wearing revealing clothing (and we shouldn't), then we shouldn't tell older women that their bodies have to be hidden either.

Later in the article he tells us that his first law of summer is "nobody should go sleveless unless her arms are in good shape." Fantastic! So, if you don't look like a movie star, feel free to overheat this summer, while keeping those unsightly arms out of the public gaze. He tells us that elbows are "another body part I don't like to see flaunted unless it's smooth and well cared for." And since I browsed the website for links, I've additionally learned that my nude toenails are quite the affront to fashion.

So in the same episode that celebrates Sarah Jessica Parker's new line of clothing, which includes advertisements that use older models and comes in sizes 2-22, we have good, old Adam suggesting that these women be careful! After all, if Adam and other young, heterosexual males aren't going to be impressed with your body, maybe you should just keep it under wraps. Preferably long, gauzy wraps. Sarah Jessica Parker says that: "There are no laws about how to dress. Show your confidence and take some chances." Adam would presumably prefer to agree to disagree on that one.

O Magazine has those little pull out cards with quotes. Being one of those types who has several books full of quotes I have liked over the years written down, I'm usually a fan. This month she instructs us to:
"Place these inhibition-dissolving cards in your lingerie drawer, on a mirror, or by your bedside, as reminders to tune in, turn out, and set yourself wildly, transformingly free."
But the same magazines states that Speedos on a man should be illegal and when talking about nude beaches questions "why is it that the bodies we don't want to see naked are always the ones parading around?" Mixed messages, much?

What were you thinking Oprah?

I couldn't find all the quotes online. Adam Says was on page 92 of the July issue of O and the comment about nude beaches was on page 43.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Learning to Feign Deafness

I thought I was used to catcalls and come-ons by now. I'm in my 30's and it's been happening to me for over 20 years, so I thought I was at the point where I could roll my eyes and brush it off, but I guess I'm not.

Yesterday evening, we ran to Target to get a new swimsuit for Little Circus. I hate looking for clothes (for anyone), so MrCircus took the kid to the children's department, and I headed straight for the pharmacy so I could find insoles for my new boots. After I settled on the ones I needed (the men's ones, since the women's all seemed designed for high heels) I cut back through a few aisles rather than go out to the front of the store.

I stopped to pick up a few of those little bags of Jelly Bellys for Little Circus to take to school for special treats (located on the lowest shelf, of course), and heard footsteps come up behind me.

"Ooh, those are my favorite!" (sound of bin opening)

I stood up, turned, and found myself face to face with 2 boys around 16, pilfering gummy bears and looking pissed that I saw them. I couldn't care less that they were absconding with gummy bears, I just wanted to find the rest of my family so we could go home and I could take a hot bath and try to relax.

I walked past them, towards the children's section, and heard one of them say, in that "I don't know if I really want you to hear this, but I definitely want my friend to so I can prove what a badass I am" tone that most woman can identify, "Hey baby, wanna fuck?"

I kept walking, a million scenarios running through my head in a matter of milliseconds. Should I turn and laugh at them and say "You wish, buddy, and by the way I'm old enough to be your mother!", do I tell them to fuck off, do I kick them in the shins with my shiny new boots, say "You kiss your mother with that dirty mouth, asshole?"

So I just kept walking, feigning deafness. It wasn't worth the fight, and there's always an element of danger to me in situations like that. You never know what lengths a guy will go to in order to show off his machismo to his friends, even if it is in the middle of a suburban Target on a Friday evening, and not on a dark street in the wee hours.

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got, for various reasons.

I felt like couldn't say anything to MrCircus, for fear of a)him wanting to go chase the guys down or b) blowing it off and telling me to ignore it. (All men should be required to watch War Zone for a look at the shit women encounter on a regular basis)

I knew that it happened because of a reaction to being seen stealing the candy. It felt like the boy was trying to scare me into being intimidated so I wouldn't rat them out.

I knew it had nothing at all to do with how I was dressed (jeans, tshirt, combat boots, hair in a ponytail, glasses) and everything to do with my size, gender, and perceived age.

How do you deal with shit like this? What's been your worst experience? What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned over the years?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Silencing women with accusations of mental illness and rape threats

A former high school friend of mine and all-round fabulous feminist, scholar and activist, Maia, is currently being harassed by Clint Heine, a right-wing blogger affiliated with the ACT Party, New Zealand's most right-wing political organization. One of Heine's commenters suggested that Maia and her political views (which they interpret as signs of "mental illness") could be silenced with "a big black dildo."

I'm not going to dignify Heine's blog with a link, but you can read the post where Maia speaks out here.

Two things perplex me about this case. The first is that misogynists think they're doing anything new by accusing women they don't agree with of mental illness, and then suggesting they could be shut up if only they got to have sex more often. Don't these creeps have any new arguments?

The other things is that Clint Heine blogs under his real name. Does he not care that probably all his future employers will Google him and discover that he is apparently unashamed of expressing such sexist, racist sentiments?

I think it's about time feminists spoke out en masse about this guy. I'd like to call upon feminist bloggers to support Maia by blogging about Clint Heine, since his employers deserve to know what kind of a man they're hiring.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What do you mean all women don't live to shop?

Over the weekend, I went on a little roadtrip with a girlfriend. We ditched the kids and the husbands and drove out of town to go to a concert for a friend of mine.

Yesterday morning, Friend and I were in the elevator going down to the lobby for the free (but terrible) breakfast when a man got in the elevator with us. Friend and I were talking about when we might leave, and when we might call the husbands to tell them we were on the way home. I can't even recall specifically who said what, but the gist of it was that we decided not to call home until we were ready to leave, in case our plans changed.

All of the sudden, the man pipes up, "Oh, I see, gonna go shopping and not tell your husbands?" (snicker)

Um, what?

It made ZERO sense in the context of the conversation she and I were having, neither of us had mentioned shopping in any way, shape or form (we were talking about possibly seeing an old friend of mine), and who the hell invited him into our conversation to begin with? And seriously, what the fuck is with the assumption that all women love to shop, and that it's the only thing women can come up with to pass the time? There were a zillion other possible things for us to do in the area we were at, so why the knee-jerk reaction that women=shopping, plus the assumption that even if we were going shopping that we'd be sneaky and hide it from our spouses?