Posts made in May, 2014

Girls will be girls

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Unpublished, Writing | 1 comment

For years now, I’ve treated the word feminist, and many of the people who are ardent members of the movement, with a bit of a sideways glance and a healthy dose of skepticism. I had fallen for the belief that fighting against the system radically will only make it worse and is therefore counterproductive. I had looked at the progress that has been made in the past decades and been able to be like, well, it’s better now, so why are we still complaining? In both of those stances I now see the very reason why we need feminism. As a human being I should feel empowered to stand up for ALL of my rights – without concern for society thinking I had “gone too far” or “was asking too much” or “was hormonal and cranky”. The very fact that I was hesitant, due to possible backlash is symptomatic of the power the patriarchy has over society. In my aversion to  fighting for what is equal, fair, and just, I was unwillingly and unquestionably submitting to the societal norm. The same applies to my willingness to accept the progress that has been made as “good enough”. I am, as are all women – and men – and those who don’t fit into the gender binary, an awesome human being. I am entitled to and deserving of more than “good enough”. I am deserving of a society that equally values all people – regardless of their gender or sex.

And from now on, I’m willing to fight to get that.

I’m sure many of you have seen this, a blog post about one woman’s experience waiting in the lunch line – including sexual harassment and assault. This is what did it for me – this is what made the little cogs in my brain click into place. There are so many things wrong with what she had to experience.

I was wearing a short dress and my breasts are a bit larger than most peoples, so in a low cut shirt, they are more noticeable (but they were not so noticeable as to pop out of my dress).

I was struck right away by how she spent the first paragraph detailing her clothing choices – even including a picture of her outfit. It struck me as profoundly sad that her choice of how to dress herself would even have to be part of this story. She also details her breast size – making sure to mention that they weren’t so big as to pop out of her dress. I hate this double standard more than anything. Despite it being legal where I live (Ontario, Canada) for women to be in public topless (just as men can), I don’t know many – if anyone who would feel 100% comfortable walking around exposed. We are taught to ensure that we are covered, to prevent the men from getting swept up and acting crudely or whatever. Strange, I’ve seen many men topless and have still get to be overcome with an urge belittle them, jump them, or anything else. The girl in the story wasn’t even topless – she was fully dressed – not that it should matter anyways.

It’s easy to chuckle and cast aside the fact that they pointed at her breasts, not with their hands, but with lasers. It’s easy to see it as a silly joke and as something immature done because it’s funny. What puzzles me is why is it funny? Why would anyone think that pointing a laser at someone’s breasts is amusing? Pointing a laser on the floor for the cat – hilarious. A professor using a laser to highlight important slides – useful. Pointing a laser at a stranger’s body – why? Why have boys been taught that there is something funny about breasts? Would they react the same way if I stood across a public room and pointed it at their penis? I brought this up with a (male) friend who correctly reminded me that society praises the penis and the boys might actually relish the attention. I have my doubts – but the thing is, I’d never even think to do that.

Once they open their mouths and unleash the tidal wave of sexual comments – it becomes more apparent that these boys don’t see any problem with their behaviour. They are audibly discussing her “attributes” in such a starkly open way. Exactly as if they were appraising a commodity or specimen of livestock that was placed in front of them for sale. Never mind the fact that she is a human being and is standing right in front of them. But the best part of this story is that she doesn’t just stand there and accept it – despite society preferring women to be meek and demure. She goes and calls them out on their shit – and they listen and seem to apologize…

And in a truly progressive, transitioning world, this story would stop here. The boys would realize they had been being vile jerks, apologized and then the whole world would have moved on. But, spoiler alert, that’s not what happened. Instead, one of them offered a hug because she stood up for herself (which, I honestly can’t help by find a little patronizing at best) as a guise for sexually assaulting her but grabbing her bottom, going inside of her dress. I don’t see how you can get a more clear example of unwanted touching / assault.

I pushed him away, and FREAKED OUT. I couldn’t hold back my foul language anymore—I was absolutely livid. I was swearing up a storm, screaming at the top of my lungs, making a scene (which I know is immature, but I was so angry I couldn’t help it) as people turned heads and teachers and security began to approach us. I went on, and on, pulling out every what reason as to why rape culture continues to exist because of their actions, to which I believe the one who hugged me got offended as he then called me a “motherfucking dumb cunt, stupid whore, fucking bitch,” etc.

I don’t know how else he expected her to react. I also don’t know how he could grab someone’s ass who had already called him out for verbal comments and not expect her to stand up for herself again. She got angry, she got up in his face – what other reaction do normal human beings have when their personal space and their body is violated. Sure, she -could- have taken a deep breath and internalized her rage, but he could have also NOT grabbed her ass. Why should she be expected to “handle” the situation? Push came to shove, he grabbed her arm and then moved in a way that she thought she was going to be struck – so she struck first. He had already proven that he had no issue with touching her – so why wouldn’t she think it was feasible that he would strike her for getting up in his face.

So people intervened – teachers and security. And this is the part of the story that makes me want to rip out my hair and cry.

The officials dismissed the entire thing, including the sexual assault, as “boys will be boys”. Last time I checked, baby boys aren’t born with a card that says they can manhandle women however they like, or treat them like livestock. It’s sad enough that these boys did what they did, but dismissing their actions and not ensuring consequences are quickly and fairly dealt out not only reinforces to these boys that their behaviour is acceptable, but also tells everyone else who was witness that this sort of behaviour towards women is acceptable and is the norm.

But then, just when misogyny was running rampant, it’s friend victim blaming decided to come along for the ride. The security guard who intervened had the nerve to say:

 “Maybe you shouldn’t have worn such a suggestive attire.”

Yes. Because her choice of clothing should have anything to do with their actions. And let’s face it – when are women adequately clothed as to not tempt these apparently weak minded males? Nuns wear pretty conservative outfits – habits cover everything put the face…but a quick Google search brings up a vast amount of porn containing just that. If that sort of extreme doesn’t work, what hope is there for the rest of us? I choose to believe that men have more self control than society gives them credit. I’m fairly confident that they have working brains just like women and are responsible for their own choices. We don’t rationalize people murdering someone because they were wearing a particular outfit – we’d still consider that murder. Why is it any less of an assault when someone is wearing a dress as opposed to anything else?

There is a little bit of light in this story. After the administration decided to do nothing, a teacher stepped in and protested until the police were involved.

I am so unbelievably thankful and fortunate that there are people willing and able to fight for themselves (the student) and others (the teacher) to tell everyone that “good enough” is not actually good enough and that this utter bullshit cannot stand. The administration laughed at her when she then insisted that “well then, girls will be girls”. Girls aren’t expected, it seems, to stand up for themselves and to fight for their rights and respect. Clearly, being quiet about it isn’t working. Telling people nicely to respect us for our minds is only getting accepted at face value. Kicking, screaming, and fighting – that’ll give them something to talk about.

I’m sick of it. Let’s end it.

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