I never thought I’d write a post like this. It may just be the baader-meinhof phenomenon in effect or perhaps it’s just me being more aware of the state of affairs around me.
It started off about 2 years ago when I hear about the Slutwalk, which was in retaliation to a Toronto police officer commenting that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” in order to not be raped, after a string of sexual assault incidents at York University. Just in the last week, it seems as though women everywhere are speaking up about how rape culture and slut-shaming is still prevalent in 2012 and alongside it, old stereotypes hidden behind the thin veil of humour that just then get mean and downright degrading.
I read this post on reddit by user public_username about how to be a girl on the internet. I don’t publicize myself as a girl, but I see those that do. If you’re in a forum or site where there is not a larger group of women, you encounter horrible sexist comments far more than you would in real life. I’m speaking just in my experience on reddit, where there is a misconception that there are no women that frequent the site. Although many redditors are 20-40 years old, white, male, probably in IT, in the last few years, the site has grown so large that it’s no longer rare to meet someone else who frequents the site. The demographic is no longer that 28 year old white male. It’s estimated that 20% of the users are female, but that number is probably quite a bit higher, since many users don’t identify themselves as female for fear of being targeted with private messages of penises. Women who post words or pictures are met with either sexualisation or accused of using their gender to garner fake internet points.
If you think that people are like this because they have the anonymity of the internet to hide them, it calls to question, are these people assholes on the internet because they’re forced to hide it when they’re interacting with real people. With the alarming about of sexist comments on public forums, it’s quite disheartening to think that the people around you really harbour these feelings.
Then there are the people who seem proud of their misogyny. Talk to any one of your female companions, peers, or family members and they or someone they know have been the victim of some sort of sexual harassment. They’ve been catcalled, groped, and put off increasingly aggressive advances for any number of reasons.
Stoya, a porn actress by profession, writes for Jezebel.com about the pigs that feel like their entitled to her body. From the men who invade her genitals at sex conventions without her permission to those vulgar catcalls on the sidewalk. Someone actually comments on the article saying,
“To turn around and say “don’t touch me” is both hypocritical and immature considering your whole career is centered around being “touched.”
“Yes, moral high horse. But to be honest I’m tired of people who choose a certain path in life to then turn around and constantly bitch about it.“
Saying that she deserves this kind of disrespectful treatment just because she has sex for a living. Sex with people and in circumstances of her choosing. This does not mean that she must give her body up to anyone who is ready and willing. What kind of logic is that? You can’t just go up to a doctor in the middle of the street and stick his eye in your infection, just because they’re a doctor. Not only is that logic fallible, but this kind of behaviour doesn’t just happen to porn stars. Reiterating my point above, almost every woman encounters that asshole that thinks he can shout things at a girl just because she walks into his sightline.
There is a very wide line between a sincere “that dress looks really nice on you” to “Nice ass! Why don’t you back that thang up over here?” Those who do the second rationalise it as, “She should be happy that I’m paying her a compliment.” She should be fucking flattered. I don’t even know what to say to that. We don’t go out dressed like we do to impress you. We wear what we do to make ourselves feel good about our body, to maybe impress that special person. We don’t do it for the random guys hanging out at the side of a building.
And then there’s that special mentality first mentioned here as a member of the Toronto Police force saying that dressing the way you do invites these kind of unwanted encounters. Added to that, our own mayor’s niece tweets something to the effect of “don’t dress like a whore” in response to the recent sexual assaults in the Annex area of Toronto.
I think it is the mentality of very strict Islam cultures (please correct me if I’m wrong), where it is not the fault of the men, who are just incorrigible creatures of lust, who rape women because the women are to blame for their flaunting of assets, clearly targeting the men who can’t help themselves.
- Women are just out to get raped and tempt these men to sin.
- Men are just lowly dogs who can’t help but to rape because the women are walking out there uncovered.
Sounds silly right? So why is it so popular, even in Western culture, to tell women to cover up before going out, just to be safe. It’s so prevalent to teach young girls that they have to be alert, teach them self defence, tell them to carry pepper spray around because it’s not safe out there. Men are out to rape you. Instead of teaching women “don’t get raped,” why isn’t it common to teach people “don’t rape” instead. I was glad when I saw this ad campaign that shows people the other side of rape prevention.
It also shows another part that I haven’t quite touched on, and that is women are not the only ones targeted by sexual harassment. This post really is spurred on my what I’ve seen and experienced lately. And now that I’ve got all that opinion-based stuff out of the way, I’d like to pile on with my own experiences.
I don’t consider myself a very hot or attractive woman. I don’t think I’m “beaten with a stick ugly” but in my day to day life, I don’t generally dress up unless it’s for something special. For the last two years, when I’m in public, I am in my work uniform because I’m going to and from work, or in my work uniform to go to school, or in grubby clothes to go to school, paired with a backpack, running shoes, some kind of greasy food in my hand, and probably sweating, this is not what you think gets hollered at, and I don’t expect it either.
When I began writing this post, I could name maybe a couple of times in the past few years where I’ve gotten honked at from a car, and I thought that was it, but as I continued, it’s like there have been suppressed memories hiding in the back of my mind. I thought it would start when I was a young adult, really coming into myself and beginning to be confident in myself as a person. Looking back, my first real encounter with public harassment was probably when I was 15 or 16 years old in high school. I was catching some shuteye going home on a long metro ride in Montreal. I was huddled in the corner with my big jacket and backpack, and when I opened my eyes to get off, there was a man standing in front of me, with his penis just.. dangling there. I was young. I was scared. I pretended to be asleep and missed my stop. Luckily, it didn’t escalate from there and when I opened my eyes, he was gone.
From then, it was mostly just some lip smacking, some off-handed sexual comments muttered under their breath as I walked by, honking their horns as they drive by, and I did what I did that first time. I ignored it, held onto my pride, didn’t give them an ounce of satisfaction, and just kept on going.
This past summer, I was getting off an 11-hour shift on a Saturday. I had been awake since 6am that morning and just very tired walking home from work. I was probably drenched in bacon sweat, from working around bacon sandwiches all day, and this car of young-ish guys come screeching down the street. They were honkin, and hootin, and hollerin. One of them looking me straight in the eye as his hands and mouth made a most vulgar motion. Something inside me just snapped. I didn’t do anything rash, it just hit me like, what did these guys expect? Is it just some hormonal kick in the dick that they get off on, yelling at a girl like that? What did they want me to do, jump in their car and suck their bag of dicks? How did they expect me to feel, what did they want me to feel? I suspect that they don’t give a shit, and I was just a thing to yell at for kicks. Saying “I’d hit that” as a naive display of machismo, making up for the suave bullshit they’ve never had.
All these memories and feelings came rushing back when I started writing. And then there are the two incidents that really spurred me to write this.
As you know, I started running recently. I preferred to run at night because my street is pretty busy for a side street, and I don’t particularly like people seeing my fat ass run and struggle. So I do it when there’s barely anybody around. The other night, as I was on my run, this car drives past and honks. I lift my hand to wave because I have family in the area often, so I assumed it was someone I knew. When I looked, it wasn’t anyone I knew at all. “Just some asshole looking to get his rocks off,” I thought. About 10-15 minutes later, the same car comes back from the opposite direction, slows down, and parks beside me as I was walking (resting phase), and the driver leans over to talk to me. I had my headphones in, did not want to engage, and kept walking. After I’d gotten a few steps away, I started running and didn’t stop till I got to my house, scared that he would follow me home, where I was alone with my dog. Luckily, I turned around and he wasn’t there. I may have jumped to conclusions, but bearing in mind that he had definitely driven out to the main road, where there are plenty of shops and gas stations if he had questions about the area, I just felt really unsafe in my own neighbourhood. I was wearing my sweater, headphones in, sweaty, and breathing pretty hard while I was walking. What the hell about my physical disposition invited you to stop right beside me all creepy-like to have a conversation. I was not wearing come-hither clothing, I did not give off any signals of wanting to mate. From that incident alone, I’ve decided not to run outside anymore, instead now concentrating on indoor cardio workouts.
And the second incidence, I guess some people could say I brought it upon myself for wearing a skirt and engaging in alcoholic drinks. Logical people would say I just wanted a night hanging out with my cousins and some music. But of course, I’m with a group of people, minding my own business, that means I’m here to hook up with strangers, right? We’re standing around with our drinks when this guy comes up to me and starts a conversation. Friendly conversation is fine, I’m okay with this, I enjoy this. He asks to dance, and I tell him I have a boyfriend. That should be that.
Nope. He goes on to assume that my boyfriend is unimportant if he’s not attached to my side and practically tries to drag me out to the dance floor. I tell him a firm no, and if he wanted to resume our conversation it would be fine. His relentless pursuit and boyish face made me feel like he’s learned all his pick up tricks from movies and Jersey Shore. If a girl says no, she doesn’t mean no, she just wants you to try harder. No. No. A million times no. I ask him how old he is. “20.” Not that it matters. I’m trying to deter him when he asks my age, I lie and say “25” citing that he’s too young and I am not interested (I’m actually 22). He should probably get the hint that I don’t really want to talk or dance with him anymore. Thankfully this time he does. Does he gracefully accept this and move on?
Nope. He gets butthurt and starts bashing me in the middle of the club, saying that I was too old to be there, and I shouldn’t be hanging out at places like this. I’m sorry, but why did he think that just because he was talking to me that he was entitled to dance with me, to cop a feel, like I was being a bitch for not wanting to. I want to say it’s because he was young, inexperienced, and generally doesn’t know how to get turned down, but I’ve heard these kind of stories from many different people, from different walks of life. Where when the woman doesn’t put out, she’s a frigid bitch. And yet, and yet! if she dresses how she likes, doesn’t give it out, and the men take it, she’s bashed for wearing a short skirt and “asking for it.”
I know it’s been a long read, and it might be a lot to ask, but I’m really just hoping for awareness that this goes on. That when guys, you see this kind of thing going on, you don’t encourage your friend to “cop a feel,” to “just keep going for it because she clearly wants you.” For everyone to know the difference between joking and misogyny, and to have a society where it’s safe for people to be walking outside without being afraid that they’re just asking to be raped. Without our bodies being the target of sexual assault whether physical or verbal. Without derision and unwanted advances. I just want us all to get along without being uncomfortable, and if not, well, you can find me in my basement doing Jillian Michaels exercises.