Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To Short Skirt or not to Short Skirt

I was on 'vacation' from Chicago sitting in the living room in my parent’s Green Bay home when my father said “You would think that a feminist would wear a shirt that covered her cleavage. You should wear t-shirts and sweatshirts not tank tops like that.” I could not believe my ears, my father is usually fairly liberal guy and I have never heard him criticize me like this before. This elicited quite a debate between both of my parents and I.

My parents seem to believe that when women dress a certain way they make themselves targets for abuse. This is classic victim blame. As if changing the way that women dress would change the entire institution that allows for their systematic abuse to begin with. I have argued, time and again, that all of the pepper spray and self-defense classes in the world are not going to ‘protect’ women. Women will not be safe in this world until we are considered autonomous human beings with full bodily sovereignty as men are.

I am a feminist. I also like to wear low cut shirts, high heels (occasionally), mascara and skirts. I do, of course, understand that these are tools of the patriarchy. I know that painful shoes force women to walk slower and limit their movement. I know that cosmetics are a huge industry that survives by making women feel ugly unless they are made up. I know that low cut shirts might catch male attention and cause some people to take me less seriously. I also know that men are not restricted in these same ways. These are all reasons that some feminists do choose not to adorn themselves that way. But is that really the answer?

This is one of the many gross double standards that plague women every day. Are my parents right, should I not wear revealing clothing because it puts me at risk? Or should I not allow the terror tactics of the proverbial man to keep me down? It seems to me that most women are not consciously aware of the subtle ways that they alter their lives to protect themselves from male violence. Yet we still live by a strictly prescribed ‘rape schedule.’ As much as I fought my parents on this issue, I know that when I am at home in Chicago I will not wear my mini-skirt out at night. I know that I will not wear low cut tops when I have to walk alone. I know that I will carry my pepper spray in one hand and my cell phone in the other every time I hop on the L after dark.

Whether we like it or not, fear of male violence infiltrates almost every aspect of women’s lives. Even seasoned feminists have to maintain a delicate balance between fighting the patriarchy and protecting ourselves from it. Until the day that women are considered to be autonomous human beings capable of giving and denying consent, until we live in a world that is free of male sexualized violence against women, until women are no longer the sex class, we will never be able to wear our mini-skirts and cleavage bearing tops without even a shred of fear.

I wonder how other women deal with this double bind....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Racism and misogyny reunited again.

A professor of mine just e-mailed me the above cartoon. Apparently, it caused quite a stir in Jacksonville, Florida.

I understand that editorial cartoons are often sarcastic and call attention to problems by over-dramatizing them but this seems a bit over the top even for the editorial pages.

Having done a good deal of research on hip-hop culture and on its general misogyny, I can say that the word "ho" is far from uncommon, I can even understand how this cartoonist meant to sarcastically draw attention to it. Where he loses me is in his ignorance of location politics.

A critique as blatant as this needs more sensitivity and more attention to the voice of the cartoonist. In a piece like this his race, class, gender, ethnicity, and more are relevant. I wonder how often little girls are called 'hos' in hip hop culture. I suppose it is not a huge stretch, but does this cartoonist really have the authority to say that?

The cartoonist was critiquing a so-called "no-snitching" culture. Hip-hop certainly plays a role in perpetuating a mistrust of authority but one also has to ask are authorities always deserving of trust? In a community where police abuse is rampant mistrust seems natural. Perhaps a cartoon about police brutality would make more of a statement about the "no-snitching" mentality.

I also wonder why the use of the word "ho" was even necessary here. The cartoonist might be calling attention to the fact that young people are increasingly influenced by the imagery of hip-hop and that they are perpetuating mistrust after hearing their favorite rappers talk about it. But, again, what does calling a little girl a "ho" have to do with any of that?

The use of language in this cartoon is just plain racist. The word "ho" was unnecessary and probably misused, a mistake an ignorant white guy might easily make. I think that Isaiah Rumlin was right on when he said that if this paper has more African American staff making these big decisions, this cartoon never would have been published. It is something to consider.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yay for being ahead of the news!

I was just a few hours ahead of the news apparently. They covered the Guardian Angels story today. As is unfortunately true of many news sources, they add very little to the discussion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Guardian Angels in Chicago

On Saturday, August 11th another woman was raped in my neighborhood. This one occurred at 11:30 in the evening on Fullerton, a very populated street, about a block from the DePaul campus. The Chicago police have released a sketch of the offender. His description matches the rapist in four of the other cases that happened this summer.

This attack has Lakeview residents even more on edge, and rightfully so. I am terrified, this one happened on a street that I walk down regularly! Every attack makes leaving my home seem scarier and scarier. All of the pepper spray in the world does not make it any easier.

Of course with any tragedy there are opportunists waiting to benefit. Today my room mate encountered a group called "The Guardian Angels." They are a group of militant men who escort women around the city to 'protect' them. I cannot find a website for them other than this from Hawaii. Basically they are a group of guerilla misogynists.

As far as Sarah and I could discern, the service is free. Still, I maintain that they are opportunists. They instill fear in women by telling them that they are not safe unless they are escorted by a man. If this is what America is coming to I wonder how different we really are from Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan where women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative in tow. Already we are told not to walk alone, not to walk too late, not to dress provocatively, to carry pepper spray. How much more terror must we be subjected to?

I wonder why the solution to sexual assault is always changing the behaviors and attire of women. These changes suggest that we are somehow responsible for our own rape if we fail to comply. Why does the discussion NEVER focus on why MEN rape and how to stop it? Why are women expected to live in terror and to live by a rape schedule that limits their movement? Men do not have to do this. In all of my life I have never heard a man talk about the consequences of wearing an article of clothing or going to a bar alone.

Rape and other sexualized violence against women is terrorism. Rapists are terrorists and need to be regarded as such. Until women can wear whatever the hell we want to wear, until we can walk home alone, until we can leave the pepper spray in our purses, until we do not have to have a 'cell phone' buddy and a rape schedule we will never be empowered as full human beings. This is one of those things that so many men just DO NOT get and the Guardian Angels prove it (I am sure that they are well-intentioned in their own phallocentric way). Living in terror changes a person. What would women be like if we did not live our entire lives in terror?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Terrorism for Women is Different (adapted from an assigned project)

When I moved to Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood nearly two weeks ago, I had no idea what I was getting in to. My roommate and I are paying an astronomical amount of rent to live in this ‘upscale’ neighborhood with trendy stores, well-lit streets and comparatively low crime rates. We were ill prepared to discover that there is a rapist lurking in our cozy neighborhood. In the past three weeks three women have been accosted. Two others were raped earlier in the summer. Chicago police currently do not have enough evidence to believe that the incidents are related. However, the victims’ descriptions of their attackers are eerily similar. Between 2 and 2:30 a.m. on July 23rd a young woman was thrown to the ground and nearly raped by a man she described as Hispanic, 25-30 years old with short hair. At 4:30 a.m. on July 29th a young woman was attacked as she was entering her apartment building. The attacker struck her in the back of the head, took her into her apartment and raped her. She described him as being 25-30 years old and Hispanic. The most recent attack occurred on August 3rd at 2:30 in the afternoon! On a busy street, this man offered to help a young woman with her grocery bags. When she declined, he followed her up to her apartment and attempted to assault her. She described him as being about 175 lbs., between 28 and 32 years old, and white.

In the past few years “terrorism” has become quite a buzzword. It is in the news on an almost daily basis from local ‘terror-alerts’ to terrorist activity abroad. When many of us imagine terrorism we think of September 11, 2001. We think of foreign men attacking us, we think of religious extremism, we think of war. But how often do we think about the terror that we live with every single day? I am talking about the terror that all women live with; the fear of assault and attack that shapes our daily lives and our entire experience of this world. I ask you, why is sexual assault not considered to be terrorism? Why are rapists not considered to be terrorists? And why is punishment of sexual assault so lenient?

Only in a society that eroticizes hierarchy and power can crimes like this continue to be so pervasive. One need only watch television for a few hours or flip through a Maxim magazine to see that women’s bodies are the erotic toys of men. This is the ideology that nearly every member of American society is inundated with. It is not surprising then that we have so many attacks on women’s bodies and on their bodily sovereignty. This is a culture that does not believe that women’s bodies are their own. Our bodies are tools of the patriarchy: tools for reproduction, tools for male sexual pleasure, tools to make the lives of men easier at whatever cost. Our bodies are tools but they are not our own. That is the message that we get over and over again. Is it really so surprising then that men use our bodies that way?

FOX news reported on March 15th that a forty-two year old man convicted of raping a young women, a man who plead guilty, mind you, is being released after only spending six months in prison. Why, you ask? Because he apologized. He said he was sorry, he was an alcoholic at the time and is now in AA. Could you even imagine that happening in a murder case? I can sense the chiding ‘rape is not the same as murder’ response. Women who are victims of sexual assault never get their lives back. Do you think a woman who was raped can sleep at night knowing her rapist is free, enjoying his life? According to Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), rape survivors are three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol, twenty-six times more likely to abuse drugs, four times more likely to contemplate suicide and many suffer from sexual dysfunctions for the rest of their lives. It hardly seems fair that all he got was six months.

The BBC reported back in June that an English man got a two-year sentence for raping a ten-year-old girl. What was the rationale behind this sentencing? The man said that she was ‘dressed provocatively.’ And we are back to victim blame. This time the victim was a child. It seems too barbaric to be true, but in phallocentric society, little girls' lives have significantly less value than adult men’s.

On March 3rd, in San Jose, California, a seventeen-year-old girl was gang raped. There were plenty of eyewitnesses and even airtight DNA evidence. The San Jose District Attorney wouldn’t even try the young men in this case. Why? Insufficient evidence.

Do you need more proof that rape is not taken seriously in much of this country?
How about this doll. Or this 'joke.' Or this fashion advertisement.

Not long ago, I discussed this case in which a young woman who was raped by her boyfriend's brother. She gave 'consent' to having sex with the man she thought was her boyfriend not to the man who tricked her. Again, the man was not prosecuted because women who say that they are raped are not taken seriously. RAINN reports that of "the 39% of attacks that are reported to police, there is only a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison." Message to rape victims: do not bother reporting your assault.

Women who hear these news reports night after night, women who live in Lakeview who see signs with drawings of rapists all over their community, women who have survived rape only to have their attackers walk free live in terror every single day. This can be evidenced by the existence of rape schedules. Many women do not know what a rape schedule is, but they all have one. Ask any woman you know what she does to make herself less vulnerable to sexual assault (because we are taught that that is our responsibility. It is not a man's responsibility not to rape, in fact sating his sexual appetites is encouraged). You will get a lot of responses like these:
-carry pepper spray
-don’t walk alone at night
-carry keys in hands
-don’t wear low cut clothing
-have a cell phone buddy for walking
-cross the street when a strange man is approaching
-don’t stop, don’t answer questions, don’t make eye contact
-lock doors immediately
These are things that women do every single day without even questioning. These are things that years of living in terror has taught us to do without a second thought. These are things that restrict our movement in ways that (heterosexual) men never have to.

The Chicago Tribune and local news channels are covering this topic on an almost daily basis. Because Lakeview is Chicago’s “upscale” neighborhood, a rapist on the loose is huge news. Until this man (or men) is caught this issue is going to be on the minds of women living in this community. Because the rapist(s) has not yet been apprehended, residents, especially women, in Lakeview are still on high alert. There are flyers all over the streets, in coffee shops, grocery stores, and college campuses, there are concerned groups handing out pepper spray and instructing self-defense courses. The underlying theme of this discussion is male violence against women. These rape cases are just another example of it. Because Lakeview is a wealthy (white) neighborhood, these attacks are incredibly newsworthy. But we cannot forget that sexualized violence is an ever-present threat whether it be in Lakeview or Back of the Yards.

I suspect there will be some disagreement as to whether sexual assault is an act of terrorism. Terrorism is an act of violence committed for political or ideological gain. I would argue that keeping women in a state of constant terror serves the patriarchy by keeping women in prescribed roles. Our very lives are in danger if we challenge the status quo or if we step out of line. The “she was dressed like she wanted it” line of defense has worked in enough cases to tell women that we are deserving of sexual violence if we step out of line. This is a form of psychological terror, enforced by physical terror.

Thousands of women (approximately 50,000) live in Lakeview and all of them are on guard following these attacks. We can never forget our position as second-class citizens. We can never forget that men are more powerful in this society. Rape is a crime that proves it. There is no male equivalent. At least, men are not terrorized in the same way that women are by this gender specific crime. Nothing forces women back into their homes, into invisibility, into less revealing clothing, into earlier bedtimes, into hiding quite like the threat of sexualized violence. Rape reminds women of their place. By keeping us scared, they are keeping us weak.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Father Knows Best

This might be the most fucked up thing I have ever heard. Gross.

Murder Chic: Misogyny is High Fashion

Dismembered bodies, blood, murder, starvation, mental illness, battery, sexual assault and… death. Sound sexy? According to Vogue magazine and America’s Next Top Model high fashion and brutalized women go hand in hand. I have written at length before about this America’s Next Top Model spread. All of these women were made up to look as though they were brutally murdered and then were praised for their ability to look sexy. At the time I held out hope that it was just a passing fad but then Italian Vogue released these photos (to glowing praise no less).

When did murder, rape and misery become high fashion? I cannot look at these images without wondering ‘how did these women end up beaten, abused, and murdered?’ Actually, I know how. According to Jean Kilbourne in her text Can’t Buy My Love, more than one-third of women slain in this country die at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends. Though the photographers may not intend for them to be, these images are very political. They are representative of a greater cultural illness.

I can sense the “Relax, it’s just a picture” response that I am sure to get. The problem is that these images do not exist in a vacuum, they exist in a cultural climate of intense anxiety and backlash. Backlash against women’s movement into the workforce, backlash against women’s sexual agency, and backlash against women’s bodily sovereignty. These images exist within the context of white-supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy and that means that they are saturated with meaning.

I know that even when I am not conscious of it, I am always thinking about my safety. I know that there are some places that I cannot walk alone and I know that there are some articles of clothing that make me a target for male violence. The women over at feministing call it a rape schedule. We know where to walk, what to wear, and when to have our keys in our hands. We know to lock the doors behind ourselves and we know that elevators, parking garages, and stairwells are places to avoid. We are constantly aware of the threat of male violence and images like those in Vogue or America’s Next Top Model contribute to that anxiety. They keep fresh in women’s minds the logical result of male violence. This type of emotional and psychological terrorism serves the very specific purpose of keeping women in their place through the constant threat of violence, specifically sexualized violence.

Further, these images contribute to the normalization and fetishization of violence against women. When we are inundated with images of annihilated, abused and murdered women we become desensitized to it in media and in real life. These texts contribute to the dehumanization of women. They are insane! They enjoy being beaten! They are not real people! The America’s Next Top Model shoot presents women being murdered in a variety of ways. One woman is pushed off of a rooftop, one is poisoned, one is stabbed, one is drowned and wrapped in plastic, one is pushed down a flight of stairs, one is strangled, electrocuted, shot in the head, decapitated, and perhaps most horrifying one has her organs stolen. Her individual parts are literally more valuable than her person as a whole.

As I was researching images for this piece, the sheer volume of images that I saw overwhelmed me. The advertisement posters for the new movie Captivity are an even more brazen example of this normalization of violence toward woman. Can you imagine driving your mini-van filled with children past this image every day? What would you tell your daughters? I wonder how people can continue to tell me that these things have no effect. How do we look at images like these and feel nothing? The trend of abuse toward women as fashion is terrifying and yet not really surprising. It is a slightly more obvious version of the dismembered female bodies that we see in mainstream advertisements every single day.

After all of that how can we even pretend to be surprised when a story like this crops up? These boys live in a society that devalues women to such an extent that gazing at their corpses is high fashion! There is no other conclusion for young men to draw than that women’s bodies are (a) their property and (b) ultimately valueless. These young men are perfect products of their society and, sadly, as Kilbourne’s statistic proves, they are not alone.

Why I Do Not Go to Movies

I recently wrote a review of the movie Knocked Up. You can read the review here. What I was unable to say in the review was that the movie itself was not nearly as upsetting as the trailers that preceded it. I really think that they deserve as much, if not more, analysis than the film.

Apparently there is a new Die Hard movie with Bruce Willis. The trailer for this film was an orgy of male violence and of course, the token helpless female who must be saved by the machine-like homicidal manic/hero. Score 1 for the patriarchy.

The next trailer was for some movie about a dude who has the magical ability to help women find their soul mates... by fucking them. So women just throw themselves at him in the hopes that their true loves will propose. Does that not just reek of male fantasy? Desperate, hot women seeking one night stands with some douche-bag so that they can become the sexual maidservants of some other man for the rest of their lives. Score 2 for the patriarchy.

The next trailer was for Ben Stiller's new gem The Heartbreak Kid. This fella is a commitment-phobe who finally takes the plunge with a hot blonde environmentalist, only to find his true love, a hot brunette, on their honeymoon. Beyond the totally ridiculous plot this film just adds to the miasma of male cultural domination.

All of the films advertised were presented from the male perspective, with women as the incidental characters they happen to act upon. The women in all of these films are creations of male fantasy. They are either totally helpless and virginal (ala Bruce Willis's daughter) or they are desperate whores who are willing to do anything for a good fuck so long as they end up being Mrs. maidservants for the rest of their lives. Hollywood is really one of America's most sexist institutions. Broadcast television has made leaps and bounds toward better gender representation compared to the patriarchal wasteland that is Hollywood.

Twisty Faster in her infinite wisdom refers to Hollywood as the patriarchy's communications department. One night at the movies proves it.

Empowerment Vs. Acquiescence (That Never Ending Debate)

Today I feel like discussing a topic that has been much on my mind lately. With summer nearly in full swing, clothing is getting skimpier and skimpier (mine included). Some of this is of course a product of necessity and some of it is just for fun. On Friday morning I wore my cute little shorts and a very revealing tube top to see my therapist. While I was walking around downtown (Milwaukee) I felt so good getting all sorts of attention. I cannot remember a time when I felt more physically confident. Anyway, this got me to thinking about why we wear what we wear. My tube top was certainly not inappropriate for the 80 degree weather, but it was perhaps more revealing than it had to be for my comfort. Still I felt amazing because I was getting (male) attention. Sometimes I feel the very opposite. Often when men look at me in that very sexualized, objectifying way it makes me want to lash out. It makes me wish that they could feel just how extremely uncomfortable I feel because I just do not believe that there is a male equivalent. So I feel very conflicted. While on the one hand I love the attention, on the other hand it is creepy and scares the hell out of me. This is just another of the many double binds that women must navigate on a daily basis.

So, why do I like male attention?

Because it is emotionally and economically beneficial. Stereotypically attractive (SA) women are much more likely to land jobs than non-stereotypically attractive women with the same qualifications.
SA women are more likely to land rich husbands or gain access to other money-making ventures. I work with a young women who is slightly over weight and a bit frumpy. All of the other waitresses I work with are tiny and thin and quite SA. Interestingly, the less SA young woman makes significantly less in tips even when she works the best sections. The point here being that being SA = a better, more financially stable life.

Why do I hate male attention?

Probably for all of the reasons above. And because I know that male attention can also be dangerous. Because "she was asking for it" is still used as justification for rape. Because short skirts and skimpy tube tops "cause" erections and erections are all powerful and almighty in the phallocentric society. The erection can and does have whatever it wants regardless of the personal integrity or bodily sovereignity of the actual person in the short skirt and skimpy tube top. This is a danger that I write about a lot because I feel it all the time! Mostly I fear wearing a short skirt or a reavealing top because that action has very serious consequences.

Why do I still wear the tube tops when I dislike the male gaze that they invite?

This is a question that my partner actually brought up and it is one that I feel very unable to reconcile. I love my tank tops, my cleavage revealing shirts, and my tube tops. I anxiously wait for summer just so I can have the opportunity to wear them. And I know that I am not the only one. Clothing is such an immediate and obvious indicator of the self. It is very personal and individual. In a society where we are inundated with choices, the clothing that we adorn ourselves with is very revealing of our personalities. Even when we do not think that much effort is put into a particular 'outfit' it is still a reflection of our selves. The point is that with so much effort placed upon clothing choice we must certainly want (at least in some ways) to be looked at. I think that this transcends gender, though, of course, women are much more aware of it and are more often targeted because of it. If we (specifically women) do want to be looked at, then why do we get so upset when men do look? I think that it is because the male gaze denies women agency relegating them to the status of objects. Objectification is demeaning and dehumanizing. And men do not experience this the way that women do.

I guess I have not really made any revelations or breakthroughs on this topic but it is one that has been on my mind. Perhaps others have pearls of wisdom to cast my way....

Why Do I Watch the News?

This story about increased narcissism in today's youth (aka 'generation me') was prominently featured on NBCs Nightly News program (quite awhile ago now). Not surprisingly NBC willingly blames permissive parenting (read: mothering) that gained momentum in the 1980s (backlash period) for this trend toward narcissism in young people. They blatantly ignore the most obvious reason for this so-called trend: capitalism! Obsession with appearance and insecurity is necessary to encourage consumers to buy more products for self-improvement. Not to mention the fact that self obsession distracts citizens from greater socio-political problems. Blaming narcissism on parenting sounds a little too convenient to me.

This Might Be Why I Do Not Go to Bars Very Often

This happened at the end of last semester. It was the first time I have 'gone out' in weeks. I felt I deserved to have a little celebration after I turned in my last final. So I went to one of my friends' house where everyone was gathering to 'pre-drink,' as they call it, before going to the bars. My friend and fellow feminist scholar, Erika, and I immediately began discussing the origins of the marriage ceremony and how marriage is one of the earliest patriarchal institutions. We actually got everyone around us into the discussion, which is rare. It seems that whenever Erika or I bring up anything even remotely intellectual or political we are shushed by our party-going, good-time, undergraduate friends. The discussion was very stimulating until this guy decided to pipe in and say that statistically he was more likely to rape any one of us than a stranger. His point was taken, but some dude joking about rape (and raping me no less!!) does not make me feel like biting my tongue.

This discussion really set the tone of the evening for me. I was not in the mood to get drunk and stupid, I wanted to debate. So when we were walking to North Ave. (Milwaukee), these frat guy/college types asked how us 'girls' were doing, I said "I am not a girl and have not been for over five years." I cannot remember exactly how he responded but I am sure that it ended with me telling him that this 'girl' could and would kick his frat boy ass.

By the time we actually got to the bar I was feeling quite feisty. I was hopped up on booze, Dworkin, and www.iblamethepatriarchy.com and I was ready to kick some ass. Joke-about-rape-guy decided that he was not done with me yet so I brought up this case, which created a much more heated debate than I had anticipated. It seemed pretty damn straight forward to me, this woman was raped and the courts threw it out because she didn't technically ever say 'no.' It is about the most disgusting thing I have ever heard and my high school friend, Jessica, joke-about-rape-guy, and Erkia all seemed to think that the case was in some sort of gray-area. I don't think that there is anything gray about it. This guy is a straight up rapist who took advantage of a woman who was uninformed and thus unable to consent. He knew exactly what he was doing and she had no idea. That is RAPE!

Jessica made the point that I do tend to assume that women are all victims and that does not allow them a proper level of agency. They all thought that it was possible that the woman simply regretted her actions and thus cried 'rape.' Nothing pisses me off more than that line of reasoning, and that is where I get to www.iblamethepatriarchy.com where Twisty proposed that we all assume non-consent until consent it clearly given. This may not seem like a radical notion, but as it stands right now, consent is assumed until someone (*some woman) claims otherwise. This has far-reaching consequences. What if we assume that every woman who says no really means no? How very radical. Anyway, I do not mean to suggest that women have no agency, but I very strongly believe that women cannot give true consent in a society that was structured around keeping them submissive. Anytime we think we have a choice, we need to remember that we live in a white-supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy. This influences every single thing that we do and thus, every choice that we make. There is no such thing as 'free-will.'

This was a rather difficult argument to make to these very drunk people, especially to joke-about-rape-guy who, get this, claimed to be a feminist while simultaneously saying that he thinks that class is more influential than anything else in determining a person's status. Erika and I tend to believe that race, class, and gender cannot be separated and analyzed individually because they work in conjunction: the holy-trinity of feminist theory.

This discussion got very heated and I was not about ready to just say, 'fine, you are trying so I won't be a bitch and call you on your total ignorance.' I am so sick of that 'nice-guy' schtick. He doesn't get it and I cannot explain it to him. Just because he calls himself a feminist does not mean he even remotely gets it. And I am not going to concede or give him credit for anything because he JOKED about raping me!

Erika quickly decided that she needed to get home and I did not want to be left in a bar with these people. I waited for a bus with Erika on North Ave. Now maybe I am an idiot for expecting not to be accosted by strangers on a busy intersection at 1:30 on a Saturday morning. Erika and I were still deep in conversation about the same things we were talking about in a bar when a very drunk dude decided to join us. He just stood there for several moments and finally had the presence of mind to ask us what we were talking about. When we said 'feminism' he said 'oh man, i think that women should stay in the kitchen and pregnant. i am not even joking!' This is just the kind of abuse that I am sick of. That is not a joke to me any more. Every time I say anything even remotely feminist to a guy like that I get that same response. I have probably heard that 'joke' 500 times since I was 16 and it has NEVER been funny. Being hopped up on radical feminist thought, I was not feeling shy. I told this guy what an asshole he was being and how he does not have a clue. Naturally, he put me in my place by calling me an angry bitch. I delicately reminded him that he was the one who had the audacity to join a total stranger's conversation, insult her, and then expect her to laugh it off. Typical. Too many men (and probably women too) think that very same thing and that is exactly why I cannot laugh it off as drunken buffoonery.

What really takes the cake is that very-drunk-dude was with his girlfriend this whole time. Girlfriend kept apologizing for him. Over and over. It is precisely because women like her exist that men like him will never change. This woman was telling me that she 'gets women's rights and all' because (no joke) 'not to be racist at all but black guys always harass me when I am downtown.' As she was saying this, I looked at Erika because I knew what was coming. Whenever anyone says "not to be racist, but..." you know that whatever follows will be the most racist shit you have ever heard. I could just see Erika shut down when this happened. Thank goodness the bus came at that precise moment.

As I was walking home that evening, it occurred to me that I might be in danger. When women are assertive, vocal, unapologetic, and not smiling, they are 'bitches' and they are 'asking for it.' Walking home alone late at night while 'asking for it' was pretty scary so I was happy when Erika called from the bus to tell me that very-drunk-dude sat next to her on the bus to tell her that she was ok but her friend sure was an angry bitch. The funny thing is that I really didn't do anything other than tell this guy to step off when he made the worst, most typical, sexist joke ever. Is that so bad? Does that mean I am deserving of assault? According to a recent study, it does. I just read this on feministing and frankly, it seems pretty damn accurate. I did nothing more than any man would have been expected to do (stand up for himself, not allow himself to be accosted, not smile and take an offensive joke), and I felt that I was in real danger of being physically attacked. I was already verbally assaulted.

That evening really reminded me of why I do what I do. But it also made me feel more isolated than ever because in the real world (i.e. not the women's studies classroom) these ideas are worthy of all sorts of abuse. Sometimes I forget how 'radical' the notion that women are people (not deserving of rape, assault, or verbal abuse) really is in this patriarchal world.

Things My Mother Taught Me About Being a Woman (#1)

"Don't put a tattoo there, you will regret it when you get pregnant!"
"That belly ring will ruin your belly when you get pregnant."
"You won't be pro-choice once you get pregnant."
"You have to get married, I want grandchildren!"
"Don't worry, you will still be able to breast feed."

I am so sick of people constantly assuming that I am a breeding machine. I am not. I am a human being, I have thoughts of my very own and a body of my very own, or so I thought.
Since "I do not like children" apparently is not an adequate reason not to reproduce, I have decided to make a list of conditions under which I would consider becoming a fetus incubator.

When responsibility for child care is completely equal between parents.
When I can maintain a life of my own AND be a mother.
When I and my child are guaranteed adequate lifelong health care.
When my child is guaranteed high quality, affordable care while I (and my partner...) are working, etc.
When I know that my job will not be at risk if I become pregnant.
When I know that if my fetus has a major defect (or if I change my mind) that I can get an abortion without restriction or shame.
When my child will have access to good schools and higher education regardless of my income.
When being a single mother is no longer equated with living in debilitating poverty.
When it is socially acceptable for children to NOT be gendered from the moment they spring forth from the womb.

This is just a short list, I could go on and on. The point is, I am going to print this onto business cards and hand them out every time someone says one of the above things to me. (I have noticed an increasing incidence of these things as I am getting older.) Even if these were my only conditions, I don't think that motherhood would happen for me in my lifetime. It would require radical social change and I have seen more retreat than progress in my adult life. Ergo, my body remains a fetus-free zone