I write this from my parents’ couch with unwashed hair and no pants. Post-grad ecstasy. Or severe, helpless ennui. However you wanna slice it. I just used a Neti pot and watched some incredible and incredibly colorful things come out of my face, which will probably be the most productive part of my day.
I just read a beautiful blog post on bravery by a thoughtful and talented acquaintance (are we friends? I hope we’re friends) who has managed to turn her post-graduate-student-loan-homecoming slump into a productive and inspiring foray into public introspection. So now seems as good a time as any to talk about what’s on my mind. At bat, as per usual: a close-up encounter with some not-so-casual sexism.
Two nights ago I went with some friends to participate in Trivia Night at BeauJo’s pizza in Boulder (big night out in the big city!) It was a nice night–the questions were easy, the beer pitchers were two dollars off. Sure, one of the guys on our team renamed our group, changing it from my (hilarious) Georgia O’Keefe pun to “Man Team” in a crisis of masculinity, but he was a stranger and I like to go with the flow, so like, whatever, man.
But this turned out to be a pathetically sexist omen for misogyny to come. When going over the answers to a question about Jessica Simpson and daisy dukes, the emcee started cracking “jokes” about what’s “sluttier,” a girl in daisy dukes or yoga pants. ‘Cause let him tell you, he works on a college campus and there are a lot of girls out there whose parents don’t love them enough.
My friend and I stared at each other, kind of disbelieving that these words were actually pouring out of this idiot’s mouth through a godforsaken speaker system. And then. He directly followed up this sexist, objectifying, slut-shaming bullshit with a question about what century they discovered the properties of chloroform, coining the “PICKUP LINE,” “does this cloth smell like chloroform to you?” I’m not too into poking fun at date rape, so my friend and I decided to cut out early.
But I was a little tipsy and a lot upset, so I figured, hey, why not talk to the creep with the mic. I have nothing to lose. I slowly approached the stand and waited until he reached a breaking point in his scoring. He looked up at me (it’s important to note here that I have a very short, masculine haircut) and before I opened my mouth he said, “Oh, did I offend you?”
I’m frustrated by so many things that happened that night. That he tried to placate me with a free beer, that my male teammates thought I was “overreacting,” that I’m naive enough to think this shit doesn’t happen regularly, even in “liberal” towns, and that my relatively calm and thorough explanation of why what he had said was sexist and harmful were probably shrugged off as abrasive and “bitchy” and likely didn’t change anything for this guy. But I am glad I said something. And I’m glad I got mad.
I think that too often we’re taught that anger isn’t a productive or healthy response. And people are told not to worry, you can embrace feminism, because real feminism is about happiness and rainbows and equality, and certainly not about angry women. But I am angry. I have every right to be angry. And I want to use that fire in my belly, not lose it.
I want to keep confronting and ranting and venting and all those things that are “negatively” associated with feminism. Because I need to for my own sanity. And because 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted. And because only white women make 78 cents to the male dollar. For Black and Latina women it’s much, much less. Because women on college campuses wear yoga pants for comfort and are turned into sexual objects and then punchlines and then victims.
These things–rape, domestic abuse, oppression–start with comments and jokes and casual stereotyping. I am working more and more on not being a bystander and overcoming my own self-doubt and unlearning anger and vocal protest as unproductive and overly aggressive. I’m not always successful. Sometimes I let things roll off my back. And then I regret it. But I think I’m getting better every day.