Street Harassment

Here’s the deal with street harassment:

It’s not flattering.  It’s not a compliment.

Men who don’t understand this have been known to say things like, “I would be so flattered if a random woman on the street said she liked my body!”

But here’s the thing: we all live in a society that teaches that men are dominant over women, and that praises men for showing this dominance.

Imagine growing up and being told and shown over and over again that men have power over women.  That men are dangerous to women.  And that, if a man does something to you, as a woman, it is very likely that you will be blamed for it.  Now try to imagine how terrifying it is to have a man you don’t know anything about yell something at you on the street.

That is why we’re not flattered.

And men who yell at women on the streets have to know at least some of this.  I can’t imagine that any human who yells, “Nice ass!” at someone walking down the street seriously expects that person to react positively.  The only reason I can think of for this kind of behavior is to show that dominance, to feel powerful over another human being.

That is very messed up.

These types of discussions tend to very quickly turn into, “But freedom of speech, and also, I don’t want to have to feel bad or scared about approaching women for the rest of my life and making them feel uncomfortable, so I’m going to decide none of this applies to me.”

Guess what?  It does!  So, for next time, I’m going to try to write a comprehensive guide to when it’s okay to approach a woman you don’t know.  We’ll see how that goes.


Language We Should Be Giving High Schoolers

Articles like this one and discussions I’ve been having with some friends have made me realize that there is a serious disconnect between the actual issues at hand with slut-shaming dress codes and the language accessible to teenagers to respond to these policies.

I never had a problem with my high school’s dress code, but I did have an issue with a church-related mission trip.  The youth leader made a couple dress code policies that I took issue with.  He said that any girls who wanted to swim during the trip (one summer, we spent the week at a hotel with a pool, and a couple other times we bought a slip ‘n’ slide during some time off) must wear one piece bathing suits.  I remember arguing against this because one pieces are really annoying to wear, and pointing out that there are some very revealing one pieces and some very modest two pieces.  Other girls complained that this was unfair because they only owned two pieces, and he was making them spend money on things that the boys didn’t have to spend money on.  None of these arguments affected his policy.  The other issue he brought up was work shorts.  He said that every person had to wear shorts down to their knees so that, if someone was standing on a ladder, they couldn’t see up your shorts.  The main argument I raised against this, at the time, was that women’s shorts don’t generally come in that length, so again, this was a policy that was creating extra inconvenience and expenses for the boys but not for the girls.

All those arguments are relevant and worth thinking about when sexists dress codes are put into place, I think.  (And, in that youth leader’s defense, when the boys on the trip started playing a game of shirtless soccer and I complained that this was clearly unfair when we weren’t even allowed to wear tankinis, he made them put their shirts back on.)  But the MAIN PROBLEM here, the one that goes way beyond the “That’s not fair!” instincts I had in high school, is that policies like this suggest that it is girls’ responsibilities to make sure that nobody else is looking at them inappropriately.  And that’s flat-out not true.  It’s not true about high school girls or adult women.

I’m not saying that organizations aren’t allowed to make dress codes.  Of course they are.  I think it’s totally fair to demand high schoolers to dress in a put-together way for school.  To me, that means no ripped pants, no bare midriffs, no exposed undergarments.  And I guess “no hats” gets shoved in there, which, sure, go ahead and make a policy on.  Even things like “No outside jackets,” while generally pointless to me, at least aren’t sexist.  If you’re a private school with a uniform, you’re allowed to do that, too, as long as you aren’t being a dick to anyone who doesn’t fit into outdated, rigid sexual stereotypes (so, don’t force anyone to wear a skirt or pants if they’d prefer to wear the other option).  I can understand these policies.  The problem comes when dress codes, as they tend to do, affect girls’ clothing choices way more than boys, or when administrators state that the reasoning behind their dress codes is to prevent girls from distracting the boys.  The article I linked to at the beginning of this article talks about one school where they took all of the girls out of classes to sit through an assembly on dress code policies.  This sends a clear message that this school is valuing boys’ educations over that of girls’.

In high school, I was angry about dress code policies because I believed that teenagers had the right to express themselves however they want through their clothes.  Now, I’m angry about them because I believe that teenagers have the right to not be blamed for possessing female bodies.

The Obligation to be Pretty

The Dove Real Beauty Sketches video‘s been popular in the past couple weeks.  There’s a great critique of the video here that I highly recommend, but I kind of want to use the video as a jumping-off point to talk about how society considers women obligated to be “pretty”, and specifically how it’s affected me during my lifetime.  If you’d like to read someone much better than me talking about this topic much more eloquently, I suggest checking out this Captain Awkward post written by Cliff Pervocracy, and then reading all of both of their blogs because they’re collectively the best.

Okay, confession time: I haven’t always been a feminist.  I actually got into this whole thing pretty late in the game.  I’m currently a senior in college, and I had negative associations with the word “feminism” until about a year and a half ago.  It’s embarrassing.  Once, when I was in high school, I wrote an editorial for the school newspaper about how repulsive I found the trend of leggings as pants.  It was hilarious and widely-discussed throughout the student body, which felt awesome at the time.  People who knew me in high school still send me articles about leggings as pants.  And I’ll admit, I still don’t get the trend.  I don’t like it.  But the editorial I wrote in high school (and most of my views at the time) was completely judgmental and based off the assumption that every girl my age who I came into contact with was interested in being attractive.

This same type of logic is why people think they can yell, “Smile for me, lady!” at women who pass them on the street.  As far as I can figure, the caller’s logic must be something along the lines of, “Gosh darn it, I think women are just so much more attractive when they smile.  If only they had some way of knowing what a turn-off it is to me when they express any emotion other than mindless joy!  I bet they’d smile if they just knew!”  Believe it or not, that woman probably did not take into account how her emotions would affect her fuckability to random men on the street before she decided to feel them.

This strain of thought is present everywhere.  We give fake makeup to girl toddlers, and fake laptops to boy toddlers.  We get grossed out at women who won’t shave their legs or armpits, or we assume they must not be interested in having sex with men.  We discuss hypothetical makeovers behind each other’s backs (“Oh, she could be so pretty if she’d just…).  We judge female politicians based on their looks and fashion choices instead of their policies.  And we watch videos like those Dove videos.

Look, I buy Dove products.  I know that their marketing is just as manipulative as any other marketing, but I want to reward advertising policies that reject objectification as much as I want to boycott advertising policies that glorify it.  Also, I like the way they make my hair feel.  And I’m not trying to say that this video is wrong or doesn’t point out something that’s worth pointing out.  But let’s face it: some women aren’t prettier than they think.  Some women flat-out aren’t conventionally pretty.  This video is saying, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” when what I’d like for it to say, for every ad ever to say, is, “STOP JUDGING WOMEN BY THEIR LOOKS BECAUSE THOSE DON’T REALLY MATTER AND WE MADE UP THE STANDARDS WE HOLD PEOPLE TO”.

I like feeling sexy and feminine.  I like makeup and low-cut tops.  Some people like none of those things.  THIS IS ALL FINE.  None of these choices are better than others.  Somebody’s desire or lack thereof to hold themselves to an arbitrary standard of “beauty” is not an okay reason to dislike or criticize them.  It’s exhausting being told you have to look fuckable all the time starting at age 12.  It’s exhausting because it’s completely unnecessary and we have to move past it.


So I just got home from a dinner with my family, and there was a guy outside our door.  At like 9:30 PM on a Friday night.  Which is kind of a weird time for someone to come by uninvited.  We only saw him from inside, so I don’t think he realized we had just gotten in or anything.  My dad opened the door before the guy could knock.  He was pretty non-threatening, probably in his mid-twenties, and had a bike.  My dad asked him what he wanted, and the guy attempted to make conversation instead of answering the question.  My dad threatened to call the police, and the guy left.  Now, my dad is notoriously bad at dealing politely with people he doesn’t want to deal with, and I try to make up for this by always thanking telemarketers for their time after I tell them I can’t give them any money.  It might also be worth noting that my house was broken into a little over a year ago, and my friend’s house was broken into this week while she was sleeping, so it was definitely bad timing for this kid.  My mom, sister, and I all voiced the opinion that he probably could’ve found a nicer way to get the guy to leave, and my dad disagreed.

And this got me thinking.  I never would have talked to that guy like that.  Even if I was scared of him.  Partly because I am a non-confrontational person, but also because women who talk to people (especially men) like that get called things like “bitch.”  If I had dealt with the situation in the same way as my father, the outcome might have been seriously different.  (Although it’s totally possible that this kid was just nice and harmless and trying to do his job and would have ridden away anyway.)  I might have gotten something like, “Calm down, lady, I’m just trying to talk to you.”  I feel like there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have been taken as seriously.  And that really bothers me.

High Heels

Shit like this pisses me off:

There’s another one I’ve seen of a girl at a mirror putting on makeup, captioned with something along the lines of, “You did okay, God, but I have a better idea.”

Yes.  You’re right.  Women go through the effort of putting on makeup and walking in heels because there would be absolutely no negative consequences if they refused to do those things.  Silly women!  Always so concerned about their appearances instead of math or whatever I guess men are supposed to think about.

The bottom line is, women who appear the way that society prefers them to appear are more likely to be successful in a variety of activities.  This includes finding a partner, getting a job, making friends, whatever.  Look at this:

While the article raises all sorts of great points, the one I’m focusing on is that women still have to appear more feminine to succeed in male-dominated fields.  Women aren’t running around in heels all the time because they’re only concerned about looking good for men or looking better than any women in the area.  Often, women are wearing heels because they’re expected to.

And don’t get me wrong.  Heels and makeup can be fun.  I highly recommend that everyone of any gender buys some bright colors to smear all over their faces.  And I tend to prefer any face with eyeliner rather than without it.  But look: I always wear makeup to interviews.  I don’t always wear makeup to classes or social events.  (And as for heels, I’m in no place to comment, because I’m super tall and really ungraceful, and don’t think that wearing heels will actually make me appear more feminine.)

So, internet: shut up.

Scumbag Women!

A casual acquaintance posted this link on Facebook, accompanied by how he’s not sexist, but “a lot of this is so true”:

Let’s address these one by one!

1) Hitting people!  Solution: BOTH OF THOSE PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES.  I agree that there is an unfortunate misconception that it’s okay for girls to hit guys.  I myself am occasionally guilty of supporting this.  Not supporting actual violence, but supporting the idea that some people deserve to be punched.  And lots of people of both genders see girls hitting guys as this cute little way girls show affection because they can’t actually do any harm.  So, yes, I see what you’re saying, and I agree this is a problem, but I don’t see this as “Scumbag Women” so much as “Wow, society has got to change.”  Which I think is true with most of this.

2) Surprise kisses!  I actually think that lots of girls would / do love being surprise kissed by a boy.  I think the issue here is consent.  You have to be surprise kissing someone who WANTS to be surprise kissed by you.  This is obviously difficult.  I believe that you can get consent through body language, but it’s also possible to misread said body language.  So it’s easier for everyone if you just nix the surprise and ask.  I mean, look at the picture sequence provided with the “boy surprise kissing a girl” set.  That woman is so clearly not into that!  How is this about women being jerks and not about that guy clearly being an asshole?  To sum it up: I think both genders can pull this off and both genders can fuck this up and it’s really better to just talk to your partner than try to pull this shit.

3) Girls/boys in the wrong bathroom.  Solution: unisex bathrooms.  Seriously, I don’t understand gendered bathrooms.  I don’t understand the supposed “threat” of males in female bathrooms.  I don’t know if a lot of men want to watch women use the bathrooms?  I don’t think that’s supposed to be sexy.

4) Helping people carry stuff.  Yeah, if anyone calls you a “fucking pussy” for being unable to lift a heavy box, STOP HANGING OUT WITH THAT PERSON.  And if anyone tells you that they should help you carry something “’cause you’re a girl,” without you having asked for help, stop hanging out with that person, too.  Both of these people are sexist.  This one makes me really mad.  Like being unable to lift a box is going to turn your genitalia from male to female or some shit.  I don’t even know.

5) Looking at the other sex’s body.  I…don’t know.  I don’t think a lot of girls look at guys’ penises a lot.  Especially not as a seduction tactic.  Is that a thing?  Does it work?  And, look: when I wear clothes that make my boobs especially visible, I am okay with people looking at them.  I understand that that’s not true for everyone.  But there is a difference between “looking” and “staring.”  It’s natural to look at and notice someone’s body.  Staring at any part of anyone’s body, though, is weird.  Go out and try staring at some random person’s ear.  It’ll creep them out.  It’s creepy.

6) Splitting the bill.  I think part of the difference here is that in the first case, the guy reaches for the bill and the girl offers to split it, and in the second one, the girl expects the guy to pay for everything and he suggests splitting the bill.  And I agree that any girl who uses that as an excuse to never see a guy again is kind of focusing on the wrong things.  Personally, it would make me uncomfortable if a guy insisted on paying for my meal.  But again, I don’t think the guy in the second scenario is dating the same girl as the first guy.

7) Crotch/boob grabbing.  Is the first scenario actually a thing that happens?  If it is, that is terrible.  That should not be a thing that happens.  But that doesn’t mean that the dude from the second scenario doesn’t deserve to be listed as a sex offender.  Both the woman from the first thing and the man from the second thing deserve to be prosecuted.  And I really dislike the way they’re using language here to make the woman seem intentionally manipulative in both these scenarios.

8) Masturbation.  Again, those are two very different girls.  No girl who masturbates is going to call you a “disgusting pervert” for masturbating.  I agree that masturbation should be de-stigmatized.  But again, I think this one is more about society’s perception of masturbation, especially female masturbation.  If it was more okay for girls to masturbate, more girls would do it, and fewer girls would expect guys not to do it.  This is a problem.  You’re right, Mr. Internet Dude.  But I fail to see how this is girls being “scumbags.”  These girls don’t get to masturbate because they think only perverts do, and you’re mad at THEM?  They think it’s not okay for them to masturbate!  Think how much it’d suck to feel that way!

9) Gamers.  Plenty of male gamers get laid.  And I’m sure plenty of female gamers don’t.  Shut up.