I remember my first concert. I was five years old and my Dad scored last minute tickets to take me and my sister to see KISS. I was full of questions, not sure what to expect. Would it be loud? Scary? Would I like it or would I spend the concert curled up in the chair covering my ears?
I fell in love. Not with the band, I barely remember the music. But with the crowd. With all of the people. I watched as people filled the coliseum, the excitement in the room growing as more people found their way in, the sound of the crowd growing as anticipation for the show built. I took it all in, the glamorous women in their silk blouses, the men with the tattoos and cigarettes clenched between their teeth. The teenagers darting through the crowd. People buttoned up and dressed down. I’d never seen so many different people gathered in one place.
The music started and I watched, enthralled, as the crowd all rode the same wave of energy. I felt my skin prickle when the audience sang along, when they erupted in euphoric applause. It was connection to a thousand people at once. It was exhilirating. I’ve been in love with seeing live music ever since.
I love music, but it’s not just the music that has me going to see shows for all these years. There’s something special that happens when people come together. There’s a humanity in showing up to share an experience. There’s connection with people who are otherwise strangers. It gives me hope every time I go to a show.
Hope because there is power in people. There is energy and strength in being united and finding a common purpose. Hope because for all of our differences, there are times when we can come together and make something incredible happen. Hope because we are all broken, flawed, beautiful people just trying to make it in this world.
Idealistic? Yes. But it’s what I have always found to be true. There is no limit to what can happen when minds meet and ideas are exchanged.
Sometimes it’s happenstance, these moments of shared emotion or thoughts.
Sometimes it’s deliberate and intentional.
There’s something happening right now that is very deliberate. It is people coming together to discuss the hard issues. Issues that can be difficult to tackle. Racism, sexism, mental health, intersectionality. You know, the things you don’t talk about outside of your circle, the things you were always told not to discuss in polite company. Those things. Those are the issues The Good Men Project is taking on. The conversation no one else is having is kind of their thing. They’ve been doing it for over seven years and every month 3 million people drop by to read and be a part of the conversation.
I started writing for GMP a year ago. Since then, I’ve come to know some of the people involved. I’ve watched them spend countless hours and endless emotional energy, working to make the conversations happen in a productive way. I’ve had conversations with them that were deep and meaningful and eye opening. None of them swim in the shallow waters. The deep end is where they live, and they’re not afraid to go there.
The more I’ve come to know them and the causes that motivate them, the passion they have for making this world a better place… the more I’m in awe of what they are doing. I have seen bridges built where a gulf stood before, and understanding attained where obstinance once resided. I’ve watched and listened as some of the most difficult and important issues have been broken down by patient and skilled leaders. It has been breathtaking to watch and it’s been something that has made me inch closer to the person I want to be.
Now the Good Men Project is taking the conversation they’ve been having and making it interactive. Collaborative. Beyond the comments section on the screen and into a real dialogue. Every day of the week there are interactive calls on different topics. Readers are invited to become participants and ideas are shared. I’ve been honored to co-lead these calls on Monday evenings for the Stop Sexism Social Interest Group.
We’re building something here and we need your help. We are taking those hard conversations and we’re making them easier. We’re growing movements and sparking ideas. We’re trying to change lives, change the way we have conversations, change the world.
Idealistic? Sure. All I know is when you get a group of people together who are passionate about a shared purpose, amazing things can happen.
Dear Mr. Trump… can I call you Mr. Trump? Is that ok? I want you to be happy, that’s very important to me.
Before I get started, let me say this letter isn’t from all women. The Trumpettes surely won’t approve of this message. But this is from most women.
We see right through you. We have all known you at some point. Your ways are not unfamiliar to us. We see through you because we’ve been dealing with you our whole lives.
We heard you call women pigs. And disgusting. And stupid. And bimbos.
We watched as you called a former Ms. Universe “Ms. Piggy” and then spent four days continuing to insult her.
We see your weakness. Your lust for attention at any cost, your need to denigrate women. We see all of it. And we’re mad.
Yes. We’re mad. And fired up. And here’s the thing about us… we can be bitches.
Gone are the days where we question our power or our influence. We are strong. Smart. We know our worth and it doesn’t reside in the size of our bras or our skinny jeans. We build each other up. We have our sister’s backs. And our brother’s. So when you took on the former Ms. Universe, you took on all of us.
And right now you’ve got a lot of angry women to contend with. And let me remind you, Mr. Trump… hell hath no fury like a pissed off woman who’s tired of this sexist bullshit.
We heard you when you said we should “look for another place to work” if we experience workplace sexual harassment. Your non-solution illustrates either your lack of understanding or lack of concern. Or both. Your attitude and ignorance on this is stunning. Your response, pathetic. We see you, and we see someone who’s in over their head.
We watched you interrupt a woman 51 times during a 90 minute debate. While the better qualified, more knowledgeable woman was talking, you attempted to bulldoze right over her. We all know this game. It’s called male privilege. And it doesn’t look good on you, Mr. Trump. It makes you look weak. We see you, and we see a man who is so threatened by a woman speaking that you can’t even bear to let her finish. Sad.
And we see it rampant throughout your campaign and your proposed policies. It’s in your paltry maternity leave proposal that leaves out fathers and LGBTQ and adoptive parents. And when you say that women who seek abortions should be punished. And when you refuse to consider supporting equal pay for women.
Your latest ad, in which your daughter, beaming with privilege and pride, says “being a mother is the most important job a woman can have.” didn’t go over so well with us, Mr. Trump.
We are different, us women. We are not a homogenous army of fem-bots. We have different interests, goals and lives. There is more to us than motherhood. Some of us revel in motherhood. Some of us don’t want to have children. And some of us can’t have children. Our status as mothers has nothing to do with our worth. This ad, coupled with your policies show that you are tone deaf to the reality that women face and point to an antiquated attitude. One that keeps women as the caregivers and leaves men out of that equation.
We see you. And we see a man who has no business representing our interests in the Oval Office.
We heard you say no one would vote for Carly Fiorina “because of her face.”
We roll our eyes when we saw you try to dismiss Megyn Kelly after she had the nerve to ask you questions. At a debate. “Blood coming out of her wherever” was not lost on us. Most of us remember hearing such comments in Middle School.
I’ve been screaming for most of my life. Ever since innocence was taken from me at a tender age. I’ve been screaming, but you haven’t heard me. This scream has been trapped behind a polite smile. This scream has been buried in the haze of blurry memories and life moving forward. It’s been lying in wait while I went about living what turned into a pretty happy life. But it’s always been there. I didn’t ask for this primal urge, it was gifted to me by a sick soul. Silently screaming for decades.
No more. I’ve written about my experience. I’ve purged and I’ve felt some release. I’ve spent years doing the work of healing and I’ve dealt with my demons. I’m good.
But sometimes? Sometimes I still want to scream out loud.
When I see girls getting shamed for being victims, I want to scream.
When I see child molesters go free and live to abuse another day, I want to scream.
When I see a culture that still shames mothers for breast feeding because our breasts are for sexual gratification only, and not for feeding our babies, and how dare you use your body for anything other than a man’s satisfaction, I want to scream.
When I see young girls sent home from school because they are wearing leggings, or their skirts don’t meet the fingertip rule, or they are standing awkwardly while a teacher puts a ruler up to their thighs, or they squirm in the shirt that is tighter and more revealing than it was last week, or they get sent to the office to put on a sweater from the Lost and Found because their fucking shoulders are showing, I want to scream.
When I read comments on my own blog telling my own experiences in life aren’t real. When they say that I’m ridiculous for even speaking up about the everyday sexism that is an insidious undercurrent in our culture that leads to permissibility of rape by the community and the judiciary and the media, I want to scream.
When I see fierce friends open up their old wounds and write about their own rape and they have men respond with comments of “you look like the type of woman who deserves to be raped,” I want to scream.
When I have my 12 year old daughter come home from school telling me about the boy who sits next to her and jokes about raping classmates, and the boy in P.E. class who talks about the girls’ breasts while staring at them intently, and the boys in the hallways who make lewd comments. And she worries about what she wears and whether the boys will say something, or whether the administration will say something so she wears nothing but loose t shirts and long shorts, I want to scream.
When I realize that my son went through three years of Middle School with no complaints. Without ever feeling uncomfortable about his safety or his body, I want to scream for my daughter.
When I see women get torn apart in court for what they wore, or how much they drank, or how many times they had sex in the past, or how many people they had sex with… as if drinking or enjoying sex is an open invitation for rape. When I see rapists shrouded in entitlement and anger. Emboldened up by a lifetime of seeing women blamed for rape. And girls blamed for distracting in school, and women blamed for tempting with how they are dressed and blamed for not fighting back and blamed for politely resisting his advances and… and… blamed for just being there, I want to scream.
When I see people quibble over the statistics on rape… is it 1 in 4? You know, that study was flawed… When I have lost count of the women I personally know who’ve been raped and assaulted, and I can only count one that has reported it, and does it even matter because it sounds to me like arguing over the statistics is a convenient diversion from the harsh reality that rape happens way too fucking much, I want to scream.
When I hear women say they don’t need feminism while their sisters in the world are being raped and sexually assaulted, I want to scream.
When I see athletes and musicians get a pass on rape because, you know, they can run the ball real good or they have gold records and we get angry over trivial things instead of men raping women and girls, I want to scream.
When I hear “stop being a victim” because I wrote about sexism, and they equate speaking about it to being curled up in a corner in some strange warped fallacy that means they really just don’t want to think about hard things, I want to scream.
When I see, all around me, women getting judged by their looks. Held to a different standard. Walking the fine line between looking attractive because it’s what society expects of us, but not too attractive because then you’re begging to be raped… or women who don’t care and don’t dress or put on makeup according to society’s “standards” get blasted for not being attractive enough, I want to scream.
When I see a purity culture than shames women and heaps guilt and feelings of being “used” and “worthless” on victims of rape because there is a premium on virgin brides, and promotes phrases like “modest is hottest” without even seeing the sick irony in such a phrase, and treats female sexuality like a commodity instead of something that belongs solely to her, I want to scream.
When I see grown ass men -fathers and husbands- leering at young girls who are only a few years older than their own daughters, who are feeding the very monster they so desperately want to protect their own daughters from, not caring that the young girl is squirming under their gaze or that her own father is desperately hoping that other men will treat his daughter with respect and not as a sexual object to be drooled over, I want to scream.
When I hear -over and over again- that sexism “happens to men too.” I want to scream about the power structure in our patriarchal society and the oppressive blanket of sexism that women live under from the time they enter puberty until they are too old to be considered desirable anymore. And I want to scream about the fact that your one or two incidences of being objectified does not equal my lifetime of it so it’s about time for you to sit down and listen or write your own damn article.
When I hear “boys will be boys” as an excuse for doing something inappropriate, a phrase that tells girls that boys’ impulses matter more than their own safety and autonomy, and tells boys they lack self control, and sets our kids up for a lifetime of “acceptable” sexism and, we learn to just laugh it off or looking the other way or just going about our business because this is normal to us… normal because we heard “boys will be boys” used as a dismissal of bad behavior when we were little. I want to scream.
When I see harsher jail sentences for marijuana possession than for rape, I want to scream.
When I see the privilege of class and race come into play even when it comes to deciding how to arrest, charge, prosecute and sentence a man for rape, I want to scream.
When I realize that my daughters will have to be on guard when the stranger on the street speaks to them, when their boss flirts with them, when they walk alone at night, when they go out on a first date with a guy. That they will have to listen to the tormented pain of a friend who has been assaulted, that they will have to know the harsh reality of what rape culture has done to our society and what it’s doing to them, that they may feel the horror of being violated themselves. I WANT TO SCREAM.
When I hear people scoff at the words Rape Culture, ignoring the very things that are embedded into our society, woven into our criminal justice system, whispered into the ears of our young girls, laughed off as jokes, shouted at young women walking down the street, rubbed up against us in crowds, shoved down the throats of women who dare to speak up, paraded in front of you at The Grammys or during Sunday Night Football, and seared into the subconscious of every woman who never asked to be raped…
My first political debate took place in the back of the school bus in First Grade. My friend and I had started arguing about the upcoming election. We were going at it pretty hard over Reagan v Carter. We were spitting out words and throwing around phrases we had heard but didn’t really understand. But we both sat firmly in our separate corners, glaring at each other and sizing each other up.
It got a little intense. Other kids joined in and took his side. I was alone. It became clear that I was the only person on team Carter. They were yelling at me about the Iran Hostage Crisis and the gas shortage. I felt myself shrinking into my seat. Mercifully the bus brakes squeaked and I was able to make my clumsy exit. I walked home with tears stinging my eyes.
The next day I got on the bus and sat next to my friend and we were back to making plans to catch crawdads in the creek that weekend. The harsh words and heat of yesterday’s debate was forgotten as we compared scuffs and scrapes from our most recent bike accidents (that were accidentally on purpose to get the scars that we wore like a badge of honor.)
I still care about politics. But these days I avoid the debates. College was the last time I felt free to engage in the healthy exchange of ideals and positions with anyone outside of my innermost circle.
I’m a liberal who’s lived in the South my whole life. In the Bible Belt.
I’ve had a lifetime of listening to listen to viewpoints I disagree with. And that’s completely fine. In fact, I think it’s been healthy for me. It’s made me realize that sometimes it’s better to just listen. Sometimes I can learn from someone who holds a radically different view from me. It’s shown me that political disagreements are just that. I can have many other more important things in common with someone and care about them even if we disagree politically.
But sometimes I’ve also had to hear things that grated my senses, things that were known falsehoods and sometimes things that were tinged with racism or homophobia but passed off as political opinion. I usually held my tongue except for the few occasions where I trusted a healthy debate could be had. I sometimes seethed that others could just spout off when I had to stay quiet for the sake of not ruffling feathers, being of minority opinion and all.
I’ve marveled at how freely people would speak their mind, not concerned that they might be speaking to someone who disagreed- not inviting debate or discussion- just spouting off because it feels good to unleash a little political fervor every now and then. I’ve found myself a little jealous of the people I would encounter at school/work/in my neighborhood/on the playground/at the store who felt entitled to go off on a political rant without any concern.
Such is the privilege of living some place where your politics are the widely held ideology. The privilege of majority opinion.
I’ve become an expert at changing the subject. Or smiling politely. Or redirecting a red faced diatribe. Or just calmly walking away because I don’t need to listen to anyone’s one-sided viewpoint when they only wanted an audience, not a discussion.
So when I started this blog three years ago, I vowed to never write about politics. I knew it would only bring drama and that is not what I wanted.
I write about the things that matterto me. My first post was a response to a blogger who slut shamed her son’s social media girl friends. My second post was about a 7 year old girl who got kicked out of her school because she had dreadlocks. And I wrote about grief and life and a random assortment of things. Not political, but sometimes still controversial. And sometimes I get a fierce backlash. Hateful comments. Private messages saying vile things. I have learned to ignore them. I’ve had to delete violent comments attacking me or other readers on my blog. My skin has developed a tough shell.
Writing about the things I care about has caused plenty of drama, even when politics aren’t involved.
I’ve always said that writing about social justice or inequality isn’t political. At least it shouldn’t be. These issues definitely seep into politics sometimes, especially when racism or homophobia or sexism motivates legislation.
But this year, this election, is different. I’m no stranger to my “team” not winning.
This isn’t about liberal vs conservative.
This isn’t Reagan vs Carter.
This isn’t politics as usual.
This is about racism and homophobia and fascism. We are faced for the first time in our political history with someone who threatens everything our country stands for. There is an enormous swell of people, conservative and liberal, politicians and pundits, academics, historians, economists, psychiatrists… who are all ringing the alarm bells.
People who have never come together politically are saying This man is dangerous.
Telling us that this is repeating, eerily repeating, the things said and done in Germany while Hitler was climbing to power. This is not exaggeration. This is not people just offering political opinions. These are people from all walks and all persuasions trying to warn the rest of us that history, the absolute worst of our world’s history, is repeating itself right here, right now, in the United States.
So, yes. I will write about politics this time. Because this time it IS about racism and homophobia and civil liberties and the very life we all know. And because I am still intent on keeping this blog politics free, I will be publishing political posts on other sites.
This week, I am at the Good Men Project, where I will be appearing weekly as a columnist. This one is a dating advice piece, having a little bit of fun with a serious issue. More specifically, why you should not date Donald Trump.
I hope you go over there and read it. I hope you like it. If you don’t, that is fine. I am comfortable with people disagreeing with me. I’m kind of used to it. And I don’t mind if you want to have a debate either. As long as tomorrow, when I get on the bus, you and I are still cool.
I’m talking to you… the people who have no issue with sharing a bathroom with LGBT people. I’m talking to those of you who are speaking out about this bathroom policy, expressing concern over the women and children who you fear will be in danger because of this policy.
You’re reasonable people. You aren’t expressing hate or bigotry. You just worry. You worry about your kids, your wives, your sisters. I worry too.
I probably worry too much. I have always accompanied my younger kids to the bathroom in public places. When my son was too old to go into the women’s room, I would stand right outside the Men’s room door. If he was taking a while I would yell through the door, asking if he was ok. So, yes, I’m that mom.
I worry. I have always been a little leery of public restrooms.
But I’m not boycotting Target and I’m no more worried about my kids’ safety than I was before.
What I see is a lot of fear mongering going around. Stories of men sneaking into the ladies room, emboldened by these laws. Stories that have proven to be false. And some that are orchestrated to incite more fear.
So, I’m going to try to say the rest of this gently because to be honest, it’s all got me worked up and more than a little angry. It’s got a question bouncing around my head for the last few days… one that makes me angrier every time I think it…
Where have you been?
You say you are concerned for women and children. That the thought of sexual assault in a Target bathroom is so concerning that you may boycott, that you are forgoing your usual pleasant FaceBook anecdotes and memes to shout about the new policy…
Where the hell have you been?
You, the protectors of women and children. Where have you been when we’ve been writing and talking about rape? When some of us have been shouting about these things for years, begging for people to listen, to care. To see the pain and destruction of these things that plague our society.
When we’ve been the ones to make you feel uncomfortable because we are invading your mindless FaceBooking and Tweeting with rants about injustice and startling statistics of rape that should have any sane person’s hair standing on end?
Where were your angry voices when a Presidential candidate suggested that women who don’t want to be raped shouldn’t go to parties?
When actual real life Congressmen claimed that rape victims can’t get pregnant because their body “will shut that down.”
When a court rules that oral sex is not rape if the victim is unconscious from drinking?
When a state legislator in Tennessee is ordered by the TN Attorney General to stay away from women at work because he is a danger to them?
Where were your petitions? Where was your concern? WHY AREN’T YOU SHOUTING ABOUT THESE THINGS???
Where were you when yet another woman was killed by her abusive husband? When a mother was beaten repeatedly. When the “system” that is supposed to protect her allows her violent husband to keep his gun , which he then uses to kill her and her children? Where has your concern been for the 3 women murdered every day by their intimate partner?
Where were you when your favorite college or professional sports hero was accused of rape? Or caught on video beating his wife? Are you still a fan of some of these guys? Do you still cheer them on? Where was the moral outrage to a society that looks past it because he can throw a ball and win games?
Where were you when R.Kelly was allowed to perform, put out another album, collaborate with famous pop singers? Even though he was accused of raping minors and committing cruel acts and even video taped himself doing these horrific and illegal things? Did you stand up and protest then? Did the account of a 15 year old girl’s “disembodied stare” at the video camera as he assaulted her not make you angry?
Where was your angry voice when a rapist was sentenced to 45 days for raping a 14 year old girl?
Where were you when girls were slut shamed after coming forward about their rape?
Where is your loud voice standing up for the homeless women and children? When the U.S. has largest number of homeless women and children among industrialized nations? Is the Target bathroom more of a concern than a mother and her children sleeping in their cars? Or on the street? Or bouncing around homeless shelters?
Where was your self righteous indignation when a child was killed at a park playing with a toy gun? When the police officer who shot him within seconds of arriving on the scene was let off without being charged?
Where were you when a child was shot because his radio was too loud?
Where were you when a child was killed after walking home from buying Skittles? When his murderer was acquitted and went on to make assault two different girlfriends and threaten them with his gun. That he’s still allowed to own.
Where were you when these children were killed? Because I didn’t hear any of you then. I didn’t hear a whole lot of yelling and hand wringing for these children who were mowed down by white male outrage and misguided fear.
When we speak or write or Tweet about everyday sexism and rape culture -that you damn well better believe gives rise to rape and assault- you shrugged. Or rolled your eyes. Or looked away. Or clicked “Unfollow.” Did we make you uncomfortable? All of our ranting and raving about the insidious nature of a society that views women (and hell, children too) as commodities, did it make you feel icky?
You see, I care about women and children (and boys and men) outside of the Target bathrooms. I care about them at home, at school, on the bus, at work, on the street. I care about them regardless of how they’re dressed, regardless of their economic class, no matter their sexual orientation. I care about them when they are being victimized and the world just looks on in apathy.
Those predators you’re so worried will sneak into the Target bathroom? They’re all around you.
They are a savvy bunch, these sick bastards. They flock to places where they can gain your trust. They go to great pains to appear normal and friendly. They don’t sport a beard and a dress and waltz into the bathroom to attack your women and children.
And I can’t help but question concern that only seem to flare up when it’s anti-something. When it’s an “alternative lifestyle.” I question the motivation. I wonder, where the hell have your morals been? Where was your moral outrage when kids were gunned down and college girls were sexually assaulted and women serving in the military were being raped? When women and children were murdered by angry husbands? When restraining orders were granted but in reality offered no protection. When women were threatened online with violence. With rape. With comments like “I know where you live and I will find you and kill you.” Comments that are generated because the woman had the audacity to speak up or write or actually just do her job.
Because I haven’t heard from you about these things. I haven’t heard of petitions or moral outrage from the masses on these things. I haven’t heard much from you at all.
Until now, your silence has been deafening.
So excuse me if I find your newfound activism a little disingenuous. Excuse me if I am rolling my eyes over the furor over using a public restroom. Excuse me if I’m a little worked up over the idea that the “problem” is a Target policy but not the fact that women and children have to be careful and on guard because of a culture that has encouraged male entitlement and subversive sexism and blatant sexualization.
The “problem” you’re screaming about is not the problem. The problem is your apathy all these years to the reality that you refuse to see or acknowledge. It’s a lot easier to believe in the boogey man in the Target bathroom than the real threat that is woven into the very fabric of your Made In the USA security blanket.
Excuse me if I’m a little put off by a flurry of chicken scratched signatures on a fear mongering petition. Excuse me if I think your priorities seem a little slippery.
Because until now? Your silence has been deafening.
Did you feel that? It was subtle, so maybe you missed it. The ground shook a little and the skies cracked open. Swear jars and chore charts toppled off of the shelves of suburban track homes all across the country. There was a collective gasp from young children, their eyes assaulted. Parents everywhere rushed to shield their children’s eyes from the horror, sloshing their Lite Beers in the process. Salsa was spilled while furious Tweeters and FaceBookers took to the social media airways to express their disgust and admonishments. What was responsible for this onslaught of carpet stains and sticky phones?
Nuclear families all across our great land had settled in to watch a game of skull crashing, mind pulverizing, wholesome fun. It was the College National Championship game. What should have been a time to bond as a family and celebrate good old fashioned Americana was sullied. Because boobs.
Ciara sang the National Anthem wearing a lovely rhinestoned dress and cape that would have had Liberachi drooling in his bedazzled goblet. She was pristine in her white sparkliness. Her hair pulled back in an elegant chignon. She stood regally, mid field, and sang the most sacred song of our nation. The one that makes every good American pause, hand over heart, one single tear slowly trickling down their cheek. Except the eyes were dry on this good night. The patriotic moment overshadowed by her classless display of body parts.
“It’s a family event!” the people cried. “Cover up!” “Not appropriate!”
There were Tweets from ESPN reporters, the arbiters of decency and propriety.
The pearl clutching was in full effect. It was a little too much for a nation still in recovery from the yoga pants episodes of 2015. You know, the one where women and girls were shamed and scolded for wearing yoga pants as… err… pants? The wound is too fresh on our delicate sensibilities to now have to contend with breasts.
It was reckless and selfish of Ciara. Being all… there. With her body. Who the hell does she think she is, trying to draw attention to herself on national tv? Because of her, the fans of the SEC and ACC were distracted from the game. They could only half-heartedly scream profanities at their tv screens when coaches called the wrong plays. Their FaceBook updates -that the public at large relies on for game updates and sideline coaching- were lackluster. Their hearts weren’t in it knowing that their children would never be the same.
Breasts have no place on tv. If you have them, it is your duty, nay your responsibility, to make sure they are covered at all times. It doesn’t matter if you are 13 and headed off to middle school or 25 and headed to the gym. Breasts have no business being seen. Throw on that turtle neck and get thee to a baked goods sale, ladies!
It’s a slippery slope for our youth. They see breasts when their young brains are still supple and growing. The next thing you know, they’re snorting meth off the stomach of a stripper at the Lucky Penny. Breasts are the gateway drug for debauchery and a lifetime of Hooters Happy Hours eating bad wings and drinking stale beer. No one wants this for the youth of our country. Our kids deserve better.
And please, spare me the arguments. I’ve heard them all: “breasts are natural, they shouldn’t be sexualized” “I just want to feed my baby without being banished to a smelly public restroom” and “other cultures aren’t afraid of breasts.” Pffftt. I scoff a these pleas that are trotted out to try to instill some common sense and civility. In our country we like our breasts hidden from view, modestly hidden from sight. Until we want to see them. And then you can wear that v-neck shirt that’s been gathering dust in the back of your closet. Then you can proudly strap on your Victorias Secret Miracle Bra with pride. But only when we want to see them. It’s up to every single one of you to figure out the difference. Getting it wrong can have dire effects so tread carefully. Public shaming or assumptions about your character will be doled out based on the status of your breasts. It’s best to think of your boobs as weapons. Unless you have an open carry permit, you best keep ’em wrapped up tight.
I tried to stay strong through this whole ordeal. I tried to not get upset at the awful display that came across my tv screen. But then I saw this:
Ciara. Women everywhere. Next time you’re getting dressed to sing the National Anthem, or getting dressed to go to the grocery store or to go anywhere for that matter, think of Coop. What would Coop say? Coop and all the other innocent children out there. Can we spare them this kind of inappropriateness? Coop hasn’t even grown into her Vineyard Vines Shep Shirt yet and already she’s had her poor little mind tainted.
It’s incumbent upon all of us, those of the ever present breasts, to consider the ramifications of the clothes we wear. To speculate upon the effects our OOTD may have on the people who cross our paths. And, most importantly, to think of the legacy we are leaving the children.
There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?
Every. Single. Time.
And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?
I think I’ve figured out why.
They don’t know.
They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.
Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.
We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.
It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.
It’s not something we talk about every day. We don’t tell our boyfriends and husbands and friends every time it happens. Because it is so frequent, so pervasive, that it has become something we just deal with.
So maybe they don’t know. Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s ages actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth. That we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.
So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing. Not showing our suppressed anger and fear and frustration. A quick cursory smile or a clipped laugh will allow us to continue with our day. We de-escalate. We minimize it. Both internally and externally, we minimize it. We have to. To not shrug it off would put is in confrontation mode more often than most of us feel like dealing with.
We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.
We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.
It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign.
It is the boss who says or does something inappropriate. It is the customer who holds our tip out of reach until we lean over to hug him. It’s the male friend who has had too much to drink and tries to corner us for a “friends with benefits” moment even though we’ve made it clear we’re not interested. It’s the guy who gets angry if we turn him down for a date. Or a dance. Or a drink.
We see it happen to our friends. We see it happen in so many scenarios and instances that it becomes the norm. And we really don’t think anything of it. Until that one time that came close to being a dangerous situation. Until we hear that the “friend” who cornered us was accused of rape a day later. Until our boss makes good on his promise to kiss us on New Years Eve when he catches us alone in the kitchen. Those times stick out. They’re the ones we may tell your friends, our boyfriends, our husbands about.
But all the other times? All the times we felt uneasy or nervous but nothing more happened? Those times we just go about our business and don’t think twice about.
It’s the reality of being a woman in our world.
It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other option.
It’s feeling sick to your stomach that we had to “play along” to get along.
It’s feeling shame and regret the we didn’t call that guy out, the one who seemed intimidating but in hindsight was probably harmless. Probably.
It’s taking our phone out, finger poised over the “Call” button when we’re walking alone at night.
It’s positioning our keys between our fingers in case we need a weapon when walking to our car.
It’s lying and saying we have a boyfriend just so a guy would take “No” for an answer.
It’s being at a crowded bar/concert/insert any crowded event, and having to turn around to look for the jerk who just grabbed our ass.
It’s knowing that even if we spot him, we might not say anything.
It’s walking through the parking lot of a big box store and politely saying Hello when a guy passing us says Hi. It’s pretending not to hear as he berates us for not stopping to talk further. What? You too good to talk to me? You got a problem? Pffft… bitch.
It’s not telling our friends or our parents or our husbands because it’s just a matter of fact, a part of our lives.
It’s the memory that haunts us of that time we were abused, assaulted or raped.
It’s the stories our friends tell us through heartbreaking tears of that time they were abused, assaulted or raped.
It’s realizing that the dangers we perceive every time we have to choose to confront these situations aren’t in our imagination. Because we know too many women who have been abused, assaulted or raped.
It occurred to me recently that a lot of guys may be unaware of this. They have heard of things that happened, they have probably at times seen it and stepped in to stop it. But they likely have no idea how often it happens. That it colors much of what we say or do and how we do it.
Maybe we need to explain it better. Maybe we need to stop ignoring it to ourselves, minimizing it in our own minds.
The guys that shrug off or tune out when a woman talks about sexism in our culture? They’re not bad guys. They just haven’t lived our reality. And we don’t really talk about the everyday stuff that we witness and experience. So how could they know?
So, maybe the good men in our lives have no idea that we deal with this stuff on regular basis.
Maybe it is so much our norm that it didn’t occur to us that we would have to tell them.
It occurred to me that they don’t know the scope of it and they don’t always understand that this is our reality. So, yeah, when I get fired up about a comment someone makes about a girl’s tight dress, they don’t always get it. When I get worked up over the every day sexism I’m seeing and witnessing and watching… when I’m hearing of the things my daughter and her friends are experiencing… they don’t realize it’s the tiny tip of a much bigger iceberg.
Maybe I’m realizing that men can’t be expected to understand how pervasive everyday sexism is if we don’t start telling them and pointing to it when it happens. Maybe I’m starting to realize that men have no idea that even walking into a store women have to be on guard. We have to be aware, subconsciously, of our surroundings and any perceived threats.
Maybe I’m starting to realize that just shrugging it off and not making a big deal about it is not going to help anyone.
We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. Aware that if he wanted to? That guy in the Home Depot parking lot could overpower us and do whatever he wants.
Guys, this is what it means to be a woman. We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex. That boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.
So, the next time a woman talks about being cat-called and how it makes her uncomfortable, don’t dismiss her. Listen.
The next time your wife complains about being called “Sweetheart” at work, don’t shrug in apathy. Listen.
The next time you read about or hear a woman call out sexist language, don’t belittle her for doing so. Listen.
The next time your girlfriend tells you that the way a guy talked to her made her feel uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off. Listen.
Listen because your reality is not the same as hers.
Listen because her concerns are valid and not exaggerated or inflated.
Listen because the reality is that she or someone she knows personally has at some point been abused, assaulted, or raped. And she knows that it’s always a danger of happening to her.
Listen because even a simple comment from a strange man can send ripples of fear through her.
Listen because she may be trying to make her experience not be the experience of her daughters.
Listen because nothing bad can ever come from listening.