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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mrs. M If You're Nasty.

There are posts circulating today, From amazing bloggers that if you're not reading them, you should be.

Meet Alice, Liz, and Julie.

Go. I'll wait.

I want to write something really smart about this, because it's practically what I have a degree in. But I can't get the words out right in my head where they don't feel all jumbled and coerced.

But I can tell you what I remember.

I remember being told flat out by another woman, no less, during a job interview that I was probably hired but her boss was going to do a walk by to see if I passed his pretty test.

I remember being told to wear a low-cut shirt and a push-up bra to another interview because the manager was a known creep and it would guarantee me the job.

I remember being asked if I was wearing underwear under a mini-skirt by another manager at a different job. I was. I don't know why it mattered.

I remember the first time I went to a teen club, still gangly more in personality than body, and being shocked at how many times my ass was grabbed by strangers.

I remember endless comments throughout my girlhood into teenhood about the shape of my body both as a whole and divided by it's parts by people I am related to by blood.

I remember being ridiculed in a large group of people early in high school for wearing an unlined bra under a white Tshirt when the room became cold. Me and my A cup didn't understand, and to this day I do not own an unlined bra.

I can't count the number of times I've been cat called or hollered at or whatever it is they call it now, this degradation, when I have the gall to leave the house in a skirt and heels because my legs are long and don't you know what kind of message that sends and while I sheepishly say yes another part of me breaks because why is this always pinned on me, this is just my genetics, I didn't choose this.

And of course, I remember far more terrible things, but that should not mark me as a target for the rest of my life, no matter what the statistics say.

I  used to try to find power in those lesser situations (though that does not make them less horrible), not so much taking them as compliments as more of a damn straight and you're not worthy kind of mentality, which I've never been sure if that was Feminist of me or just me bending to the system in the most convoluted of ways. They happen less and less now, because mostly I don't go out alone hardly ever (except to the studio and back, but that's a safe space) but that doesn't mean they don't crop up.

I remember being middle-pregnant with Kiedis, leaving my own bachelorette dinner before my wedding, IN A MATERNITY DRESS and heels, and hearing the words from male mouths and only being able to spit back "PREGNANT" in retort.

It shut them up, but why couldn't I walk 20 feet from a restaurant to my car in peace?

I feel this sort of thing has less to do with perception of beauty and more to do with misogyny and patriarchy and over sexualization of our culture and of women and (as my stomach wretches) girls and sexism than anything else. For every person out there who will treat a woman with dignity and respect, there are two creepers waiting to objectify and degrade her, whether they even realize it or not.

The first time I told Kiedis' bus driver that my mom would be getting him off of the bus instead of me, I described her as I generally do, pretty much looking exactly like me but 20 years older. He immediately asked if she was married and for some reason I answered yes, getting off of the bus slightly hastily. Two birds, with that one.

And then Tte UPS guy recently halted his tracks as he approached our house with a package, mouth slightly agape. Dude has seen me in all stages of pregnant/new mom disarray, and this day was no different.

Except it was. He asked me if I'd lost weight and I smiled because why yes, I have, and he said I looked great and I felt complimented.

But he kept going, saying I don't need to lose any more because it's good when girls(!) have something to hold on to, ya know, and I'm just about perfect as I am right now.


Perhaps I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, assuming they don't know they're being creepy.

But in the end, implicit or explicit, intentional or not, the sum of these kinds of situations lead to the pervasive idea in women that it's not okay to be a woman Out There In The World. We become afraid of everything, suspicious of the most mundane of places or acquaintances because what if and ick and blameshifting onto ourselves because obviously, it must have been something we said or did or wore or breathed because it just. keeps. happening.

A constant state of fight or flight. A lifetime spent on edge, on guard, over vigilant because we happen to have two X chromosomes. Forever questioning our self worth as people based on the visceral responses of the worst of others, letting ourselves be shamed for that which we cannot help and will not change.

And we still have our daughters to think of.

When people make fun of feminism or degrade women because they're in a position of power or degrade them because they're in a position of weakness or really degrade them for no reason at all, these are the reasons why things like feminism still matter. It's not all sensational bra-burning. It's standing up for yourself and saying you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It's not second-guessing your outfit or your hairstyle or your lifestyle because it might send the wrong message. It's about having the freedom to move about in the space you occupy without fear of consequences.

It's about being okay to be a woman. And nothing saddens me more that we still don't have that.

Nothing will change on it's own. Things will continue to stay the same because we don't fight back or question. You don't have to all the time, every time. Just once.

Just once stare someone down when they leer at you and ask them if they have a problem. Just once ask them if they'd want someone to talk to their wife/mother/sister/daughter like that. Just once tell someone the legal definition of assault and that they just committed it.

Just once, stand up for yourself, for all of us.

Yes, they will call us other words, other names, other ways to try to tear us down. But you know what? I'd rather be a bitch than a sweetie.

Wouldn't you?

The first rule of blogging applies here (to a point): don't feed the trolls.

But don't let them live in the shadows under the bridges, lurking, waiting for the right opportunity, either.

ps, my blog turned four on monday. thought i should mention that.



  1. Living in NYC, I grew very comfortable throwing back comments to the leerers. I was on the subway once and a man with his young son was blatantly staring at me. Like full on, mouth open, not blinking. Finally, after a few minutes of feeling undressed by his eyes, I looked straight at him and said, in my most bitchy tone, "can I help you with something?" The discomfort that washed over him really boosted my moral ;) Speak up! It feels great!

  2. This made me smile all over my face. :) Not that you were leered at, of course. You know what I mean. Brava, lady!

  3. And I will remember this post. Powerful, painful, and sadly, I think filled with things that unite more of us than I'd like to think.

    The mother/daughter/sister line? I've used that since I was a kid. It was my dad who taught it to me. He's pretty great.

  4. From what I've read, he is quite the awesome guy. But so's his daughter, so I'm not that surprised. (thank you, so very much, for taking the time to comment, and for just being you.)

  5. you did it; this was indeed a very smart post, Tabatha!  Because the torment keeps happening, we think it must be something about ourselves and internalize.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and the encouragement to fight back. :)

  6. Thank YOU for getting it! :)

  7. I read this post yesterday, then oddly enough, this happened to me this morning. Some guy yelled "Seee-xy! Hellloooo" and my gut reaction was to check what I was wearing to make sure it wasnt too revealing. Then I got mad, because I'm going to work - of course what I'm wearing is perfectly appropriate and how dare he make me doubt myself. It's also kind of hard to fight that niggling doubt that goes "well, I'm 27 now, and 20 lbs heavier than I was in college, so maybe I should be grateful..." 
    I just kept my head up and ignored him, but next time, maybe I'll say something. Thanks for this post!

  8. Being able to step outside of the insecurity those situations create is the first (big!) step into taking back our womanhood is a huge thing! I'm so glad you were able to keep your head high because you are worth positive attention and respect. Don't ever forget that, lady! :)

  9. Is there some kind of conversion metric for blog years? I know 1 is 7 for dogs. So maybe 1 blog year is worth 4 real-people years? (I don't have anything constructive to add aside from the shame I bare being a man, and having to be associated with men..well boys that behave like this.)

    I got your back.