Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's the Big Deal About a "Butt Slap"?

I want to start off by saying that I think labeling these kids as sex offenders is overkill, and that jail time is overkill too.

Now, let me rage.

I'm fucking sick to death of the harassment of women and girls being minimized like this. I'm sick of the "boys will be boys" attitude that pervades our culture. I'm sick of people using cutesy words like "butt slaps" instead of "groping" or "assaulting". I'm tired of the assumption that teenage boys are hardwired to act like assholes, and the people who refuse to believe that boys do this shit because they know they CAN- that they can shame girls into silence by threatening to call them a slut, or by threatening to do worse things to them, or tell people that the girl liked it. I'm tired of girls being told that they have to look the other way or wait for guys to grow out of it, and that they're overreacting, or worse yet, telling an adult that a boy grabbed your breast and hearing "That just means he likes you! (chuckle) You should take it as a compliment!"

THIS SHIT IS HOW IT STARTS. The groping and bra snapping and comments are the first concrete steps of teaching girls that their bodies are not their own, that they have to put up with unwanted touching, that even people they don't like can touch them and there's not a damned thing they can do about it.

I can recite a whole laundry list of incidents like this that I went through - the earliest starting in 5th grade, and stretching through college. Nowhere was safe: the school bus, the skating rink, the hallways in class, during classes, out in the neighborhood, at parties, even in my own home with my brother's friends. And I bet every woman reading this has their own stories.

This is one of the things that scares me about raising a daughter. I know some day, she'll be faced with this shit, and I hope to god that she will trust me enough to tell me, and that I will have the strength to help her deal with it like a grown up (and not pull a Molly Weasley, "Not my daughter, you bitch!" KABOOM!, which would be my first inclination). I want her to be confident and know she doesn't have to tolerate it. I want all girls to know that. But most of all, I want the boys to know it too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Learning to Feign Deafness

I thought I was used to catcalls and come-ons by now. I'm in my 30's and it's been happening to me for over 20 years, so I thought I was at the point where I could roll my eyes and brush it off, but I guess I'm not.

Yesterday evening, we ran to Target to get a new swimsuit for Little Circus. I hate looking for clothes (for anyone), so MrCircus took the kid to the children's department, and I headed straight for the pharmacy so I could find insoles for my new boots. After I settled on the ones I needed (the men's ones, since the women's all seemed designed for high heels) I cut back through a few aisles rather than go out to the front of the store.

I stopped to pick up a few of those little bags of Jelly Bellys for Little Circus to take to school for special treats (located on the lowest shelf, of course), and heard footsteps come up behind me.

"Ooh, those are my favorite!" (sound of bin opening)

I stood up, turned, and found myself face to face with 2 boys around 16, pilfering gummy bears and looking pissed that I saw them. I couldn't care less that they were absconding with gummy bears, I just wanted to find the rest of my family so we could go home and I could take a hot bath and try to relax.

I walked past them, towards the children's section, and heard one of them say, in that "I don't know if I really want you to hear this, but I definitely want my friend to so I can prove what a badass I am" tone that most woman can identify, "Hey baby, wanna fuck?"

I kept walking, a million scenarios running through my head in a matter of milliseconds. Should I turn and laugh at them and say "You wish, buddy, and by the way I'm old enough to be your mother!", do I tell them to fuck off, do I kick them in the shins with my shiny new boots, say "You kiss your mother with that dirty mouth, asshole?"

So I just kept walking, feigning deafness. It wasn't worth the fight, and there's always an element of danger to me in situations like that. You never know what lengths a guy will go to in order to show off his machismo to his friends, even if it is in the middle of a suburban Target on a Friday evening, and not on a dark street in the wee hours.

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got, for various reasons.

I felt like couldn't say anything to MrCircus, for fear of a)him wanting to go chase the guys down or b) blowing it off and telling me to ignore it. (All men should be required to watch War Zone for a look at the shit women encounter on a regular basis)

I knew that it happened because of a reaction to being seen stealing the candy. It felt like the boy was trying to scare me into being intimidated so I wouldn't rat them out.

I knew it had nothing at all to do with how I was dressed (jeans, tshirt, combat boots, hair in a ponytail, glasses) and everything to do with my size, gender, and perceived age.

How do you deal with shit like this? What's been your worst experience? What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned over the years?

Monday, July 09, 2007

What Do You Mean All Women Don't Live to Shop?

Over the weekend, I went on a little roadtrip with a girlfriend. We ditched the kids and the husbands and drove out of town to go to a concert for a friend of mine.

Yesterday morning, Friend and I were in the elevator going down to the lobby for the free (but terrible) breakfast when a man got in the elevator with us. Friend and I were talking about when we might leave, and when we might call the husbands to tell them we were on the way home. I can't even recall specifically who said what, but the gist of it was that we decided not to call home until we were ready to leave, in case our plans changed.

All of the sudden, the man pipes up, "Oh, I see, gonna go shopping and not tell your husbands?" (snicker)

Um, what?

It made ZERO sense in the context of the conversation she and I were having, neither of us had mentioned shopping in any way, shape or form (we were talking about possibly seeing an old friend of mine), and who the hell invited him into our conversation to begin with? And seriously, what the fuck is with the assumption that all women love to shop, and that it's the only thing women can come up with to pass the time? There were a zillion other possible things for us to do in the area we were at, so why the knee-jerk reaction that women=shopping, plus the assumption that even if we were going shopping that we'd be sneaky and hide it from our spouses?