Tuesday, April 18, 2006

a little patriarchy-blaming, before I go

so, in my last post, Winter commented: Well, in a lot of other respects, it sounds like it's time for this era to end.

To which I reply, you can say that again, sister.

Don't get me wrong, Saturday night was fun. There are few things more entertaining than speculating how Yul Brynner manages to walk around 19th century Mexico dressed entirely in black without dying of heat exhaustion (Adios, Sabata! was playing. An American western, directed by an Italian, starring a Russian of Mongolian descent, dubbed into French. Who says globalization is a bad thing?). Except perhaps watching Back to the Future dubbed into French, which is what I did last night.

But. I got home that night kind of annoyed. And the more I think about it, the more pissed off I get. Because Ricardo and Trevor were just assholes, in that inebriated, frat-boy kind of way. It was just me and the guys, hanging out, as usual, but this time...it was different. They kept hitting on me and making sexual comments all night. It was really uncomfortable. It started when I got there, and Ricardo accidentally spilled a beer all over my jeans (they had already been drinking three hours by the time I arrived). He apologetic, etc, but he said "I'm just trying to get you naked, Anne!" Haha, fine, whatever. "If you want to take your pants off it's okay with me!" Um, no, I'm cool with sitting in wet jeans all night, which is what I did.
And it just continued the rest of the evening. "Trying to get Anne naked" became a running joke. I found myself wishing I had worn a bra, or a baggier shirt, because I caught them both checking me out. I was describing the creepy French couple who tried to pick me up in the dyke bar in Paris, "unfortunately I didn't realiwe she was married until after we made out!" And Trevor starts teasing me for a demonstration, "I need a visual", although I could see he was already picturing it in his head.
Just little things, like that, needling me all night, and I didn't put up much resistance. Ricardo grabbed my ass when we went to the bar. I punched him in the shoulder, which made him laugh. Trevor propositioned me as he walked me home.
"So, are you sure you're a lesbian?"
"Ten years and running, Trevor."
He didn't shut up until I snapped "I've never kissed a guy but you ain't gonna be the first, okay?"
Ricardo did that thing he always does when a half naked woman bounces across the tv screen in her underwear, which, this being France, is often. Stops mid-sentence to stare at the screen and grunt in appreciation. Which makes my skin crawl. "Oh for god's sake, Ricardo!" I groaned.
"What! You like women!"
"Yeah, but I treat them like human beings."
"I do to!"
No, you don't, I thought to myself. But I didn't say anything more, because I knew he wouldn't understand.

I've been stewing about this all weekend. Partly because my friends were sexually harrassing me. I may be "one of the guys", but at the end of the day they are People and I am a fuckhole on legs ( like the joke says, "Q. What's that useless piece of flesh above a vagina? A. A woman.") We've had plenty of fun before, just hanging out, without them making me feel exposed and humiliated. I've realized that some part of my brain believed that dressing more boyishly would make me exempt from this crap, that by being androgynous I could escape some of the objectification that conventionally feminine women endure. Guess not. It was almost like they were trying to prove that I can't escape, that no matter what I look like I'll always be Female first, a member of the Sex Class, and don't you forget it. Even if you don't fuck guys, we'll make sure you still function within heteronormativity, a thing to look at and fantasize about. Your sexuality is our entertainment, something to laugh about and jerk off to. It doesn't belong to you, sweetheart. Hey, let's flirt with the lesbian and watch her squirm, that'll be funny.
I'm mad at myself because most of the time it didn't even occur to me to get upset. This kind of thing is a matter of course; I'm used to it. I'm used to people cramming me into a heteronormative dynamic. I'm mad at myself because this always happens to me, when I most need my voice I lose it. I can write on my blog all I want, but when push comes to shove I can't get past the patriarchal conditioning that teaches me to placate and smile and change the subject. Distraction is the only defense I can muster. Play nice and maybe they'll stop. I'm furious that even if I call them up tonight and let loose a righteous lashing, they won't get it. They won't hear my anger. They won't understand my fear.
I'm mad at the fucking Patriarchy for turning my friends into assholes. I'm pissed that I can't have a fucking drink with friends without it turning into a power struggle. I'm mad that my friends are so steeped in their male privilege that not only can they not see how offensive their behavior is, they wouldn't see how threatening a woman would find it. I was reading about the Duke rape case earlier that day; and the only difference between me and those women is that I got lucky. I wasn't actually frightened of Ricardo and Trevor, but what was to prevent them from attacking me? Not a godamn thing except their own goodwill. I went drinking, alone, with two intoxicated men, both of whom are bigger than me, in a place where I couldn't escape; Ricardo has to let us in and out through the gate. Not to mention I'm in a foreign country where I wouldn't know where to get help if they did hurt me. What if I had gotten drunk and passed out? What jokes would they have tried then? I'm incensed that if I had been a man, or if my friends had been women, this context wouldn't have been anything to worry about.
I don't believe Ricardo and Trevor are potential rapists. I believe they're just stupid dumbfucks.


Winter's got a goodpost on this subject.


At 11:17 AM, Anonymous roro said...

Holy effing shit, man. This post made me so mad. What an incredibly frustrating, infuriating and disheartening experience to have EVER, let alone right before closing a chapter in your life. Unfortunately, I am not so articulate with my anger as you and Winter. I can but sputter and make growling noises in the face of such dicksmackery.

Your comments about "being one of the guys" reminded me - I met a woman last week at a planning meeting for a woman-run blogging conference we're going to put on here in Toronto (code name: BeaverCamp). She showed up for the meeting but proceeded to tell us that she doesn't believe in "women only" events (the conference invites anyone to attend, but will have only self-identified women as speakers/facilitators) and that she's "never had a problem" as a woman in the IT industry. We all took turns trying to explain to her why we were doing a conference where all the presenters would be women, what the value of that would be and why, in the face of the ubiquitous Straight White Guys Pushing 50 conference, we thought a conference like ours would be relevant. It was like talking to a brick wall. One by one, the people at our table tried to tell this woman about their crappy experiences with guys at their work, or at school and she kept on saying things like "Well, I'VE never experienced that. Sure, it's mostly men where I work, but I'm used to it." Finally, I said to her "Maybe this is the problem. I think you're talking about how successfully you've managed to hold your own, and be one of the guys and 'work the system' in order to be comfortable in your job and that's cool. Hey, good for you. What we're trying to say is that the system needs to CHANGE."

She still didn't get it. Fortunately we left right after that and I didn't have a chance to smear peanut sauce on her blazer like I wanted to. My point - the patriarchy blows. Guys keep it going 'cause they can - and gals like the one I met just help keep it going. Good times.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Winter said...

Andy you have the right to be extremely MAD! The fact that these men were supposed to be your friends makes it even worse. Getting harassed by a stranger is nasty, but at least there isn't a breach of trust or betrayal of friendship involved. Also, they were depending on your relationship with them to get away with more and they had you trapped. You were put in the awful position of having to put up with it or tell them to fuck off and leave. Total abuse of power.

roro, arrrgh! I wish you had smeared peanut sauce on her blazer.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Sage said...

I know a few stupid dumbfucks myself. I was also one of the guys for years, and I miss those times now. But there were nights where for no good reason, they saw me as a plaything instead of a person. It didn't happen often, but I'm still pissed and baffled that it did at all.

The worst part is when the group mentality takes over, and they stop responding to my exasperation as individuals, but egg one another on as he-men.

Weird. (I wrote more on a similar topic at Femivist's place - "Can't You Take a Joke?")

At 10:40 PM, Blogger reasonably prudent poet said...

that just fucking sucks.


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