activism
Comments 21

Why I, privileged white female, need feminism

turquoisewater

I’d been doing chores all day, running around, working up a sweat. I needed to shower but first I looked outside and saw that the apartment pool was empty. Blue, cool and shaded, seriously tempting. The afternoon sun dips behind the building around three so the pool sees little traffic after that. I threw on my old white-grey bikini, nearly destroyed by years of chlorine, but why wreck a new one when this one still holds up. I hurried down the stairs and dove in. It was glorious.

After a few laps I noticed in the corner of my eye that our new neighbor, a big burly guy, was hanging over the railing watching me from above. It made me a little uncomfortable but he hangs out there a lot, seemingly watching everyone. Our apartments are on the same floor connected by an outdoor hallway and he is staying in the first apartment so every time I leave my house I have to pass his window.

Now I have two choices. Continue to ignore him and hope he goes away, or acknowledge that I see him. If I do that, and he doesn’t feel awkward getting caught peeping and leaves, then whatever I do next will be as putting on a show for him. Which he may or may not already think I am doing since he seems perfectly comfortable intruding on my solo swim.

I swim more laps and then I float for a while in the middle of the pool. Completely weightless and the water shutting off the world around me. This is my meditation. I hope he leaves soon, but no.

I get out of the pool, wrap a towel around me, and go check the mail. I take the back stairs to our floor. As I turn the corner he is there, grinning at me. “You look totally different in the pool,” he says.

What is that even supposed to mean? Different as opposed to what? Why is it so necessary for him to interrupt my exercise and alone time with his opinion on my body? Does he like to tell men they look different in their trunks, too? I’ve already made a mental pact with myself to not smile and encourage this behavior so I just walk past him without looking, sternly saying to the air in front of me, “Yeah, the pool is nice.” Then I unlock my door and step inside.

Now, again, I guess I had two choices there. I can go against everything polite society has taught us and just completely ignore him every time. That is actually harder done than said because smiling and being polite is something every little girl learns early. It defuses most situations. Or I can confront him, sternly, and tell him that his behavior is unacceptable. There are girls that do that. I don’t know where they find that kind of guts. Confronting strangers has two outcomes – they either apologize or things get violent, verbally or physical. I have never confronted a stranger in my life. I wouldn’t even know how to. I certainly don’t want to get into some kind of violent argument with a man more than twice my size that lives two doors down and can watch from his window every time my husband leaves the house and I am alone.

So now maybe you want to say, jeez, Joey, you’re completely overreacting. He was just trying to be nice. No, there is nothing nice about this. A threatening, uncomfortable situation doesn’t stop being a threatening, uncomfortable situation just because you personally don’t think so. That’s pretty much the concept of privilege: thinking something isn’t a problem just because it’s not a problem to you.

I know most men aren’t rapists. I hope most men have never laid a hand on a woman. But there is no way to know these things so you always have to err on the side of caution. And that is fucking exhausting. It is so exhausting to always expect the worst. To have to plan out your day in such a way that at no point will you find yourself alone in a vulnerable position. To triple check locks when you are home alone late at night.

Only men can change this behavior. Women have been screaming into the wind for over 40 years. Men who treat women this way only respect other men. Only a man can tell them to stop. And why wouldn’t they want to? It must suck for the majority of nice guys out there to always be treated with suspicion by women because of this asshole minority of men.

We need feminism until women everywhere can step out of their homes and go about their business without constantly being graded by men. “Nice ass.” “Smile! You look prettier when you smile.” “She’s a slut.” Her nose is busted.” “She’s got dick-sucking lips.” You get the picture. I know tons of people on the internet have tried over the past year, through videos and blogs, but it’s actually impossible to imagine a world where men face the same sort of scrutiny for simply existing.

Sometimes girls make an effort before leaving the house. They dress up and they put on make up. By all means, tell her she looks nice if you think so. Tell her you like her dress (she probably bought it hoping to get compliments.) But don’t treat her as a contestant on a reality show. She didn’t come here to have her nose/boobs/ass graded on a scale. And sometimes we leave the house without giving a fuck. Didn’t dress up, didn’t comb our hair. That’s not against the law and you don’t need to comment on it.

There is a difference. Until we learn it, we need feminism and we need men who give a shit.

21 Comments

  1. I am almost 50 and my conservative, shy to-the-end self have heard such comments as “those are my favorite jeans”, “I’m so glad summer is coming to see what you wear”, and “I’m going to follow you to church”. I’m tired of curdling up inside. I’d rather walk like a princess while someone opens the door.

  2. Great post. You awoke my “creeped out” instinct. You are not overreacting, of course. This has been going on since humankind first walked on two legs (I wasn’t there, but it seems pretty obvious). I think it will only change when the good guys stand up to the jerks and tell them they’re jerks. When it is no longer “manly” to be a harrasser, many of the harrassers will stop.

  3. Reblogged this on tina meyer and commented:
    A really well thought out post. I have been in two minds about the ‘I need feminism because…’ Program. But this one I like.

  4. Great piece! Thanks for the clarity. You know, even those of us with good intentions need help overcoming learned behaviors that feed into this kind of thing. Seeing the woman’s perspective is always helpful. Love your writing style. ..

  5. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS. I feel like all women are seen as nowadays is just tits and ass. I feel constantly uncomfortable during my daily life, having to undergo constant scrutiny. Its a game of tug-o-war power dominance. A guy catcalls at me; do I ignore it, do I flip him off? There seems no way to win. If I ignore it, I’m just playing along to the dinky submissive role women are given, but if I flip him off, its aggressive, draws attention. How do I rebuff the pigs and win? Its infuriating and shameful that women have to undergo these situations, and men get off scott-free.

  6. Your tale reminded me of that story where a man is asked why he’s afraid of women. He answers that he’s afraid they’ll laugh at him. A woman is asked why she’s afraid of men, and she answers that she’s afraid they’ll kill her.
    Both responses show just how fucked up this patriarchal society is, but there’s a huge difference in how it’s fucked up for each gender.

  7. Eumaeus says

    In what subtle ways does a man
    gauge a woman’s interest in
    sex, friendship, or anything…

    It is very subtle
    It is the kind of subtlety that changes the color of bird feathers
    But certainly this cock
    Ruined his chance for anything

    By lingering wrong and staring long

    Anyway, too bad for you that your thoughts were infected while you floated there
    Floating is a good time to think
    but not about would be rapists…

    • :) Nice. I agree with you. If we do want women to be strong, let’s be strong enough to decide what is right and what is wrong. (unintentional rhyme). It’s a privilege to still have freedom of speech and it is a privilege to have common sense – both as a man and as a woman – to act civilized and without fear.

  8. Thank you for this. So many men just do not get male privilege and seem to live in a bubble of entitlement. I hope this gets read and that at least some men rethink their behaviours…

  9. La Sabrosona says

    Reblogged this on my spanglish familia and commented:
    Last night I watched news in Spanish, Texas local news, and they featured a story on a young girl in Mexico that was abducted and tortured for two years. She was chained like an animal and has scars all over her body. Today I came across this post and this blogger has nailed it. I agree 100%. I don’t feel safe walking alone anywhere, not in Canadian cities, Mexican cities, Chinese cities – NO WHERE, for fear that I will be sexually assaulted or raped. Is it a phobia that is limited to a handful of people? No, there’s a mindset, a male mindset, that is very damaging to women. This is why equal opportunities is bullshit: it’s a moldy door that has a thick layer of paint over it. A woman can be a CEO of a company and “well-respected” but her “equals” and subordinates will still talk shop about how they’d like to fuck her in her office. My sympathetic nervous system has been activated. I’m pissed off and in fight or flight mode. ****If you have comments direct them to honeythatsok****

  10. It’s saddening and tragic that this conflict between man and woman exists, where it should not even be an issue, but it is. The issue is respect, regardless of where the disrespect is directed; man-woman, woman-man, man-man, woman-woman, gays, transgenders, you name it. It’s about respect, and there is never any reason to treat anyone without respect. Lack of respect however is often an easy way to deal with lack of self-respect, project your self-loathing on something outside yourself, and get some distraction. There is no excuse for such behaviour, but it might help understand why we live in such a messed up society, especially when it comes to populated urban centers. Considering the state of the economy, and what this life-style is doing to our ecology, maybe this behaviour is a signal to move to greener pastures, literally?

  11. Hear, hear! I probably would have done the same thing as you. It’s creepy to have someone just feel free to watch you, especially when you live nearby. I think you make an important point “men who treat women this way only respect other men”. Emma Watson’s campaign on HeForShe highlights the contribution that men can make in lifting up other members of society.

  12. I am a man and I can see why his behavior would cause you to be cautious. Not all of us are like him, but sometimes we’re all stereotyped that way.
    I was in my early forties when I started college. There was no shortage of attractive young women on campus. All of them deserved respect, and from me they received it. I can’t say the same for many of my classmates (especially the younger men/boys). Women are human beings, not meat in a display case. Some guys on campus couldn’t, or wouldn’t, grasp the concept.

  13. Just a big amen to everything you wrote. I hope a lot of people read this. It especially bothers me when I hear females declaring that feminism isn’t important anymore or buying into the idea that being a femnist means you are some kind of man-hating shrew. And yes, we need men standing with us. Speaking up.

  14. Oh man, the watching me in the pool would’ve probably creeped me. Be one thing if he was in a chair already when you came out or if he moved away from hanging over the railing after a bit. I really have no clue what I would’ve said to that comment, wth.
    I have a 2 second eye contact rule, with a firm hello for creepers who seem like they’re “testing” me in some way, to see if they can either get a good response or make me feel awkward and scared. I honestly don’t think creepers even respect men, I think they only feel they have to play well as they might get beat down lol.

  15. Great post – and how much harder is it for migrant female workers, or women living in countries dominated by archaic misogynist thinking?

    From a distant country (New Zealand) we often get news from the U.S. There is plenty of commentary about Hillary Clinton seeking the presidency. The majority of commentators disapprove of her suggesting that her gender is a reason to vote for her – “the best person for the job” they say. I would agree with this if the U.S. had a healthy percentage of female presidents – but its not hard to work out the percentage – 0%. Perhaps a woman would do a better job – perhaps females have capabilities that would compliment senior government politicians dominated by men?

    If there were more mothers in power, I believe we would have fewer wars.

    There is still room for positive discrimination.

  16. I really hate being a woman sometimes. It’s so exhausting and if you say anything about it to most people, a lot of them will tell you you’re just imagining things or overreacting because we’re so used to it that we don’t even notice how differently men and women are treated sometimes. I’m like you, I’d never have the guts to say anything or get confrontational but sometimes I just want to be like you know, if it weren’t for us women, you men would have to suck each other’s dicks so how about treating us like we’re fucking human beings and not just toys you can play with when you’re bored.

    I saw this gif on tumblr once, where one African American woman said “when I look in the mirror I see a black woman”, then another woman (who was white, so this just goes to show how this applies to race too) said “when I look in the mirror I see a woman”, and then there was a white man there too. And when he heard what they both said he buried his head in his hands because he suddenly realized for the first time what women go through because he said “when I look in the mirror I see a human being.”

    • I hear you. I’ve never not wanted to be a woman because for the most part I find women more interesting and stronger than men, but the fact that the divide is still so massive just shows how far we have yet to evolve as a species. I think, and have always thought, that harassment and violence come from a place of weakness and that if these sad individuals weren’t inflicting pain on other people, I would feel sorry for them. My husband and I talk about this a lot, where this need for validation in men come from, and it always boils down to a cultural value disorder and systemic issues. But that gets so academic and big picture, and sometimes I forget to be mad at individuals, but today I’ve had it so fuck this dude!

      That’s a really powerful story. I wish we could all see only human beings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s