Boys, I need you to do me a favor. Its a bit of a thought exercise. Imagine you are walking down the street and as you do so a man in a car will not stop staring at you. You shoot him a moderately dirty look and he just smirks, and keeps on staring. You try to look away, but you want to know if his gaze is still fixed on you, so you look out of the corner of your eye and sure enough there he is, still grinning away. As his car passes you he makes sure to watch you as long as he can and you are left to wonder just what was up with that person. Now imagine that, every day, having to worry about what the motives of those looking you up and down are.
Women do not have to imagine this, it is a reality we have to face every day. And please spare me your lookist comments or smarmy “but it’s a compliment” remarks. I am no great beauty and yet I have to contend with this, at least when I am presenting the way I want to. I have had random strangers “compliment” me on my appearance while moving in well within that arm’s reach perimeter. All women, everywhere have to cope with the fact that in any group of men there is likely at least one who views her strictly as an object, and that he may act on that idea without any consideration for her wants and needs.
What’s worse is most of us have witnessed male friends, family members, and acquaintances engage in this sort of sexist behavior. They blithely examine a strange woman’s worthiness as a potential sexual partner in front of us, or “joke” about a woman’s place with us standing right there. In today’s day and age most privilege groups have the decency to at least pretend they respect the oppressed. All but the most egregiously bigoted have the decency to not make obviously racist remarks around PoC, all but the most viciously homophobic and transphobic creeps do not dare make hetero-sexist or cis-sexist comments around queer folk. Somehow though it is perfectly acceptable for men, including many who consider themselves feminists, to make openly sexist comments around women.
Maybe there is something to be said for this openness. Not so much to credit sexist jerks for their behavior, but at least they are unknowingly warning us of their thoughts about us. I have heard white friends make racist comments around me and I wonder if they make anti-queer quips when I am not around. I am sure PoC have been in the position of wondering the same when the reverse occurs. Still, what is it about being a man that reinforces your superiority to the point that you feel confident making blow job jokes about a stranger right in front of us? Do we really matter so little to you?
I am not a big fan of the “what if it was your mom/sister/aunt” school of thought. Instead why don’t you ask “what if it was me?” Because all of us, not just your mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts matter. We are your equals, and we will be demanding you recognize that. You can prove you are a real human being (and not just a “man” because that is the default good) and accept that, or you can continue on with your childish ways. Either way, we will be marching into the future, with our without you.
- This Twitter Handle Retweets Users Who Think They’re Not Sexist (But Are) (refinery29.com)
- Why we should all stop talking about how many guys TSwift has dated (umd.uloop.com)
- Subtle Sexism? (sexismmatters.org)
- Perception and the cost of pointing out sexism (lostandfoundecologist.wordpress.com)