Wednesday, January 25, 2012
In a post I made a few weeks ago, I discussed a conversation I had with my family about men winking at women in public and the ways that sort of behavior bolsters the harmful and toxic environment the patriarchy creates for both men and women. My intent in discussing winking was to open up a broader conversation about the nature of personal space in public and what I've perceived as many men's feeling of entitlement to infringe on the personal space of women. My thinking was that this conversation might lead to another conversation about how these small, seemingly insignificant breaches of personal space are part and parcel of a cultural atmosphere that is generally hostile to women. I didn't expect my anecdote would lead to much more than some civil discourse, but I didn't think a small discussion was an unreasonable expectation.
However, what I ended up doing was opening up a conversation with a bunch of crybabies about whether or not it is okay to wink at people. Let me come clean: I winked at someone like two weeks ago, while I was waiting tables at the diner. I was bringing a couple of regulars their check when one of them said to me, "can you actually add two small coffees to go?" I said, "how about instead I just bring you some to go cups for the refills I was about to pour you?" Then I winked, and dropped the check on the table. Someone let Andrea Dworkin know that my feminist ally badge needs to be revoked.
(Trigger warning for discussion of rape below the break.)
Ultimately, whether or not it is okay to wink is not even negligibly important. What I am concerned with is a general reframing of how we look at and see some of these issues. I'm not even asking the herds of dudely dudes who populate the internet to AGREE with me. I am just asking that they (you?) genuinely consider someone else's perspective. That they take one moment off from the "wah wah wah girls don't like me" self-victimization bullshit, that they set aside some of the directionless rage that our culture nurtures in all of its men, and that they listen to another voice. I am just asking to be heard without defensiveness, without resorting to the emotional armor of irony and sarcasm. I am putting myself out here and making myself vulnerable. I am not weaker for that, I can bullshit and posture and walk the man walk with the best of them, but I am tired of that.
Basically, the way I see it, things like street harassment, stalking, rape are falsely considered to be "women's issues." I'm too lazy to look up statistics right now, but something like 99% of reported rapes are committed by men*. As far as I can tell, that makes rape a Men's Issue and I think it's time that men took responsibility for it. And the same goes for street harassment, although that is harder to quantify as a statistic. It's time for men to own up to their behavior, own up to their sense of entitlement and let go of the notion that things are okay the way they are.
Men's feeling of entitlement to the time, attention, generosity and kindness of women contributes to a general atmosphere in which women's inherent human resources (their time, their energy, their patience) are seen as less valuable than those of men and that is so fucked up! If I was constantly reminded of the fact that my humanity was less valuable than other people's because of some factor totally outside of my control I would be hella bummed.
I just think people need to start taking responsibility for themselves and for each other. If I have been too scattered to articulate any of this well, please forgive me. If I have been unclear about anything, please ask questions. If you wanna make fun of me, or brag about how you fuck all the girls and you're never gonna stop or whatever, you just do you, homie. But I have a feeling the compulsion to proclaim it from the mountaintops has more to do with deep-seated anxieties than it does with sexual prowess. If you want to discuss whether or not winking is okay ever (and if so WHEN?!!?!?!?!!) don't bother, though. That is a stupid conversation and I'm sorry I started it.
Here are some things to read:
Stop Telling Women Not To Get Raped from Ebony Magazine
I Want A Twenty-Four Hour Truce In Which There Is No Rape by Andrea Dworkin
Middle School Boys Learn That They Can Stop Rape from the Daily News
I'm More Of A Breast Man And Completely Worthless Human Being, Myself from the Onion
Some Notes On Rape Culture from Racialicious
* And 90% of the survivors are women, and 25% of women are raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes. All these figures are approximate and from memory so please don't be mad if I am off by a few percentages.