Friday, May 30, 2014

The most forgettable things that have happened to me as a woman

It's Friday and I'm nothing if not a creature of habit, so let's do this forgettable five business. This week I'm talking about the most forgettable things that have happened to me as a woman.

And by forgettable, I mean, I wish they were forgettable, but they're not. What am I talking about? Only the stupid, shitty things I've experienced as a woman. (You didn't think I was going to stay silent on the #YesAllWomen hashtag, did you?)

(via Giphy)
So let's talk.

1. Let's talk about that time a guy friend called me a tease because I didn't like him back. Or when that guy at a party wouldn't stop flirting with me despite my obvious disinterest and then insinuated at the end of the night that I was a bitch because I wouldn't give him a hug before he left.

2. Or that time a drunk, older man stepped right behind me as I was waiting to cross the street and whispered in my ear that he'd like to lick me all over.

3. Or maybe the time when some dipshit at a party grabbed my ass as I walking by while he stood with a group of friends. Or that other time in a club when that other person grabbed my ass.

4. Or how about that time when I was barely a teen and I turned around on a routine shopping trip with my mom to find two grown men staring and grinning at me and I was young enough to feel ashamed for their own shitty behavior and that shame stayed with me for days.

5. Or maybe we can just add up all the explicit catcalls over the years from men who knew it wouldn't get them anything but the chance to win a pissing contest I wasn't even involved in.

The reality is, in my daily life, I don't dwell on any of these things that I've numbered. Because a) in the grand scheme of things, they are only a sub-section in all of my life experiences and b) so, so, so much worse has been inflicted on other women. 

Nowadays, I'm able to brush off gross comments from random men without it affecting my day. Because I know it says nothing about me, and everything about them, but isn't that sad in itself? To become desensitized to it? 

That doesn't seem right. And it also doesn't seem right that I can't continue this conversation without asserting that no #NotAllMen contribute to this. Because god knows if I don't make this distinction nothing I've said is valid.

In fact, it's absolutely imperative we acknowledge only some men are like this so we can write them off as anomalies and just some weird brand of asshole, because otherwise that might mean we actually have to fix something in our culture... and I mean, fuck that, right?

It doesn't actually mean anything that every woman you meet can tell you a whole list of times they have been made to feel ashamed of their bodies for simply existing in public. It doesn't mean anything that the majority of rapists are men. Or that women have a history of being objectified in a way men simply don't.

Not when there are anecdotes to the contrary. Not when you have that one story about that one time a woman did a terrible thing. That shit trumps all.

Nevermind that we've also learned to conflate, "we have some gender-related issues in our society" with "all men suck and I hate them," because the latter is incredibly easy to dismiss and the former would require a little too much introspection.

But you know what really, really kills me?

This pervading attitude that something doesn't exist unless we've personally experienced it. Sexism? Racism? Homophobia?

Sorry, what was that? Something about misogyny? Oh well, uh, I didn't see it with my own eyes so, uh, I think you're just misunderstanding the situation. 

Oh, dear person. Go home.

No one was put on this earth to use their own limited experiences to validate the experiences of others.

Can we just keep repeating that over and over? YOU don't get to define what another person has experienced.

If you think something doesn't exist, it's because you haven't been on the receiving end of it. And that really shouldn't be a controversial statement.

Despite what I wrote earlier, those experiences I've listed above are forgettable at the end of the day on their own, but combined with the experiences of every woman I know, those things mean something. They mean something.


  1. This is wonderful. I feel a little sick when people say things to the effect of "well women in other countries get stoned so you don't have it that bad." Because that's supposed to make me feel better, and apparently "women getting stoned" is now a way for men over here to rationalize their skeezy behavior.

  2. I second this! As one of the few women in my workplace, it's really hard. I moved my desk to be away from some of the daily chatter.

  3. Great article - so open and honest! What annoys me about this behaviour is that, when you react offended, the general response is "calm down girl, it's a compliment" or "come on, you know you want it". Seriously? Am I supposed to feel good about the catcalls and groping?

    This type of behaviour has become so common that many people even consider it completely normal and are "blind" to it - They just don't see the problem anymore.

  4. Oh yes, the "stop complaining because someone else has it worse" argument. It's always so helpful and not at all derailing. Too bad it's entirely based on an either/or scenario that doesn't exist. Sorry, bro, acknowledging that gender relations aren't perfect in the U.S. doesn't negate what happens in other countries or mean that I don't care or somehow think I have it worse.

    And I can totally get that, Sarah. I used to be the only female reporter in a group of men and while we all became friends, I definitely heard casually sexist stuff all the time without them even realizing that it might be offensive to me.

  5. Thank you for this article. I feel the same way when I describe racism or issues of race with people who have never experienced it. They find a way to invalidate it and I love this "No one was put on this earth to use their own limited experiences to validate the experiences of others."
    Regardless of what precedes the 'ism, we cannot not believe it because it doesn't affect us.
    Please check out the post I wrote.

  6. You know, I wrote a comment days ago and then I must have done that thing where I fell prey to incompetence and failed to press "post." But it went something like, "DId you ever know that you're my hero? Something something plus what really kills me is how we start excusing bad behavior at an early age with 'boys will be boys.'"

    Also: I'm putting together on post for Friday on creeper moments. With a humorous slant, or else an entire collection from a variety of women would be too depressing. Let me know if you want in.

  7. This is a great post! I agree with how annoying it is to clarify our statements by saying not all men are like this, when it is obviously enough men that every woman has had to deal with something like this in our life time.

  8. I adore this... so often I hear that "sexual harassment can't occur in a law office." That is when I promptly stand up and tell the story of when how a founding partner in a law firm once told me that he "HOPED" I failed the bar so I would have to "result to pulling tricks" to pay my student loans. He then proceeded to tell me that he would be my first customer and I'd be able to pay my bills because he would at least need a "bi-weekly fix".... are you fucking kidding me!?!?! IT STILL HAPPENS PEOPLE... just because it hasn't happened to you, doesn't mean someone else hasn't experienced it...


  9. Interesting blog post--people definitely have knee-jerk reactions to 'isms.' We take things so personally, it's ridiculous. But honestly how on earth is it logical to base your knowledge of the world on your own limited experiences? And especially in the U.S., some people are so against just acknowledging that our society isn't perfect, that any criticism, slight as it may be, is dismissed offhand. Give me a break.

  10. I HATE BOYS WILL BE BOYS. Yes, let's excuse shitty behavior because it's easier than actually dealing with it. Sounds like a fine plan. (and I would totally like to know more about his post you have planned for Friday)

  11. Thanks, Kelley! Having to clarify seems like the favorite tactic people use to derail the conversation too. Clearly I'm not talking about ALL men ever.

  12. Are you serious?! That is disgusting. And what can you even say to that? He's the founding partner. And I'm sure you're not the first he's said something like that to. But yep, sexism doesn't exist anymore. We're totally past that.

  13. So, after a certain WTF experience with a silly man on Monday, I'm working on a collection of the weirdest pick-up lines/street harassment experiences for Friday. Because men are weird and awkward as hell. It's turning into something that can only be described as hilarious/tragic with a bit of "thank God I escaped that" thrown in. Send me one if you want (!

  14. Ooh, okay. Let me send you something tomorrow night. I'll probably expand on item #2, unless I can think of some college bro's lame pick-up line I heard at the bars and have suppressed until now.

  15. I love your fiesty spirit and you are right on point with everything in this post!

  16. Nice! It'll be great. I've finally discovered gifs.

  17. Thanks, Danielle! I appreciate it!

  18. Love this post and the spirit and voice you put behind it! Great post and message! Nothing better than someone at the top saying, I don't see the problem.