Saturday, May 24, 2008

WTF? Part 3

I have a new "drink" to add to the list of dumb crap guys send over at bars: Shirley Temples! Last night I was sitting at a table with two friends, and the waitress brought over three drinks and said they were "on the guy at the end of the bar." We asked what they were, and she just said we would like them... but they were tall, pink and fizzy, and topped with cherries... my friend asked her if they were Shirley Temples, and promptly sent them back after the waitress uncomfortably answered in the affirmative.

So... is that an insult? Was he saying we look too young to be in a bar? I do look like I'm 16... Or did he think it would be funny if we thought the kiddie cocktails contained alcohol? Or was it an idiotic attempt to hit on us? WTF?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Definitely creepy!

A recent article asked whether catcalling is creepy or a compliment (thanks to Zipporah and Abby for sending it to me within minutes of eachother ;) If I'm offended by random men telling me to smile, you can imagine how I feel about catcalling, but I wasn't surprised that women "take both sides" of the issue... maybe just surprised so many had no problem admitting it...

Interviewee Kimberly Fairchild, an assistant professor of psychology, made an excellent point when she said "there seems to be some evidence that it increases self-objectification." I think it's probably a chicken/egg situation. Women who take it as a compliment (and I'm not entirely excluding myself-- it's impossible to live in this culture without somewhat absorbing it) already "look at themselves as body parts instead of as full, whole, intelligent human beings"-- or at least align their self worth a bit too much with their appearance-- and then catcalling serves as an affirmation of that self-objectification-- and then if the catcaller elicits a positive response, that affirms his f-ed up view of women. [Sigh] ... it's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

Another thing that bothered me was the "women are asking for it by wearing short skirts, low-cut tops, etc." arguments made by readers. First of all, it never ceases to amaze me that this excuse is still being used... It's the same f-ed up justification neanderthals have been using for sexual assault probably since the beginning of textiles. Some men wonder if the feminist whining will ever stop; I wonder will the victim blaming ever stop??? And second, it's not even true. I get more comments and catcalls from random men on the street when I'm bundled up-- and unshowered-- than when I'm all dolled up for a night out (and let me just say, I don't dress for warmth on Saturday nights).

Just this afternoon I was walking back from picking up a Tasty Turkey for lunch, and a man I passed on the sidewalk shouted at me, "I could fall in love with you! easily!" Hm. I was wearing flip-flops, bleach-stained cargo pants, a tank top under a t-shirt under a sweatshirt and no makeup-- and I hadn't showered in two days, greasy, unbrushed hair piled atrociously on top of my head.

I remember one year my college roommates dressed as Double Dare contestants for Halloween. They printed the logo on $10 sweatsuits from Wal-Mart, which they wore with safety goggles. But despite sporting these awesomely unattractive outfits in a sea of naughty nurses and sexy security guards, they were still groped (breasts, butt, crotch, you name it) by many a drunken college boy during the annual parade down State Street.

Can we PLEASE stop blaming women when men behave badly? This sort of behavior stems from the belief of some men (not all) that women have a place-- as objects to be gawked at-- and should be put in their place-- by reminding them via creepy looks, gestures, remarks, etc.

On the other hand, I did agree with a reader's point that there are degrees of creepiness. From the instances above, for example, the man telling me he "could fall in love with me" was obviously less creepy than frat boys grabbing my friends' private parts. And here's another recent example: I was riding back from a hangover-cure lunch with a friend I was visiting (one of the Double Dare contestants, in fact!) yesterday when two cars full of boys started yelling at us. (BTW we were both sitting in the car, sporting unshowered up-dos and giant sunglasses-- for me this was just day one-- she showered this morning before driving me to the airport.) The first guy who stuck his head out of the window simply shouted something like, "I love you!" and I actually laughed. Wasn't really creeped out. But then a few minutes later another guy in a second car shouted something similar and then stuck his tongue out and shook his head so it wiggled ... quite creepily. That made me feel uncomfortable.

So to conclude this rant, which I swear had a logical outline when I started it, I would most definitely say that catcalls-- or more generally street harassment-- is creepy. And while there are varying degrees of creepiness, the most "innocent" are certainly not complimentary, they are simply ... stupid. And to the couple of arguments I read that basically said women only consider catcalls creepy when they come from unattractive men, I would have to admit I'm stumped: I thought all catcalls came from unattractive men.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The five stages of post-collegiate grief

I loved school. My attendance, even of my Friday morning Spanish class freshman year, was shockingly close to 100%. I even got all misty eyed on the last day of my History of Mass Communications lecture when my professor recited a list of famous broadcast journalists’ final sign-offs. I’m not kidding. Best. Professor. Ever. Anyway, three years out, I’m still a tad heartsick over it, and I think it’s because I haven’t properly grieved the loss of student life—I guess because there’s always the fantasy of going back. But it is a fantasy because everyone knows a return is never the same as undergrad. And besides, I realized after thinking about it that I have grieved, so it’s time to get over it already. To put it in writing, here were the five stages, probably not as universal as the original model, but perhaps helpful to other befuddled members of my generation:

1. Denial: “Summer is for relaxing.” For many, the summer after graduation is the last summer vacation, the summer of denial. Since my lease went until the August after I graduated, I decided I’d pretend I was a student (interning at a local paper and magazine for free and waitressing for actual money) until my landlord forced me to leave. Other students I knew, i.e. finance majors, were interviewing and securing jobs months in advance of our looming graduation date—I can’t speak for all of them, but I do know at least one who scheduled a post-July 4 start date so he could enjoy some summer freedom before succumbing to reality. I would say that's a bit of denial as well.

2. Anger: “But, but I thought I was special!” This stage I blame not on my generation (naturally...), but on a man named John Vasconcellos, leader of the self-esteem movement responsible for producing the throng of delusional Generation Me-ers who experienced a rude awakening after the graduation parties were over. Following 16 years of compliment collages, Student Stars of the Month and purple participation ribbons, we were suddenly told to stop thinking we were so damn special. And that hurt our feelings. My mom and my second grade teacher said I could be anything I wanted—President of the United States!—but as it turned out, all I was qualified to do was edit articles about wastewater management. Part time. For an hourly wage and dose of sexual harassment comparable to what I had received serving boots of beer to drunk college students and bachelor parties. WTF?

3. Bargaining: “Just let me live to cash out my 401k, and I’ll stop feministing during client breakfasts and team meetings.” At some point perpetual anger just becomes too exhausting to carry around all day. This was when I traded in abstract goals like self fulfillment and making the world a better place for concrete goals like self preservation and making it to happy hour. Instead of critiquing or making fun of office politics, I decided it might do my pocketbook and psyche some good to learn how to play The Man's game.

4. Depression: “Shoot. What does buy happiness then?” After spending some time preoccupied with studying this new culture, I began to suspect office politics are a bit too much like student council politics: pretty much a popularity contest filled with a lot of empty promises candidates don't actually have the power to keep. And just like in junior high school, I suspected my allies liked me for the wrong reasons. Without the energy to revert back to anger...

5. Acceptance: “If it was easy, they wouldn't call it work!” When I was in school, I thought optimism was for people who were too stupid and/or superficial to realize how f-ed up the world is (maybe a natural inclination ... maybe a view I stole from Candide). But then I had to become a productive member of that world, and I realized I couldn't afford to be a pessimist anymore, emotionally or monetarily. And thanks to many a lecture on atrocities around the world, I felt too guilty to wallow too long in my white, middle class pity party. So I decorated my cubicle with inspirational quotes, and decorated my inspirational quotes with shiny stickers, and accepted work for what it is: work. Some of it's humbling, some of it's mind-numbing, some of it's frustrating—and if you're lucky and/or motivated enough, some of it can be interesting—even rewarding. And at the end of the day it's work, not your whole life—plus you can go home and blog about whatever you want!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Saving smiles for people I like

Last Saturday I was in line at the grocery store when I was startled out of a daze by the guy in front of me. “You could smile, ya know,” he was telling me, staring at me with a goofy grin on his face. I’ve heard this from men many times before, although less often since college, when my general temperament was actually even angrier than it is now.

“You look a lot prettier when you smile,” they say. Excuse me? WTF are you and how do you know what my smile looks like? Maybe I have no teeth. Maybe my dog just died. Maybe I don’t like taking beauty advice from f-ing strangers.

It’s my belief that this comment stems from a few main ASSumptions:

  • I exist for the viewing pleasure of random dudes
  • I care how random dudes react to my appearance
  • I appreciate any and all attention/critiques from random dudes

All three are incorrect. Usually I get these smile requests when I’m walking down the street, but since this one occurred when I was stationary, I decided perhaps I should poke MYSELF into someone else’s bubble and give him a piece of MY mind, since he felt so entitled to tell me how I should control and display my own emotions.

And so I let him know that actually, random men telling me to smile is a pet peeve of mine. He seemed confused and kept repeating that I’d look prettier if I smiled, that he was just trying to give me a compliment, that he wasn’t trying to hit on me. A compliment? Would he consider it a compliment if I told him he'd look a lot more handsome if he updated his hair and wardrobe? My aunt, mother, sister and niece joined the conversation mid-babble and threw him off even more, which I found amusing so I gave up my attempt to make a point. (Okay maybe my niece didn’t technically join the conversation, but I’m sure when she starts to speak in complete sentences she’ll have a lot of opinions.)

I actually think, though, that his confusion was genuine. These unoriginal turds really believe women have never heard that line before. Oh but he said he wasn’t trying to hit on me—I think he may have made that claim after he realized I was traveling with my estrogen entourage. But regardless, whether it’s a line or a genuine piece of advice, I’ve heard it before, and I don’t appreciate it.

I was pretty proud of myself for finally talking back, but now I’m thinking I probably took the wrong approach. I probably should have just followed the advice my mom used to give me when my older brother was picking on me. “Just ignore him. He’s just trying to get a rise out of you,” she’d say.

Because really, deep down, instructions to smile, whistles from the car, gropes on the train—aren’t they all just part of big brother’s attempt to keep us from getting too greedy in the toybox of life? Or at least keep us preoccupied enough playing Pretty Princess that we don’t care or notice that we’re not getting our fair share.

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