I never really thought of obscene phone calls as anything more than the childish antics of ill-behaved boys. But after today, I’m gonna have to put them on the rapidly growing list of things I consider misogynistic harassment.
I’m at work, in an office, talking on the phone at the reception desk. I’m half paying attention to what random salesmen dude is saying to me and half trying to map an image in Photoshop. “The copier toner is about to be shipped, ma’am. I just need to confirm your address. I didn’t take the order. I’m just at the warehouse and I need to ship it.”
“Okay, again, I didn’t order the toner and I don’t want it sent to me. Please don’t send it.”
“How about if I send a heat-activated jumbo size vibrator instead?” he asks.
Silence. Me trying to figure out if he just said what I think he said.
“It’s the size of a white man’s penis in the package, but it becomes the size of a black man’s penis once it’s inside you.”
What the hell was that? Why did he say that? What was he trying to do? Why am I shaking? Why do I feel like throwing up and taking a shower and sobbing uncontrollably?
Because I was violated, that’s why. Innocuous and entertaining at it may seem to some people, his words very much threatened me. They made me feel vulnerable and unsafe. They sexualized me in my workplace against my will.
I guess that I’m supposed to think it was funny and laugh it off, and no doubt someone will think of me as an uptight humorless bitch for not doing so, but I’m finding it pretty impossible these days to laugh off this kind of bullshit.
Any guys out there ever get an obscene phone call? Ever? Prolly not. Why do you think that is?
I got my first call when I was about 9 or 10 years old and home alone. Strange man with gravelly voice asked me a bunch of personal questions about my body and then jerked off, demanding that I not hang up until he was done. I was too scared of what would happen if I did, so I didn’t.
My growing list of misogynistic harassment is all these kinds of hateful, spiteful words and behaviors, typically dismissed as silly and meaningless, that nonetheless attempt to remind women and girls that they are weak, dumb, trivial, totally powerless against the sexual force of masculinity and worth nothing more than what they can do for men. Or, as Twisty puts it, a “subclass of passive sex minions for male use and abuse.” Sounds about right.
God, it’s just so not funny.
I’m sure lots of folks have seen this, but for those of you who don’t daily peruse the fem blogs, here’s an excellent primer on the concept of male privilege and on what feminists like myself are up against.
The Male Privilege Checklist
An Unabashed Imitation of an article by Peggy McIntosh
1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.
2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true.
3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.
4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are.
6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.
7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low.
8. On average, I am taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces much less than my female counterparts are.
9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.
11. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent.
12. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
13. If I seek political office, my relationship with my children, or who I hire to take care of them, will probably not be scrutinized by the press.
14. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.
15. When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
16. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.
17. As a child, I could choose from an almost infinite variety of children’s media featuring positive, active, non-stereotyped heroes of my own sex. I never had to look for it; male protagonists were (and are) the default.
18. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised their hands just as often.
19. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether or not it has sexist overtones.
20. I can turn on the television or glance at the front page of the newspaper and see people of my own sex widely represented, every day, without exception.
21. If I’m careless with my financial affairs it won’t be attributed to my sex.
22. If I’m careless with my driving it won’t be attributed to my sex.
23. I can speak in public to a large group without putting my sex on trial.
24. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously labeled a “slut,” nor is there any male counterpart to “slut-bashing.”
25. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability or my gender conformity.
26. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring.
27. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little time.
28. If I buy a new car, chances are I’ll be offered a better price than a woman buying the same car.
29. If I’m not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and easy to ignore.
30. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.
31. I can ask for legal protection from violence that happens mostly to men without being seen as a selfish special interest, since that kind of violence is called “crime” and is a general social concern. (Violence that happens mostly to women is usually called “domestic violence” or “acquaintance rape,” and is seen as a special interest issue.)
32. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will always include my sex. “All men are created equal,” mailman, chairman, freshman, he.
33. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
34. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I don’t change my name.
35. The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.
36. Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male.
37. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
38. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we’ll divide up household chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive and unrewarding tasks.
39. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, chances are she’ll do most of the childrearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts of childrearing.
40. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.
41. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of media is filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.
42. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic consequences for being fat than fat women do.
43. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.
44. Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.”
45. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are interrupted by men.
46. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.
Click here for details and discussion on this list.
The answer* to the question previously posed is this:
A bunch of skeevy old men whack off to an underage girl’s MySpace page and then harass her in public. Somehow, this is entirely her fault. It’s up to her to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Like I’ve said before, women are entirely responsible for both causing and changing mens’ bad behavior. God I hate that message, and I sure wish it weren’t EVERYWHERE, including these goddammed Public Service Announcements.
This poor little girl gets verbally assaulted by a number of men in public and is expected to take full responsibility for it. As if having an internet presence automatically makes a girl fair game for whatever kind of hateful shit gets thrown at her by pedophiles. As if she asked for it! by simply existing in a virtual space shared with anonymous men. Please. Nevermind that the old football coach is checking out a 14 year old girl’s photos and then yelling at her across the field about her tattoo – the only problem with that, apparently, is that she should never have let that happen.
Imagine a campaign that addressed physical and verbal violence against women by actually targeting the men who commit the violence! What a freaking concept.
Oh wait, there is one. (And only one, far as I can tell)
(If you can’t read the bottom, it says: If you have sex without consent you could end up going to prison, for rape. If you don’t get a yes, don’t have sex.)
Okay, so here we are talking to men instead of to women about preventing rape. How novel!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Why’s that? According to this message:
1. A woman is a body, her body is a place, and her vagina is something to be entered.
2. Men need to protect themselves against rape allegations, because going to prison is a bad thing.
3. Sex without consent may not be rape, but you could go to jail for rape anyway.
This ad doesn’t suggest that women are real live people with feelings that suffer serious trauma when their ‘No’ isn’t taken seriously and who really don’t want you to rape them. It doesn’t even imply that rape is wrong.
So this is what I get for demanding a PSA geared toward men – something that effectively issues a tidy, patriarchy-approved warning to the Dudes of the world: These hot chicks you sleep with are dangerous little bitches, so be careful.
*Kudos to the boyfriend – you got it right baby! Of course you had to follow it up with “but you can’t control boys, so…” which completely negated all the feminist goodwill you had acquired.
**Little of what I said in this post hasn’t been said before by Twisty and the insightful commenters at IPTB.
Or, more appropriately, what you think I think is wrong with this PSA:
I’ll give you 10 bucks, a cookie, and an ERA sticker if you get it right.
Mary Mother of God I’ve never wanted a cigarette so bad in my life. More than I did 2 hours ago, more than this morning, more than last night, more than I did on Saturday.
Welcome to Day 4. Don’t talk to me.
I think about smoking every minute of everyday. This is the first time I’ve gone for this long without cheating at all – no secret puffs off old butts in my car’s ashtray, no bumming from strangers. Nothing for 4 days. OMFG. It’s a record. An excruciating, lame ass little record.
I am a miserable bitch. I am irritable, bloated, nasty, depressed, edgy, pissed off, and full of noxious thoughts about everything that exists in the world. All I want to do is smoke and smoke some more, but since I can’t do that all I want to do is sleep and/or eat because those are those only two things that make it all go away temporarily. I can’t concentrate on work or anything else. I’m super dumb and unfocused right now. And pissed. Really, really pissed.
The nicotine cravings haven’t ceased AT ALL for 4 fucking days. Is it supposed to be like this? Aren’t I supposed to be over the physical craving part by now? How is it possible that anyone ever does this? There’s a reason why I’ve never gone this long before- because it’s not possible to have this feeling for this many days in a row and not be completely psychotic and unable to function in the world.
But here I am fuctioning like I’m supposed to, trying to convince myself that I just LOVE being a non-smoker, when in fact my chest aches and throbs constantly and my mind is always buzz buzz buzzing with vivid recollections of cigarettes in my mouth and I’ m dizzy and lightheaded with longing. Totally serious. I get dizzy, for fuck’s sake. DIZZY.
I don’t drink beer, even though I really want to, because I’m afraid it’ll make the cravings worse. I don’t call my friends because I don’t know how to talk on the phone without smoking. I don’t want to be around people because I’m in such a bad mood and I kinda want to punch everyone in the face. I don’t want to be alone because I’m a little crazy right now and I could very well start smearing feces on my bedroom wall.
Really, give me unrequited love over this shit any day.
I can never quit again. Which means I can never start again. Which makes me want to cry like a little baby for hours and hours.
Curse those stupid girls in the dorm who made me start smoking all those years ago! Curse you all to hell! I hate you the most!
Blech. Life sucks.
When I was 16 years old my best friend left the homecoming football game we were at together to go to a party with another friend. I went to her house after the game and waited for her to come home. When she got there many hours later she immediately took a shower then crawled into bed next to me and cried as she told me how a guy she met offered to give her a ride home, brought her to his house, got her more drunk, and raped her in his bed. She was a virgin.
That was my first experience being with someone right after they had been assaulted. It wasn’t the last.
So I’ve made a list. In my 33 years I’ve known at least 16 women and girls that have been sexually assaulted. I’m sure there are more than that, but ‘only’ 16 of them have told me their stories.
3 of them were raped by strangers. 6 of them were date raped. 2 of them were likely drugged. 7 of them were children molested by a man they trusted, usually from within their own family. 16 women and girls just from my own small life makes for a very high rate.
None of these rapists, predators, and pedophiles, not a single one, experienced any consequences for what they had done. Each and every one of them got away with it for some reason or another.
He didn’t get erect. It’s been too long since it happened. Her story didn’t add up. She was too young to be trusted. She didn’t scream or try to fight him off. She asked him to put on a condom. She didn’t react how a rape victim ’should’ react afterwards. There wasn’t enough evidence. She was dressed like a whore. She was lying, acting out, trying to get back at him. She said yes before she said no. She was drunk.
No matter the situation, the guy got away with it every single fucking time. Until now. I hope.
The last predator asshole on that long list of predator assholes, one who somehow thought it was within his rights to fondle and kiss a 13 year old girl who had trusted and loved him since she was a young child, was arrested and charged. I think he will go to jail for a long time thanks to the awesome courage of a girl who knew, despite her reluctance to talk about it and her fear of everything about it, that he would do it again to someone else if she didn’t say anything.
Finally, someone who won’t get away with it. I have my fingers crossed too tightly.
And here is where I begin my feminist response to this bullshit:
There is war on against women that is defined by sudden or subtle and always brutal violence, sexual assault, verbal abuse, harassment, and discrimination. Can there really be any doubt about it? How can anyone think women these days have it made? Do really believe that having the right to vote and being more involved in the workplace are the same as being free from oppression? Haven’t you been paying attention?
As long as a woman is sexually assaulted every 6 minutes and 82% of these crimes go unreported, we remain oppressed. Fear of being abused by men is a mighty powerful tool, and it has been in us since someone felt the need to let us know that boys were stronger than us.
“The only identifiable risk factor for rape is being female.” -Center for Injury Prevention, 2006.
The most insidious and dangerous thing about this ugly war is not that there’s a denial that this shit happens, but that women are entirely responsible for both starting it and stopping it. It’s somehow totally our fault that men rape us and it’s our responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen. It’s seen as nothing more than a women’s issue, not the global humanitarian crisis that it is.
As if rape were a chick-flick. Please.
So yeah, it’s apparently our responsibility to stop it, but the women who do try to do or say something, anything at all, are dismissed as bitter man-hating lesbian feminazis with boy baggage who just need a good lay. Nice.
Funny but not really how it’s only situations where a woman has been assaulted or harassed that we too-often assume that the victim is somehow more responsible for the crime than the perpetrator. Do you automatically assume that the male victim of a random street mugging is making it all up? Can you imagine dismissing the legitimacy of the crime against a man because he was dressed provocatively or had too much to drink or because he had sex with someone earlier that day?
Can you even for once second fathom thinking that sex crimes against women are wholly and entirely the fault of the man who committed the crime? Why is that such an impossible thing to believe?
Someone who found out about my 13-year old friend’s recent fucked-up experience with the old family friend 20 years older than her asked me why she didn’t scream to wake us up. I had an answer for him, but seriously, does that really matter? Why didn’t he ask me how she was dealing with things or how long the asshole who did it would be in jail for? Why, when I say “my best friend was raped by a guy at a party,” do you immediately wonder if she was drunk? Doesn’t that seem the slightest bit off to you? Do you still think that the patriarchy is some benign force that we shouldn’t mess with?
Hey ladies, you ever get the feeling that the world hates you? Like it’s trying like hell to get you to shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and deal with the fact that your experience as a human being will never be taken seriously? That you don’t count? That men are people and you are just a woman? That you’re supposed to be nothing more than what men see you as?
Because I do. Every fucking day. And I would bet my life on the fact that you’ve felt it too.
Maybe you felt it when you told your mom what happened that night and she asked you what you were wearing. Or when a group of boys at school demanded that you take your bra off and jump up and down in front of them. Or when you read the fat-girl story Tucker Max’s blog. Or when you scanned the tabloids in the checkout line one day 4 years ago and realized that every one of them had stories about the sex life of Kobe Bryant’s rape victim and pictures of famous women who gained or lost weight.
This is a war with the mission of maintaining the male-domination status quo by granting men the right and obligation to control our bodies and instill fear among us. When women in masses stopped being so content with being maids and baby-feeders and started wanting to participate in the public world, something had to be done to ensure that we didn’t stop men from being important and powerful. The patriarchy shifted its focus from making sure women didn’t care about the world outside their homes to exacting punishment on our bodies and souls for daring to venture out into it.
Congratulations, it’s working. It may not be as overt as it once was, but don’t doubt for a second that this war it exists. It’s become crafty, insidious, and manipulative and it’s everywhere all the time.
Men right now have a power over women that they steadfastly refuse to admit having and virtuously claim to not even want. And those are the supposed good guys.
Hey, deny it all you want boys, but it’s true. The patriarchy has granted you this power by birthright. You’re winning a war that’s been so much a part of your life since you were born that most of you don’t even have the capacity to acknowledge that it exists, much less to see that you’re winning it.
We’re not only afraid of the men we pass on the street in the dark and the boyfriend who gets overly jealous, we’re also afraid of what men will think we are when we tell them what another man did to us. Thanks for that, fuckers. The patriarchy is thriving.
Not to relieve the men who commit atrocious acts against women of their responsibility, but please just have a look at the bigger picture for one second.
In a patriarchy, women are defined by their sexual behaviors, and their bodies are part of the public domain – a domain controlled by men. These bodies seem to have actually been created and designed for men, to be looked at and used by men in whatever way they please. A woman’s personal sovereignty over her own body is invalidated in the courts and on the sidewalks and in the bedrooms of the world every second of every day. It is unsurprising that sex crimes happen with such unspeakable frequency.
When women are portrayed and treated as OBJECTS of men’s interest/desire/contempt/jealously/lust/gaze, as opposed to SUBJECTS of their own lives, as they are in any patriarchy and as should be evident by about an hour a TV-watching or magazine-reading, it is inevitable that far too many men will abuse their inherent male privilege by asserting their perceived rights to those bodies.
When female bodies essentially belong to men, it is shockingly un-shocking that the default position on sexual assault is that the man has been somehow wronged or misunderstood and that the onus is on the woman to convince the world that an actual crime has indeed taken place. If she can’t prove it to the immediate satisfaction of this woman-hating, man-loving world as controlled by the male-dominated judicial, political, familial, and media arenas, she is either a lying, vindictive slut or a self-righteous prude.
Again, shockingly un-shocking.