And the list goes on

Posted in Feminism, Misogyny by Dizzy on June 19, 2007

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.


7 Responses

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  1. Lemonade said, on July 20, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I got an obscene phone call this morning and it threw me, gave that stomache-twisting “is someone out to get me?” feeling, then rage about feeling preyed upon when I was going about me life. I called the police, the phone company, and finally a detective agency. I’m after this guy’s name and number, hopefully his address. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. I need it to be creative and not too viscious, as I think that will rot my insides. Also, I have kids so I don’t want to go to jail (wouldn’t want to even if I didn’t have them, come to think of it). Maybe I’ll steal his phones. Maybe I’ll spray paint OBSCENE PHONE CALLER on his house. Knock his world off course just a little. Let him know the listeners have fists.

    The dude who said that stuff to you, he was a salesman, right? You could contact the company whose products he sells with a letter describing his comments. There would be consequences.

    I’m so done with feeling like I need to just roll with it when this stuff happens. Not anymore.

  2. Dizzy said, on July 22, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    I definitely tried to find out who he was, but I didn’t remember the company name and the caller ID didn’t catch the number for some reason. I was all prepared to bring that man down, but there was just no way.

    Yeah, I’m done with rolling with it too. This shit has just gotta stop.

  3. Sara said, on August 12, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Unfortunately the “hey, give me the address to send the toner” is a classic scam. It’s the phone (or fax!) equivalent of email spam, and it’s been going on for decades.

    You would be entirely justified in blowing a whistle in the caller’s ear, which is what I do with obscene phone calls (learned that from Grandma!). If they’re going to try to violate me over my phone, they will pay with their eardrums.

  4. Princess Pointful said, on August 13, 2007 at 10:54 am

    The other aggravating thing about these situations is that half of the time there is nothing that phone companies will do about it. I had a police report about someone who was calling me several times a night (and just hanging up, fortunately or not), as I was told by my phone company that it was the only way they would identify the caller… and then they still refused, saying they needed a bloody subpoena.

    The police just told me then to change my phone number… same thing the phone company told me.
    Um, fuck you! Someone is violating my privacy, and I’m to be inconvenienced as a result? It’s always the person who is being harassed that is told they have to change…

  5. Dizzy said, on August 14, 2007 at 7:18 am

    Wow. I had no idea this was a classic scam. I truly thought this was a legitimate sales call and I spent a bunch of time trying to track down the company. Thanks for letting me know Sara. I guess I can stop investigating now.

  6. mythago said, on August 18, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Suggest keeping the address and phone number (non-emergency) of your local police department handy. Give that one to Mr. Asshole should, God forbid, there be a next time.

  7. Hypatia said, on August 23, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    (Arrived here via IBTP–super posts).

    I can totally sympathize with your visceral, physical reaction. I was working on an essay at a coffee shop a couple weeks ago, and there was a man talking on a cell phone seated across from me (though in one of the cozy easy chair niches and hence out of view of much of the rest of the shop). I wasn’t paying much attention, but I got the creepy feeling that he was staring at me. When I looked up, there he was, jacking off–through his shorts, thank god, but still.

    I was practically paralyzed: revulsion, anger, shame (why the fuck was *I* ashamed?), shaking hands. I didn’t want to leave because why should I leave? But then, I thought about approaching one of the baristas to tell them, and I just couldn’t do it. I felt sick. And I left.

    And then I got so mad at myself. I fucking teach gender studies at a major university! I know better, I’ve lived long enough to be able to deal with this kind of crazy, manipulative, disgusting, abusive bullshit. And I still left.

    What surprised me was how physically ill I felt. And I’m still pissed.

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