Monday, May 31, 2010

"The Basic Daily Obstacle Course"

The whole book is well-written, but I really liked this passage in particular from "Rose of No-Man's Land", a novel by Michelle Tea. The narrator is Trisha, a 14-year-old girl living in a small town:

The television was on, always on, always turned to talk shows or news, something real, no chipper family sitcoms or emergency room dramas, only the real dramas of real living, everything going wrong all the time, everywhere. And yet I see very little on TV about how creepy men are in the streets or about the basic daily obstacle course a female is forced to run through. About how you can be walking along absolutely not thinking about your pussy your ass your tits, but then, wham, thanks to the drooly curbside dude, now you are. Now your mind is consumed with the idea, the reality of your pussy, ass, tits; the possibility of blow jobs, of getting fucked. I wish more attention would be paid to this phenomenon. That there would be long-term psychological studies on the mental effects of this, the changes in brain waves it produces in girl-brains. I can go days without leaving my room and never think of my boobs once. Then I leave the house and it's all anyone wants to talk about (155, emphasis is the author's).

Well I'll pay it some attention. Right now, I live in the 'burbs, where people pretty much leave you alone unless you get too close to their lawns or Suburban assaUlt Vehicles. But it was interesting that I was visiting a small town, probably one that's similar to the one Trisha lives in, while reading "Rose of No-Man's Land". While a friend and I were walking down the street, we heard some guys yell at us from their car. What they were saying was completely inarticulate; I couldn't make out any words. Even so, I was surprised how unsafe it made me feel. I think Trisha was right to wonder what these little incidents can add up to when they happen to you frequently.

Men can get harassed on the street, too. But it usually isn't just because they're men who deigned to leave their homes. And the big city is not immune from random harassment, either. There's an organization, Holla Back NYC, that encourages people to take pictures of street harassers. A lot of the stories on that site are really shocking, and would make comments about "tits" seem tame in comparison. The idea that anyone would find men shaking their penises at random women in public (as in one Holla Back story) to be "just part of city life" seems a comment on how far feminism still has to go. We're still living with the idea that a woman is public property-- that anything can be said to us, at any time, much like someone would make a casual comment on a piece of public sculpture. Our sexuality in particular is fair game, and that's one reason people can react with such hostility to female asexuals. (People can react negatively to male aces too, but for other reasons.) While I think the vast majority of men have gotten the memo that unwanted advances are not okay, there seem to be a problematic number of holdouts.

If you want more reading on the topic, "A Guy's Guide to Approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced" is a very awesome post for all genders to read. There are also various tips out there directed at men on "Ending a Street Harassment Incident".


SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Nice post. I completely agree- everyone wants to own your sexuality, but when you're a woman, they somehow feel more entitled to it.

Janet S. said...

This is such an important topic to me. Thanks for talking about it.

heidi said...

<3 this post, Ily! Thank you for the "guy's guide" link, I'd never seen that before. Such a crucial aspect of introductions, but so often overlooked.

Ily said...

I think it's an important topic too, so I'm glad y'all liked the post :-)

heidi said...

I just found "feminist hulk" (I don't twitter, but word spreads) and this is one of the posts: "HULK IS SEX-POSITIVE FEMINIST. EVEN THOUGH HULK IDENTIFY AS LARGELY ASEXUAL, HULK SUPPORT RIGHT TO OWN ONE’S BODY AND DESIRE." =D

Ily said...

I have no idea how, but I actually saw that! It's definitely an awesome Twitter concept, thanks for posting about it!