[personal profile] museclio
I've been thinking a lot. I've been thinking since I read the not-rape article I linked a while back, and since reading Yes means Yes. And I've been thinking more since reading cereta's entry .

I'm an anthropologist by training and by nature. What I do professionally is go and take a walk in someone else's world as best I can, and then come back and explain it to my world. How do I invite you, the other, my friends, to come take a walk in my world?

How do I invite you to understand what it is to walk through a different world than the one you see? How do I explain when I've heard the same damn comment about my chest for the fifteenth time that I'm sick of it, and not only that I'm sick of hearing it, I'm sick of people, even people I care about feeling that they have a right to talk about it.

How do I make you understand that the joke about giving myself a black eye, or smuggling melons, is insulting, that's it's old, yet I still have to either grin and take it or risk insulting you by being sick of it. How has me wanting you to not talk about my body somehow become me apologizing to you? How do I explain how the mild feeling of people only seeing my breasts is helping to lead me to have surgery to have them reduced.

I walk in a world where somehow it's my job to explain to you why that's not okay, and if I don't do it in a way that seems nice to everyone around- it's my fault because my tone was wrong or too harsh. I walk in a world that even though I'm tired of explaining, and have been for years, I still feel obligated to educate. I walk in a world where I have to.

How do I explain to you that although I am strong for a woman, I am better trained than many and I'm fairly confident, that I still know that many men could probably take me. And how do I explain to you the effect that has to have on my behavior. How do I tell you that my mother made me promise not to walk alone at night, even though it's one of my favorite ways to calm down when I'm stressed.

I walk through a world where I'm supposed to take "nice ass" from a stranger as a compliment, where I have to dodge a couple of teenagers trying to cop a feel getting off metro. I walk in a world where virtually every woman I know, myself included, just brushes that stuff off as part of walking through life as a woman. I walk in a world where it's been hard to figure out this list, because constant awareness, brushing off the comments and knowing where I am is so ingrained.

I walk in a world where people I know say "I don't know anyone who was raped." when I know it's not true. She just didn't want to tell you because the questions you might ask, all well meaning, start to be about how she could have avoided it. I walk in a world where I've been trained how to avoid rape, date rape, stranger rape, and I know that if I don't follow that advice - if something happens someone will ask me why I didn't follow the advice. I walk in a world where I'm the one expected to stop rape.

How do I explain that you've got privilege - you don't have to walk in my world - moreover you don't even have to see it? How do I show you that in my world there isn't, there can't, be a neutral space on this? How do I take that knowledge and still ask you to come with me for a walk in my world?

ETA: I'm not asking for an apology - and I'm not mad. I'm asking for a glimpse into my world, those comments are just a part of my world.

Date: 2009-06-17 06:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ms-lemon.livejournal.com
Amazingly well said and deeply thought provoking. Huzzah to you and for being able to put these words out there.

Date: 2009-06-17 06:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ms-lemon.livejournal.com
For the record when I get comments like that from people who I don't want to give them I have absolutely no problem calling them out on it. However, I know that comments even when intended as compliments or positive when given in a demeaning way remove any good and leave only a bad taste. So I try to avoid doing this by making statements to others in ways I would not mind hearing myself.

IF I ever make a comment to you that is of the nature that you get sick of hearing it, that it causes you to question your body image or some other negative end result feel free to point it out to me and I'll be certain to adjust in the future. I might be dominant but am not adverse to learning how those around me prefer to be handled :)

Date: 2009-06-17 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blushing-grace.livejournal.com
I had a girl insult me once back in high school (one of my dance classes) and made me literally cry. She then locked herself into the bathroom out of her drama-full angst that she could have done-such-a-thing to me. Thinking about it still frustrates and annoys me.

Date: 2009-06-17 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bluejai.livejournal.com
I'm touched by and deeply appreciative of this piece. More so today because I was reminded last night just how vulnerable I am by the SUV of teenage boys who hooted, hollered, and followed me almost all the way to Tom's house. And yes, I brushed it off, even though I was shaking by the time I got there.

Date: 2009-06-17 06:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] queenmaggie.livejournal.com
My only response after I read that other link is... I married a gentleman, and we raised our sons to be knights. That means they don't take advantage of anyone.
And that's the only way we can change the world. one person at a time, and one generation at a time .

Date: 2009-06-17 06:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] make-your-move.livejournal.com
Well said love, well said. And if I've ever made a stupid comment regarding your boobs, thunk me and forgive me and I'll note to be more aware in the future.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ambyr.livejournal.com
Oh, god, the jokes and "compliments." And the stress of trying to figure out how to respond without triggering an affronted "I was just trying to be nice!" and yet still making it clear that it's Not Okay.

For me, it's comments about size. "You're so tiny!" "I could pick you up with one arm!" "You probably don't weigh 100 pounds sopping wet." They're dismissive, they're inaccurate, and, if coming from a man I don't know well, they have an aura of threat, whether intentional or not. I already know you have the advantage over me in a physical struggle; it's not necessary to remind me.

Date: 2009-06-17 10:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scaleslea.livejournal.com
If you counter rudeness with rudeness, then aren't you just promoting the same bad behavior? We all hit our wits end sometimes and snap, but if we want to improve the world, we have to re-enforce polite behavior. Politeness needs to be reflexive. I hate that it means that you have to be polite when dressing down someone who just insulted you, but isn't it better in the long run?

Just putting that out to be considered.

Edited Date: 2009-06-17 10:16 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-06-18 01:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silmaril.livejournal.com
I think the issue is somewhat wider (and deeper), though---I might be polite when dressing down someone who just insulted me, but the point is they will still think I am being impolite by the mere fact that I am dressing them down---because they never meant the insult, you see.

So when [livejournal.com profile] museclio talks about "being socialized to be polite," the definition of "being polite" there is "taking such insults with a smile." I might be reading that wrong, and I assume she'll be along to correct me if I am.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arashinomoui.livejournal.com
My apologies for remarks similar to these that I have made.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ambyr.livejournal.com
They're appreciated. Please believe I'm not calling anyone specific out, though--the comments are endemic, and I couldn't even begin to list all the people I've heard them from.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bittibuddha.livejournal.com
I think for every woman who feels like you do, I could point to another who uses their body and their appearance and their attractiveness as a source of validation from outside sources.

For this, among many other reasons, I pity men (in general): for somehow having to walk the line and know what each woman (person) finds acceptable within the confines of their own ears, and never be wrong, lest they offend or hurt with a thoughtless or thoughtful remark.

How much easier would it be to develop our own sense of equanimity to the foibles of the billions of people around us and learn to not attach to either the criticisms or the compliments, however ham-handed they may be.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bittibuddha.livejournal.com
Rivka: I am sincerely sorry - my response was not meant to bait this issue. You have absolutely valid reasons to feel the way you do and it was not my intent to diminish those feelings in any way. I think I got lost in my own mental machinations that only very tangentially had anything to do what you were talking about. Your journal, and your very thoughtful and personal post was not the appropriate place for this. Again: my sincerest apologies.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nebulawindphone.livejournal.com
Speaking as a dude, it's really not hard. Two rules of thumb:

1) Assume nobody wants to be treated as a sex object.
2) Cheerfully accept invitations to the contrary.

That's it. Seriously. Men who claim that it's any more complicated than that are confused, immature, or flat-out lying.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arashinomoui.livejournal.com
3) Accept that occasionally you will screw #2, make apologies and remember it for the future.

Date: 2009-06-17 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nebulawindphone.livejournal.com
Heh. Fair point.

Although — to go on being a humorless pedant for just a minute longer — part of my point is that rule #2 is a lot easier than some guys make it out to be. I tend to feel like if you're* apologizing for this shit all the time, you're* Doing It Wrong and you* need to do more than apologize. The OH HEY TITTIES OOPS SORRY HONEST MISTAKE WHAT CAN YOU DO routine is pandemic in some social circles, and it irritates the crap out of me.

*That's the generic you, not actually you you, arashinomoui.

Date: 2009-06-17 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arashinomoui.livejournal.com
Eh, I've got my boneheaded moments. Catch a vibe, and read a little too much into something; or be a little intoxicated so I'm not quite as perceptive as I'd like to think I am, and *bam* time for shoe leather eatin' time.

But yeah, to quote a T-shirt - "The one constant of all your dysfunctional relationships is you."

Date: 2009-06-17 08:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blushingflower.livejournal.com
But here's the thing. Even if part of me feels good that guys clapped when I walked by them while wearing a low-cut shirt, another part of me says "that's not ok." My body does not exist for their entertainment, and thus their comment is inappropriate. I'm not asking them not to look, I'm asking them to keep their opinion to themselves (and actually, I knew what their opinion was, I notice the guys who look when I walk by).

We are not asking for men to be mind-readers. We are asking them to think about what it would be like to live in a world in which your body, which is an intimate, personal thing, is always, constantly subject to objectification and comment. And to understand that there is a difference between "you look nice today" and "nice tits". And, quite frankly, if some women have to sacrifice using their appearance to gain external validation so that other women don't feel objectified and threatened when they walk down the street, I think that's a fair trade.

Beyond that, if [livejournal.com profile] museclio says to her male friends "please do not comment on my body" they should, as her friends, be able to respect that, even if they have permission to make those selfsame comments about my body.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tchwrtr.livejournal.com
You are a beautiful person. One day we will have the time again to talk, pretty lady to pretty lady. I miss those moments.

*hugs and love*

On topic...working from home for the most part is great, but there's been a handful of times where one random workcrew or another parks in such a way outside that makes me nervous...and I lock the doors and make sure that someone knows what's going on, even though nothing has ever happened, and I honestly doubt ever will. The world is a good place. I believe that. Even when I'm scared.

Date: 2009-06-17 07:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alricthemad.livejournal.com
Ditto on the above comments where I may have something to which you took offense, tho I can not recall any.

And do please call me on any off handed remark which you take other than as a compliment.

Date: 2009-06-17 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] becalyn.livejournal.com
Very well said. Thank you for putting the words out there. I can't even count how many times I heard those types of comments. Though I've never dealt with it as much with adult men since my reduction was done so young. Ironically enough, it was years after my reduction before I was able to talk openly about it. It seemed to be a dirty little secret I wasn't supposed to mention, something I should be embarrassed by. And to this day I still find myself automatically apologizing for the scars on occasion.

Date: 2009-06-17 09:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cellymcfae.livejournal.com
Thank you for writing this so well. Just a thought, it often seems that men can be taken seriously and be seen as sexual beings at the same time. Women, from my experience, seldom get both at the same time. I hate that I have to chose, but I usually will chose being taken seriously. Unwelcome comments that identify me as a sexual being automatically negates me being taken seriously.

As unfair as it is, I am usually more offended by such comments from men than from women. *shrug*

Date: 2009-06-17 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] belthazar-b.livejournal.com
Hey dear, I'm fairly certain I've made a boneheaded comment or three before, for that I'm sorry. I'm also fairly certain that you didn't write this post to elicit apologizes.

I wish that I had something profound to write here, but even trying won't do as much justice as the subject deserves. So, I'll just say this; I've heard you, I'm listening, and to the degree I'm able to do so, I understand.

Date: 2009-06-17 11:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beatrizwench.livejournal.com
Thought provoking post, hon. Equally thought provoking comments.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Date: 2009-06-18 02:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jcw-da-dmg.livejournal.com
I certainly know more than one person who has been raped. I will also freely admit that I have (long ago in my less-than-enlightened and desperate youth) come closer than I am happy about to having committed it. I'm NOT proud of it. I'm glad I came through that experience the wiser, and with any luck, the happier.

Date: 2009-06-18 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greene-l.livejournal.com
Thank you for saying these things. It needed to be done and was well done. I wish I had your wordsmithing power to better express what I often have churning about.

Date: 2009-06-22 09:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] technomage.livejournal.com
I will introduce myself, as many of your friends don't know me, as a man who enjoys flirting perhaps too much, and who will on an irregular basis, insert my foot in my mouth and chew VIGOROUSLY until I realize no one is laughing.

The feminist in me says:
1. You have the right to not be offended. That right should be foundational in American society, but it is not. We are more of a "free speech" society, where even sexually offensive speech is defended.
2. You should feel safe from unwanted sexual advances. As the not-rape post explains very well, this is also not true.

The student of human behavior in me says:
1. Breasts and buttocks are primary sexual characteristics. People, men particularly, have been hard wired to react to them. What you and your friends have so eloquently expressed sounds to me like an internal reaction is expected but an external one is not appreciated.
2. Our society does not give a message that is consistent with your wishes. TV and Movie comedies are definitely using more sexually demeaning speech today than in the 1970s, or even in the 90s. Madison Avenue's campaign to sell everything with sex, on the "size 5 is overweight" platform, is not a help.

The social historian in me says:
1. At many periods in time for particular social classes non-consensual sex (rape or something very close to it) was a fundamental part of a woman's life. In medieval France it was not possible before the revolution for a commoner to bring a charge of rape against a nobleman.
2. It is my understanding that the Birka is designed to prevent just such comments as you experience, but it comes with a phenomenal social price.

I consider you a vivacious, potent, desirable woman. I hear your appeal for an end to verbal comments that belittle you. On many levels I grok what you say, but I still wonder "What is permissible to say?" and whether that answer is the same for all women. Is there some middle road between being a verbal masher and being silent? How do I chart that path? How do we lead that world of BeBe ads and Family Guy to chart that path with us?

Date: 2009-06-29 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] technomage.livejournal.com
I can grok your perspective. My point in history is that various civilizing things have happened that make it better now, but far from perfect. We need a transformational method to achieve radical improvements in the way all people are treated with respect and dignity. The thread I got good feedback on was here.

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