Wednesday, March 08, 2006

blogging against sexism

didn't get a chance to post this yesterday, so here it is:

When I'm in NY, I frequently walk and take the subway with my boyfriend. The times that I don't, I'm all too aware of the difference, especially when I'm not wearing my big, puffy winter coat as I was today. I'm less likely to meet the eyes of people passing on the street; I speed up and look away as I approach individuals or small groups of men hanging around or working outside of stores. I choose different clothing depending on whether I'll be by myself or with a man. It's partly the ogling that bothers me, but it's especially the ones who comment or greet, because then I have to restrain the pulse of anger that makes me want to give them the finger or tell them to fuck off.

It's perhaps not the worst manifestation of sexism, but it's the one that, on a daily basis, makes me feel like there's something wrong with the world.


La Lecturess said...

It's funny, but my attitude toward this has changed over time. I used to feel really, really uncomfortable about the comments that would get made to me on the street, but at some point I decided that, unless they were actually lewd, I was just going to take them as a compliment. What the hell, right? I still remember the first time I put this plan into effect: I was walking past a group of repairment of some sort, when one said, "Oh, you're gorgeous!" I turned my head (not slacking my stride any), smiled broadly, and said, "Thank you!" Seriously? It was the most empowering moment of my life. [Alas, it was some eight years ago, and I don't know that I've been called gorgeous since!]

I'm not going to pretend that I can always pull off this attitude, or that there aren't a whole lot of complicated issues now, living as I do in a predominantly African American and still economically challenged neighborhood. But for all the very real damage that beauty standards and expectations do to women, it helps to remember that most of the time, when men make comments, it's less out of a sense of *their* power over women--their ability to make those evaluations--than it is an expression of their sense of *female* power.

kermitthefrog said...

You know, I do go back and forth on this, depending on how I'm feeling and the tone of the man's voice. Sometimes it's clear that I'm just being paid a compliment, and in those cases I have smiled and said "Thank you" (possibly still feeling a little nervous, but flattered nonetheless). When it's a come-on rather than a compliment, though, I am bothered.

I don't know what to make of the fact that it's generally when I'm walking straight, looking around, generally acting like I have a right to the sidewalk that I get more comments. You're probably right in that it's an acknowledgment of the fact that I look powerful/empowered, but does it also make that power just refer back to sexuality?