It’s Not Me, It’s You(r Male Entitlement)

“You’d be better off with me” he says, looming over me, breathing hotly down upon me, touching my arm with lust and anger. I don’t know this guy. He doesn’t know me. We’re simply sharing the same train platform. He…thinks I’m pretty, I guess. He asked if I had a boyfriend. He asked where I was going. I have no obligation to answer his questions, but what happens if I don’t? He’s touched me three times in the last 60 seconds. My leg, my arm, my shoulder. I already asked him not to. I’m trying in vain to control my heart rate, to stay calm and not panic. The metro workers are watching from afar, and their presence offers the slightest bit of security. The seconds grow loooooonnnnngggerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Where is the train? Oh god, where is it? Please don’t get in the same train car…

Every train of thought I attempt is derailed. Every futile attempt I make to end the conversation increases his agitation. He’s getting more antagonistic, as he talks more shit about the boyfriend I made up when I said “yes,” that I do. Every woman out on the street by herself “has a boyfriend” when the male stranger approaches with the same stale question. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. For every time a woman complains about unwanted advances, there are 10 times she never spoke of. There is rape and molestation and degradation that every woman will bear silently. Yes, rape. I cannot imagine how deeply skewed the numbers are. I only know from private conversations and personal experiences that they are indeed deeply skewed.

As a woman and a writer, I have often chosen to steer clear of women’s issues because it can potentially alienate about half my audience (the male portion). I desperately do not want them to tune out when I am speaking (writing). This is a sad fact about feminism, and the men who can’t stomach it. But today I have this to say to those men (many of whom I would like to call out by name): Harden the Fuck Up. Note that I did not say “Man the Fuck Up” because in this age that seems to mean something more along the lines of “be more of a misogynist pig.”

Every time one of my male friends looks at me and says “I’m sexist” – I kind of want to explode. I also kind of want to cry, go on a rampage, and also give up hope for the human race. That’s not an ideology worth owning. It’s not OK to be a racist bigot, and it’s not OK to be a sexist misogynist. You should be ashamed to hold onto those ideas. Uttering these statements makes you an enemy to every woman to which you may also be a friend, an ally. And suddenly, as a woman, our whole world is against us. Even the women, who compete to be the one he’ll treat better, or the one who can be an exception to the sexist acts that belittle us. And so the men around me that I respect and admire for so many things – their ambition, their compassion, their creativity and positivity and loyalty to their friends – are at odds with the idea that as a woman, I’m held at arm’s length; I am more object than ally: I am subject to only limited respect and loyalty and trust. When you say this, you are telling me: As a woman, I am here to serve a sexual and subservient purpose.

And so we live on the defense. We understand the world based on what is safe, and who is threatening, and who might help us achieve a little more leverage unto a higher plane where we might gain a little more humanity and respect in a way that either capitalizes on or diminishes our sexuality. Will we embrace or deny it? Either path involves real sacrifice, of either our dignity and self-respect (as I pull my skirt up and my top down) or force a dissociation with femininity altogether (“You’re an exception to all the other women I hate, you’re not like them…you’re not a part of that…”…so I become neither; there is safety in androgyny). Yet both will never leave us free from valuation that is based on this hypersexuality or the power to defy it and attain perceived worth for something other than our tits and asses.

Moving past the state of being on the defense constantly, what do we have to empower ourselves? I have chosen denial, action in spite of fear, and straight up walking into the hailstorm of misogyny, just so I could come out the other side and say that it would not kill me. But inside, we are dying. Inside, the women around you are shrinking, staying in, lying about fake boyfriends and committing to abusive ones because all of our options tend to be tainted with male entitlement. You before us. Submission is our mission. These statements are absent of exaggeration.

But it’s not me, it’s your male entitlement. The ideas you claim are embedded so deeply in you that you could not see things another way if you tried. Well, have you tried? Have you really tried? Do you think we are not demeaned when you say things about other women in the presence of your female friends? Do you think that we are comfortable in this state of forced acceptance? Shall I protest, and risk exile, or give you the silent look that implies reluctant consent?

Elliot Rodger was disturbed, but the women he murdered will never again have to experience the belittlement and degradation that women face daily. The rest of us will. We’re still here. Rejection is just so rough, isn’t it Men’s Rights Activists? Women are just so cruel, aren’t we though?

Men, are you even angry? I mean angry – for how Rodger has represented your gender? Or is it too accurate to own? Bring in the #notallmen retorts. No matter how hard you argue for #notallmen, you will still have to face the reality that #YesALLWomen are subject to harassment, intimidation, degradation and abuse by men they encounter day to day. We’re not even allowed to talk about it without becoming the enemy of men. But I never wanted to be your enemy. Men: How can I get you to be my ally? When will you stand up for me in the face of other men? When will you come to see your sexism as foul and cruel and inhumane? When will you become a real HUman?

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Letters from the Blue Line, part 1

A blinding peace dominates this morning. It’s almost surreal. But everything out there is true, is real. Is calm.

A man is selling batteries on the blue line today. “One dollar” is all he says, going across the train car, and back up the aisle, fanning across his path the AA batteries he’s peddling. He’s on at Grand, off at San Pedro. No takers in car 137B; maybe he’ll he better luck in the car ahead.

“The next stop is Washington Station.”

There are a few regulars who hustle their wares on different parts of the line, but this guy is new. The crazy angry dyke gets on at Washington. Mumble-shouts about…something?…finds an object on the floor, and settles in quietly to a seat, chewing on her gum with intensity while she talks shit to the world passing by outside.

“This is no fun! It is fun with the dark angel, it ain’t fun with you. You ain’t what you plan to be in this lifetime, with a bunch of fucking people laughing in your face. (mumble mumble…)”

A woman and her young son board the train and sit behind the hooded dyke.

“That child better quit fucking with me!” the dyke turns around, and mumbles something angry and fast to a boy about 3.

His mother, shocked and angry, shudders under her pink sequined headband. “I know you are not talking to my son like that!”

Crazy threatens to punch mom in the face. Says she wasn’t talking to her son, but she’ll punch her in the face.

“I know you’re crazy but I don’t care!” I will hit you.” says Mom, exposing the gap in her upper row of teeth.

Crazy stands up. Mom stands up. Boy stands below the two, in between. Crazy looks down, picks up her backpack and moves down the train car. She rises and exits at Florence, stopping to look in the trashcan just outside the train’s door.

By Artesia, Mom is laughing about it on the phone. “She got up and she looked at me…(pause)…if she had I woulda been calling saying ‘Pick up the kid.'”

It’s her mom on the other end of the line, the boy’s Nana. The boy tugs at Mom’s floral tank top and speaks a heavy toddler dialect, but articulates “Gameboy.” His curly hair obscures his mother’s gut. The boy stands up on the seat beside Mom, bundled in his camo zip-up hoodie, armed with a tiny bright orange backpack, and makes a song to his own rhythm: “boop boo bum bum…”

They exit at Wardlow, and the boy’s small feet patter in short, quick steps to keep up with Mom’s pace.

 

 

 

Crisis – A nursery rhyme for the 21st century

Albany RubbleI’m having an existential crisis
Half the reason why is
All this shit that we’ve been buyin’
Is based upon a lie and
Artificial pricing
Is bringing our demise in
If you really think that’s so surprising
You can keep on lying
Or maybe you can try and
Confront what’s conspiring
Manifest a new environ
Listen to the air raid sirens
Raise up the blinds and let the light in
Struggle, hustle – why we’ fighting?
If you love this planet, put some time in.

Navigating the Connotation of Spaces

Every space has a certain connotation that is identified with it. Much of this connotation is collective: specific groups view particular places in pretty much the same way. These ideas help us decide where we think we belong and–diversity, be damned–where we don’t.

We choose our neighborhoods, what kind of work to pursue, where to shop, eat and play based on cultural expectations, variations in economy, who we can identify with and are willing to interact with, if it meets our definitions of safe, or welcoming, or worthwhile. This is how we decide where we belong.

A space might be male or female, professional or punk. But connotations are malleable, and spaces are often more dynamic than we give them credit. Deeper readings may return new meanings. The war room, the man cave, the center stage. A dark alley signifies danger to John and Jane Doe, but for someone else the same channel is “home.”

Parks, parties and front porches–these are permeable spaces that we move through and impose our attitudes into. My point is this: Make a conscious contribution to the creation of spaces with positive connotations. Leave a way-finding marker that facilitates navigation. In English: Go forth and make a path for the ones who will come after you. This is a process of breaking expectations, thwarting intimidation, surprising the naysayers, swallowing fear and ultimately making meaning within the space you choose to occupy.