July 1st, 2013
I have felt angry a lot in the last week, as more and more posts about harassment in the SF/F community have been popping up. I'm not angry about the posts. It's about fucking time that we started making this shit TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE at cons. I'm angry because like all women I have a lifetime of micro-aggressions and larger transgressions to feel angry about. And this week instead of my usual - almost everyone's usual - behaviour of just not thinking about it - there is so much all the time that you kind of have to just not think about it so you can keep living your life - instead of that, I am reflecting on all the bullshit that women experience constantly at the hands of men and I AM ANGRY ABOUT IT.
Amy has a good post here that starts to scratch the surface. It's so hard to know where to start.
What bullshit do women experience constantly?
I have been gobsmacked over the last year to realize that most men actually DON'T KNOW. Little aggressions happen all. the. time. to women, but... not as much when we are in the company of men we know. Because you know, we might be their property or something.
I'm white, cis, able-bodied, and affluent, so I am comparatively speaking left alone compared to more vulnerable groups of women. So I /only/ experience stuff like:
I expect every bus ride and every walk down the sidewalk where I am alone to experience at least one and more likely many of the following:
- A man telling me to smile, because my duty as a woman is to look pleasant
- A man telling me his opinion of my body
- A man telling me his opinion of my clothes, including "concern" about how "other men could get the wrong idea." (From my t-shirt showing a collarbone, or whatever.)
- A man whistling and telling other people loudly about my tits
- Hearing a man calling me or another woman a bitch for ignoring him
- Having a man stand too close to me, "accidentally" touch my breasts or rub his crotch against me
- A man telling me I'm fat and ugly and I'll never sleep with anyone
- A man asking me to sleep with him, because I'm fat and ugly and I'll never sleep with anyone else
Less commonly, but all these things have happened to me multiple times:
- Men without pants masturbating and pointing at me
- Men spitting on me
- A man grabs me with both hands and doesn't let go until I hit him
- A man walks up to me and fondles my crotch. (First time: age 11.)
- Men telling me they are going to rape me as soon as we're alone.
- A drunk man walks up to me and kisses me until I hit him
- A man walks up behind me and grabs my ass
At work, I expect:
- Male customers to tell me how pretty I am and how pretty my smile is, 5 or 6 times as often as they remark on my professional skills
- Men to ask if I'm going to quit work to be at home with my child
- Men to explain things about my field of expertise to me
At conventions, I expect to happen to myself or watch happen to woman friends:
- Men following us down the hall or to our hotel rooms, initiating unwanted conversations, refusing to end conversations, blocking our path. I had one guy email my friends to ask for tips for how to get me to pay attention to him when I blocked him from contacting me. CLASSY.
- Men talking over us, especially on panels.
- Men explaining things to us, sometimes basic things about the fandom WE PAID MONEY TO FLY TO A CONVENTION ABOUT, sometimes random things they overheard us discussing with someone else... anything really.
- Men touching us without asking - grabbing a name tag pinned over my breasts, walking up for a hug without exchanging a single word, pulling me in to their lap, pulling me in to a close embrace, licking me, kissing me, biting me, grabbing my ass in the elevator.
- And I don't even go to parties at cons. This is hallway crap. At parties where alcohol is served, the behaviour is so much worse and so much more easily brushed off by witnesses.
- Because we also expect this: men to watch all of that happen and do nothing about it, or laugh it off, or explain to the women later how they could have prevented it, or how he's just like that and you have to let it happen.
In my friendships and romantic relationships, I expect:
- Moments where I back down in conversation because it's with a man who is angry or upset, and I don't know what will happen if I push it.
- Moments where I don't break out of unwanted physical contact because it's easier and safer than dealing with a hurt, angry, entitled man. Once someone hit me so hard that the wind was knocked out of me, and then was angry and stormed off when I started to cry in pain and wouldn't immediately hug him to make up. A nice guy, a friend's boyfriend. Men get the benefit of the doubt, women are responsible for making it better. This is what we calculate. Is it worth fighting this 18th incursion in to my personal space today or is it going to blow up in my face. Do you feel lucky, punk.
- Assumptions about my role in the relationship as a woman - cleaning, organizing, scheduling.
- Casual misogyny I am too tired to call friends and lovers on.
Does that last list surprise you? I'm a bold person. I'm not shy. I'm not quiet. I don't put up with a lot of bullshit. But still there are moments in almost all my friendships and definitely all my romantic relationships where I have bitten my tongue and deferred because the mental calculation of risk didn't look good. Women are calculating risk all the goddamn time. I read somewhere recently someone saying that women in heterosexual relationships are in the strange position of being expected to love their oppressors. And that resonated so much. And NOT because I've had abusive relationships - men that I've dated have all been really sweet, smart, liberal, feminist guys. But because they were all raised in the same society I was, and it's one where women are oppressed, sexism and misogyny are present everywhere, are what we think is NORMAL until it is challenged.
I'm going to go drink now, this problem is very depressing and too big.
Yeah, I feel you. But here's the beautiful part of this moment, which makes my anger feel more productive than usual. The pot is being stirred all over fandom, so we have a chance to make a big change AT CONVENTIONS. I am going to start asking to see the con's anti-harassment policy before I pay for my membership. And I am going to start reporting badge numbers and details whenever it is safe for me to do so when I witness harassment at conventions. And I hope that enough other people decide this too, so that the number of situations where it feels safe to do so grows.
I'm sick of shoving this down. I'm angry.
Edited to add:
I'm just going to copy this here (and expand a bit) from a reply to one of the comments. It's a common theme in replies to All These Posts. I'm not trying to single out the person I am replying to, who is a dear friend I respect a great deal.
I would caution you strongly against thinking you're nothing like guys I'm describing - there aren't Good Guys and Bad Guys. Every person on earth behaves transgressively at times. I know I can recall with shame times I've been unthinkingly racist, cissexist, ableist. Every man I've known well I have witnessed being sexist in some way and usually countless ways. It is a natural inclination to want to think well of oneself and to separate oneself from reprehensible behaviour, to think that we could never stoop to that level or be vulnerable to that weakness, but this is a dangerous trap. Because people step out of line, or witness friends step out of line, and then tell themselves "But I'm not a bad person." or "X isn't a bad person; they're my friend." And because they're not Bad People, they must not have transgressed. We make excuses for them and for ourselves, and assume there is some mitigating circumstance, or that the victim is to blame. Human brains are experts at rationalizing this kind of thing. THIS IS EXACTLY THE PROBLEM CONVENTIONS HAVE. It's a small world, a tightly knit little universe, and the people who harass are all surrounded by friends who think they are great guys. It is a mistake to think that nice guys, good friends, admirable people who do admirable things can't also screw up and do awful things that need to be stopped. We're all totally capable of fucking up, and we're all complicated people who are a mix of good and bad. Resist the urge to think of yourself or your trusted friends as separate and immune.
|Date:||July 2nd, 2013 04:55 am (UTC)|| |
May I link to this in a post I'm making?
This is wonderful and clear.
Wow. Very correct about this stuff. I sometimes worry about being insensitive and accidentally hurting people's feelings. But you've made me thankful because I know I'm nothing like these guys you're describing - at least, I certainly hope I'm not. I do agree
Ow. Accidentally hit enter on my phone. I agree this is 100% unacceptable at cons, or anywhere. I've heard on good authority there have been problems with at least one individual grabbing body parts at Interfilk auctions. So no one can say "it never happens here" and just ignore it.
"Men to explain things about my field of expertise to me"
SO MUCH THIS!! I really hate it when men think that they know better than I do about everything, regardless of whether or not that's remotely true, and I hate when they tell me "this is the way it is", when they're actually giving me their opinion. (Not all men do this, but all the people I can think of who've done this to me are men.)
|Date:||July 2nd, 2013 11:21 am (UTC)|| |
In Ohio, this seems to be explicit hitting on behavior, to the point of utter absurdity. In particular, men will ask me about my area of expertise, and then try to convince me they know more about it than I do... and, whoa, like, this is so many kinds of wrong at so many levels, and more absurdly so since we're talking about things they really, really don't know more about than I.
But really - even if it wasn't absurd and foolhardy, you think this is going to get you laid? You think that putting me down / playing dominance games is the way into my bed? What?
I like this post. It is such a shitty and frustrating situation, and of course way easier for me to not get angry about it all the time; the least I can do is applaud other people's getting-pissed-off.
Also a big fan of the ETA. It's so difficult to be vigilant, of your own behaviour in particular, and it gets so much easier to notice and improve your behaviour when you have friends who are willing to call you out on things like that, despite how uncomfortable it can be for everyone involved. I'm hardly immune to the impulse to be defensive and dismissive, but ultimately I have nothing but gratitude for friends who are willing to tell me when I'm fucking up.
...so much easier to notice and improve your behaviour when you have friends who are willing to call you out...
Yes - over the past couple years I've gotten more and more into realizing the feminist side of things, and my wife is good enough to go along on the journey. She asked me a while ago to call her on sexist language, and it's surprisingly easy to do so while remaining polite and non-accusatory - merely bringing their attention to it.
Thank you for the bit on "friends and romantic relationships". I would add:
-expecting to need to give a reason that is "not just my feelings" to justify a request
-consistently being the one to keep the conversation going, but not expecting to be given equal conversational time or to have equal reciprocation of expressed interest
And more, which I can't think of.
It's complicated. We're complicated. And yes, I'm talking about liberal guys who are sympathetic to feminism and tend to have primarily female friends. Clean your own houses, dudes, connect with other guys, and call each other on your bullshit.
Similar litany. A lot of it got less when I got fatter and my hair started falling out, and is helped by the fact that I'm pretty tall. But I was young and smaller and pretty at one point, and it wasn't worth it.
I've been reading the stuff with some interest. It's nice that people are finally starting to take it seriously. When I was in junior high and high school, it was made crystal clear that it was my problem for not having a thicker skin. Fuck that noise.
Edited at 2013-07-02 08:47 am (UTC)
UGH. Yes. A million times yes.
I remember when I was younger and was more likely to be terror-hypnotized by the onrushing mouth of a drunk man into my face-area.
That was shitty fucking lesson to learn.
These are all shitty lessons to learn.
...but this is a terrific post.
|Date:||July 2nd, 2013 11:36 am (UTC)|| |
"Once someone hit me so hard that the wind was knocked out of me, and then was angry and stormed off when I started to cry in pain and wouldn't immediately hug him to make up."
This is one I feel like I've been running into a lot recently. Half-baked asshole does something bad (including but not limited to physical injury) and then I'm an evil bitch if I object to it, and am supposed to emotionally caretake him and/or get droopy and sad so he can cuddle me and make it all better. And if I don't play along he becomes a cauldron of seething resentment and demands apologies. (Not to mention to litany of why everything I say or feel is invalid.)
For so long this left me angry, hurt and confused... but being able to say "Whoa, you just caused me physical injury and then are refusing to take any responsibility for it, and are now trying to dismiss, belittle and devalue me and my experience so you don't have to face up to it," doesn't make whiny entitled "nice guys" stop being whiny and entitled and generally jerks.
"I would caution you strongly against thinking you're nothing like guys I'm describing - there aren't Good Guys and Bad Guys."
Nice Guys - by which I don't only mean the creepiest fake Nice Guys, but a more broadly men who have invested a lot of self image into what Nice Guys they are - are often the most difficult to deal with on these issues. Because if you point out any inappropriate behavior, you are challenging their self image and woe and wrath. Who the hell are you to question that they are a Nice Guy, you snivelling cunt?
And... I get this. But I am so fucking weary of the whole thing.
(Though last week, before the latest wave of harassment crap, I was mostly noticing how much I've had people try to channel my interests and ambitions away from things I was really interested in and into appropriate feminine paths and jobs that are compatible with rearing children. With... kind of a lot of success. I mean, obviously not complete. But.)
Man. I have to say, I'm impressed with how much of this I've "forgotten" about! You're absolutely right about risk management - I know I do that all the time - but I guess some combination of age, lesbiatude or something has kept me relatively free of harassment for some time... maybe since we moved here?
BUT the risk I'm always on the lookout for now, with extra Hulk power? Men pulling that shit with my girls. I pray every time I catch a whiff of it that I can get us out of the situation before it becomes real and I do or say something I can't get back out of, endangering us all. I don't want to teach them to stuff it and not confront it, but I also want them to just be SAFE. I'm already amazed, stunned! at how many men have felt compelled to notice out loud to me or Mander how the girls are developing. Just keep it to yourself, ass.
Thank you for writing this, and good on you for pushing back. I wish it wasn't necessary.
And wherever those sins are mine, I'm deeply sorry. I make a great effort to be aware of them and make appropriate corrections, but I know I stumble just like anyone else.
Here's one place to start: does the con you chair have a harassment policy, and if not, when are you making that happen.
Yes, yes, yes. Lots of rage. It's good to be ragey about shit like this.
Great post. Is it OK if I suggest it for the geekfeminism.org linkspam?
Wow, I'm sorry to hear that you've been on the receiving end of so much badness. I sometimes forget that these things happen, even though I'm always hyper-aware of men in public, etc. Maybe I just put off such a *bitch* vibe, I don't get hassled? I dunno.
But to hear that these things happen at events that you pay to attend??? Total crap. I'm glad you're taking a stand, and I'm glad you're calling the admins on the policies. It needs to be done!
|Date:||July 3rd, 2013 06:14 am (UTC)|| |
Initially reading this post I was thinking "I really don't get harassed that much, I wonder if it's because______." And then as I replayed the last few days, I saw countless instances of micro-aggressions that I had just written off and ignored because they weren't "big enough" to matter. I also think that amount of harassment has less to do with how you present yourself/how people perceive you and more about a) random chance and b) privilege. I am less likely to get harassed on the bus because I have a car and don't take the bus that often. I am less likely to get harassed at the store because my roommate and I work similar hours and I can get her to accompany me... Obviously I don't know if this is true for you, but I suspect that reducing time spent with unknown entities has reduced the overt harassment I face.
I know you don't read facebook, so you may not have seen this post (maybe half an hour ago) from Cat Faber, which is . . . well, judge for yourself.
"What if some people were made of chocolate? Lucious lucious chocolate.... Not their fault, not something they chose--what if they were just born that way?
And what if I can't control myself around chocolate? (Which is pretty close to true, by the way, I can control myself just about enough to not take someone else's chocolate without permission. Mostly.) Not my fault, really; I was just born with this craving.
But what if that combination means, when I'm around the chocolate people, eventually I bite them? Just bite a big chunk out of them and chew it up and swallow it before their horrified gaze as they clutch their damaged limb? I don't mean anything by it; it's just how I am. I can't help it that they're so lucious I can't control myself.
When I look at it this way, the answer is pretty obvious. There's only one ethical choice I can make. I have to restrict myself to places where there are no chocolate people.
And realistically, when my choices are to control myself or to never leave my house, it will probably turn out that I *can* control myself around choccolate people. If I really want to.
And *that* is what I think about sexual harrassment."
I may borrow that metaphor next time someone asks me to explain why random compliments on one's sexiness are not okay.
Imagine being made out of chocolate and being told by strangers how deliciously sweet and creamy you look.
Thank you for writing this. I'm starting to write one of my own in the back of my brain, and it's sad and horrifying to see that we've all got a litany like this, and sadder still, as you point out in your ETA, that at some point we've all contributed to someone else's litany.
Thank you for writing this awesome post.
I have been shockingly oblivious. Or maybe I make assumptions that the affection I've seen at cons was mutually consentual.
I only hope that I have not been so shockingly oblivious to my own behavior. Please call me on it if I am or have been transgressive to you (or anyone else). I might be too cowardly to be a part of the solution, but I don't want to be part of the problem.
|Date:||July 3rd, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)|| |
I think that's one of the big mental traps that lets this continue. It's so easy to assume everything is alright, because of course we want it to be alright. That applies extra in places we care about, where we have a bias against seeing anything questionable in the first place.
It is starting to puzzle me that I can't actually remember anything like this, any of this, happening to me at conventions.
Am I immune or just oblivious?
You might just be lucky. Someone wins the lottery almost every time, after all.
Good post; thank you.
Feel free to call me out when I do something stupid. I know I do occasionally; things were a lot different when I was growing up.
I remember quite a while ago at Beacon (Unitarian Church) speaking at meetings and in homilies and realizing that what I said was weighed equally with what the men there had said, not interrupted, etc. I was used to people waiting to hear what the men thought and no one was doing that! It was different from medical school, internship, mothering, doctoring, where I would be listened to usually, but we were all waiting to hear what the men would say. I was amazed. Stunned. When I realized. It was a very unique experience. Where I work now is a lot like that too. Also it was hard for me to go back.
Sometimes I just say, "I don't feel heard." More so in my marriage, where this short response can bring some perspective into the conversation. That's not a casual relationship though. It's a helpful phrase at work too. For those times when the discussion just can't go further without the listening going both ways. But there has to be some respect on both sides for that phrase to be helpful.
The pheromone/raging hormones thing, I don't know a good answer for. I think it is a cruel divine joke. Whereas it is likely an evolutionary tool to ensure the production of more humans, without thought for the fallout.
Nor do I know an answer for the bullying. Or for the physical hurting. I have also seen the bullying and physical and psychological hurting done by women to men, especially when the men are younger or naive and of course when they are boys. I think any policy should be at least partly gender neutral. Although because they are trapped by the necessity never to be weak, it is less likely that any man would complain.
Hi Brooke, linking up to you!
|Date:||July 4th, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)|| |
Thank you for posting this. I also feel anger, and I hope that voicing that anger helps with making the standard for these behaviors TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. I know it has helped me start some conversations, and I can't agree strongly enough with what you've written here.
It is my hope that what you describe has not happened at an OryCon or anywhere where I was physically present and failed to back you.
Consider this comment a "Never on MY watch" vow.