On Being a “Downer”, or Why I Won’t Stop Giving Patriarchy the Finger Just Because You Like Hiding in Your Privilege

So, this is making the rounds on Facebook: For those who think I rant about the patriarchy and misogyny too much, authored by a lady named Julia. While a brutally honest read, it’s frustrating to realize just how many folks actually need this reminder; more maddening than frustrating – downright infuriating – when I realize that Julia almost certainly chose to share only a small fraction of her life experiences with sexism and misogyny. As, undoubtedly, did Glenna; who shared her own post with me on Facebook after being inspired by Julia.

Glenna said to me, “I think this is something every woman should do.” She’s right, of course. We don’t share these stories nearly often enough, not even (or especially not) with our male-identified loved ones. As the picture accompanying this post clearly demonstrates, so many of our men cannot even begin to fathom what it might feel like to simply be female in public.

So here’s a very small taste of that. This is not only for all the men that have ever harassed me, it’s for for all the men that I care about in my life who don’t Get It; most importantly, this is for all the women out there in the interwebz who may read this and feel a little less Alone.

To all the men in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s (and up!) who slowed their cars when they saw (12 year old) me walking down the street to ask “Hey girl, need a ride?” or “Where’s your boyfriend, sweetie?” or “Get in, hun, I’ll take you all the way!”

To the gas station owner who wanted to sell (15 year old) me pills, and offered a discount if I would be “sweet” to him.

To the middle aged, male customers at my first job who were upset at discovering I was only the (15 year old) hostess who gave them a table, not their server for the night; who didn’t believe me when I tried to fend off their advances with a weak line like “Sorry guys, I’m married” because they could see I was “obviously too young to be married!” but not too young for them to tell me they liked my “little tits”.

To all the male teachers in middle school who would tell me how much prettier I’d be if only I would SMILE for them.

TO ALL THE MEN THAT STILL SLOW THEIR CARS TO ASK (28 year old) ME “WHERE’S YOUR MAN, BABY!” WHEN I’M WALKING TO THE FUCKING BUS STOP.

To the guy who (while sitting next to my date, his friend) reached across the table to grab my breast when asking if he could “share” me.

To the guy who was my date, who only laughed at my stunned silence.

To all the male bosses in the food industry who would tell me how much prettier I’d be if only I would SMILE for them.

To the old men in the bars where (22 year old) me used to stop at for an after-work-drink, who would immediately swarm me to tell me I shouldn’t be in a bar by myself because I was such a “pretty young thing”.

To the guy who started talking to me on the street, followed me inside the gas station, then continued to follow me down to the bar I was going to, even though I’d decided I no longer wanted to go to the bar because I was freaked the fuck out but I went anyway, because it was better than letting him follow me to my home, then told me “not to leave without him” when he went to the bathroom. To my boyfriend at the time, who laughed at me when I ran home and called him crying because it took me an hour and a half to get rid of that night’s stalker.

To the older teenage boy who, while attending a party at his house, asked my then-boyfriend permission for he and his friends to “run a train” on me. To the boyfriend who politely said “no thanks” because he “didn’t share”, instead of the more appropriate “fuck off, pig” because since nobody bothered to ask ME for MY permission, it would have been a fucking gang rape.

To the old man a week ago who, upon seeing me walking down the street with a 20 ounce of Pepsi in my hand, began hollering “Where’s my Pepsi, baby?”

To the countless men over all these years who, upon being ignored after shouting “Where’s your man, baby?!”, predictably began to cuss and swear at the “fucking bitch cunt whore dyke frigid lezzy slut” who “thinks she can fucking ignore me, bitch“.

To the old angry white male protester at the clinic where I sometimes volunteer as a patient escort; who, in between shouting slurs and condemnation at all the women who were daring to visit the doctor’s office, told my fellow (male) escort that I am “better to look at” than he.

To one of our most hated favorite regular protesters who was apparently arrested on charges of possessing child pornography last year, suggesting that he cared more about “the children” that women were “killing” than we ever suspected.

To my own father, who always supported and regularly reiterated our societies desire for woman not to be such “bitches”; who cheated on Wife#1 and Wife#2; who spent his paychecks hiring women to fuck him.

To my male (former) friend who said that if women don’t call the (inner city, corrupt, sexist, dangerously volatile)  police after being raped then obviously it wasn’t “really rape”; who also said that if a women he fucks becomes pregnant he should have the legal right to force her to carry to term because it isn’t fair that the person who actually has to do the hard work of creating a baby gets to decide whether or not to create a baby.

To the family member who, after I friended him on Facebook, verbally attacked me on my wall for “posting so much dumb women’s rights shit” and who threatened to “stab me in the uterus” if he ever sees me again.

And again, to the same family member who pelted my aunt with the same violent rhetoric and then some, calling her a “whore” after she stepped in to say “You’re out of line.”

To the male teacher who told (11 year old) me that I would “end up some fat miserable housewife having baby after baby” because I was so bad at math that I gave up on it, instead of recognizing that I needed individual attention in that particular subject while easily acing every other school subject ever put on my desk.

To my old boss at the (painfully politically correct and purposefully diverse so they could brag about it) banking office who still felt entitled to tell me HOW MUCH PRETTIER I’D BE IF ONLY I’D SMILE FOR HIM. FUCK YOU.

To the same boss who, after I decided I was fed up with using smelly and sticky chemicals to paint my face to match the other women in the office and quit wearing the socially expected amount of makeup, constantly told me how “tired” I looked. No, motherfucker, I’m not “tired”, THIS IS MY REAL FACE. Where’s YOUR goddamned lipstick and foundation, huh? Oh, right – your face and body is just fine; mine obviously needs some serious work and it’s your duty to remind me of that… every fucking week.

To the asshole who tried to blackmail me into fucking him by threatening to tell my kind-of-boyfriend at the time that we already did fuck (we didn’t) and that I was a whore, and then carried that threat through as promised.

To the gas station attendant I regularly make small talk with who asked me what I was making for dinner when he found out it was “my mans” day off. Who was genuinely confused when I asked him why he assumed *I* was making dinner.

To the convenient store owner who asked me why I was “allowed” to go to the store by myself after dark. Who was genuinely confused when I pointed out that I am 27 years old, and my deadbeat father was fucking dead anyway.

To the Nice Guy™ that I met at a Mudvayne concert, who seemed to be genuinely interested in having a real conversation, whose company I enjoyed enough to give him my contact information; who then emailed me one day to ask if I’d like to go with him to another concert… who then, after I accepted the offer, emailed me back to say “Hey, I was telling my friend about you! But how big are your tits again? I can’t remember!” and was deadpan-fucking-serious.

To every man on the street, in the grocery store, at the bus stop, at a concert, at the dentists office, and so on (and on, and on…) who stopped me in my tracks and interrupted my daily personal business to tell me to “smile!” for him. I am not your fucking clown, here to amuse you; I am not a fucking Christmas tree, here to brighten your day with pretty colors and sparkles; I am not fucking yours.

To all the men – even the self-professed “liberal dudes” – who will read this, and wonder why it bothers women that we are constantly being told to “smile, baby!” by men everywhere, even strangers.

To all the men that will be wondering why this bitch can’t take a compliment.

To all the men that will think “Gosh, someone doesn’t appreciate being attractive!”

To all the men that would, upon viewing a picture of me, think that I am really “not that great looking, after all” and “quite unremarkable, but probably still meets fuckability standards” and wonder why I don’t just “take what I can get, considering“.

To all those men above, who would be legitimately shocked and horrified if I used this blog post to delve more deeply into the abuse I’ve taken from men in my life; who would be outraged at the way I’ve been grabbed, pinched, groped, had my hair pulled, pushed, followed, choked, raped, slapped, kicked and trapped in small rooms by men whose interaction with me began by just wanting to “take me out” or “compliment” or “take care of” me; who would wonder why I stayed trapped with an abusive boyfriend for three years, who will no doubt try to mainsplain to me how I should have left sooner.

To You Guys: All of you, who will refuse to fucking understand how “Smile, baby!” plays directly into the societal narrative that allows men to excuse their physical, mental and sexual harassment and escalating abuse with “Duh, that’s just the way things are – men can’t help themselves, don’cha know!”

Yeah, guys. We’re fucking tired of it. Apologies if our intolerance of your intolerance makes your privilege a bit uncomfortable. Next time you roll your window down to shout at a woman who dares to walk down the street in public, because you think you like her legs: Stop and think instead about how many times that woman has been followed by creeps after they yelled the same shit that you’ve got sitting on the tip of your tongue.

Then, go home, get online, and Shut The Fuck Up and Listen.

Prevention First! Round 2

The petition to demand reasonable and swift action against misinformation in sexual education programs and lack of preventative care for survivors of assault has been re-launched. Instead of Change.org, this one is hosted on SignOn.org in the hopes that we get some promotion from the progressive action group MoveOn.org. Both bills are currently stuck in committee, and this petition not only targets all Ohio legislators to take action, it also sends separate individual email alerts to the House and Senate Committee Chairs in an effort to get these bills to the floor for a vote.

This isn’t the first time that these Prevention First bills have been introduced, as Sen. Turner and Rep. Antonio discuss in this February interview. In the past, Prevention was left to languish in committee without ever even receiving a vote. Considering the “concern” our Republican controlled legislature has demonstrated about our lady-parts, you’d think they’d be ecstatically enthusiastic about legislation that would not only reduce the number of Ohio’s unintended pregnancies (thereby reducing abortion) but would save taxpayers money in a time of economic hardship. It’s common knowledge now that every dollar invested in helping women avoid unintended pregnancies saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures, that otherwise would have been used for maternity care.

In order to hold our elected officials accountable, in order to force them to do their jobs of representing the best interest of Ohio residents, we need to push them. The Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act (SB 283/HB 419) and The Act for Our Children’s Future (SB 232/HB 338) will forever languish in committee if our officials feel they can get away with ignoring the needs of those most vulnerable in our society: our youth and our survivors of assault.

Please add your signature now, share this petition on your social networking accounts, and consider placing a phone call to the Committee Chairs, whose names can be found at the petition site. Or just use your zip code to find your Legislators, and give them a call.

Ohio deserves a fair shot at Prevention.

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Have you registered for the upcoming Lobby Day this Wednesday? NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio are working together to combat the War on Women!

If you can’t make it, don’t worry – you can still help Ohio women access their constitutional right to reproductive care by donating to the Cleveland Pro-Choice Escorts bowling team HERE.