Hello, my name is Feminism, and I am unloveable.

I am re-posting this entry I had in my other blog, as it fits well with the themes in this blog as well. I am editing a bit from the original, too. — My dad recently shared with me a fear that I know he’s had for quite some time. He told me, “I am worried that because of your choices (to study and speak loudly about feminist issues, to seek a career in sexuality education, among other “choices” he might suspect but doesn’t speak about), you will never get married.” I laughed.

I laughed because what else was I to do, really? I laughed because I knew it, I knew that a lot of his efforts to keep me away from activism, from women’s studies, from gaining weight, from dressing like a tomboy, from being too outspoken, were not exclusively about him not wanting me to be that way, but him thinking no man would ever want me otherwise.I laughed because after years of becoming more confident in my own skin, my own ideas, it sounded like such a laughable thing: “Oh heaven FORBID I never land a husband! What would my life mean then?!” I laughed because I have been loved and will be loved BECAUSE of who I am, not IN SPITE of it. I laughed because I think it’s cute (in a weird, kinda horribe way) that my dad thinks the kind of man that finds me intimidating is the kind of man I would even want. I laughed, too, because he said “man” and “get married” which are two things that are very much optional and avoidable in my life plan.

But really, let’s think about it for a second. I know my dad’s worry all too well, and it terrifies me that most people who were raised as women probably know it too.

It’s the line that isn’t written in every lady magazine article about how to look younger, hotter, thinner. It’s whispered after statements such as “oh I believe in equality, but I am not a feminist or anything radical like that”. It’s what you can hear if you play any good old slutshaming parent’s record backwards.

It’s the worry that if you don’t play by certain rules (shout out to the patriarchy!), you will become “unloveable”.

I know I have feared that too, more than I care to admit. I also know that I laughed at my dad’s “confession” because I can laugh now, now that I love myself enough to know sexist disapproval is just that: sexist. I understand the fear of being unloveable, because we all want to be loved, accepted, appreciated. But the fact that most women are at least somewhat familiar with the “no guy will ever love you” (implicit or explicit) threat makes me really anxious, and angry too.

I want parents worried that theirs sons would stay away from feminist women. What would a decent human be afraid of in a feminist?

I want parents worried that their sons will reject a woman based on what she does or doesn’t do with her body hair, or her weight. I want parents worried that their sons grow up feeling entitled to an opinion when it comes to women’s appearance or bodies in general.

I want parents worried that their daughters will stay silent about things they care about in order to please men. I want parents worried that their daughters think feminism is too radical a thought, that equality is too much to ask.

I want parents worried that sexuality education is a field that gets so much heat, that gets slut-shamed. That slut-shaming is a thing that exists. I want parents worried that slut-shaming & sexism in general would deter people from persuing whatever career they want.

I want parents worried that the media and the patriarchy have led us to believe that a woman’s – and a man’s, to a different degree – only road to happiness (because I do think my dad wants me to land a husband so I can be happy) is heterosexual, monogamous marriage. [Not that it can’t bring people happiness or that it isn’t a valid choice, of course. But there are as many roads to happiness as there are people.]

I want parents worried that their kids are being taught that women’s lives revolve around men. That women’s worth is dependent on men’s approval, or men’s desire, or even men’s love. A person’s worth is dependent on them existing in this world, period.

Honestly, there is so much I would be worried about if I was a parent. However, whether my daughter can find a husband who will take her in all her feminist, sexuality-educator ways would not be one of those things.

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FYI: to my one-day-to-be teenage nephews

Today I read this one article that pretty much forced me to throw away all responsibilities and get to writing on this blog again (which is great!). The first thing I thought was “those poor boys”, quickly followed by “OH MY GOD WHAT IF MY NEPHEWS GOT THESE HORRIBLE IDEAS FROM SOMEONE?”, and, while I would like to think they are being and will continue to be raised better than that, I also wanted to write a letter to their future teenage selves.

Granted, I am not a parent. I may or may not become a parent. But I swear to Jimi, my intentions towards those gorgeous, amazing little boys are parent-like. Plus, anyone with half a sense of what is actually wrong with the world can tell what was wrong with that article, with or without having given birth.

 

Now, for the sake of this letter (and how heteronormative the original one was) I am going to assume my nephews are heterosexual. They are 1 and 3 now, so I have no idea and I don’t really care who or what they do in that respect. I am also being quite sarcastic in how I mimic the original letter’s structure and content. But all in all, it is pretty much what I would say to them.

 

Dear boys,

I have some information that might interest you. I don’t creep on your social media – and really hope your parents don’t either, because that shit’s creepy and wrong and not even beneficial to anyone – but I know we trust each other and so I have seen some of your pictures with your teenage gal friends.

You are teenage boys, and you may or may not have a lot of lady friends – you don’t have to in order to be a man’s man, and there is no “naturally” in how you define your own masculinity and boys will not be “boys” if they don’t want to, I hope you know that. If you do like having a lot of gal friends, though, that is cool too. You own your own body and mind and goddamn Facebook profile.

Anyhoo, back to the pictures. They have cute bedrooms, don’t they? I noticed and you noticed too because I really hope we are past stupid stereotypes of boys have dirty rooms and don’t even see color and “girls have pink everything and basically smell pink” by the time you are in your teens. They are also really clean rooms, like yours. I don’t even need to say this to you, that hygiene is not a girly thing, it is just good sense, and that having somewhat dirty rooms is not a guy thing, it is a teenager thing.

Look at all the interesting books and magazines and fun things they have, though! I know you notice because, contrary to what media often portrays, men are capable of seeing beyond bra-less breasts. Perhaps she could recommend you a book? She seems really smart and wonderful and I know you know this as well.

Now, you may notice other things – I am not assuming that because you are a boy (hell, I notice breasts too from time to time, although I don’t really look at that in teenage girls’ photos), but because you are into girls (not all girls, of course, like all human beings you have preferences and choices) and there are girls in those pictures. Some pictures have girls posing in their pj’s, some pictures have boys and girls hanging out in their swim suits, some pictures have people dancing at a party.

 

Now, you may have heard an unhealthy amount of talk about teenage girls and women and how they should act and dress and talk.

So, here’s the bit that I think is important for you to realize: those pictures are not about you. The poses they make and the clothes they wear are completely independent of you, and me, and everyone other than themselves for that matter. As such, they are not yours to judge or try to dictate over. Women are not yours to judge or dictate over.

What you do own and dictate over is your own behavior towards those pictures and towards those women. It is fairly normal that you notice their lack of bra or their curves or their pretty eyes or their pose. You have eyes – we all do. What is not okay is for you to reduce them to their bodies and their poses and choice of attire, because just like you and your parents and me and everyone else, they are complex and whole people and you should respect them and treat them as such.

Speaking of complex and whole people – you are such complex and whole individuals. You have the ability to see someone dressed one or another way and know that that means nothing about their personality, their intentions, their character, their intellect, their sexuality, etc. You have the ability to be attracted to someone – sexually or not – and act or not act on it depending on how appropriate, consensual, convenient (or whatever) it would be. You – as any other human being – have will, reasoning, and self control. To sum this up, and to clarify – given all the ideas that the media and crazy mothers around the internet will have you think – WHAT YOU SAY OR DO OR THINK IN REGARDS TO A WOMAN AND A WOMAN’S BODY IS ON YOU, NOT ON HER. And before another crazy person on the internet says anything: unless a girl/woman comes up to you and verbally, explicitly asks you “can you please view me sexually?”, nothing else she ever does is asking for you to do so. So, I am sorry to break it to you, buddies, but it is on you.

Please know that I genuinely get what you see in those pictures and all of that. We are sexual beings, and you boys are raised (hopefully not too much) to think that sexualizing and objectifying women is what boys do, and that it is a woman’s fault when you do it. I believe in you, though, because you are insightful, smart, and very, very funny. It is a unique lens you have, that of a teenage boy, because your hormones are all over the place and you think of things you don’t know much about yet. It is okay, it is even fun! But that does not mean that your teenage gal friends are responsible for your erection.

Which is what makes this such an important topic to discuss.

Those messages in the media don’t reflect who you are at all, though! I think you guys are lovely and interesting and usually very smart. I cringe and wonder what the people saying these things are trying to do or who you are trying to reach by blaming women for men’s behavior. What are they trying to say? That you are incapable of discerning between clothing and character? That you lack self-restraint? That you are a primitive monkey who is governed by his boners and who cannot unsee nakedness? I know you would be insulted by this, and I know you are more than that.

And now – big bummer – we have to sit here and talk about crappy messages being said to you. Because, the reason we have these (hopefully not too awkard) family conversations around the table is that we are not sex-negative slut-shaming assholes (assholes are actually very smart organs, but that is another subject for another future time) like so many people all over the world. I would never block any of those messages from you though, because that is a violation of your right to information (as false and ridiculous as it may be) and because I trust you to make your own decisions regarding the messages you get. I can only hope you continue to trust me enough to bring those messages to the table to discuss openly about.

I care about you deeply, just as I know that teenage girls’ families care about them and would like their friends to be decent human beings who take responsibility for their own behaviours.

I know their family would not be thrilled at the thought of you teenage boys making inappropriate jokes or comments about these girls’ bodies. Did you know that once you see a role model slut-shaming or making horrible jokes about women, you start thinking it is okay? And that once you say one such thing and no one calls you on it, they start rolling off your tongue? You don’t want people you care deeply for to see you as an ignorant, sexist, dudebro, do you?

Neither do I. I know you are much more than that.

And so, in this house, in our relationship with each other, there are always second chances, even if you say something you’ve heard somewhere that is kind of sexist or demeaning of other people in any way. But we would talk about it, and talk about it a lot. I know, so lame. But, if you want to be a decent and respectable human being, you will listen and keep an open mind. Or maybe you won’t, but I will say these things anyway, because I care. I also hope you grow up to know your privilege as a guy and know that with great power comes great responsibility – is that still a reference for you? I hope it is – so, yeah.

I know this sounds weird because I might (hopefull not) be the first one to tell you these things, but I am hoping to help you guys be great men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger endlessly over pictures of women, and if they do, they take responsibility for it.

Every day I pray  – nah, I don’t pray, who are we kidding – think about the women or men or whomever (because love is not just romantic love) that you will love and who will love you. I hope you are drawn to people who are beautiful and who know beauty is everywhere, not only on the outside and especially not only in clothing. I hope that you complement each other and make each other the best each of you wants to be. I don’t like the term “worthy” because it assumes some people aren’t , but I hope that you inspire respect because you give it too.

Guys, it is not too late to unlearn shitty messages! If you think you’ve made an online mistake – telling a girl she is a slut or that she looks fat or joking with your friends that her ass looked a certain way and that she is better/worse for that – you don’t have to run and take it down “before I see it”. I am not the CIA, a creepy mother, or the boss of you. Just acknowledge that it was wrong and apologize if necessary, and learn about ways you can become a better man in those respects. You don’t want to make comments or remarks that make it easy for people to assume you are a disrespectful human being, and see you in that dimension alone.

Will you trust me? There are girls out there waiting and hoping for men of character. Plenty of young men and women are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds free of sexist, slut-shaming BS, and their thoughts praiseworthy – just like you.

You are growing into a real beauty, inside and out.

Act like that, speak like that, post like that.

 

Your loving aunt Lui

“Ladies should respect themselves”

I have always been very confused by this or any variation of this statement.

For me, respecting myself means appointing myself as the boss of me and recognizing that no one else owns my body or my life choices. For me, respecting myself is listening to my body and what it wants and needs. For me, respecting myself is loving myself enough to know that weight, gender, sexual orientation, ability, sexual status, relationship status, race, religion do not condition my worth. For me, respecting myself is knowing that only I can press the play, pause, forward or rewind in my life. For me, respecting myself is saying no when I mean no (and asserting my right to have my “no” respected), and saying yes when I mean yes. As many fucking times as I want with as many people as I want, in as many situations as I want. And that means yes to sex, but it also means yes to education, to health care, to a dignified living.

What you mean is “ladies should respect what men want of them”. Which is a bunch of contradictory, non realistic, objectifying BS.

How is it possible for people to be so willing to interpret “respect authority”, for example, as “listen to authority”, and “respect yourself” as “listen to everyone but yourself”? 


It is only possible, if you think about it, when you compare that statement to one that is said when something belongs to someone. If you say “hey, respect that car”, it doesn’t mean “listen to that car” (the car has no will). It means “don’t scratch it or use it or misuse it (in accordance to the rules of the owner) in any way for it belongs to someone that is not you”.

And so “respect yourself” means “don’t scratch or use or misuse yourself (in accordance to the rules of the patriarchy) in any way for you belong to someone that is not you.”

And, damn, I will scratch (I am giggling on the inside) and use and misuse myself in any way for I belong to myself and I am abiding by my own rules.

So yes. I am always respecting myself. And if I decide to be a sex worker by my own will, I will also be respecting myself. If I decide to go on a sexual rampage (HAHA) I will still be respecting myself. If I decide I want to not have any sexual contact with anyone at all for the rest of my life, I will be respecting myself as well. If I decide to join a convent or the church of scientology or the friggin westboro baptist (I almost wrote baptits, fyi) church, as long as it is my choice, I will still be respecting myself.

The day that I do or stop doing or being something because someone else says I should, that day you can say that I am not respecting myself.

The end.

El slut-shaming (o “Un día en la vida de una zorra”)

Con el título no quiero decir que yo soy una zorra. O talvez sí. Talvez no importa, o no debería de importar. Les cuento porqué no importa si me (o te, o nos) dicen zorra o mojigata o cualquiera de las mil palabras que tenemos para definir el grado o tipo de expresión sexual. Esas que todos conocemos.

Primero, les definiré el término slut-shaming – para el cual no hay traducción al español, lo cual es en sí interesante y bien diciente. Slut-shaming es un verbo creado (relativamente reciente, y es usado sobretodo en discusiones acerca de justicia social y sexismo) para describir la acción de atacar o avergonzar a una mujer en base a su expresión o actividad sexual: en base a cómo se viste, qué tan directos son sus avances cuando coquetea, “qué tipo de gente” frecuenta, qué tan tarde en la noche sale, qué tan frecuentemente/con qué tanta gente/cómo tiene/dónde tiene relaciones sexuales, qué tanto toma o fuma, cómo/qué se expresa acerca de temas sexuales, etc.

Todos lo hemos visto, lo hemos oído, hemos sido partícipes. TODOS nos hemos referido a alguien como una zorra, una puta, una fácil, una mujer de “moral flexible”, mujer de “útero alegre” (me da risa y pena éste término), etc. Todos hemos dicho cosas como “ay ya viste a ______, ¿qué no ve la imagen que da?”, “de una vez que cobre, ¿no?”, “..y luego se queja de que no tiene novio”. Tenemos tantos chistes, frases, eufemismos, que deberíamos de enterrarnos la cabeza en una maceta de la vergüenza. A mí me avergüenza al menos, muchísimo.

Pero bueno, a lo que iba. El que alguien pensara que soy una fácil o no, que soy una mojigata o no, me dejó de importar cuando me di cuenta que no importaba lo que hiciera, alguien iba a decir algo, lo que sea.

Primero, todos nos sentimos con derecho de criticar y vigilar la expresión sexual de todos, más aún de mujeres. ¿Por qué? Porque desde que somos pequeños, nuestra familia nos vigila constantemente, nos dice qué ropa no usar, qué no tomar, qué no hacer, qué no decir. Absorbemos esos juicios que pueden emitir sobre nosotros y como respuesta los utilizamos con otras personas, para colocarnos a nosotras mismas en el punto neutro – desde un aspecto psicológico, es totalmente lógico, como mecanismo para preservar el autoestima nos colocamos en el cero de la escala. Y pues siempre va a haber alguien más “zorra” que nosotras, siempre va a haber alguien más “mojigata” que nosotras. Y es por eso mismo que siempre vamos a ser una de dos en la mente y juicios de alguien más. Todas somos zorras. Para alguien.

Siempre va a haber alguien que nos considere demasiado “algo”. Alguien que considere nuestra falda demasiado corta, nuestros hábitos de fiesta demasiado locos, nuestra elección de compañía demasiado riesgosa, nuestro lenguaje demasiado vulgar. O al revés, nuestras elecciones demasiado cautelosas, nuestra falda demasiado conservadora, nuestros “No”s demasiado claros para los avances de alguien más.

Y en mujeres, esta constante vigilancia, esta constante paranoia de no ser juzgada como la “mala mujer” nos hace ejercer esa misma vigilancia y control social en forma de slut-shaming. Lo hacemos sin darnos cuenta que educándonos entre nosotras, cambiando nuestro lenguaje todas juntas, podemos dejarnos de criticar, entre todas. Tenemos ese poder, pues ser “zorra” es un constructo social para el cual no hay términos absolutos, solamente relativos a alguien más, y están en el lenguaje que usamos para referirnos a alguien cuya sexualidad es más abierta que la nuestra. Es como cuando manejas el auto: todo el que maneja más rápido que tú es un imprudente suicida, todo el que maneja más lento es un idiota lento que bien podría estar caminando. La diferencia es que en la sexualidad, hay diferencias, pero siempre y cuando sea consensuado, no hay formas “buenas” o “malas” de manejar.

El slut-shaming, como he mencionado brevemente en entradas anteriores, viene de una ideología sexista de controlar y vigilar nuestra sexualidad. ¿Por qué sexista? Porque se usan criterios completamente distintos para juzgar la expresión sexual de un hombre y de una mujer. El hombre que pierde la virginidad antes que otros es un héroe, la mujer que pierde la virginidad primero es o una fácil o una promiscua. El hombre que tiene sexo con más de una chica en un espacio corto de tiempo es un campeón, la mujer que hace lo mismo es una zorra. El hombre que habla de sexo es… un hombre, la mujer que hace lo mismo es una vulgar. El hombre que quiere algo casual es un hombre que “sí sabe”, una mujer que sólo quiere algo casual es una perra y una promiscua.

Por otro lado, el hombre que dice “no” de manera asertiva (no un “perdón, tengo novio”) es un hombre que sabe lo que quiere, la mujer que dice “no” de manera asertiva es una grosera o mojigata. Y si bien existen varios controles que avergüenzan al hombre que prefiere algo formal que algo casual, que no quiere sexo, que no le gusta el porno, etc., no son comparables en frecuencia o magnitud.

El slut-shaming, igualmente, es una forma en la que se nos mantiene “en línea”, por miedo a ser llamadas malas mujeres. Porque nos enseñan que nadie quiere a una mala mujer, que nadie la respeta. Y cuidado con esto último, pues esa frase que dice que “una dama se hace respetar” viene con muchas advertencias. Viene con una lista de instrucciones de vestimenta, comportamiento, vocabulario, compañía, horarios apropiados, en primera. Pero también viene con la idea ofensivísima y peligrosísima de que la mujer es la responsable de hacer todas esas cositas que vienen en el instructivo para que la respeten, pues si no las hace, no es digna de ese respeto. Porque si no lo hace, el hombre no tiene porque respetarla. ¿Qué se entiende por respetarla? No acosarla verbal o físicamente si ella no está de acuerdo, no abusar de estados de ebriedad u otro tipo de intoxicación, no hacer bromas y comentarios ofensivos, no tocarla si ella no lo pide, NO FORZARLA A HACER ALGO QUE ELLA NO QUIERE. Eso es lo que nos espera si llevamos la frasesita de “darse a respetar” a sus últimas consecuencias.

Esto me lleva, con toda confianza en lo que digo, a decir que el slut-shaming es una advertencia bien fuerte y clara: si una persona te considera una zorra, varias personas lo pueden hacer, y no te van a respetar en distintas maneras (burlas, acoso verbal, aislamiento social, acoso virtual, difamación), y alguna de esas personas que no te considera digna de respeto – porque pues eres menos humana cuando expresas algo tan pinche humano como es la sexualidad – puede violarte. Así que cuidadito con ser considerada zorra.

Y, ¿qué hacemos para que no nos consideren zorras? Encontrar a alguien cuya sexualidad sea “más criticable” según nosotras y nuestro círculo, encontrar alguien más a quién perderle respeto. Es lo que hacemos, pasarnos la bolita etiquetada “zorra” a alguien más, para que la pérdida de respeto sea a alguien más. Pero es que diciéndole zorra a una mujer, le estamos diciendo a un hombre “está mejor no respetarla (acosarla, ofenderla.. violarla) a ella que a mí. Si vas a violar a alguien – porque eso hacen los hombres, obvio (inserten sarcasmo aquí), pero de eso hablaré luego – ella se lo merece más que yo.”

 

En vez de promover, todas juntas, más respeto a nuestras decisiones y nuestros cuerpos, DE TODAS NOSOTRAS. El poder de decisión es algo que subestimamos, chicas, en serio. El mismo poder de decidir qué falda ponernos sin tener que considerar por qué construcciones vamos a caminar o quién va a pensar que somos fáciles es el poder de decidir que peleamos en las cortes para casarnos con quien queramos sin importar el sexo de la otra persona, es el poder de decidir si tenemos a un bebé o no (de forma higiénica y legal), es el poder de decidir si tenemos sexo o no y que se respete cuando decimos “NO”. Cuando no respetamos una decisión, estamos promoviendo que no se respete ninguna. Y si luchamos por una, tenemos que luchar por todas.

Y eso empieza dejándonos de decir zorras las unas a las otras. Empieza con dejar de juzgar desde nuestro “cero en la escala”, desde nuestra supuesta neutralidad. Diría que nadie es perfecto, pero en cuanto a sexualidad y cuerpo y espíritu, creo que todos los somos. Nuestra forma de expresar nuestra sexualidad, siempre y cuando sea consensuada, ES PERFECTA.

Hay muchas fuerzas y muchas cosas en el mundo que nos van a joder igual, que no seamos nosotras mismas las que lo hacemos, ¿no creen?

A (painfully) personal note on Steubenville and rape culture and why I can’t sleep.

The first thought in my mind, every time that I read about or hear about a rape case, is this: I could have been be that girl. We all could have been that girl.

The Steubenville case I have sort of followed since Anonymous brought light to it, but in particular since the trial was breaking news in CNN and the horrible, horrible way they covered it and then Fox News and MSNBC aired the name of the victim and then Twitter people decided to send death threats to the victim of rape and then not a single news source but Yahoo! Sports had a decent coverage of the crime and then people on YouTube (why do I read their comments? one of them alluded to me getting myself raped – me, A PERSON ON THE INTERNET – for saying that the victim could drink all she wanted and she still deserved to be respected) were being dickwads too.  Then I saw a news article on Facebook about an 11-year-old gang rape victim in Texas, two years ago, who was basically blamed for her rape because she had age-inappropriate clothes. I had to do something with so much powerlessness and anger and sadness and just UGHHHH and so I did what I had to do: I put on some Amanda Palmer piano-ey goodness and cried uncontrollably for a good 10 minutes.

That is not what I wanted to talk about, though, my crying. I am having a grilled-cheese sandwich and a beer right now as I am deconstructing my feelings and thoughts about this case and rape culture and sexism and calming the hell down. I like giving myself time to be angry and sad and outraged, but it is not constructive after a while. Anyhoo.

My personal letter refers to what I said first, that my first thought was that it could have been me, it could have been pretty much anyone in my family or group of friends. Any one of my classmates, or teachers, or neighbors, or blog followers. It could have been Amanda Palmer. It could and can be and might be any one that any one reading this knows or cares or knows about. It could be our future potential daughters or sons on trial, either as victims or perpetrators.

And I don’t mean this in that abstract, trivial way we talk about any crime, “phew! it could have been me”. I mean this in a more concrete way. I mean that it could have been be my school classmates blaming me for being too drunk, it could have been be my parents doubting me for flirting with guys, it could have been be my “friends” laughing as I lay naked “like a dead body”. It could have been be me having my word questioned on the basis of my sexual choices, on the basis of my drinking habits, on the basis on the clothes I wear, on the basis of the people I hang out with. It could have been be me receiving death threats on the Internet by people I know AND by people that don’t know me but feel so strongly about me being to blame for my own rape that they go on and tweet about it. It could have been be me having my name aired on national television as the girl who was victim of “rape, essentially”. It could have been be me roofied and then called #Alcoholic #Whore. It could have been be me with my life, future sexual, romantic and otherwise relationships, sense of self worth forever ruined or at the very least severely damaged. It could have been be me having to endure the entire Internet being about me, about whether or not I deserved it, whether or not I am a slut, whether or not my rapists deserve a sentence that is not even remotely just. It could have been be me watching as a major news source as CNN sympathizes with my rapists and even hints that I should feel guilty for coming forward and ruining those star football players’ lives. It could be me.

You know how I know it could be me? It is not because my friends are horrible human beings or because my family sucks or because all the men are know are sick in the head or anything.

One basic reason it could be me is covered in this rape mythbusting summary.

The other reason it could be me is that everything I have heard on the news, that I saw on the filming of the trials, that I have read in news articles from CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post even, every tweet I read and every YouTube comment I painfully went through resonates with things I was taught when I was younger. It resonates with comments I have heard before, cautionary tales I have heard before, how-to-not-get-raped bullshit I have heard before.

It could be me because I was always taught all that most girls – and in Latin America, pfffttt even worse – were taught, to the bone. I was told that I should never wear a short skirt so that men do not get “the wrong idea” about me, so that I do not get into “difficult situations”. Meaning that I should not wear short skirts so that men do not assume I am a whore because whores are not raped, they are “convinced”. I was told that I should watch my drinking carefully because drunk girls are seen as easy and “taken advantage of” – another rape-apologist word for rape. I was told to never go out alone because I would give men a reason to harass me – I was literally told that more than once, not joking here or making a vague generalization.

I was even taught specifically to never stay alone in a room with a man, because that evidently led to him thinking I wanted sex. Which is to say, unless there is a concrete wall between you, the answer is “yes”; in other words, he will only stop himself if he is physically separated from you. I was also taught that I should always say no to every man – even the ones I could actually like – because saying yes to more than one guy (meaning, sex before marriage – oh lordy, the blasphemy!) meant I was a slut, and meant my answer was yes to any guy. I was taught not to accept drinks from any men because they might contain drugs. Not once did I hear my father say as much as a – hey, son, when in doubt, DO NOT RAPE. But I did hear a whole lotta “restrain every part of your individuality, femininity, sexuality and sense of worth and ownership of your own body so you don’t get raped”.

It could be me because my family or schooling is not special or unique in what it taught me. Because most people I know – although many have grown and read and learnt and know better – were taught the same things. Because the girls from my high school called (and still call) each other sluts for as little as going from one boyfriend to another in “too little time” (which varied of course depending on how much they liked the girl), or “wearing the wrong kind of clothes”, or “flirting the wrong kind of way”.

Because the men in my community roll their eyes when a woman is drunk and say things like “does she see the kind of message she’s sending?” meaning her drinking is an invitation to her body, usually.

Because consent is not taught well enough, and people I know still go out of their way to distinguish between rape when there is alcohol involved and rape when it is the person’s partner and rape when it is a stranger on a dark alley (the most common stereotype of a rapist, the least common situation of rape) and rape when a woman is flirting but does not want sex, as if they were different degrees of rape. Because most men and women in the community I was raised in still immediately assume that a woman claiming rape in national television must be lying – when it is only 4 to 6% of rape reports that are false.

Because, still today, my biggest fear surrounding vaginismus is that if I tell a guy to stop mid-process because it hurts, he wont: I still hold, somewhere inside my head, the idea that men’s basic mode is ‘rapist’. Because so many women I know still apologize when they need or want to stop, or when they have been flirting but then say no to sex, or when they do not feel in the mood for it and refuse their partners.

Because women still feel the need to resort to refusals such as “I have a boyfriend” in a bar because the threat or the imagined presence of another man is the only thing that will (or might) stop a man from harassing a woman, because a woman’s lack of consent is not enough.

Because Trent Mays apologized for sending pictures of it around, not for the rape. He did not feel the need to even apologize for the crime he committed, because he thinks the “only” (not to minimize it) crime he committed was child pornography. He raped someone and he regrets sending the pictures, because that is what got him caught.

Because a (pardon my language, really, I am trying to be cool) fucking dead-looking pass-out-drunk body of a teenager, captured in pictures, detailed accounts in texts from many young men and women including one which read (I am paraphrasing) that the song of the night was Rape Me by Nirvana – which means the teen sending that text was aware that it was rape what they were doing -, and the testimony of a girl are made accountable by only one and two years respectively, for only two of the approximately 50 high school students that were accomplices of the crime.

It could be me, or you, or any woman or man I know. It could be any one of us because we all (or most of us did, before you get all upset) have drunk while underage, many of us have been drunk, all of us have flirted, all of us have worn something that someone has considered “slutty” (we are all too prude or too slutty to someone, it is called girl-on-girl hate, and slut-shaming and both things suck: stop doing it), all of us have been partying “too hard” according to someone, somewhere. We all have been someplace our parents, or someone, told us not to be, all of us have trusted someone we shouldn’t have at some point in our life. We all have been that girl in Steubenville. Except that not all of our binge drinking and partying and being-a-freaking-normal-teenager-ing has resulted in some assholes raping us and playing with our body as if it was a toy and posting it online and CNN and other news sources being insensitive idiots to us and the whole Internet looking and judging us and our lives being ruined forever.

And if it had been me, or you, or any woman or man, it would not be my or yours or anyone else’s fault either, except the RAPISTS.

Murder–> murderer. Terrorism –> terrorist. Rape–> rapist. Get it?

Grammar makes things so simple for me sometimes.

Let’s create a world in which we never have to be the family of the perpetrators, but not because that would be such a tragedy on their promising careers, but because we taught them better than to treat women like objects to be handled at will.

[When I read about rape cases now, I think, it could be my nephews on the stand. I don’t want them to be those guys, and I will fight like hell so that they are never those guys, so that your nieces wont be those victims. Not the other way around.]

It all starts with us, speaking out, spreading awareness, teaching consent, practicing consent. It starts with us communicating and not being afraid of our sexuality, of our bodies, of ourselves.

my message to you <3

Inspired by Tim, my message to you 🙂

“Hey psssst, hotstuff. Read this for me, will ya, babe?”

Sometimes people don’t understand why street harassment is a big deal. Why catcalling matters. Why we feminists “get our panties in a bunch” about it: “but it’s harmless guys’ fun!”, “come on, it is jokingly!”, “it is just words, y’know?” or the worst of ALL, “you should be flattered!”

or "Pssssst" or "Lookin good!"..

or “Pssssst” or “Lookin good!”. Nope, not “dayyuuuummm” either.

I want to address these and other claims one by one. Because street harassment is serious, and it should stop. And I will be talking to YOU, (straight, I guess) men who shout at us or hiss at us or whistle or honk or do any other gross signalling to a gal you do not know on public spaces. Those of you who think it is no big deal because you are a nice guy and you would not actually do anything.

1. It is not harmless. I mean, for you it is, of course. You are doing the harassment, so DUH. But it does harm us in many ways.

For one, it makes us uncomfortable. And if you were doing something that half of the world’s population considers uncomfortable and you are a decent human being, I would think that you’d stop it.

It makes us feel unsafe. Why? Because there is no guarantee (hey! we do not KNOW that you are a decent non-rapist guy because you are not doing the decent thing which is to not honk at us) that you will only attack us with words, for one. There is no guarantee that you will not follow us, or rob us, or rape us. You probably have the physical strength. You definitely have the sexism and utter distaste towards women (you are whistling at us! we are not strays you know?!) too.

It makes us doubt our sense of self and our self worth, our value as full human beings, not just bodies that walk. It makes us internalize your honking and start objectifying ourselves as well.

It makes us feel like second class citizens, since the streets and other public spaces are not so much ours as they are yours, clearly.

2. It is not fun. It shouldn’t be, at least. Do you find it fun when someone you don’t know singlehandedly makes you feel uncomfortable, objectified, humilliated, unsafe and basically ruins your day? We don’t either.

3. Guys fun? Yes, I do know that men tend to find fun in women’s bodies – heterosexual men, that is. We find fun in men’s bodies – and women’s, for sure – too. But could you find a consensual partner to have fun with, pretty please? Someone who has fun with your body too and so you have fun together 🙂 I do not consent to a gross (nothing to do with physical appearance really, to me any guy who catcalls is instantly gross) dude whistling at me and having “good ol’ guys’ fun” concerning my breasts, my thighs, my ass. I decide who gets to have fun with those. Clear?

4. The joke is on us, clearly. Thing is, you wouldn’t find a joke funny if it involved you having to watch your back on your way home, or make sure you are with someone when you walk on certain streets, or self-impose a curfew because you cannot walk alone any later than that. You wouldn’t find fun if your freedom was being messed around with because some people you don’t know feel the need to let YOU know what they think about your body and how much they’d rather have you naked.

5. Only YOU know it is just words. As I said in #1, we don’t know you are a decent guy because you are not behaving like one. We are afraid to even respond to you because you might get angry. You might get violent. You might get more crass in your comments. You might follow us home. Society teaches us to be afraid of men, because we don’t know what you might do to us if we cross a precious line that you continually cross: with your comments, your catcalling, your sexist jokes, your threats of violence, your socially-accepted outbursts (another privilege us ‘ladies’ do not enjoy). We are made to be afraid of your sense of entitlement to our bodies, to be violent if we do not comply.

We don’t want to find out if you are a rapist or “just” a guy who talks like one.

6. I am a lot of things when someone harasses me on the street, but flattered is not one of them. I am angry, I am disappointed, I am scared, I am annoyed, I am uncomfortable. NOT flattered.

The fact that you THINK it is flattering is insulting. I do not seek men’s approval. And it may sound like an angry, lonely feminist’s line, but trust me, it isn’t. (For a very long time it was, though, for sure. It took quite some time for me to value myself – everything about myself, including my body but much beyond that as well). I certainly do not seek a random dude’s approval. I know what I look like, I know I have breasts, thights, ass. I am aware of all my body parts. I feel sexy because I look myself in the mirror and I like what I see, what I am. Not because you hinted at licking my “pussy” (true story, I wish I was making this up).

A guy once told me that they were at least paying attention to me, because many girls do not get catcalled at all. At the time I was not so loud-mouthed, did not know the full extent of the sexism in his comment, and I was not as confident in regards to feminist discourse to say much, but just thinking about that comment today makes me want to cry. It makes me think that in matters of taking back the streets, the lecture halls, the world, we have very little space as long as we are trapped in the “hot or not” BS.

If we are “lucky enough” to be considered beautiful in today’s mainstream standards then we are constantly harassed, objectified. People are surprised when we are smart or when we are feminists. We are held to low standards, socialized to low standards. We are told that all we have is beauty, and that beauty is the thing that will grant us power in this men’s world. We are also told that we must hate other women and make sure we are the prettiest ones, make sure we get men to listen to us and see us.

If we are “lucky enough” to not be harrassed in the streets on a daily basis and objectified and not taken seriously or held to low standards then we are constantly ridiculed, named names, put aside. We are made to feel worthless (because a woman’s worth is in our beauty). We are made to think that we will never get married (which is just such a catastrophe!) or have anything going for us at all.

All in all, we are made to constantly doubt ourselves. We are never beautiful enough, and we think we gain power if we are. We could get more jobs, we could get more friends, we could get more men, we could get more money. We could ‘choose’ the man we want. But magazines and catcalling and pornography make us think that we are not that pretty, and so we devour every single product that is thrown at us, in the hopes of being better as women. We are either too pretty for our own good or too unpretty for our own good. We cannot win.

 

Moreover, there are many things that I might find flattering. But reducing me to a dettached body which you feel entitled to ‘critique’ at will is not flattering. If you are a guy on a date with me and you tell me I look good, I do find it flattering – it is not that we are against or impervious to compliments or against making ourselves and others feel beautiful, obviously. But there, there is consent to a certain closeness and intimacy, to a reduced personal space from that of a sidewalk. There is the implication that there is more to the interaction than separate body parts to whistle at.

On the street, I expect to feel safe, to be respected, to be left to myself. I certainly do not expect to be made feel like the street is a men’s playground in which they can and will shoot slurs at me. And then being told to give them a lil’ smile. Because while a guy is honking at me, I am supposed to feel flattered and to smile pretty, letting him know I am more than okay with his advances. Who in her right mind wouldn’t, right?

 

I was made to feel afraid of my streets, of my hometown, of my own body and femininity all my life. Growing up I did not even question that I should never walk alone, or late, or wearing anything other than sweatpants and a hoodie. I was made to feel the need to dress as close as possible to a man, because showing I was a girl was showing that I was weak, that I could be fooled or tricked or attacked, that they had nothing to be afraid of in me, and that I was “open” to harrassment. I was taught that walking alone in my city, as a woman, was letting guys do whatever they wanted, basically. I grew up fearful of getting in a guy’s way, provoking him, making him get out of the car from where he was honking and actually doing something. THAT IS WHAT STREET HARASSMENT IS.

Street harassment is a way of policing our bodies and our sexuality, the times of the day that we go out, how unsupervised we are, policing that we are not wondering about (vagrancy laws working against street sex workers, anyone?) and when & where we go, what we do. It is literally making sure we are never left unsupervised, but “for our own good”. It is making sure we stay home. And we might not all conciously put it or do it that way, but it is what it effectively does to women. If we are walking around alone at night, we must be bad girls, we must be up to no good. So we get what we deserve: paranoia, harassment, or who knows what else. If we want to not be subject to those things, or the shame of being called a promiscuous or “bad” woman, we better stay home, we better walk with a man on our side. We better not be seen where we shouldn’t be.

I refuse to accept this. We are entitled to our streets, we are entitled to our bodies, we are entitled to our self-confidence, to wearing what we like, when we like, where we like. We are entitled to the same safe environment as any man in the world. We are entitled to stop restraining our sexuality for the sake of men who cannot keep their mouth shut. We are entitled to not be judged, shamed. We are entitled to decide what our bodies, our clothes, our time, says about us, and not having men decide that for us.

 

 

Join Hollaback! To end street harassment. We all can do this together.

– Intervene when someone is doing the cat-calling. Man up and tell them what they did is not okay and why.

– Calmly approach them and tell them why this hurt you. This takes a lot of courage, but try to do it (when and where you feel safe doing so, of course!)

– Take pictures of the agressors and post them in the street: “Disrespected women while at work” “Beware of this car, they will disrespect you”.

– Talk to the victims on the street. Make them feel safe and accompany them when possible.

– Tell your story and read the stories in Hollaback.