a rock and a hard place

a rock and a hard place

In the media recently I read of a plan to encourage Uber drivers to spot victims of sex trafficking.

While some of the advice given was sound (watching for bruises, fear, controlling behavior from the people a woman is with) a lot of it crossed a line into slut shaming.  Looking for scantily clad women, unprofessionally dressed, wearing too much makeup, and being too talkative/flirtatious were all supposed signs of sex trafficking.

This is obviously outrageous.  If a woman goes out in public dressed like a whore and acts like a whore it doesn’t make her a whore.  And even if she is a whore, she should still be treated like a human being.  Her status as a sex worker doesn’t mean she requires the “help” of a nosy Uber driver.  If a woman is not showing active signs of being in serious trouble, butt the eff out, yo.  As some may recall, I’m of the opinion that it’s a woman’s business if she’d like to trade on her sexual favors for personal benefit.

Men are confused right now about women and sex.  I have sympathy.  Because on the one hand women, including me myself, often point out that it can be scary to be a woman in the world, that men sometimes put women into positions in which they feel a sense of discomfort or outright fear over seemingly mundane interactions.  Guys feel like they can’t flirt, can’t ask a woman for her number, can’t even ask her if soy milk is better than almond in the grocery store, without getting called a rapist, practically.

And we have some things to answer for in that regard, ladies, we surely do.  We’re conflating WAY too much and we need to do better both to be less oversensitive and more empathetic to male concerns.  Because if decent guys can’t even approach us without getting their dicks whacked with the indiscriminate hammer of social justice, demanding they have no reaction whatsoever even as we’re parading around in front of them wearing come-hither expressions and even more come-hither-y clothing, well, that’s a pretty awful position for us to put them into.  We women shouldn’t both perpetually whet the appetite without offering a reasonable chance – not of success, of course, but a reasonable chance of being treated like a human instead of a horny sewer rat.  Men should to be able to approach women they’re interested in without fear that they’ll be destroyed in perpetuity, having their names added to “bad men” lists for trying to reach out to a woman they like, who they thought maybe liked them in return. *

It’s just not a nice thing to do (and nor is it safe for us to do that, because at least some of those guys are not decent guys; bad guys are not vampires, they don’t wait for an invitation.) Pretending that we women are soooo delicate and fragile that we’re destroyed over being asked out when we didn’t wanna be or by clumsy unwanted passes that are easily shut down and that men are usually way more embarrassed about than we are, be is ridiculous nonsense that’s setting the cause of feminism back decades if not a century.  And doing it while we screech “girl power” and prattle on about how tough and strong we are is straight up bullshittery.

Men are confused ostensibly because me saying “women should be able to ride in a Uber dressed like a slut” and “men need to be more aware of the reality that men can frighten women even in non-sexual situations” at the same time seems from their perspectives, an awful lot like me giving women a pass – saying we should be able to act however we want and men just have to suck it up, avert their eyes, and pray not to get a boner like a 12 year old in gym class.  Worse, they can’t even ask us out because we’re too delicate.

I’m quite sure it seems to men like women want to eat their cake and have it too sometimes.

But these things really are not the same at all.  These two beliefs can coexist and if one sets aside their 27 piece set of matching baggage to take a look at them without larger cultural demons whispering into their ears, it’s pretty obvious IMVVVVVVHO.

I think it’s ok to occasionally gently remind men that their very physical size and presence can be threatening to women.  I honestly think men sometimes forget that is the case.  They’re used to being in their own bodies and navigating the world in a certain way, so what feels normal and natural to them may be upsetting, even frightening, to another, smaller person who happens to be nearby.  It’s ok to remind men that some women actually have been assaulted or abused in the past and are even more sensitive to size differences and personal space than the average woman is.  It doesn’t mean we’re indiscriminately calling you rapists to issue this reminder, it just means that maybe it’s worth thinking about now and then.  Because you ARE bigger and stronger than us and sexual assault IS an actual thing that happens far too often.  After all, people give warnings about not standing under trees in lightning storms and getting hit by lightning happens way less than sexual assault does.  It’s not personal, guys.

It’s also ok to say that women should have the right to go where they wanna go, do what they wanna do, and dress how they wanna dress without inviting being narced on big mouthed Uber drivers.  I mean really, are we at the point already in our society where this drive to “protect women” is manifesting itself ALREADY as a prohibition not only women’s sexual freedom, but their clothing?  It’s been like a year of #metoo, I was hoping it would take at least 10 till this happened.  At this rate we’ll be in burkas before 2020.

If you, my masculine friend, can accept those two things, I will lay the following two things on the table:

It should be ok to occasionally, delicately, tactfully, and graciously point out to women that some of the stuff they’re #metooing about involves minor and unintentional gaffes by otherwise decent men who meant well and innocently mistook kindness for romantic interest. (SOME of the stuff!!!  Use your best judgement, of course, and if a woman says she felt uncomfortable in a situation, please respect that). Some women want to both be able to exploit their sexuality to the fullest extent while still playing the victim card whenever it suits their personal agenda.  Sadly, I think this has devolved in a troubling number of cases into a saga wherein rich and/or cute guys get away with just this side of anything while ugly and/or poor guys are getting a rape whistle blown for bumping into a woman on a subway.

It’s also ok to occasionally point out (without being tarred and feathered for it) that while women should of course be able to dress and act however they want, there are real world consequences to doing so.  The way one ornaments their body particularly for females, is a method of non-verbal communication.  And unlike many subtle forms of non-verbal communication (frowny faces, crossed arms, sighing) the clothing we choose speaks very loudly and clearly and the messages we send may not be the ones we intend to.  Social disapproval, judgement, and unwanted attention from men (even otherwise decent men) are the natural consequences of sending mixed messages about one’s sexual availability.   It’s kind of like the “men need to be more aware of the physicality of their bodies” argument.  Maybejustmaybe women need to be more aware as well, and no one ever taught most of us about that.  We were taught about not wearing white after Labor Day and not mixing red and purple and not wearing socks with sandals, but I never once read in Seventeen that I might be sending a non-verbal invitation for male attention by wearing provocative clothing at inappropriate times.

(Aside, I would also point out that many men love – even feel entitled to – women dressing in a sexually suggestive, non-modest way.  Indeed, a good many men pressure women in a variety of ways to dress immodestly even when the women themselves would prefer not to.  But that’s a very complex issue best investigated in another post.)

These four things are all equally obvious to me.  Yet I often feel pressure as a woman to put my head down and embrace this in-between position that’s the worst of all worlds from my perspective – favoring every aspect of the misunderstanding before us that benefits men.  The default position ends up being that men have the unquestioned right to go through life without ever considering how their physical presence affects women, yet women need to guard how they dress and behave always.  Men “deserve” women who keep themselves up and fix themselves up however the man sees fit, and yet men are owed sex no matter their own appearance or level of personal cleanliness.  Women should put up and shut up with minor #metoo offenses and even not so minor ones.  I do at times feel that men go through the world wanting to define the terms of every male-female conflict in whatever way most behooves them.  #yepallmen

Believe it or not, women are not these coldly calculating entities that are plotting and scheming to inflame male sensibilities by dressing like sluts and then denying deserving men sex out of sheer spite.  That’s a fiction.  If such women exist, I certainly don’t know any.  Women dress up because we want to look cute and that’s really pretty much the whole entire thought process involved.  And at the same time, yeah ok most men are not Harvey Weinstein.  But some of them are, and some of them are worse, and that’s an important distinction.

I look around and see women being held responsible for supposed stereotypical behavior that no woman actually does while men say again and again “well not all men do this thing that actually quite a few men totally did, feel sorry for me”.  While I do feel sorry for them, truly (as a conservative person I know it sux to be always held accountable for things you didn’t do) at the same time it feels like this huge terrible double standard.  Women are not only all held accountable for things other women did (let’s be honest, at least some women are cockteases and some don’t put out that much and others have cheated on guys and gotten pregnant without permission and made men pay child support for kids that weren’t even theirs and all manner of scumbaggery) we’re held accountable for things that are totally made up, like that we’re out to provoke men so we can turn them down and laugh.  Even as the same time men demand a pass from us even considering they could potentially do things that really quite a lot of other men actually did.

What it boils down to is this – I simply do not believe that men are that dumb.  I wrote a big long thing about that concept but long story short, I think a fair number of men embrace stupidity as a defense when in reality they just want to do what they want to do whenever and however.  And a healthy chunk of men get off on doing stuff to women that women don’t like.  A healthy chunk more don’t get off on it, but do feel entitled to push the envelope as far as they can – bullying, manipulating, guilt-tripping – women into sexual situations that they don’t want to be in or into agreeing to sexual experiences they have no interest in.  And that is yuck.

If you sit next to a woman on an empty bus in such a way that she cannot leave without climbing over you and start demanding her phone number, uncool.  If you’re asking a woman out and ignoring her body language ~regardless of how she is dressed~, uncool.  If you corner a woman anywhere and continue talking to her if she seems uninterested, even if you’re in public, uncool.  These things aren’t sexual assault.  Of course they’re not.  And it’s wrong that some women have tried to conflate the two.  It’s wrong that men are made to feel like they can’t do anything right and are getting mixed messages from society and from women at large.  But they are still yuck!

Please, if you would be so kind, my dudes, please keep in mind that women feel uncomfortable in situations men don’t, because sexual assault happens and most of us are tinier than most of you.  It’s not because we’re playing games, it’s not because we’re being meanies and snickering over withholding things from you that you desire, like our time and attention and our phone numbers.  It’s because we’re scared, and we all have reason to be.  Some of us have more reason to be than others.

Sexual assault is by any reasonable metric a worse thing to endure than feeling a little butthurt over gender stereotypes.  Stereotypes suck, but they’re words, and I’m told words don’t really hurt like sticks and stones and unwelcome gropes.

Thus, it’s not only ok, but a necessity for some of us girl-type-people to push back on that now and then, even if it reduces my “cool chick factor” by some percent.   Even if it makes my conservative man buds scratch their heads.  That’s why I keep the “Feminist” in my name even though a lot of people take umbrage at a conservative feminist.  I’m a woman and I advocate for women and my needs/wants/hopes/desires and other womens’ needs/wants/hopes/desires do not always mesh identically with the needs/wants/hopes/desires of men, utterly aside from political stuff.  At times women, even supercool conservative women, need to advocate for a position of gender-based reality that transcends inexact political definitions.

Because with so many things, the extremes on both ends are ridiculous and incorrect and the truth is somewhere in between.

* At least till such a point in time as women become more accustomed to, and comfortable with, the idea of being pursuers rather than the pursued.  Personally I’m not there yet.