"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Monday, December 26, 2011

We've Come a Long Way Baby, or Have We?

Last night Mike got in a fight with a man who was being disrespectful towards me.  My immediate reaction was anger and annoyance.  Mike bartends part-time  at a popular local bar to make ends meet, since the job he really wants to make a career of doesn't pay even close to a living wage.  Why being a bartender pays so much more than counseling, mentoring and protecting abused and neglected children in a Juvenile Justice Services shelter is a topic for another blog post!  Losing his job at the bar would be financially devastating, and I was worried that him getting in an altercation with a patron would cause him to lose his job.  I was also annoyed at what I judged to be a ridiculous display of male ego and pride.

Here's what happened.

Mike was working what was supposed to be a two hour shift.  I'd picked him up from his other job and took him over to the bar.  Since it was Christmas evening and my daughter was with her dad, I came in to sit at the bar while he worked.  I do this most Friday evenings when he works, as sometimes it's my only chance to see him for a couple of hours as our jobs frequently have us working completely opposite shifts.   I know many of the regulars there, and pretty much everyone who works there or frequents the place on even a semi-regular basis knows that Mike and I have been a couple for well over a year and a half.

I was sitting at the far end of the bar minding my own business and watching Mike work, half listening to the chatter of the man next to me when I heard the scuffle break out down by one of the tables.  I stood up to see if Mike was helping bring things under control.  I saw him in the middle of things, but didn't realize he was one of the participants!

Just before the altercation, a guy Mike knows had come over to talk to me and wish me a Merry Christmas.  He went back to the table of people he was with, and one of the men at his table started talking about and gesturing towards me.  Mike was watching all this and could hear and see that he was saying things about my body.  Apparently this went on for a while.  The guy is a regular and fully aware that Mike and I are a couple.  Finally, Mike went over to him and asked him to stop.  He asked him more than once.  I don't know exactly what words were said, but basically Mike told him it wasn't cool to sit there and say crude things about my ass, especially with Mike right there knowing he was saying it.  The guy didn't back down.  Words continued to be exchanged, things escalated and then exploded.

All of it left me angry, frustrated, annoyed and contemplating respect, boundaries and the many ways, both subtle and overt, that men disrespect women.  This isn't the 19th century, I'm not Scarlett O'Hara and I don't need men fighting to defend my honor, thank you very much!  But then I wonder how far we've really progressed since the 19th century? Despite all the women's rights that have been gained, and equality between the sexes, women continue to be treated in very demeaning and sexist ways.  As I asked Mike last night, is he going to start fighting every guy that makes crude, suggestive remarks about my ass as I walk by, because he'll be very busy.  I don't say that arrogantly.  It's just the way it is.  I feel the leers as I walk by men. I hear the not so quiet comments. I can feel their eyes undressing me.  It's creepy and disrespectful.  Just because things aren't said directly to my face doesn't mean I don't know they're being said.  Should I turn around and start calling out every man that says something about my body?  What about when I don't actually hear it, but I can sense it because of the way they look at me, and the crude laughter after a remark exchanged between buddies?  How should women react to those situations?  I have no problem putting a man in his place when he insults me directly or says something that makes me uncomfortable.  It's the gray areas I struggle with.  The muttered remarks, the leers, the creepy looks.

It all makes me think about the Slut Walk movement.  Although I don't disagree with their message, the way they promote their message does make me a little uncomfortable.  The thing is, I don't dress provocatively or suggestively.  Any woman, myself included, should be able to wear what they want, whether it's a skirt and high heels, or jeggings, boots and a loose sweater as I was last night, and not be treated as if they're just a potential piece of ass.  I understand that I'm attractive and fit, and I also understand the power of my sexuality.  What I don't understand is why simply because I happen to have a body men admire, that entitles them to say things about me they wouldn't want said about their mother, sister or daughter.  I don't "put it out there" as they say.  Why then do men think they can talk about me, or any woman, as if we exist simply as sexual objects?  It's extremely insulting.  There's a way to admire a woman, and even compliment her about how she looks without being demeaning.  Many men either don't understand how to do this or just don't care.

Neither do I understand why a woman alone in a bar is seen as an invitation to ignore all social norms and boundaries.  I get that alcohol lowers inhibitions and that certain assumptions, like it or not, will be made simply because of the environment.  However, plenty of stone cold sober men make very presumptuous assumptions simply because I'm a female sitting alone at a bar.  It's annoying to me that I have to studiously avoid making eye contact or even smiling at men for fear it will be taken as an open invitation by them.  I'm there simply trying to spend a few stolen moments with the man I love, catching up on each other's day in between him serving drinks to people.  I shouldn't feel like I need to wear a sign on my back stating that so I can be left in peace.

So what is the point of my rant today?  I guess I'm okay after all with what Mike did last night.  That guy has leered at me for a long time.  I've sensed it, and Mike's observed it for months. He's blatantly disrespected me, Mike and our relationship.  It isn't okay.  Women are more than sexual objects that exist for men's pleasure.  We deserve to walk around and sit in public places free from harassment, verbal or otherwise.  This isn't too much to ask.  Men need to show more respect.  If they don't, maybe some of them do need to be shoved up against a wall once in a while in order to get the message.


  1. I totally agree, Keicha. It's not an easy thing being an attractive female. But what are you gonna do? It happened to me all the time when I was a young woman, and I learned to act like I didn't notice it. These days it's even harder to deal with, because it seems that men have become more rude and pushy. Maybe there are some advantages to being old...

    I hope there won't be ramifications in Mike's job. And you're right that it makes NO SENSE that a bartender makes more money than a counselor for abused children. Something is really wrong in our society.

  2. We've come a long way, but there's still a lot of change that needs to happen. What i find bothersome is that so many young women don't take the issue of women's rights seriously.

    It is an issue of respect...and i could write a rant of my own. I hope your boyfriend is okay with his job,

  3. Well said, Keicha. I hope Mike's job is stable and no ramifications. There is something wonderful about having a champion, but it's not always easy. And spot on about the difference between bartending and doing something like counseling. If we ruled the world...


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