A couple weeks ago, I was out with friends. At the end of the night, a crack was made about my not drinking and one of my close friends threw the word “bitch” out towards me, totally nonchalantly, and when I asked him to clarify, he backtracked in an impish way, not owning up to what he said at all. It was the end of the night, we were all going home, so I didn’t push it. But know this: it deeply unsettled me. I drove home with a furrow in my brow. When I got home, Alan and I talked a little before bed, but I was totally distracted. I texted another friend who was out that night and told her I was furious. “He was just joking,” was the excuse, “he really didn’t mean it. Don’t let it bother you.”
This advice almost bothered me as much as the initial offense. How could I take something so lightly? Obviously he was joking. Yeah, I know that. Can’t I take a joke? Of course I can. But there’s a deeper issue here: that a man can call a woman a bitch, but not really mean it, and therefore, it’s OK.
Last week, Nora had a post on not telling women to smile go viral. The examples of misogyny in that post are horrifying at best. The response to this article was a lot of positive, with a lot of predictable negative. A lot of “What’s wrong with wanting to see a woman happy?” and “It’s really not sexist,” to “Stop trying to be offended by everything.” Of course, all written by men. On the surface, sure, it does sound pretty innocuous. “How could telling a woman to smile be a negative thing?” Right?
This week, it came to the surface that someone in the Mpls community is a serial creep who sends pictures of his penis to women who did not ask for them. Commonly these are known as “dick pics.” This was a person I knew, who I would usually have pleasant interactions with whenever I’d see him out. He’s been to my house. He gave me a guitar. He claims to be a Feminist. I was kind of stunned, but I accepted it was truth, because there was enough evidence and I heard people all around me corroborating it. Some men I know were in denial and assumed it must’ve been a different person.
Dudes. Let’s talk.
I want to start off by saying this: You are a victim of the patriarchy too. Now that you know that, the healing can begin. How can we fight this together?
First: Listen to women. Trust that we know what offends us. We know what makes us uncomfortable, hurts us and frightens us. We know. You do not. You won’t ever know the gut-punch it is to be called a cunt by an anonymous stranger on the internet (and then get laughed at for being mad about it).
Words like “bitch,” “cunt,” & “slut” are designed to degrade women and give men power. They are words, but they are extremely harmful. Similarly: Think about the next time you call someone a “pussy.” Just think about it.
Don’t tell me to smile. It’s awkward. I’ll smile when I want to. Why do you give a shit. You don’t know what I’m thinking or feeling. So please: back the fuck up.
Making jokes about raping women is never ok. You kiss your mother with that mouth?
Don’t invade a woman’s personal space. This can be anywhere, like say, in a text. Don’t send a picture of your penis to a woman. That is an invasion of space and sexual harassment. No woman ever wants a dick in her texts. It makes women uncomfortable and makes you a Grade A Piece of Shit.
If you hear someone use some iffy language in regards to gender, go ahead and call that shit out. Yes, it’s scary to do so. Sometimes it is just easier to let it go and not stir the pot, but more often than not, someone is using harmful language because they don’t understand why it’s wrong. It’s not your fault that it’s so commonplace to behave this way. But it’s your responsibility not to let it continue.
Instead of policing women’s emotions and telling them not to be offended by gross men, tell those gross men that they’re gross.
We’re your friends, sisters, daughters, wives and mothers. We love and respect you and ask you do the same.
I did end up texting my male friend there in the middle of the night, those few weeks ago, saying that it wasn’t ok to call women bitches, especially your friends, and that I felt like total shit. His response: “You’re right. I apologize.”