Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rock, Scissors, Sandpaper

I was shocked when talking to someone about all of this recently.  Talking about dress codes and how they are slanted towards girls.  Always to girls.  Talking about why dress codes are not just an isolated thing.  If we were just talking about the inconvenience of a dress code... I would have shut up long ago.  Hell, I honestly would have never opened my mouth.  What we are talking about is what that means in the larger picture.  I was shocked to hear them say, "you seem so angry."

Funny.  Perhaps I am.  I like to see it as passionate.  However, I will concede it is a passion rooted in anger. Why it was so interesting to me is the judgement in the label of anger.  Why is anger always "bad?"  Anger that sits there is bad.  Anger acted out in a way that hurts others is bad.  However... anger itself?  I do not see it as bad. I think owning our anger and letting it drive us towards positive action is strength.  However, I do think that is another gender bias.  We feel uncomfortable with fiery women.  We do.  Their discontentment with the status quo feels like sandpaper somehow.  Just rubs us wrong, but we can't tell why.

Sometimes sweet just doesn't cut it.  Sometimes you just have to boldly tread.  Sometimes you have to stand up to be heard.  Sometimes the truth itself is just fiery, that doesn't mean it should not be spoken.

So the truth is we have to acknowledge that clothes do not make people rape.  Culture makes people rape.  Mental illness makes people rape.  Violent tendencies make people rape.  Pretty clothes... not even on the radar.   So when we say to our girls, or women, "You must (or should) dress in a fashion that does not entice men to react"  you have to accept the inevitable outcome of the end of that sentence.  The end of that sentence is, "because if men react and you don't like their reaction, you have only yourself to blame."  And the inevitable outcome is shame.

Shame on you for wearing heals that did not allow you to run fast enough to out run your attacker.  Shame on you for wearing a dress that gave too easy access.  Shame on you for ditching the hose that would have created one more barrier.  Shame on you for feeling good when you looked in the mirror that night. Shame on you for the strut in your step as you walked down that street. Shame on you for being a woman.

Dress codes are an important conversation because we have to acknowledge that what a women wears (or does not) on her body in no way implies consent.  Consent to be ogled, consent to be catcalled, consent to be groped, consent to be raped.  So if we can all agree that clothes give no consent, we can agree that what  a woman/girl/adolescent chooses to wear has no bearing on much of anything. And if we can finally just agree to that, we can move on to conversations that matter.  Like, how is respect for all people taught?

So I don't accept angry entirely, but I do accept fiery.   In fact I embrace it.  I understand in the process I will rub people wrong and make them uncomfortable.  And at times, that is regrettable.  Sometimes though you simply need the friction to create a smooth and beautiful finish.  Sometimes, you just have to be the sandpaper.

"Feminism isn't about making women stronger. Women are already strong enough. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength." - G.D. Anderson

Monday, December 15, 2014

All I Want For Christmas

I do not want a culture that hates men.  I do not think that is the purpose of feminism.  I have a son.  I have a husband. I have a father. I love men.

What I want is a culture that hates violence.   I want a culture that hates inequity.  I want a culture that hates discrimination at any level. I want a culture that hates rapists.

I think feminism is about making a decision that everyone should have equal access.  Everyone should be safe. Everyone should have the ability to control their own destiny.

That is what feminism is to me.

It is about the ability of every person to live freely and equally living up to their own ideals of personal best. We have to say freedom and power is a collective goal. We can not be free until we are all free. We can not be truly powerful until we are all empowered.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Slut Shaming 7 Year Olds

It is almost Christmas.  I find myself wound around a pole.  Not because I own retail business and it is Christmas time.   No my mind is singularly occupied with a comment made to me regarding my seven year old daughter.

Today I pick her up from school and someone says to me, “In case you didn’t know  leggings are against the dress code.”  I was shocked.  Mostly because that is all she ever wears.  Every…single..day.  Leggings and a t-shirt.   There was a time when she wore nothing but dresses and skirts, so when this shift occurred I was surprised. However, outdoor play is a big part of her school and when I asked her why the change she simply said, “skirts and dresses are too hard to climb and play in.”  Makes  sense.  She is not a fan of jeans because they way they wrinkle behind her knees hurts her.  Leggings are comfortable and easy to run and climb in.  This is a bonus for me, because they are also highly affordable and easy to clean.  Done.  So here I am finding out 3 months into school she has been violating the school policy practically daily.  I said, “I didn’t know.  I am sorry.”  We start to walk away.  This person tags me and whispers to me , “It is because it draws too much attention to her bottom area.” 

I  heard it.  The record screeched.  I turned to my husband white and shaken and said, “ Get me to the car, I am going to cry.”   I then raced home and read the dress code.  There it was.  It was in black and white.  Students should wear clothing that is “modest and does not call undue attention to the child’s body.”

So let’s us be honest about what that means before I continue.  We are not talking about boys wearing skinny jean that hug their tush they way a Ferrari hugs corners.  No.  We are talking about girls.  We are talking about skirts that are not too short or blouses that are not too tight.  We are talking about teaching our “little ladies” to be modest, proper little girls.  I mean and what is so wrong in that after all?  Our girls are more than a tight tush or a nice rack.  Right?  They are future moms.  I mean, who WILL buy the cow if she is just giving ever so freely of the milky skin of her upper thigh.  No.  She must be a lady.   Or risk… being a slut.

A slutty, slut, slut.   A whore.  A tramp.  A trollop. A jezebel.  Come on.. we can have a field day with this for hours.  However, let me ask you this, what word in our culture do we have that carries the comparable connotation for men?  Right.  My point…but I will come back to that. 

So here I am, with my sweet seven year old, who every bit as much American Girl doll as she is “I can climb higher then you” and am receiving the first message in what I am sure will be many of, “Best be careful or you will end up with a slut on your hands.” 

So for those of you out there that are thinking, “Well… does she want her to be a SLUT?”  I say.. NOT THE *$@!  POINT.  You are missing it.  You are missing the whole point.  The point is, what my daughter wears does not define (and listen up here, this is the meat) WHO SHE IS.  Let me say it once more.  What my daughter  wears does NOT define WHO she is.  And, that brings me to the other nuance in this. And this is the really important one.  So take a second, collect yourself and listen.  What my daughter wears is not what controls how other view or treat her.  Now, I know some of you old school folks are thinking.  Peshaw.  It most certainly does.  And now I am here to tell you, bull.  How others perceive her or treat her is based on how THEY were indoctrinated.  They are not her responsibility to negotiate.  Their notions of propriety are not hers to conform to. Oh, and now I can actually hear it.  The outright indignation at what I am saying.  So follow me on a journey.

My daughter walks into a shop.  She is wearing  a roomy skirt down to the floor.  It is black and plain cloth.  She is wearing a button up long sleeve roomy blouse of brown.  She has no makeup on.  Her hair is shoulder length and brushed straight.  Is she dressed slutty?  No. She is dressed like a school maid.  However, she walks into the store. The owner looks her up and down.  He corners her in the store and tries to pull up her skirt. She screams and pushes him away. He rips her blouse and tells her not to be a tease.  She pushes him and someone walks in.  He whispers, “Oh come on baby, I know you want it.”  She screams and runs out and he yells out of the door calling her a slut.

But let’s face it.  She asked for it right? If she had not been so provocative she would not have brought that on herself.  How could he control is “animal urges” in the face of all that.. .hmmm sexy brown.    

Please tell me this sounds utterly ridiculous to you.  Okay  why?  Why is it ridiculous?  You would say she was dressed so modestly, she was not dressed slutty. That man was an animal, a pervert.   What if I told you the culture expected her to cover her head.  In their eyes it was slutty she was “inviting trouble” no less.  Did she deserve that?  Is she allowed to be terrorized because they perceived her as dressing sexy? 

It sounds so stupid right.   It sounds stupid because it is stupid.  Perpetrators of crime are not victims.  Repeat, not victims. They are not “unable to control themselves.”   No. they are sick violent monsters that we allow a free pass. 

This idea that if a girl shows some leg, wears a tight shirt, hell walks around buck naked that she has somehow forced a person to have uncontrollable sexual impulses is in the same vein of saying if someone puts a cupcake in front of me,  I have no ability to NOT eat it.  And furthermore IF I eat it, is the cupcakes fault.  In that scenario I am required to have no personal responsibility.  In that scenario the cupcake is a slut who was just “asking for it.” 

We don’t need dress codes.  What we need, what we need desperately is to tell people, mostly men,  enough.  Enough  hiding their need for power behind sexual impulse.  Grabbing women, fondling women, catcalling, objectification, harassment…RAPE. They are all power.  They are all violence.  They have not one single thing to do with sex or sexual attraction.  I did not make you rape me.  You decided to rape me.  I could have been wearing a potato sack.  You would have raped me.  Not because I am a slut, but because you are a rapist.  Or the men that see a sexily dressed women and start peacocking “Mmm I am going to tap that”  you are not seeing a pretty girl you like.  You are seeing an object you are going to dominate.  You never needed her to dress sexy .  You never needed her permission because you were always a thief.  Weak and small. 

And this THIS is why what happened today is important.  It is believed that 1 in every 5 women is raped in their lifetime.  Did you hear that?  One in five women is raped.  If one in five men got testicular cancer, you know there would  be a national crisis declared!  One in five.  These woman are your mothers and your daughters AND they  are in jeopardy. NOT BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY ARE WEARING! They are in jeopardy because of the very reason I have to write this.  They are in jeopardy because men have historically been given a free pass to be animals under the auspicious of lack of control.  And when the conversation we are having is hemlines  we are not having the one we need to (do not rape,  respect people, women are not objects.)

So that is the point.  What my daughter wears will not make boys ogle her.  They  will ogle  her because they have a lack of respect for her as a person separate from her sex.  What she is wearing only matters when men need an excuse to behave like animals.  And telling her how to dress “respectfully”  teaches her she is responsible for the bad actions of animals.   
And what if my daughter grows into a teenager or young woman that wears sexy cloths hoping to get the attention of a boy?  I would tell you that is a symptom of her being told if she only dresses a certain way boys cannot control themselves therefore will be putty in her hand.  And shocker…heterosexual girls want the attention of boys (not always heterosexual J  ).  And shocker, sometimes… just sometimes girls like to have sex just like boys.  And cover your ears… sometime girls might like it even more.

And will that make her a slut. I guess it will, because she would be choosing to have sexual partners.  And that is why there is no similar word for slut for men.  “Slut” implies control. She CHOOSES to have sexual partners.  In our culture, men cannot be sluts because we operate under the idea they have no choice.  No choice in their impulses.  No choice but to be monsters.  I say our men are better than that.  I know they are.  I say it is time we start having that conversation.  I say it about time we let them be sluts too.