More feminist than thou

Today, in one of my periodic fits of rebellion, I wore slightly attractive clothing (read: slacks and a SLEEVELESS SHIRT, whoar…) while running errands in my neighborhood, even though I knew it would get me harassed. Lo and behold, I was harassed, this time by a non-homeless, non-crazy non-poor non-teenage man. That really drives me wild; there’s no excuse – drugs, teenage hormones, class anger – he’s just an asshole who knows he can abuse women and get away with it. I find it utterly depressing that I cannot walk 5 blocks in broad daylight in the most liberal city in America without getting sexually harassed.

Which is why I was so thrilled to get back and read Charles Stross’ Bechdel Test Roundup post. A movie (or book or comic) passes Bechdel’s test if:

1) There are at least two named female characters, who

2) talk to each other about

3) something other than a man.

Charlie’s writing quite frequently passes this test, but he’s embarrassed that it doesn’t all pass. (Awwwww. <3 <3 <3) More than once I've gained a better understanding of the female condition from reading Charlie's books than I had from 30 years of living as a woman, 8 of which I've spent as a consciously feminist activist. It gives me hope.

Comments on this post are screened by default. Just because I can't stop men from shouting at me on the street doesn't mean I have to let them do it on my blog.

4 thoughts on “More feminist than thou

  1. That sucks! However, I have a quasi-funny quasi-related story.

    My friend Jamie (a female) and I were driving. We’re at a stop light and see a couple other of our friends. They’re shouting at us to talk with us, and one of them says, “Hey Jamie, that guy wants to talk to you!”

    So we all stop talking, and immediately we hear the guy scream, “PIG!!” as loudly as possible. Our friend was then saying, “Well, maybe not!”

    People are weird. I don’t know why they do what they do, but I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

  2. I’m a privileged white male working in IT, so I will never be able to understand what it feels like.

    But I can say I’m appalled – there’s just no excuse for behavior like that. I do hope that you, and other woman, being vocal about it will help – just like Charlie bringing up the Bechdel test should help.

    What can we do as a society to change this? Why have we stopped accepting overt racism and continue to tolerate sexism?

  3. Society is just individuals working together

    I’m another privileged white male, but with a tendency to feminism – the question you’ve missed is “what can I do to help change things?” Society (and social attitudes) are just what you get when lots of people co-operate – changing each individual’s behaviour ends up changing society as a whole.

    As examples of small things you can do that help:

    • Make jokes at the expense of people who behave badly to women; someone who chats up every woman he sees is unlikely to be happy about being termed “desperate” or “freaky”.
    • If a friend is accidentally misbehaving (e.g. continually looking women in the chest, not in the eye), mention to them in private, so that they can fix their behaviour. If it’s deliberate, time to reconsider that friendship.
    • Think about your own behaviour – do you crack jokes that are likely to make women feel uncomfortable, for example? And note, this is not to say that sexist jokes are completely unacceptable, just that you need to think about context. The same joke can cause serious discomfort in a crowd where you’re not well known, and yet be funny when you’re the only man in a crowd of women who know you.
    • Accept women into a group on their own merits; don’t treat them differently for being female (whether they’re ugly or pretty).

    Racism got fixed (in as much as it has been) when individual attitudes changed to the point where it was unacceptable. Sexism will be the same – once sexist attitudes (deliberate or otherwise) get you the same cringing and “ugh – you did not just say that!” reactions that racist attitudes get, the problem will recede.

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