There has been a fascinating conversation going on at The Daily Dish about ‘catcalling’ and it’s influence on women (and some men.) This link references the last in the series of posts but it is worth reading back through the previous entries. In particular, I was struck but this piece by a reader of the Dish:
“You struck a nerve with this one, as I was just discussing this very thing a few weeks ago with a group of high-school freshmen in my English class. We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him.
The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.”But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.”
The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked.
“So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”
As I read the posts, I was surprised to feel the rush of memories of my own experiences as a young teen and what struck me was how my memory wasn’t of anger, but of fear. And one could argue that the fear wasn’t rational – I wasn’t in a darkened alley or parking garage – it was broad daylight, but the discomfort was overwhelmingly real. It happened mostly when I was a teenager, shortly after I began to ‘blossom’ as they say. It was startling, disarming and ultimately left more of an impression than I realized until I took that walk down memory lane while reading these posts. Although it continued after I moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, the last straw for me happened in Italy. With my family on a crowded bus in Rome, I endured what we in the business refer to as ‘frottage.’ You know the drill; some creep helplessly ‘crammed’ into you by virtue of a crowded bus, has no other options but to rub his crotch against you for the duration of the ride. Keep in mind, this was Italy in the 70’s. There was nothing to be done. But that was it for me.
When I moved to Seattle, I quickly adopted the look for feministy leaning women with a ‘y.’ Cargo pants and plaid flannel shirts. And that was before I realized I was gay. In hindsight, I think it was my unconscious effort to steel myself against the comments from strange men on the street. It was kind of like cotton kryptonite, if you will. And for the most part, it worked. Now I see my niece-in-laws and how they dress and how they hold themselves and I am so proud of them. Woe be to the idiot who says the wrong thing to them on the street. He’s likely to be tasting his nuggets by the time they are done with him.
And lastly, I was reminded of a conversation with a male friend about his experience in an elevator of his new apartment building in a largely gay area of Seattle. He recounted how uncomfortable he was being propositioned daily (he’s not gay) and I just laughed at him. The look on his face belied his confusion. I simply said, “Now you know what it feels like to be a woman.”
And it felt so, well, vindicating.
This is what I love about dogs. Well, one of the many things I love about them. Pure, unadulterated joy. Curiosity that knows no bounds. Like children, but without the potential for purposeful heartache.
We should aspire to be more like these lovely souls.
I’ve become a little obsessed lately with the whole concept of ‘truth.’ In part, it is because I am constantly surprised at what some people define as ‘truthful’ speech. Not right speech, although truth should certainly be a part of that, but speech that is genuinely truthful. I’ve noticed it mostly around politics and politicians. In this age of 24-hour media, there is no paucity of video and audio evidence of practically everything said or done in the presence of a camera. And yet, faced with that evidence many people will shrug and smile, knowing that someone, somewhere will still believe the lie. There doesn’t even seem to be any shame about the fact that the veracity of any claim can easily be tested. I mean, even my dogs seem to show at least a modicum of shame when I come home and they’ve ‘accidently’ eaten all of the cat food or pooped by the door.
I’m not speaking about shame in the negative context that so many of us have learned from society. In my opinion, that’s not shame as much as it is non-conformity to some bizarre and unrealistic standard. I’m talking about standing in front of a microphone and making statements that are just completely untrue even despite evidence to the contrary.
There was an article recently in the New York Times about whether or not reporters have an ethical obligation to not only report what is said, but to fact check that statement and correct it. Oftentimes, papers run a side bar as a fact checking function. I just wish those who handle talking points for politicians would stop trying to shade the truth and just give their bosses the truth. And if the truth hurts your candidate, talk about something that doesn’t.
Being truthful about everything and practicing right speech is harder than you think. Is it always advisable to tell your best friend that her pants make her butt look big? Everytime? Some of the time? When is it ok to skirt around the truth? Can we possibly know the infinite number of reverberations that extend from telling a lie?
I always come back to my dogs. They are incapable of lying. Of course, they are incapable of talking, too. But when I look into their eyes, I see only innocence, presence and the truth.
On this day, I strive to be truthful to myself first and foremost. A true self can never be fact checked.
I made the mistake of watching TV this past weekend. I generally watch too much television but I think it’s mostly as an element of distraction. I often read while it’s on or I sometimes write. But this weekend, after the death of Whitney Houston, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the fact that no matter what I put on (except for some cable movie station) there were sad-faced reporters relaying a series of speculations about the singer’s death. It got me to thinking about our obsession with popular culture and I suppose, about my own. These people we elevate to such heights of perfection have nowhere to go but down. And then we engage in a collective tongue clucking over their downfall.
It seems as though we as a country spend so much time seeking things to distract us. We have a twenty-four hour news cycle, restaurants that never close and an entertainment media complex that churns out drivel by the boat load. There is never a moment when I cannot get access to the latest news whether it’s on the TV, my phone or a computer. Helicopters flying overhead? Jump on the iPhone. Someone famous dies? Turn on the TV and you can be guaranteed to find non-stop coverage. And if the circumstances of that person’s death are ‘mysterious’, expect to hear from experts who appear to have been dragged from some ‘expert warehouse’ and propped in front of a camera. And many of us take what these people say at face value and repeat it to our friends or via social media as though it is fact. It is relentless.
Sitting in silence at the beginning of my day has given me tremendous gratitude for the moments in my busy life when there is nothing turned on or turned up and competing for my attention. And even then, it’s so hard to concentrate on, well, nothing. Because even that nothingness can have an infinite amount of junk attached to it.
It’s all about finding a place for peace and quiet. I don’t hear people saying that very often anymore.
I just want some peace and quiet.
It’s a lot harder to come by these days.