Feminism waves the human flag passionately in support of the woman’s voice.
Feminism acknowledges that the legitimacy of this voice has not always been recognized or valued in the home and society, and that it is absolutely imperative that every woman’s voice be legitimized, heard and cultivated now and forever on. There is no going back, and until there is nothing more to address, the word feminism encompasses the struggle, the understanding and the conviction of people of all genders to include women in the conversation about themselves and the issues that affect them.
Those who scoff at feminists for complaining about problems already solved and equal rights already given, or who say that the playing field is already even, are essentially trying to silence that voice. Because there is still a lot of work to be done.
Those people who don’t “believe in feminism” have never had to wonder what it’s like to orgasm because their sex organs had been mutilated at birth, they have never had to worry about how a pregnancy could alter the course of their life and they have never been threatened, beaten or abused by a husband or boyfriend. Those who make snide remarks about “Feminazis” have never been sexually assaulted in the workplace or forced to cover their body from head to toe. Men who make jokes about feminists have never walked down the street and felt like prey or been restricted from driving, voting, leaving the house, participating in the governing of your country, or told they are the root of all evil. Or maybe they have, but aren’t seeing clearly. Women who believe feminism is counterproductive are perhaps even the most tragically misguided. This is where education is so important. Because of all the bad rap in the media, many people who are feminists don’t even know they are.
If you believe women shouldn’t be raped, molested or forced into or out of pregnancy, you’re a feminist. If you believe that women should have the same freedom as men to utilize their talents in the marketplace and be paid equally for those talents, you’re a feminist. If you believe that women are not just bitching and whining but actually speaking up for the things that are important, and expect to be taken seriously, you’re a feminist.
Feminism is education about the great women in history who have paved the way for the equal rights we enjoy today, and the road still yet untraveled.
Feminism is declaring authority over your own body and mind and demanding that others recognize that authority.
Feminism is the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness – in whatever form it may take, whether that is working 60 hours a week at a job you love or working 60 hours a week taking care of children you love, or somehow doing both. It is the freedom to explore your own deepest callings, your own minds, and your own bodies, to jump in and flounder in something that is unfamiliar because the shock of the cold is better than the numbness of a safe harbor. It’s also just living life the way you want to live your life.
Feminism is questioning everything, wondering why it is that way, and asking if there is something that can be improved or thought about from another perspective. Feminism is holistic and progressive and consciousness-raising.
Feminism is listening to your inner voice and believing it has just as much to say as anyone else’s, while honoring and never belittling the views and perspectives of those who think or perceive differently. It’s not dismissing the differences between men and women, but legitimizing those features that make women uniquely women and also doing away with the duality that has absolutely separated the sexes heretofore; gender exists on a spectrum.
Those who complain about feminists who are too loud or too masculine or too improper or too talented or too political are just scared without knowing why they’re scared because when women speak, the world must listen. And it has grown into a roar.
Feminism may have a bad taste in the mouths of those who are still unfamiliar with their own mechanics, who may not want to see injustice or who may be more comfortable in their own realm of privilege or denial. But as soon as that jaw starts working and speaking and yelling and singing for the rights of women everywhere, feminism becomes a blanket of hope you can take comfort in.
It’s knowing you’re not alone. Timothy “Speed” Levitch, a modern visionary, put it this way, “People riot the same way they orgasm. This is why the riots of men end as fast as they begin and have never really changed anything. Woman’s riot will be an ever-expanding, multiple, only-accumulating rebellion that will shatter this paradigm forever.”
Feminism is an ever-expanding growth of self-awareness that is spreading throughout the world that has the power to challenge millennia-old beliefs, empower cultivation of new thought, rearrange some flawed aspects of society, call attention to the heinous crimes committed against humanity and improve the lives of truth-seeking women and open-minded men everywhere. Feminism is both political and personal, theoretical and applicable.
Feminism is everything just listed and more, and if these points sound like rights that can apply to men, too, that’s because they are, and they are generally taken for granted as God-given rights. Feminism doesn’t seek to remove those rights from men, but rather acknowledge that maybe the story has been flawed all along and that it’s time to write a new and paradigm-shifting chapter. Feminists are not afraid to demand that women’s voices be heard on matters of their own lives – on everything from sex to economics. If there is any hesitation to call yourself a feminist, ask yourself whether you stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL.
*** OK OK OK you caught me, I’ve had writer’s block and busy life lately, so I’m posting things I wrote a while ago that never saw the light of day. I wrote this for the women’s rights group I co-founded over the summer of 2012 to answer the question of whether using the term “feminism” would still be effective today. This was my defense of feminism to myself, to get me comfortable using the term in the face of much opposition against it, but it’s interesting to note that my perceptions of gender consciousness have grown tremendously since then, and I’ve since come to see the label of feminism, though still a valuable and legitimate tool for equality, more antiquated than what I aim to do with my work. My group and I are still working on languaging out an even more inclusive and forward-thinking way of describing the work we want to do and the vision we have. Just a quick note. Much more on this to come. Whee! ***
You tell me to write more like a man. More direct, you say. Just say what you mean.
Right, because James Joyce, one of the greatest writers of all time, was so direct and straightforward. Because Shakespeare never bounced around a clever phrase. Because Beckett’s profound absurdism always made sense. Because e.e. cummings, that batty, brilliant maniac, didn’t revolutionize poetry by talking in some beautiful spirals.
Because the men I’ve dated were always direct and straightforward.
“How are you feeling?” “Unh, fine, I don’t know.”
I think what you’re trying to tell me is not, write more like a man, but just, learn how to write better.
And I agree. Better is always better.
But I’m not trying to be like you.
I don’t really want your hat. I’ve got enough silly ones of my own.
You ask me one time, early on, if I can cook.*
You sigh and your eyes drop in disappointment when I tell you I never learned to cook any better than heating up single mom TV dinners or bicycling to McDonald’s. Because it’s cultural, you know, and if you need me to spell it out for you, we didn’t have a mom who had time or money to cook every night for us. She was always working.
And though I’m learning the sweet formulas of the oven now, I think I need to make an announcement: gourmet cooking ability (or sewing or decorating or folding laundry precisely) is not something every woman is just magically born with, like perfect pitch or green eyes, especially not working class women, who sell their labor for their children’s futures and sacrifice their own dreams – it may be a long time overdue, but thank you, Mom. (Side note: my intuition is something I was born with, and that is rarely as recognized.)
I’m pretty sure at that moment you downgraded me from “potential life partner” to just “girlfriend who can’t cook,” but hey, I know for a fact you wouldn’t know a wrench from a radiator under the hood of a car if we were to be stuck out somewhere treacherous like… San Bernadino, and fixing that motor meant the difference between eating dinner that night or becoming dinner for the hill people (Beverly Hills boys – different hill people – don’t learn how to be mechanics).
Is every man supposed to be born with engine lights going off in their brains?
Can we please let go of the advertisements?
When dreadlocks aspire to be a blonde curl, my kinky hair weeps at the pressure of a straightening iron.
Though I’ve tried, I can’t aspire to be more like a man.
It’s as ridiculous as aspiring to be more like a manatee, and I have a special fondness for those cuddly paddlers. Sure, I can incorporate some external qualities and blend the colors into my own skin, in fact it’s healthy to choose your pallette – I could be more assertive, more focused, more self-important, or more likely to be mistaken for a mermaid by sea-drunk ocean crossers. But more like a man or a manatee – I don’t think so. I’ll be more like whatever I feel like, how about that, sailor?
(P.S. Disclaimer: Please don’t mistake me, I support transsexuals in their quest for identity – honeymuscles, you can go ahead and fully aspire to be more like a man… not trying to put my foot in any mouths here.)
But you know, there’s a reason why movies like The Last Samurai star Tom Cruise, why Pocahontas is beautiful in the Disney cartoon, why Jesus is a white dude. We all want to see ourselves reflected everywhere we can, and project ourselves out onto others – won’t that mean I’m important and alive and real? It’s a lot easier than attempting to step into another person’s bones to see what connects us, what funky cool mosaics can be cut from the cloth of our differences, or what lies truly underneath.
It made me laugh – ha ha! – when my 6 foot 2, light-skinned, muscle-builder of a man buddy became offended (hashtag #perfectexample) by me saying in a Tweet (please excuse the punctuation-less Tweet-speak):**
@fancifulnance: “Men have never been my role models. Lovers, teachers, friends, but it is woman who liberates woman. She who I aspire to.”
@manfriend: “kind of think you are retarded now”
@fancifulnance: “what makes that retarded?”
@manfriend: “likewise, cause your comments stem from feminist ignorance. You know there is a level playing field of capability.”
@fancifulnance: “I can’t relate to being a man so I can’t aspire to be like one. Appreciate but not aspire, so not a role model. So defensive”
@manfriend: “whatevah you got to do woo woman”
It may seem like a somewhat disjointed conversation, but we are dealing in 140 characters or less here, and I’m not posting this to attack my said man friend, but just to point out how common it is for a man to respond negatively when a woman proposes any sort of self-empowerment. (Would a white woman be offended by a black woman saying, I love all my white friends but it is my black sisters who teach me how to be in my own skin? Would a businessman be offended by an artist saying, I know I need agents in my life, but it’s other artists who inspire my work?)
Notice that my original comment lacked any outright attack on the legitimacy of “manhood,” or any sort of disempowerment of men, yet he attacks me for being an ignorant feminist. It was a clearly positive revelation I had just had – it does me more good to look to the leaders of my station in life (in this case, strong women) than to look to leaders whom I don’t necessarily see myself in (close-minded men), and in fact historically have tried to keep my voice silent through backwards berating, doubting my abilities, callous comments, irrational accusations, sexual harassment, blatant objectification and not-funny sexist jokes.
Not to say there aren’t a great deal of men I respect, in fact there are – some of my most enlightening professors have been men (though why did I feel so timid trying to talk ideas with them?), some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers and peace leaders in history have been men (though where were the women’s names?), and some of my very best friends are men. Just like the artist needs the businessman and vice versa, I love and appreciate and admire many men in my life, but I, personally, have got to love my womanness first. I feel this disclaimer shouldn’t be necessary but I know it is:
Lifting myself up as a woman, embracing my femininity, accepting all my assets and flaws, and living simply the way my internal compass tells me to be as a woman DOES NOT emasculate anyone.
The real emasculation occurs when a man isn’t comfortable enough with himself, or how he interacts with women, and he responds negatively and defensively to try and throw the attack back on the object of his discomfort. A woman asserting herself makes a lot of men seriously, seriously uncomfortable. Like, sitting in the dentist chair looking at the drill and blaming the dentist for all the times he never flossed kind of uncomfortable.
I’ve found it especially true when that assertiveness appears unexpectedly, like in the form of me, a generally good-spirited, warm, agreeable and understanding, totally non-threatening, non-violent sort of person. But hey buddy, step on my toes and I will not just stand there.
The thing is, I understand why my Twitter friend was offended – he perceived that I was attempting to strip him of his power because he feeds off of the weaknesses of others. A vocal woman who happens also to be clever may seem like a big, fat threat to a small mind.
Yet, no one seems to be offended by Shakespeare.
“To thine own self be true.”
We are in a very exciting time when women are to themselves being truer than ever before. When the culmination of the last century of feminism is starting to take root in the brainstems of even the most dull, when women are joining together and starting to realize that something’s been missing for a really long time, and even if we can’t language it out exactly to the tee right now, we know we’re continuing along a path that history has been carving for us all along, and it feels right where we are going.
Racial integration didn’t just happen overnight, rather it took a mass movement to shift the consciousness of the population politically and ideologically, and many, many years for it to be normal for all races to sit at the same table in a restaurant. The same thing is happening right now for women, fueled by the writings and actions of female leaders before us, as we take these rising, resonating voices to the White House and beyond.
I, personally, want to be recognized as the owner of my own body, as a valued part of society in both the public and private spheres, and as a keeper of my own wisdom. It’s a labyrinthine time we’re living in, and there are dots connecting many circles.
This year was a very tumultuous year for women in politics in the U.S. (and of course, various parts of the world experienced major uprisings from and for women), but the issues that are being raised – rape, abortion, birth control, pay discrepancies, and in other parts of the world, basic rights like voting and driving – are actually doing something amazing right now. They’re forcing the woman’s voice to the forefront of the world stage, and the shift is pulling. It’s pulling and pulling, and there’s no going against this tide. Whether you believe in energy work or the pattern of the universe or the Mayan calendar or not, we are entering a feminine age. I will be happy to expound on that later, maybe when the ideas form, but for now it’s enough to say, embrace the change.
Women, straight women, bisexual women and lesbians alike, it’s time to realize what power we have. I know you feel it. Whether you admit it or not, some great internal mechanism is clanging in our ears, in our bones, in our thighs and it’s all we can do not to just rip our heads back and cackle. Our great-grandmothers are laughing with us. Simone DeBeauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, Kate Chopin, Sylvia Plath, Rosa Parks, Virgina Woolf and all the other tide-driven women before us are letting out a relieved guffaw. Their work will not die.
It’s understandable that there’s still some good breeding in some of us – still some desire to be a lady, to sit quietly and smile and be chosen like a budding rose. The change won’t be sudden, but I aspire to make close frenemies with those desires, and I aspire to let them expire.
I aspire to be a lot of things: a great writer, a productive activist, a strong community leader, an enlightened spirit and a positive role model. But to ask me to aspire to be more like a man, to ask me to write more like a man, well, honey, I’m just simply not going to.
Write better? Write more honestly, more vibrantly, more wholeheartedly? Yes, that I can try to do. I’ve been gathering up around me all my feminist poetry, all my female philosophers’ essays, all my sea-tasting foremothers’ words to cradle me to sleep at night so that in the morning some brilliant new piece of the puzzle may emerge.
I’m making love to the lightning bolts of feminine wisdom, I’m playing hopscotch with my mother’s tears, I’m throwing rocks ahead at the path that seems to be leading to our collective awakening.
And the more I wake up, the more it seems I have to say.
Men—I’m not asking to stamp out your voice. I’m just asking you to make way for mine. ‘Cause it is a-headed your way and it is whistling like a jailbird stepping out, finally, freely into the light.
*I’m great friends with this man now, and he is one of the most inspiring figures in my life, so there is no mean sentiment here.
**No offense intended here either; these are words lifted from the public domain of Twitter, and Twitter man friend, if you read this, though that was nearly the last I heard from you, I would be happy if you were to correct me in your line of thinking :-}
Let me name for you some of my contradictions. It’ll be fun. And then it will be your turn.
I’m a lazy… activist.
I smoke cigarettes after yoga. (Only sometimes!)
I teach reasoning skills to high school students. My psychic supports this.
I am the straight girl co-founder of a queer rights/ feminist/ group for equality, but I have a pretty singular attraction to rich white men whose debonair style and nice hair conceal an undercurrent of (blech) misogyny.
You felt the need to bring me down because sometimes too much joy is just too much and I still love your stupid face.
Enough about that, I’m reading Nietzche and a self-help book called The Happiness Makeover at the same time – it’s a race!
I’m the wisest person I know and also the most naive, the brightest and the dullest, so beautiful sweet and such a cold-ass bitch. Depends on which superlative you seek.
All we need is balance, balance, balance, I battle cry on my turbo dive directly into the deeeeeep end. Oh, the deep end, my bitter friend.
If I had a resume of ailments I’ve diagnosed myself with it would include, but not limited to: urgently exploding appendicitis, recurring anorexia and simultaneously a propensity for obesity, bipolar disorder, high-functioning autism, gluten allergies, a thyroid imbalance, schizophrenia, paranoia, clinical depression, neuroticism and hypochondriacism. Those last two are probably correct.
I lament that in all that, I’m not a little more OCD. My room would probably be cleaner.
I’m a messy perfectionist. An embracing critic.
I will cry with my whole body, quietly but deep breathingly, sometimes at things happening on television. And I will laugh until I shake, until tears squirt out of my eyes and I grab onto someone just to remember where I am, sometimes because of things happening on the television. Oh wait, laughing and crying ain’t a contradiction – but ask my ex-manfriends and they’ll tell you it is.
They just get angry. Human evolutionary psychology is some kind of crackpot joke in itself, but that’s altogether another story.
Paradoxes can get tiring, but what other kinds of truths have we got? I’m no painter but I’d like to paint a pair of docks shackled to each other. Somewhere deeply inland. With a tagline that reads, “Enough metanarratives already!”
Anyway. I’m a writer who usually prefers a meaty conversation to flashy devices.
All I want to do is leave my ego at the door and help people genuinely, authentically, the way my soul begs of me to do in the ways that I know how. I want to reach people who think they don’t deserve to be reached. I want to pull them out of the muck and laugh about how funny it is that once you thought that’s where you belonged. But then I doubt myself and become one of those people who needs some rope myself. Stuck in the muck. And maybe that’s why I do the pulling. Plus, that’s where most of the funny weird things are born. What would I do without those swampy friends?
I think there are too many people on the planet and too many dumb words already been said, but I want to nurse my own children eventually, and see my name in print again and again and again.
I love to backpack – up and down streams, boots soaking wet and tired and sore. The best meal of my life occurred out in the foothills – tuna fish on crackers. But I will binge on five star hotels that serve you oysters with lemon wrapped in meshy plastic whenever I can, oh honey, take me down to never never land.
I will compost my veggies like a mountain hermit and wipe worm poop all over my pants, then don an evening sparkle dress and throw cocktails down my throat like I’m a hotshot on some Real World trash.
I strive to live richly, richly, richly poor! But I’d also kind of like regular sushi lunches and new things someday, maybe, finally.
My city friends think I’m a well-adjusted hippie. My hippie friends wonder how the city doesn’t kill me.
I have social anxiety so bad sometimes I don’t leave my house for days. But when you meet me at a party, I will radiate. It won’t be fake. It’s in me.
I want to express in wordy colors all my blah blah, sing out on the walls all my yeah yeah, spin and dance around all my hee hee, and also guard it up, not for the world to see. How much energy for you and how much love for me?
I’m an overgiver who doesn’t quite know yet how to fully receive.
“For such a colorful personality, you sure wear a lot of black.” Has been said about me.
I’d like to not care what you think of me. I’d like to stop saying me, me, me. I’d also like to stop this rhyming spree. But what other vehicle do I have to express what funny weird backward beauties I and you and everyone are, all the time, concurrently?
I want more than anything to feel life coursing through my body full and rich and light and true. But I am attached to the darkness like a shadow I can’t shake. I’m afraid if I shook it, I’d be floating, and floating and floating, but somewhere out there all alone. No safety rope. Misery loves company and maybe there’s another way to be, but I need dark company; it’s dangerous to be so light.
You can absolutely be too free. But rebirth is your right. As many times as you want it. And integration is the key. You can have your own language and speak another tongue, too. You just have to want to.
I’m telling myself, you can fall for the stars and still live a little large.
You can drown science in formulas, then close your eyes and rocket off to Jupiter.
You can wear your contradictions like a robe entitling you to be whatever you feel today. Right now.
And hey, news flash, you there swimming in TV ads and fake boob pornos and consciousness raising questions and comparisons with your peers, and all your wonderful, titillating confusion: you don’t have to be perfect. That’d be nonsense. And actually really boring. But you do have to try. To figure it out. You will have to work to let the old goo morph into newness or else what is it worth?
You can be as genuine as you are pretending and I know you’re good at pretending. Just take the real stuff, take the other stuff, take the inner and the outer stuff, take the messy stuff, and the gorgeous stuff, mix them all together and shake.
Look at me. Identity crisis ice cream sundae.
At least I’ve made hesitant friends with my shadow side – I’ve named her Rikoklyn; she’s snide and has mean teeth. Sometimes I like her. Just for something different. Capiche?
So it’s pretty much guaranteed – your multiple heads with all their silly hats will fight and fight and fight. But don’t fight the fight. There is no should, no supposed to be. Just you, some different outfits, and how every different day you choose to be.
So that’s it. How I let Hegel dialecticize me toward every new resounding, explosive synthesis. How every idea gives rise to its opposite, and something new is born. How you can learn to train yourself to let things die when they need to die. It’s simple but hard. And sometimes it takes a while before the birth. Survival is a spiral, adaptation on a level you can see. Slowly winding forward.
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. -F. Scott Fitzgerald
Whatever you want to call it, it’s anything but “not a big deal.” Funny joke? Nope, not getting that description. Sexual harassment? More likely. Grounds for further legal action if I wanted? Probably. Unacceptable, intolerable, unwarranted, just generally not okay? Absolutely.
However you put it, this incident definitely should not be dismissed as just drunken asshole-ness, though it is definitely that, too.
But first of all, let me back up just a minute and explain what happened. This past Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, I was woken up by a ringing next to my ear at 5 o’clock in the morning. That good old familiar Nokia ringtone instantly shook me from a solid sleep, and my first reaction was that I was being alerted to some possibility of danger. Is there an emergency? Who’s calling me at 5 a.m. if someone’s not in trouble or in the hospital?
I see that the call is from – let’s call him Douche – a friend of a friend, and I don’t pick it up because I’ve been duped by some of his stupid jokes before. For example, he’s sent me text messages in a serious tone asking to talk about one of our mutual friends, and after responding with concern, I receive this message: “So, I just have to know, how big is his dick?” At other times, he has directed lewd sexual comments at me, both in person and through text messaging, offended one of my friends for her sexual orientation, and made explicit advances toward another friend.
So needless to say, my emergency sensors flopped off a bit, though the initial flood of adrenaline was still present in my body.
I listened to the message and this is what it is:
So, just in case you can’t hear the message, I’ll write it out:
“This your boy Edwin Lopez. I want some phone sex, bitch. I hear you’re a fucking crazy ass girl, oh. (background laughing) You’re fucking done. I’m gonna pound that pussy. (laughing) Lick your clit, girl.”
First of all, this is embarrassing for you, not for me. Second of all, Douche, you’re not off the hook just because it wasn’t you. I have no doubt you were somewhere behind it, and even if you weren’t, control your shit, man. I’m sharing this because no doubt in the light of day the absolute idiocy of this message is apparent. It’s rude, lewd, offensive and inappropriate. Furthermore, the tone in no way can be construed as playful, and in fact, it’s downright threatening.
If this were the first time this happened to me, I might be less inclined to share the message with others, perhaps feeling violated, shameful, irritated, distressed, anxious or generally uncomfortable. I do feel these things, but as circumstances have it, they are all too familiar responses to situations that happen all too often. Therefore, I refuse to keep silent about this one and instead, I am inviting you to think about when you or a friend have experienced something similar. Were you the perpetrator? Did you experience any repercussions? Were you the victim? Did you speak up or keep it to yourself?
(UPDATE: Douche has informed me that Edwin Lopez actually went on a maniacal phone sex solicitation spree that early morning, some of the messages even worse. And he said it as if that would be consolation. Totally missing the point.)
If you’re in the camp that thinks something like this is funny, try protecting yourself from future problems (like being reported for your asshole “jokes”) and take a Sexual Harrassment 101 crash course. If you’re like me and don’t think it’s funny at all, you probably understand the very real consequences that arise from an absolutely not harmless joke. Despite the fact that:
I could not go back to sleep after hearing this menacing, threatening message from a very clearly defined Edwin Lopez (Hi, Edwin. I don’t know you, but you’re in trouble.)
I experienced physical reactions to this message, including high adrenaline, anxiety, stress, quickened heartbeat, tension and emotional responses of anger, resentment, confusion;
I had to go to a press conference that morning and my mind was in a completely edgy, uncomfortable position for the rest of the day (to put it bluntly, I was negatively impacted in my workplace functioning); and
My sense of trust has been violated by someone I thought was a friend;
the worst part about this message are its underlying and far-reaching implications. Let’s face it: I wasn’t hurt and nothing extremely terrible came out of this, just a whole lot of annoyances. But I’m not in the hospital, no one died, I’m still functioning.
But what about when this person takes his lack of self-control out somewhere else, on someone else?
One third of this blog post is for me so I do something about it, one third is for Mr. Lopez and others like him so they understand, and the most important third is for other girls or women who might not know what to do in a situation like this, and worst, who might direct their anger inward rather than where it really needs to go – at the perpetrators themselves.
So let’s put aside for a moment my personal reactions – anger, tension, stress, discomfort, disgust (note: not dismissing, just temporarily shifting focus) – and think about what kind of person thinks this message is funny.
1. This kind of person obviously does not respect women, specifically me, for whatever reasons associated with the company he keeps, but even more outright, it seems as if he does not respect other people in general, evidenced by the inconsiderate call at 5 in the morning. The world rotates around his schedule and the person’s reaction on the receiving end of the phone call is of no concern to him.
I know people don’t read without pictures.
2. Though his exact motivations are unclear, whatever motivation prompted this phone call needs to be addressed because it’s a huge red flag for further abuse. In one scenario, he is trying to provoke a negative feeling, intentionally attempting to provoke a negative response, whether it’s for revenge or any other reason; there is intent to harm.
Possibly even worse, he was just dumb and horny, trying to impress his friends, or attempting to prove some sort of sexual prowess to himself. While these are less malicious intentions, they might actually even be more harmful because he is less aware of why he is doing what he is doing, opening up a wellspring for future “accidents.”
Both motivations, intentionally harmful or not, stem from the same well of insecurity, and in both instances, the perpetrator is so far removed from the victim’s experience of reality that he may easily rationalize this sort of behavior as acceptable.
Either the woman doesn’t matter or she deserves it.
Obviously, both are disturbed ways of thinking. Or to cover his ass, I expect he might say he wasn’t thinking or didn’t know or just thought it would be funny, but those are not valid excuses. Without this societal or personal control, it is likely that this sort of disturbed or undisciplined mind may lead to further rationalizing harmful actions upon others.
3. This Edwin Lopez is a person I have heard of but never met, so perhaps that made it easier to call me – I was a faceless, bodyless, personless woman in a sea of so many others. Not a friend. In fact, in some warped way, maybe even an enemy. But let’s think about what this means for a minute. If I am nobody, just some girl you can call up and talk to like a 1-800-phone-whore, how is this person going to interact with women he doesn’t know, women in bars or at parties or in public places that you bump into? I would imagine the same sort of disregard for the woman’s well-being and personhood would apply, and that’s a dangerous quality.
(Granted, because I know this is going to arise: some women seem like they like abusive sort of behavior, but my point is that assuming they want you to harass them is a big no-no. Some women like certain things from their husbands or boyfriends; that doesn’t mean they want you in their face.)
And on the other hand, if I am perceived as an enemy, how easy will it be for this person to conceptualize other women in his life as “enemies” and therefore proceed to validate harassing them (old girlfriends, current girlfriends, co-workers)? Again, either the woman doesn’t matter or she deserves it – in this person’s mind – and neither are acceptable. There is a definite disconnect between this person’s understanding of women and how to relate to them as people.
4. This leads into the big issue: If you have no problem calling up a girl you have only heard of through friends and leaving an explicit sexually threatening message, what other sorts of behavior can you rationalize? If you don’t know her, or if you determine she deserves it, or if you have no self-control, you might rationalize that it’s okay to drug her, threaten her, stalk her, call her a slut, beat her, rape her, even kill her.
Obviously, the social boundaries that prevent this sort of harm are missing in this person’s mind. I would warn anyone who knows him personally to be wary. If you were involved in this incident and thought it was no big deal, think again. And if you are someone who happens to be reading this and know yourself to have initiated or taken part in equal or worse harassment, I urge you to stop and think a moment about what this means to anyone on the other side, and less gently, the legal consequences that could be brought against you by a woman willing to report you to the authorities.
Finally, and most importantly, I caution all women to take notice of the men in their lives and whether it comes easily to them to cross certain boundaries. Read the warning signs. Protect yourself, and realize that although situations of this nature, where you feel offended, uncomfortable or otherwise upset because of some unwanted sexual advance or harassment, are all too common, they’re not okay and you have the right to speak up for yourself, and to demand respect. If you’re not comfortable addressing the perpetrator directly, talk to your friends and family, or seek outside help, like a Women’s Center or a Harassment Hotline. Most cities have safe places you can go.
Sometimes acknowledging the harm is the hardest part. It can be difficult to say that you were affected in a serious way, for fear of ostracization or retaliation, and sometimes it’s easy for us to put ourselves aside and say that our feelings aren’t as important, or we’re wrong or overreacting, that men will be men and this sort of thing happens all the time. In fact, it does happen all the time, though that doesn’t render it okay. This is why, if you respect yourself, you will demand that others do the same. Do not let unacceptable or harmful behavior be dismissed as a joke or as drunkenness or as your fault.
If something like this happens to you, it is NOT your fault.
Most of the time, the problem stems from the man’s insecurities about himself or his lack of self-control. Think about it: a secure, happy, well-adjusted man will see no need to stoop to such low levels to make himself feel virile and powerful. Males in most species are generally thought of as more aggressive, and power-seeking is not always detrimental, but when a man only feels powerful when he demeans and demoralizes women, there is something obviously truly weak about him, especially by today’s standards.
And women, remember: some men may seem like they think they’re the gods of the earth, but the reason they can be such douchey show-offs sometimes is because they know women are the ones who choose whether they want them or not. So don’t take any crap! It’s a little-told secret that women are the ones with the sexually selective societal power. Women are the ones who choose their mates, so only a man who isn’t desirable has to resort to physical or emotional abuse. Sure, a man can force sex upon a woman, but he’s not going to be any better off in the long run, not in today’s world. I would love to go more into evolutionary psychology on this one, but maybe that’s a discussion for another day.
Bottom line: offensive, inappropriate, menacing or threatening behavior in a sexual or intimidating way is absolutely 100% intolerable.
For further inspiration and a voice behind my own, watch Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, speak at TED about some of the good work she is doing for women all over the world:
I may be small, and I do have a clitoris, but Edwin Lopez and cohorts: if you ever call me like this again or bother anyone I know and I hear about it, you will be out of commission before you can even summon your useless flesh awake to enter the sloppy, asinine coma you call your life.
I’m fucking done? No, I think you’re fucking done.
***Update: For clarification, Douche is not being named because after I published this post, he called me begging me not to post his name on the Internet associated with this story. It involved a lot of “We didn’t mean it” and “It was just a joke” and “You’re overreacting” and “I didn’t even do anything” comments. He didn’t like his name published like this because, you know, employers could see, family could see, his mom could see, etc. Yeah, that’s the point. Your actions have consequences. Well, after letting him grovel for a while, I decided to acquiesce to his request as long as he promised to never do something like this again, to never bother me or any of those other girls again, and if he sees something like this happening, to step in and do something about it. I think I’ve made my point and if enough of us keep holding men like this accountable, they will see they can’t get away with behavior like this.