Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Now I Ain't No Hollaback Girl

Or wait. Am I?

Warning: Today's post will be serious.

You've been warned. I found this website yesterday. And it made me kick myself for not thinking of a more altruistic purpose for my blog. But I suppose I can right wrongs by linking to it here. It goes with the whole theme of my week.

Although the theme of my week was supposed to be "spring break" (I can't even say it inside my head without adding "Woo-Hoo!"), I didn't feel very "spring break-y." Perhaps it had to do with my choice of reading material (not just my students' papers - I should be used to that level of depression by now.) I read a book that I actually bought quite some time ago, but let it sit on my road-to-hell-paving bookshelf until this week. "It's spring break," I thought to myself. "I don't have to read journal articles, or textbooks, or self-congratulatory e-mail missives from my professors. I can read whatever I want." So guess what I read? Transforming a Rape Culture. Boy, talk about rockin' good times! Teacher Lady, she knows how to get her party on!

Folks, talk about depressing (I can hear the "duhs" from all over cyberspace) - it is a collection of essays and articles about violence against women in all sorts of environments. I read an article about Tailhook. Another article about rape and fraternities. About how young boys are socialized into our rape culture. About the "commodification of women." (And just in case you don't find this book depressing enough - read Ordeal by Linda Lovelace - yes, that Linda Lovelace, aka "Deepthroat." - not the Watergate informant, just an FYI.) And while I'm glad I read the book, it was just exhausting. It was exhausting to think about all the ways in which women are not still fully "at the table." And, to quote one of my students, "Not that I'm a big feminist or anything, but I still think violence against women is wrong." (Sorry - another aside/rant - why, in this day and age, do even 18 year old girls/women feel compelled to preface a statement about women and rape (or women and violence or women and abuse or women and pornography, the list is endless) with, "Not that I'm a big feminist or anything." What does that mean? Why is that such a horrible label? Why can't we say, "Women in this country and in this world are raped and abused and used and victimized and bought and sold and paid for, and you know what? It SUCKS." Period. End of story. No excuses, no, "Not that there's anything wrong with that, but personally I don't like it." Phew. Sorry. But I digress.

Back to the hollaback site. I don't live in NYC. But apparently, it's not easy for a woman to traverse the five Burroughs on a regular basis without encountering some idiot doing or saying something lewd, crude, rude or all of the above. The Hollaback site suggests that women "hollaback" by taking pictures of these idiots with their camera phones and posting said idiots on the site, along with story of idiot's offensive behavior. I love this idea. But at the same time, I have to wonder, WHAT is wrong with these men? Don't get me wrong - I'm sure women hoot, holler, gesture lewdly and proposition men as they go about their business. But my hunch is that by and large, it's men who do this to women. In 2006. In America. The greatest country in the world. Supposedly.

While I was reading the site, I found myself thinking, "This doesn't really happen to me," and then I remembered: I was wrong. It had happened to me. On more than one occasion (but a few stand out more than others), in fact. For example:

I was 19 years old, home for the summer after my first year of college and I was driving across the state, by myself (for the first time) to take a job at an amusement park (that job is worthy of 27 posts in and of itself, but that's for another time). I vividly remember being at a confusing juncture in a major city - one of those setups where 3 freeways merge into one for one or two treacherous miles - everyone is flying by, merging and weaving like crazy, and if you don't pay attention to the very poorly organized highway signs, one minute, you're on your way to the Land of Fun and the next minute, off you go to Secaucus - if you manage to not get yourself killed in the process. I was trying desperately to figure out which lane was mine and heard someone beeping - not in a leaning on the horn kind of angry beeping, but a frantic, almost helpful, beep-be-beep-beep-BEEP! kind of way. Sort of a "look out!" warning, if you will. I looked to the left, thinking I was getting ready to hit someone and wanted to see who I was going to hit before I met my maker, and there was a man driving alongside me (the frantic beeper) looking at me, giving me the universal sign (tongue included, thank you very much for the nausea!) for oral sex. I almost crashed my car. The reason for the frantic beeping? Clearly, he wanted me to see his little show before HE had to merge off the freeway onto another one. So I saw 5 seconds of his lewd little sign language and then he accelerated and sped off into his unfortunate little suburb. And I was: sickened. shocked. scared (I almost crashed my car, for chrissakes!). perturbed. upset. annoyed. freaked out. mystified. And did I mention sickened? What was the urgency? (Besides the fact that he was exiting the highway?) What would have happened if his whole little display went unnoticed? Would that have ruined his day? Because I sure would have hated for THAT to have happened. How awful for him. What a bummer.

Why do men do this? I know I don't have a lot of male readers, (maybe none, after this) and I certainly don't want to put Colorado on the spot, but can someone please, please, please explain this phenomenon to me? Because I have a feeling that even though I don't live in NYC, I'm not the only non-NYC-dwelling woman this has happened to. Or happens to. And you know what? It's freaking exhausting. It's exhausting to think about, to try to understand, to wonder about, and to experience. I want an answer so I can be done with this particular issue. That's not too much to ask, is it? Thanks. I didn't think so.


Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

I don't have the answer, really, I don't.

But! You've touched on one of my pet issues. I fail to understand the stigma attached to being a feminist. I think a lot of women today have a negative association with the word *thanks Rush Limbaugh* and also an incomplete definition of the word. And I think we can take feminism for granted. Like a lot of other things, but anyway. For us, feminism isn't so much about fighting for one or two rights, it's mostly about personal choices- children or no, marriage or no, career, working mom, stay-at-home mom etc. And therefore, we're less likely to organize ourselves under a banner.

Anyway, that makes me sad. We still need to stand together for women's rights, but maybe most women feel it isn't as bad as it used to be, so okay, fight over. It's been internalized, all this not-as-readily-apparent discrimination of women. We need more feminists!!

-Lauren, card carrying feminist since 2000.

April 03, 2006 7:20 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

{wolf whistle} Hey baby!! what's shaking, Woo Hoo, Look at the Ass on her, Oh my God what a nice pair of Tits!! ETC. Okay, now that I'm sure I have your attention I'll try to explain my veiw on this subject(since I got such a blatant shout out to comment which I would have done anyway LOL). While I think there are many reasons for this behavior, the main one is obviously immaturity. An immature males inability to restrain himself from outwardly expressing his inner desires. We are all sexual beings, and men in particular think about it all the time. Any man will readily admit to that. Must of us though, refrain from making it our mission to constantly remind the women around us of that fact. So now you have a mixture of immaturity and lack of self restraint. Underlying all of this is the social-sexual power struggle. Historically men in society have held the power. In ancient times they had power over women as well as everything else. In modern society this has changed. Women are no longer objects(never were in my opinion, but i'm stating fact not my feelings).In today's society Men still have most of the power but Women have been given sexual power. More-so now then ever before. In ancient times a man could "take" a woman and not much was done about it(as far as I know). But that is not the case now. Women in modern society have the power to say "NO". Now it's a power struggle. When some men percieve the sexual power of a woman, and they feel threatened, they lash out and attempt to demean her in an effort to diminish her position of power. And apparently, from your reaction, it works. the Immature male feels all big and bold and sexually superior and you are left feeling lessened because of his behavior. I'm sorry that was long winded, hope it made sense :)

April 03, 2006 9:43 AM  
Blogger liberalbanana said...

You know, I was looking up some blog stuff and I found mine listed on some site and one of the descriptors was "feminism" -- and I was like, "Right on!"

This is also one of my pet peeves. I wrote about it a while ago in my "5 People Who Annoy the $&!# Out of Me" post. I will copy my exact words below for you so you don't have to link to it...(P.S. - this happened to me just last night as I was walking Barky.)

5.) Men who think they can get a woman's attention by whistling/yelling/honking/complementing her booty - whatever.

Maybe these guys aren't looking for the highest quality of woman -- maybe there are some women out there who respond to this?? Maybe they're not looking for any response, they're just showing their, um, appreciation for her?? But on behalf of all of us ladies out there, let me just say: WE DON'T LIKE IT. It's creepy. It's degrading. It's annoying. It's embarrassing. The only thing going through our minds is that you're a total asshole who should be neutered. If you think a gal is hot, here's how to show her you think so: smile at her. Be respectful. And if you're so inclined, ask her out. Don't yell, "WOOOOOO!" out your window at her while she's waiting to cross the street. It's just not cool.

April 03, 2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Lauren - I think I agree with you - esp. regarding Rush Limbaugh. Apparently, us "feminazis" don't shave our legs, we don't wear bras or makeup, we hate men and any children we have we eat for lunch with a nice Chianti. No wonder my young female students don't want to be called feminists!

Dale - I have to disagree with you on one point - I'll give you the immaturity - but the self control? And here is why I question that: My guess is, if the moron who made the disgusting gesture at me while driving truly couldn't control himself, he'd have a hell of a time keeping a job, because somewhere down the line, he's going to have a "hot" female co-worker, boss, or subordinate. My guess is he can control himself then. And, if, say, he got pulled over by a female police officer, was in a jury presided over by a female judge, or his brother's wife was "hot" (quotation marks, because I'm not convinced that only "hot" women are the recipients of this ridiculousness), again, I think he could keep his urge to give the international sign for oral sex to himself. And come on - he's driving, and his inner monologue is, "Must. Not. Perform. Lewd. Gesture. while. going. 80 MPH on multi-lane highway. Rats! Too late!" So I think it's about immaturity, and power, and probably 20 other things I haven't been able to determine, but I'm going to beg to differ on the self-control. Then again, I'm only a dainty, helpless girl, so what do I know? ;-)

April 03, 2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

You make a good point, and you are right. And I misrepersented that point. I don't neccessarily mean an overall lack of self control. I guess a more appropriate description would be a momentary lapse of reason. As far as Jobs are concerned I would say that the majority of Males who work with women walk a fine line on the edge of harrassment. And a lot venture over the legal line but are tolerated by the women they work with for one reason or another. As far as feminism is concerned, you are all welcome to be equal to me and for that matter to surpass me as you see fit. And to return to your poat on favorite positions, I like it when She's on top ;)

April 03, 2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

I have been close to two women who were stalked. They were not especially physically beautiful. They were not flirtatious. The only quality they shared? Kindness. And two twisted men used kindness as an opportunity to victimize them. That's not immaturity, or lack of self-control, or some throwback to a neolothic stage in evolution. It's plain, old-fashioned, "I-like-to-hurt-you" evil.

And every feminist who fights this kind of evil should be honored, supported, admired and imitated. Even when they know too little to call themselves feminists.

Sometimes in 19th century abolitionist literature, I notice abolitionists who wanted the freed slaves to be grateful. It's creepy. And I wonder: as feminists, maybe it would be better to embrace the fact that so many women assume their rights as their own without connecting it to a political movement like feminism. In a way, doesn't that prove how much we have achieved? Somewhere in those rights we defend is the right not to respect us, irritating as it is.

April 03, 2006 10:44 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Veronica, do I come across as expecting women to be grateful to the feminist movement? Because that's certainly not my gripe - my gripe is women (and men) who say the word like it's an insult. I once had a man ask me (after I told him that I hyphenated my last name when married to my first husband), "What are you, some kind of feminist?" in the same kind of dripping-with-disgust tone he would have asked, "What are you, some kind of satan worshipper, cannibal, Unabomber, pagan witch, fill in the blank," - I would just like it very much if women didn't have to preface any statement they viewed as remotely assertive with, "Not that I'm some kind of feminist," like it was a dirty word. Just say, "I don't like it." Period. Almost like when ignorant people say something ignorant about another race and then look around and declare, "Not that I'm racist or anything." The words "Feminist" and "racist" should not be used in the same way, and right now, I feel that they are. Am I making any sense?

April 04, 2006 9:48 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

Whoa there, I won't make any excuse for stalkers!! that's a metally ill condition if there ever was one!! I was only refering to simply being juvenile in the company of women. What was it that Ferris Beuller said, " I could be a faschist, anarchist but I'd still have to bum rides from my friends." I know that doesn't make sense but all the "ists" flying around reminded me of the quote :)

April 04, 2006 12:03 PM  
Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

Passions, passions. My words run away with me. No, teacher lady, you don't sound like you want women to be grateful. Poor analogy. I live in two different worlds myself -- one where I am expected to be a feminist to be taken seriously, and one where I am suspected of being a feminist and generally despised for it, so I do know what you're talking about. The danger of "isms," I suppose: using labels to sum up and dismiss a person rather than seriously interacting with his/her ideas. Your students don't have to take commitment to justice for women seriously, or commit to it themselves, if they can dismiss it with an "ism." And denying that they are feminists gives the women girly street cred with the guys -- "yes, I am demanding that men treat me with respect, but I will still be your craven follower in a relationship so like me, like me, please." The same reasons Mary Daly tried to keep her classes women only.

And Colorado, I don't think you are defending stalkers. But the point of a "rape culture" is recognizing that the violent behavior and the merely demeaning behavior are not two entirely separate problems. They are problems that express a common contempt for women.

And maybe I should keep my posts a little lighter. The usual problem: the printed word has no tone, and the reader cannot convey any facial expression, so sentences tend to race downhill to their conclusion without any brakes, and I merely sound like a pompous ass. Forgive any pomposity, please.

April 04, 2006 9:12 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

You ARE providing a good blog service just by writing about what you do. I love your posts.

You reminded me of an experience I had in high school. I was running for class president against two of the biggest (male) jocks in school. In the heat of campaigning, one of them said to me, "You should run for something a girl would do. Like secretary." Not only did I win, but I won 3 years in a row. Take THAT, Chad McPrematurebalding.

Sadly, far too many women share Chad's attitude as well. (See: Ann Coulter stating that women should never have been given the right to vote. Um. Hello? Extreme example, I admit, but you get my drift.)

Say, have your students read The Handmaid's Tale? That could open the door to some interesting discussion.

April 04, 2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

Veronica, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the printed word. conveying the proper emotion in writing is always a difficult prospect. I am guilty of a narrow point of veiw about "rape culture" I'm not the type to demean women. If I ever utter a reference about a woman sexually it is out of respect and awe not out of spite, I guess I cannot really relate to the thought processes that make men disrespect the opposite sex. While I am quick to disrespect individuals based on their actions I have never been race or gender biased.

April 05, 2006 11:18 AM  

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