*takes my broke ass home*
Yesterday, I was at the bar sharing a drink with a friend. I’m a flirt, no doubt about it. So I’m flirting with a woman. Harmless, right? All in fun.
It doesn’t take long before something changes. Suddenly the flirty comments are more pointed. And this woman leans close and says, “I’m going to kiss you. What are you going to do?”
Right now, my male friends are probably high fiving me in their minds. She was very attractive, and she’s, as the boys say, “into it.” But, see…I didn’t want more than flirting. I didn’t really want to kiss her. So I told her so.
She got a little angry. “What? Can’t we kiss? It doesn’t have to mean anything!” I told her that for me it does.
She told me again she was going to kiss me, she wants to go home with me, and I asked her, politely, to please not. “What are you going to do?” She asked. I told her I’d gently push her away.
She says, “Why are you being such a woman about this?”
I realized that the only way this was going to stop was if I left. I stayed a little longer, hoping I was wrong. I wasn’t. So I left. And I felt awful. Angry. Sad. A little dirty. A little guilty. Maybe I shouldn’t have flirted. Maybe I led her on. Did I?
I want to be able to say this is fiction, concocted to make a point. It’s not—it really happened. Later, I realized: this is the story of nearly every woman at a bar, ever. This is how women are treated all the time. I am lucky enough not to have to have been afraid this woman would follow me out of the bar and take what she wanted, whether I wanted to give it or not.
It seemed ridiculous to this woman that I—a man—would not jump at the chance to have meaningless sex. That to not want to meant I was acting like a woman. What kind of world do we live in when not wanting to have sex is equated with being a woman?
A week ago, an angry young man who believed he was entitled to sex shot up women because, in his view, they deserved it for not having sex with him—being too stuck up, or snobbish, or whatever, to give him what he believed he had a right to. We spend the week talking about mental illness, but, for the most part, ignoring the misogyny and rape culture inherent in his actions and words.
Today, an amazing poet and person, Maya Angelou, passed away. A woman who celebrated life and language, and who wrote beautiful songs including some embracing and lifting up her womanhood as a thing to be proud of, a thing to cherish, a thing that stands defined apart from men, a thing that is enough in itself. Curiously, my Facebook feed is nearly devoid of mention of her, her work, or her passing.
It’s 2014. 166 years after Seneca Falls. 96 years after women were enfranchised with the vote in the US. 50 years since the sexual liberation of the 1960s. 38 years since Roe v Wade ostensibly said women should have control over their reproductive choices. And yet, today, even today, women are invisible except as objects of male gaze.
Don’t mistake me. I’m sad, yes. Disappointed, sure. But, more than that? I’m angry. Angry that not one man stood up to the lunatic in California and told him that maybe, just maybe, it’s ok that women don’t want to sleep with him. I’m angry that women experience the kind of shaming I felt last night ALL THE TIME, and no men stand up and stop it. I’m angry that this is the world I have to raise my son in—that I have to be one example amongst hundreds—thousands—of how you treat a woman: like a person. Like an equal. Like someone with hopes, dreams, desires, wants—all of which are just as valid as his.
I know there are other men out there who think of women as people and not as objects. I know there are men who stand up to their “brothers” and call them on their bullshit. I’m grateful for them. I just wish there were more of us.
My philosophy is: It’s none of my business what people say of me, and think of me. I am what I am, and I do what I do. I expect nothing, and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.