Monday, August 27, 2012

Spaceships, Pinups, and Feminist Rants

This was supposed to be a happy post. A post filled with "Heck yeah, I'm starting a week of unusual pinup-influenced outfits!" and "YOU LOVE MY WACKY PRINTS. ADMIT IT. YOU KNOW YOU DO!"s. But thanks to a comment I got won't be. This will be a pretty text-heavy post. But I think it'll be a pretty important post, too. So bear with me.

First a bit of backstory: On Saturday, I went out thrifting. Got a lot of really cool stuff, and was sitting on the bus with two bags, listening to the Good Omens audiobook on my Zune and generally enjoying life. The bus stopped, and an older man in his late 60s/early 70s got on. I didn't pay much attention, until he walked by me and I felt something brush my shoulder-and then my breast. This man apparently thought it was just fine and dandy for him to randomly grab my breast. Shocked, I loudly said "EXCUSE ME!" and he let go and continued down the aisle as if nothing happened. Heart racing, completely surprised, I announced to the bus at large, "That man just grabbed my breast!" The bus driver heard, two other passengers had seen, and to make a long story short the police were called, the man was arrested, and I left a statement with the police. I was not so much traumatized as angry-angry that that man thought he could touch me and get away with it, angry that he thought my body was his to do with as he liked, angry that he was surprised when I called him out and the police came for him, because he thought because he was old I would let him molest me.

Fast forward to today, and I was telling a friend about what happened during a break in my class. A male classmate overheard, and I explained the whole story to him. As we were walking back to class, he said "Maybe he saw the way you dress (pointing to my dress) and thought it was ok." Shocked and aghast, I glared at him. He hastily added "It was just a joke" but I told him "Not funny, dude" and walked away. I was hurt, and felt like I had been victimized all over again by his "joke" and attitude. I don't mention it much on this blog, because this is a fashion blog, not a political one, but...I am very, very fiercely feminist. And part of being a modern feminist is believing (as everyone should) that rape, assault, and similar crimes are all laid entirely at the feet of the person who commits them. That the victim is never responsible, because they are not. That "she was asking for it" is one of the most false and utterly repugnant phrases in the English language. To say that I take that view seriously would be a massive understatement. There are few things in this world that make me angrier when someone tries to argue that a rape is not a rape because a girl was drinking. Because she wore a short skirt. Because she walked alone at night. Because she trusted the wrong person. Because SHE did something-not because her attacker did something. Any excusal of rape or assault for any reason is utterly abhorrent to me. And yet here was a classmate, claiming I had invited assault by virtue of the way I dress.

For the record, I was wearing an ankle-length skirt and a high-necked t-shirt when this man decided that he wanted to cop a feel. But it shouldn't matter. I could have been wearing a burqa. I could have been wearing pasties and a thong. I could have been as naked as the day I was born. AND THAT MAN STILL SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO TOUCH ME IN THAT MANNER. The idea that women who wear "scanty" clothing "force" men to grope, assault, catcall, or otherwise harass them is not just insulting to women but to men. It implies that men are nothing more than their penises, that they are incapable of exercising even basic human courtesy and self-control in the face of a visible thigh or a cleavage-bearing shirt. That is simply untrue, and it's deeply offensive to all the good, fine, and upright men in the world that some assholes act like to be male is to lack impulse control. A woman's body is her own, and unless SHE, WITH HER WORDS, asks a man to touch it, to comment on it, to share pleasure with her in it, he has no right to it. It doesn't matter if she drinks, it doesn't matter what she is wearing. My clothing does not speak for me; my mouth does. If I want to wear a bellydance outfit out in public, or a miniskirt, I should be able to do so without fear of being assaulted. The fact that I (and millions of other women) feel like we can't is a pretty disgusting statement on our society. These kinds of attitudes are the reason SlutWalk and Take Back The Night were created. This bears repeating: The onus is not on sexual assault victims to avoid being assaulted. It is on the perpetrators not to commit assault.

To buy into the mentality that women who are raped or assaulted are somehow "asking for it" is not just unkind and cruel, it is idiotic. I did everything "right" in this case. I did my shopping in daylight. I was riding a relatively crowded public bus. I was not wearing revealing clothing. And I was still assaulted, because some man thought that the mere fact that I was being female in public gave him the right to touch me how he pleased. HE made the choice to touch me inappropriately. And now, God and the justice system willing, HE will pay the price for it. I spoke up, and the perpetrator was caught (and because he was caught on tape, will most likely be convicted); but the attitudes of people like my classmate, who think it is appropriate to joke that dressing a certain way means a woman invites assault, pervade our society to such a degree that many women in similar situations have not spoken up, for fear of just that kind of blame. If we want to stop these kinds of attitudes, we need to speak out against them-full stop. As members of a subculture, we are already frequently judged for what we wear and how we present ourselves in public, and being a woman makes it just that much harder. However, I refuse to let attitudes like my classmate's shape how I think, act, or dress. I wear my clothing to make ME happy, not to please him or anyone else. For the record, this was the outfit I had on today, that made him think it was ok to "joke" that I'd invited my assault by my manner of dress:
Alien Dress-made by me
I guess maybe it was the provocative alien print? The sexy elbow-length sleeves? Either way, his comment was not appropriate, and neither is the culture that created it. And in defiance of that culture, I will continue to wear what I like, and anyone who doesn't like it or thinks I'm not sufficiently modest or that I'm "asking for it" can take a long leap off a short pier. I will fight for every woman's right to feel safe no matter how she is dressed as long as there is breath in my body, and I will not let misogynistic, antiquated thinking stop me from doing it. More pin-up goodness tomorrow-and if this classmate says anything more, he can kiss my wiggle-skirt-clad ass! 


  1. Great post, I totally agree with you, and I'm so sorry that happened to you.
    I had some guy thrown of a bus about six months back because he started stroking my hair, when I asked him to stop he tried to pull a lump out 0.o
    It really traumatised me that he seemed to think my hair was somehow public property, I can't even begin to imagine how I'd feel if a random person grabbed my boobs :(

  2. Two days ago, after being harassed, I wrote an entry that sound exactly like this one of yours. I agree with every single word you said.
    With us alternatives they think it's easier because people like your friend (who maybe was joking, or maybe just saw the danger in your eyes...) let them think that it's ok to touch us, because people don't consider us "good girls" and nobody's going to stand up for us.
    But we are. And you absolutely do the right thing, screaming and reporting him to the police. If only two night ago I'd thought somebody would have listened to the girl in the corset and fishnet gloves, I would've done the same thing. God that's sad.

  3. wow !
    I can not speak as good as you in english, but I'm totally proud of you, that you just shame him and called the police !

    I red a story of a nine years old little girl who was raped in Brazil by her step father, gone pregnant of twins, went with her mother to abort and church just blamed the girl for the abortion, in Afghanistan women who are raped must to commit suicide because they are the shame of the family !

    what can we say ? about all those women punished ONLY because some men can't stand on their pulsions, can't be master of their envy...

    I'm verry sorry for you ! and you are absolutely right, you - we can dress how we wanted, it's never a reason to be molested ! I really often hear, yeah, but how was she dressed ? was she drunk ? etc... it's a shame ! a shame !

    a kiss to you ! and thanks for your words !
    PS : I hope, one day you friend at school will be a girl for two days and see what we hear every day wearing a skirt or a pant or wathever, so he can understand the somtimes bestiality of men !

  4. I agree with you to the point! You did the right thing and writing about it is just the right thing to do. Best rape prevention is to instruct people not to rape anyone. I've participated on the Slut Walk (and facepalmed to the discussion about it on the Finnish media) and consider myself a feminist. I support equality (I'm particularly interested in male stereotypes and rights) but the current dominant discussion about rape and assault is disgusting, because it always turns to what the victim should or should not have done.

    Your bravery is an inspiration! In the Finnish culture, people tend to keep to themselves and I've had problems for example with an old man groping me in a full tram, and no one bothered to help me when I screamed at him to stop. This naturally has taught me to be more cautious, but it really should be the other way around. No one has the right to sexually harass others, no matter who wears what.

    Sorry that you had to go through it, but I'm so glad you set an excellent example on how to handle situations like that :)

  5. 1. I am so very proud of you and you make me absolutely proud to be associated with you via the blogosphere, as a woman, and as a feminist. GOOD FOR YOU! I am thrilled that you spoke out then and there, and that you are speaking out here and now. So many women stay quiet until their friends and family members push them to say something, and then it's too late.

    2. I'm so sorry that you had to experience this! But you handled yourself in the correct way -- reporting it, giving a police statement, etc. You are protecting hundreds of other women in their daily bus rides and you've made an assertive statement to that old man that he won't get away with sexual assault in the modern age.

    3. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR CLASSMATE!?! Sigh ... this is no joking manner. And when someone says, "Oh this was only a joke" I have to wonder if he means what he says and is just trying to sooth the faux pas. It doesn't matter what the hell you were wearing, exactly! A woman's body is not a fetish object for some random man to fondle. And I really wish this effing society would STOP fetishizing women so they can sell this or that product. It promotes this idea that a woman is a sum of her parts and the parts are there for the male gaze/pleasure. But I can go one with that so I'll stop. What classes do you two share? Maybe you can take a professor aside and ask her or him to make this a learning opportunity. Most professors will happily add feminism to their agenda (especially women) and will somehow incorporate it into their lessons.

    4. Cute dress! :)

    1. 5. (I forgot this point) Thanks for pointing out that your classmate's comment and the old man's behavior also stereotypes all men. Ed is a proud carrier of a NOW card, just like me. To pigeonhole all men as lusty, spear-grabbing, football watching, good ol' boys is discriminatory, sexist and completely atrocious! Guys are not all the same and to lay that one behavioral label on them is akin to labeling all women in wiggles dresses as "asking for it." Ed thanks you for pointing this out and so do I.

  6. Glad I'm not the only one who thinks that view is pure misandry :p
    I mean, come on, from the way some people put it, it's like men (in general) have less willpower and self-restraint than an incontinent puppy...

    Just about all men I know are perfectly capable of not groping me unexpectedly. The only one who does is my boyfriend, and even he stops when I ask him to.

  7. I'm so sorry that you had to go through such a thing. I think you handled it perfect. I was thinking of how this could be handled were I live and I'm sorry to say that no police would show up for something like this :( I would have to take it in my own hands. A few years ago I lived by myself in an apartment and I heard the woman on the other side of the wall got beaten by her boyfriend. When I called the police the noice had stopped and they weren't interested to come and look for her. That was so fucking sad! I was to afraid to do something myself and Johan (who were at his place) forbid me. This is how society goes when they limit the budget for the police force.

  8. Great post, and I entirely agree. I’m sorry you had to endure groping from a lecherous old man. :( But kudos for calling him out immediately. The fact that you announced “That man just grabbed my breast!” in public is AWESOME. I doubt many women would be brave enough to do that (because, after all, at least some of the blame is likely to fall on the woman).

    And thanks for making the point about decent men. Societies that insist women must cover themselves to prevent sexual assault are not only degrading to women, they’re insulting to men.

  9. I'm so sorry you went through such an ordeal! I'm also very proud of you for sticking up for yourself and calling the police etc. I also agree with all your other viewpoints!
    Thanks for being such an inspiration to women worldwide!

  10. I remember reading a story once upon a time about Golda Meir. There was a rash of assaults on women, and someone called for a curfew on women. She said something to the effect of "Why a curfew on women? It is the men who are doing the assaulting, let the men stay home."

    Any statement that does not put 100% of the blame for assault upon the assaulter is deranged. Anyone who doesn't understand that worries me.

  11. Reblogged:
    I had to share and didn't want to leave a HUGE comment! :)