I’m Just a Girl

Screen shot 2014-07-02 at 5.57.14 PMRegarding my absence from posting for a year and a half… If there was a non-profit that could cure “inconsistency,” I would give them all my money.  Being inconsistent (in paying bills on time, exercising and eating right, visiting doctors/dentists) is the self-inflicted plague I have to deal with on a daily basis (or not “daily” because I could never do anything except breathe on an actual regular basis).

When I was in high school, I was enrolled part-time in some college courses (I was just super smart, NBD).  I took a few poetry classes, some French, some IT class where they basically taught us how to use search engines and Powerpoint (it was 2000).  I also took a sociology course on gender, race, and class.  Now, it’s been a cool 14 years since I took this one class so my memory is a little foggy, but I distinctly remember being asked to write a paper on how I would identify as a minority.  It wasn’t easy, especially since even at the time I was pretty aware of my privilege, but I managed to crank out 3 double-spaced pages about how alienating it could be as a middle-class white girl.  I lamented having to shop for summer camp clothes at Walmart (but DID I acknowledge that my parents paid for me to go to summer camp?).  I talked about my parents’ addiction and how choosing to be a teetotaler in high school was tantamount to being a pariah.  But the one thing I DON’T remember is which experience I singled out about my identity as a woman.  Is this because as an 18-year old I hadn’t yet experienced the systemic sexism that runs rampant in our culture (nope), or because it’s SO engrained in my life that whatever I wrote in my paper is simply unmemorable.

A few weeks ago, some asshole shot up a sorority house and the surrounding neighborhood in Isla Vista, CA.  In response, the hashtag #YesAllWomen popped up on social media for women to identify all the MANY, MANY uncomfortable events or ways they have had to modify their appearances and behavior to feel appropriate, acceptable, and – in many cases – safe in this male-centric world.  I didn’t hop on board at first, maybe because I worried about how small of a gesture this is, maybe because I didn’t know where to begin.

Do I begin with the fact that I no longer pump gas at night when I’m alone because of the time a strange man tried to get into my car at the gas station?

Or that I used to end up on “accidental dates” by accepting invitations to hang out with male friends, only to have them assume I was romantically interested in them?  (One of these accidental dates happened after a security guard at the store I worked at asked me to “hang out” while watching me on closed circuit TV.  When I dropped the pen I was holding, he called me on the store phone to tell me to pick it up.)

Or that I had a male high school teacher call me a bitch in front of the whole class after asking him to explain something I didn’t understand?

Or that I attended a networking event where a male entrepreneur explained (to a room of mostly men) that his unique selling proposition was that he could “handle your woman” while helping select a paint color?

Or that I haven’t worn shorts in over a decade because my high school crush said I had big legs?

Or that when I was an 11-year old kid at summer camp, an older male camper got mad at me for not returning his affection and threatened me with bodily harm?

I had almost forgotten that last one, but it came back to me right away since it gets right to the heart of the Isla Vista shooting.  The shooter (whose name I’m not typing because I’m hoping to forget it – he doesn’t deserve a place in my longterm memory) expected sex from women and used his frustration as an excuse to go on a spree killing.  When I was 11, I hung out with the older kids and counselors.  As an only child, I was always closer to the adults than the kids, but that doesn’t change the fact that I. was. 11.  An older Counselor In Training developed a crush on me (nothing statutory – he was probably only 15).  He was kinda weird, had stringy blonde hair and only wore Kurt Cobain teeshirts (the summer of 1994 was tough on him).  I wasn’t really looking for a serious relationship because I was really focused on my 6th grade career.  I remember him calling me (on my parents’ house phone because cell phones didn’t exist yet) and serenading me with “Come As You Are” on his acoustic guitar.  (Had he only known that a decade later, an acoustic guitar serenade would be all it took!)  Jokes aside, when I finally let him down, he got violently angry and threatened to hurt me.  I was a smart kid, so I told an adult and a couple of my favorite counselors took him down to the pond and threatened to kick the shit out of him if he touched me.  I’m not really sure that was the YMCA-approved protocol for dealing with a difficult camper, but it WAS effective.

I’m not really old enough to use the phrase “back in my day,” but back in my day we didn’t live in constant fear of mass, public shootings.  It wasn’t common for suburban schools to have metal detectors or armed guards.  If that was the 1994 I grew up in, would I have have felt safe from the mopey, rejected teenager?  And worse, if I have a daughter someday, is she STILL going to have to put up with this misogynistic bullshit?  Why did I, as a pre-teen, owe this boy reciprocal romantic interest?

And now this week the Supreme Court has given corporations the legal precedent to refuse to cover certain contraception if they object on religious grounds.  Many more intelligent and eloquent people than I have tackled this topic, but it is just so obvious to me that this is one more way to deny basic personhood to women.  The fact that there are women who think this is a victory because it happens to narrowly intersect with their own religious beliefs just makes me sad.  I believe in freedom of religion, but it doesn’t seem like that has anything to do with this.  As it’s been pointed out, the biggest name in the suit, Hobby Lobby, invests company 401k money in funds that profit from the same contraception that they refuse to cover on the employee benefits end.  If it were really about religion, they would be pickier about where their company’s money way made, not just how it was spent (it makes me almost want to applaud the mouth-breathers who refused to sell wedding cakes to gay couples.  At least they’re not hypocrites).  What this suit was about – plain and simple –  is a misogynist-dominated company throwing their female, low-wage employees under the bus to save a few pennies on each one.

Again, I’m too angry and too tired to wrap my mind around what I can do to actually change things, so I will give $5 each to Womens Way and Planned Parenthood because non-profits have to pick up the slack where the government and corporations fail to protect the basic rights of their women.

 

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