On Calling People (Mitt Romney) Out

Before I begin this blog post, I need a moment for prayer.

Please, please, Cylon Jesus, please let this be the last blog post I ever publish about Mitt Romney. Please let this be the last blog post I ever have to write about Mitt Romney, Cylon Jesus. In other words, please make sure Mitt Romney loses the American election and I never ever hear about him again.

Please Cylon Jesus.

It’s my birthday soon, Cylon Jesus. Very soon. You wanna give me a present?

No more Mitt Romney.

That’s all I want, Cylon Jesus.

Well, that and a pony.

(take care of the Romney problem first, Cylon Jesus, okay, though? #IHavePriorities)

***

Okay, back to Mitt Romney.

Stitch, frustrated, Lilo and Stitch

*shudder* Not Him Again

A couple weeks ago, I got in a facebook argument on a friend’s wall. My Awesome Friend had posted an article explaining that Mitt Romney’s 47% speech included a racist dog-whistle (or ninety).

Another facebook dweller (henceforth known as of Acquaintance)  was not convinced that Romney’s remarks had elements of racism. We had a nice productive facebook argument about that, and at some point, Acquaintance concedes that yes, Romney’s remarks were probably racist.

So far so good, right?

BUT THEN, Acquaintance goes (and I’m grossly paraphrasing) “Well, okay, maybe it’s racist, but we don’t need to call out the racism. Critiques of Romney’s remarks based on classism are sufficient.”

Cristina Grey's Anatomy confused

Wait, what?

*headdesk*

To be fair to Acquaintance, he’s not the only person guilty of such argumentative doltishness. I’m sure you’ve heard variations of this theme before.

It’s the “yes, okay, Republicans are attacking gay rights, and that’s terrifically sad, but we can’t talk about that, because it’s divisive! And we don’t want to alienate any of our supporters.argument. Or the argument of: “well, yes, all those anti-welfare advertisements Romney’s campaign is running are highly racist. BUT it only helps Romney if we accuse him of being racist, because then they’ll say we’re playing the race card.”

Or: “Sure, Republicans are talking about taking away a woman’s right to birth control/abortion/her own body. But that’s controversial, so we can’t talk about it.”

So. With a little less than a week left before the election, let’s clear things up.

You know why you should call Romney out for being a racist? Or a sexist? or a homophobe? Or a terribly oppressive douchecanoe?

*clears throat*

Because when Romney’s a racist, or a sexist, or a homophobe, he’s attacking PEOPLE. PEOPLE. REAL PEOPLE.

POC and women and queer peoples are PEOPLE. They’re PEOPLE. And when they’re getting thrown under the motherfucking bus by a bunch of asswipe politicians, you STAND UP.

For crying out loud.

Darcy and Elizabeth Pride and Prejudice dance GIF

“Mr. Romney, you are a terrible oppressive douchecanoe, and I am STANDING UP to you.”

When you say racism isn’t important enough to call out, you’re tacitly saying that POC aren’t important enough to defend.

When you refuse to call out the war on women’s bodily autonomy, you’re basically saying that women aren’t important enough to stand up for.

When you let Karl Rove and his minions play the “Ooooh, scary gay people” game without saying anything back, you’re throwing queer people overboard and letting them swim with the sharks by themselves.

***

I’m white. I have white privilege. I don’t honestly know what it’s like to be a POC and to hear Romney’s racist dog-whistles. And I don’t want to appropriate that conversation. You should read these awesome links instead (they’re a great starting point for understanding the DEGREE to which racist rhetoric has invaded Romney’s speech)

Paul Ryan doesn’t like anchor babies (racialicious)

Rosie Perez goes in on Mitt Romney

The Problem With the Word Illegal

 

I am a woman, however, and I do know what it’s like to hear politicians talking about taking away my birth control; my right to an abortion. I do know what it’s like to hear men – men who control our country’s policy – say things like “legitimate rape” and “forcible rape.” I know what it’s like hearing that a pregnancy resulting from rape is a “gift from God.”

This is my body they’re talking about. My right to control my own body.

Fuck, it’s terrifying.

I can’t imagine it’s any easier to be a POC listening to Romney’s racist rhetoric.

My point, here it is: This isn’t dinner theater. These are people’s LIVES.

Moses running in front of Aliens, Attack the Block GIF

When someone’s getting chased by the monsters of oppression, you don’t just watch like it’s a movie.

Racism, misogyny, homophobia (to name the big three) kill people. Yes, in the United States. Yes, in Canada.  And when they don’t kill you, they still force you to live a life full of micro-aggressions and oppression.

Or they just make you live a life of misery and terror. [ask me about living a life full of misery and terror! I am a woman living in rape culture. I'm a fucking expert!]

When politicians use racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or any kind of oppression in order to gain political points, they’re basically saying that oppressed peoples matter so little that politicians can use their lives as political footballs.

Women’s rights to their bodies are not a political football. The right of POC to be treated with respect and without bigotry is not a political football.

It’s not a game.

And when we don’t call them out, we’re tacitly agreeing. it’s okay if women/POC/queers/minorities are batted around like catnip in front of a kitten! It just doesn’t matter that much.

No, it matters.

And it’s not about Romney. I get that people are like “well, he’s a gross asshole in nearly every way, so we really don’t need to list every horrible thing he does.” I get people who say “well, no matter what we say, he’s never going to stop being an oppressive douchecanoe.”

(which: Fair. I don’t think there’s much that’ll make Romney stop being an oppressive douchecanoe)

Cristina Yang GIF Grey's Anatomy

Except the wrath of the Yang

But it’s not about Romney. It’s about the people he’s attacking in his attempt to win the Presidency.

You don’t call Romney out because you think Romney will magically learn not to be an oppressive douchecanoe. You call him out because you think the rights of oppressed minorities are worth standing up for. You call him out because you don’t believe in leaving people out in the shark-infested water, getting attacked by a bunch of cynical politicians.

You call him out because it matters to me, damn it, as one of those people being attacked, to hear others supporting my rights. To know that I’m not alone. That someone will fight alongside me.

It’s not about Romney.

And it’s not just about douchebags like Romney either. I think most people who read this blog are progressive or liberal (or else you’d already be sending me hate mail), and it’s pretty easy for progressive, liberal people to go “Oh, yeah, Romney, that racist asshat, I can call him out!”

It’s a lot harder when it’s your heroes. It’s a lot harder when it’s your allies.

I’m thinking of Bill Maher, misogynist supreme, and comedic hero of much of the left. We can’t call him out! He’s on our side!

(no, you really can call him out. And you should)

I’m thinking of Hugo Schwyer, feminist hero. A man who has admitted to having raped a woman and tried to kill his girlfriend. A man who has harassed and dismissed women of color in the feminist movement. A man that many Big Name Feminist still defend. We can’t call him out! He’s a male feminist! Also, calling him out is divisive to the feminist community!

(no, you really can call him out. Also, you should SHUN HIM).

I’m thinking of feminists who ignore women of color, or who act like WOC’s concerns are something to take care of “later.” Or who are blatantly racist and who STILL don’t get called out, because the feminist movement is often REALLY SHITTY about the rights and issues of anyone who isn’t a middle-class western cisgendered straight white woman.

Yes, I love feminism. Yes, it’s one of the great axis around which my life turns.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t call feminist out when they exclude women of color, or when they’re racist. No, I should.

Hell, I’m even thinking of myself. I’m a huge bundle of privilege, and I’m still very much in the “screwing up” stage of anti-oppression work. And you know what? If I say oppressive stuff, or write oppressive stuff, or blog oppressive stuff, or if I’m being problematic?

I would take it as a MASSIVE favor if you would call me out. Sure, I’ll feel defensive for 30 seconds, and then I’ll get my head on straight. Other peoples’ right not to be oppressed is more important than my ability to feel comfortable in my discourse.

***

Now, look. There are good and valid reasons not to call people out.

First, calling people out takes a fuckmetric ton of energy (Fuckmetric tons: scientific measurement right there). It’s not easy. And a lot of times, it’s not safe either.

There are many circumstances where I don’t feel safe calling people out. One easy example: I don’t feel safe yelling at street harassers.

What if they turned on me? What if they hurt me?

There are also circumstances where I’m just too tired to call people out, especially when it’s about something that personally affects me (sexism, stigmatization of mental health issues etc). It’s emotionally exhausting, having to argue for your right to exist, and to be treated with respect.

Sometimes, I just can’t handle it.

So I pick my battles.

The other major reason not to call people out is when you might be appropriating someone else’s fight or adding to oppression. This especially applies to allies.

Be aware of the fact that in many spaces, your voice may be more privileged just by dint of the body you inhabit. Men have more privileged voices than women. White people have more privileged voices than people of color. You want to be sure that your calling people out isn’t, by dint of your privilege, excluding or disempowering the people you want to support.
(random example of me screwing this one up: this weekend, I got in another facebook argument, this time about the importance of Andrew Ti. I waded in to support my friend, who is a woman of color (I’m white). The white dude in the argument dismissed my friend as childish and hysterical. On the other hand, he listened to me and CHANGED HIS MIND. Least you ask, my friend and I were making almost exactly THE SAME ARGUMENT. Word for fucking word.  So yeah, my attempt to support a friend turned into another instance of “let’s disempower the woman of color.” Yeah, I screwed that one up)

[also, if you're not already reading Yo is This Racist? You should be.]

So yes, absolutely, there are good reasons not to call people out. But if you’re safe and secure and you know you’re not disempowering other people (except the racists – I fully believe in disempowering racists)?

And you choose not to do it, because of you just can’t be bothered?

Then dude, you suck.

Wonder Woman, injustice gods GIF

And the Wonder Woman will Rain Justice Down Upon You

Now, I’m not saying your suckiness is a permanent state. Let us note that I’ve been pretty damn terrible in my life at calling people out.

Yes, I suck!

But I’m working on it.

Call people out, everyone. NOT JUST MITT ROMNEY EITHER.

***

(Also, Cylon Jesus, if it isn’t too much to ask, I’d love to have my birthday night free of homework and stuff. No? Not possible? Okay, thanks for trying).

****
(hey, do you guys like the new blog design? I’m obsessed. Now with 100% more rose-red pink! And more feminist Batwoman!)


Mitt Romney: Runaway Jane Austen Character

Did you fear I would never address the Obama/Romney election on this blog? Fear no more! The day of reckoning is here, and my ranting powers are at their full potential.

After all, it’s election time in the USA! Will we manage to survive yet another racist-ass, anti-woman, queerphobic disaster of a Republican Candidate (Mitt Romney) and elect a moderately conservative dude instead (Barack Obama)? Only time will tell!

Is Mitt Romney as horrible a slimeball as he appears? … YES!

Now, I know you don’t need me to tell you that Romney is a slimeball. And I know you don’t need me to tell you that he’s a racist, queerphobic, classist misogynist with big entitlement issues. Those things are pretty damn obvious.

kurt chris colfer duh gif

But there IS something I have to tell you. Hell, I put my entire blog schedule on hold for this huge insight into the character of Mitt Romney. It’s GAME CHANGING.

You should probably hold onto something.

Or sit down.

Mitt Romney…

Is a runaway Jane Austen character.

Mr. Collins waving GIF

Remember Mr. Collins?

MIND.

BLOWN.

RIGHT?

Oh yeah, I just brought in Jane Austen.

I… I think I just lost half my readership there. SORRY GUYS! I LOVE YOU! I PROMISE I’LL STOP TALKING ABOUT REGENCY  LITERATURE IN MY NEXT POST. I’LL STOP MAKING VERY BIZARRE SPECULATIONS! COME BAAAAACK.

Then again, the three literature/poli-sci geeks in the room just started fist-pumping. “Austen – Romney FTW!”

And as I am a literature/poli-sci geek… well.

So. Random fact:  I am totally obsessed with Jane Austen. I became an English literature student because of Jane Austen. I’ve read every novel Jane Austen ever published. I’ve read Jane Austen’s juvenilia. I’ve taken classes on Jane Austen. I’ve planned book-length projects on Jane Austen. I think about Jane Austen a LOT.

Jane Austen Cassandra Austen sketch

Jane Austen, on the other hand, does not think about me at all. *sigh*

And a couple weeks ago, I was walking to the library, thinking about Jane Austen (as you do), and how interesting it is that her marriage plot, which appears so stuffy to modern readers, was actually radical and revolutionary, because she gave her female characters the right to say “No” to marriage proposals. And isn’t it interesting how this “no” always shocked male suitors? The entire thing really exposes the way the clueless male suitors felt so damn entitled to getting women… wait… you know who else seems to have that massive sense of entitlement to getting people’s support?

Mitt Romney.

And I was all “OH MY GOD, I’VE GOT IT.”

Mitt Romney is the clueless suitor.

I immediately raced to twitter. “Romney,” I said. “Is like every boorish male suitor in Austen’s novels – Mr. Elton, Mr. Collins, Henry Crawford. The suitor asks the protagonist to marry him, and is shocked she could say “no, because, after all, they have MONEY. Just like Mitt Romney runs for president, and is shocked that people won’t vote for him, because after all, he has MONEY.”

I spent the rest of the day tweeting about this. People needed to know. They needed to know that Mitt Romney is a runaway Jane Austen character.

Now, I imagine you aren’t convinced by my brilliant thesis yet. Neither was I, at first. But the evidence kept piling up.

Let’s have a checklist!

1. The Longing Gaze

Jane Austen’s clueless suitors are known for gazing longingly at their object of their affection. In fact, Mr. Darcy’s longing stares at  Elizabeth Bennet are so epic, they’ve given rise to the term “Firthing” (longing, silent stares) in honor of Colin Firth, the actor who portrayed Mr. Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, Firthing.

“Firthing”: I will gaze creepily at you while never bothering to talk to you.

And Mr. Mittens Romney, Clueless Presidential Suitor?

ALSO known for his (vaguely disturbing) longing stares!

Mitt Romney longing gaze John McCain

“Oh, John McCain… will you ever return my affections?’

2. Sense of Entitlement

Austen’s Clueless Suitors are always shocked that the objects of their affection actually expect them to behave WELL. Notable in the Mr. Collins proposal scene, where Mr. Collins is all “what are you talking about with your “no thank you”? I have everything a woman needs!” Or, in Mansfield Park, Henry Crawford’s total confusion at the fact that Fanny doesn’t love him: “Sure, I behaved like a total manipulative douchebag for the past two hundred pages. But I’m hot! And thus entitled to your affections!”

Or the Mr. Darcy proposal scene, where Mr. Darcy finds it incredible that Elizabeth Bennet expects him not to act like an asshole. Yo, I’m already asking you to marry me, Lady. And now you want me to act like a decent human being?

Mr. Darcy proposal GIF OMG I can't Even

“I asked you to marry me, aren’t you just supposed to say “YES?”

Next thing you know, these pesky women will expect you to treat them like human beings!

The suitors, in other words, are very entitled.

And Mitt Romney has a very similar sense of douchebag entitlement.

“What, you mean campaigns involve work? And scrutiny? and QUESTIONS? Yo, I’m being nice enough to run, let’s not raise expectations too high, okay?”

Mitt ROmney confused

“Wait, I specifically told you not to ask me what my political positions are. That’s BASIC COURTESY, MEDIA.”

The poor man gets increasingly annoyed every time voters or the media dare to presume to ask basic questions, like “where are your tax returns?” or “can we get a press conference over here?” or “would you mind clarifying your position, please?” He seems to expect that we should just go along with his whole “don’t look at my record! Don’t look at my business record! Just look at the parts I want you to look at, and only as long as I want you to look at them!” schtick.

Note Ann Romney’s infamous quote on the subject of Mitt Romney’s invisible tax returns:

“We’ve given you people all you need to know!”

Ann Romney We've given you people all you need to know

Entitlement?

Check!

3. Hating Poor People

Jane Austen’s clueless suitors tend to also be giant snobs who highly dislike anyone in a lower class.

Example: Mr. Darcy, to Elizabeth Bennet, the woman he’s proposing marriage to: “Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”

Mr. Darcy snob OMG so many peasants
And then we have the fabulous Mr. Mittens Romney! Mr. Romney, do tell us how you feel about poor people in the United States!

“There are 47 percent [of Americans] who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. (…) My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Mitt Romney mother jones video personal responsibility 47%

… I can’t even.

Or, translated into Austen speech:

Mr. Romney, courting the American vote: “”Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of 47% of the country? To congratulate myself on the entitlement of Americans, whose conditions in life are so decidedly beneath my own?”

SEE THE SIMILARITIES?

Mitt ROmney I'm not concerned about the very poor

Check!

4. Acting like people are lucky to be able to vote for/marry them?

Going along with the “sense of entitlement” thing: Austenian suitors usually act like the women they propose to are LUCKY to have someone so handsome/rich/competent asking for their hand in marriage.

Mr. Collins to Elizabeth Bennet, asking her to marry him:  “It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family of De Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in its favor; and you should take it into farther consideration that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you.”

mr. Collins pride and prejudice proposal scene movie

TL;DR: You are SOOOO lucky I want to marry you.

And Mr. Mitt Romney? Does he ever show any of this “you people are so lucky I want to be President” attitude?

Surely not! That would be too ridiculous! And entitled and…

Ann Romney: “It is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.”

Mulan matchmaker GIF

… wow.

WOW.

(uh, HUGE CHECK) 3

5. Last, but not least: Super Awkward!

Indeed, Jane Austen’s clueless suitors tend to be catastrophically awkward and stiff (which makes them all the more hilarious).

Mr. Collins, as unstudied an air as possible.

SUPER AWKWARD!

Mr. Collins waving GIF

Mr. Romney, what sayeth you to this? Are you stiff and awkward?

Well, he loves laughter. So much.

And he’s so genuine.

… Your honor, I rest my case.

Legally Blonde courtroom scene

I REST. MY CASE.

… I’m telling you. It shocked me too, but it is TRUE. Mitt Romney is a clueless suitor. He has escaped from one of Austen’s novels to our world, and is now plotting his evil evil ways.

As Dani Alexis (@danialexis) reminded me on twitter: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a Presidency.”

Romney angry speech

Romney: “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My desire to be President will not be repressed.” (credit for quote: @danialexis)

HIS DESIRE TO BE PRESIDENT WILL NOT BE REPRESSED!

… quite a scary concept, actually.

You know what else? If Mitt Romney is actually a Jane Austen character (which I believe I’ve thoroughly proved by this point), it also explains why Mitt Romney has so many problems with women!

Yes, indeed! For, as Mr. Collins tells us: “As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”

You see, women don’t have a problem with Mitt Romney because he’s from a party of giant misogynists who want to take us back to the stone ages. No! We’re just PRETENDING we’ve not going to vote for him, in order to increase his love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.

I JUST EXPLAINED THE GENDER GAP EVERYONE!

Cher clueless pushing guy EW

ELEGANT! FEMALE!

[She really loves him, she's just increasing his suspense]

So basically, we need Mittens Romney to ask women to vote for him a few more times, and we’ll totally change our minds!

Clueless Cher GIF Alicia Silverstone

… yeah, no.

I mean, I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone else’s political decisions, but… let’s just say I don’t think Mr. Romney’s “courtship” of my vote is going to end any better for him than Mr. Collins’ courtship of Lizzie Bennet’s hand.

Hey, Mittens, sorry, but I’m sending my absentee ballot off to the states just as soon as I find an American witness to… witness me voting.

And the name I checked?

Not Yours.

But hey, good luck with your attempt to court all us elegant females!

And all you elegant females? And males? Be forewarned! Mitt Romney’s desire to be President will not be suppressed! He’s going to be courting you pretty hard!

And as a runaway Jane Austen character, I think there’s a good chance he’ll start organizing formal balls.

Be.

Prepared.

Mr. Collins dancing GIF

Mr. Collins Style!

Mitt Romney Style!

*Many many thanks to Dani Alexis (@danialexis) and Celeloriel (@celeloriel) on twitter for putting up with my Austen/Romney ramblings, and for playing along and generally being awesome and brilliant.

** Before you ask, yes, I am aware that Mitt Romney is PROBABLY not a Jane Austen character. It’s a joke! I know it’s a joke! Moving on.


The Tale of The Gentleman Groper

Interesting thing you might not know about me: I often think in colors. In my head, for example, Jane Austen’s Emma is saffron-red (while Pride and Prejudice is yolk-yellow). English literature as a subject is a foggy blue. My first year of middle school in France evokes orange tones. My Future Wife makes me think of purples and browns.

And sexual harassment is bright lime-green and noodle-yellow.

Very cheery!

Okay, I get that was a bit of a random tangent. Everyone’s very confused. Everyone’s all “Uh, C.D., why is sexual harassment lime-green and noodle-yellow in the bizarre color-lexicon of your brain?”

Faithful reader, I will tell you. You see, a year ago, I got a summer job as a waitress/cashier/garnisher/busser/whatever at a local Noodles and Company.

Noodles and Company

You will note the presence of green! There are a lot of green decorations and signs and things at Noodle and Company. Also a lot of yellow, what with the omnipresence of noodles.

So when I think of Noodles and Company, I think of green and yellow.

… I see you using that deductive reasoning, dear reader! You are thinking “C.D. says sexual harassment makes her think of yellow and green, and Noodles and Company was yellow and green, so she must have been sexually harassed at Noodles and Company! LOGIC.”

And hey, if that was your thought process, you’d be right! I was sexually harassed at Noodles and Company, and that is why I associate yellow and green with sexual harassment!

Story time!

Mulan, Shang, Let's Get Down To Business GIF

“Let’s get down to business… to defeat sexual harassment!”

The summer-before-last, your faithful blogger (me) got a job at Noodles and Company, where she pulled long hell-shifts of doom (eight hours behind a cash register… one fifteen minute break… blaaaargh) and got paid a ridiculously small amount of money.

But hey, I have to admit, I enjoyed the work. If the pay hadn’t been so terrible, I would go so far as to say I enjoyed the experience.

Well, okay. That’s not strictly accurate. I would have enjoyed the job if:

a) the pay had been better and

b) I had not been confronted with The Gentlemen Groper

Mr. Collins Pride and Prejudice GIF

Think Mr. Collins, but without the charm.

I didn’t particularly like the Gentleman Groper. In fact, I rather loathed him. He didn’t do his job; he avoided managers; he was rude to customers; he made inappropriate jokes; he made life more difficult for everyone on his shift.

I was not a fan.

But whatever. I gritted my teeth and indulged in fantasies of chopping him up into noodle-garnish, meanwhile reminding myself that he was only seventeen, and that he might – MIGHT – eventually get over it.

And then he started poking me.

Sadly, I’m not talking a casual, one-time, “Hey, look at the giant Elephant eating the kangaroo over there!” poke.

Poke, starfire teen titans Robin GIF

Like that, but with more giggling.

The Gentlemen Groper (who should really be called The Gentlemen Poker, but that would ruin the alliteration) usually targeted my waist, my torso or my arms. His charming technique was to poke me until I yelped, and then giggle.

And he would not stop.

I’m not kidding, he would do this like, five or six times an hour. It was ridiculous (it also meant he wasn’t doing his job, which meant *I* was doing his job… all while getting poked).

Because all terrible things must get worst, the poking evolved.
After a few days, any time there was an excuse to touch me, the Gentlemen Groper took it. Dish to garnish? He grabbed my wrist to correct my sprinkling technique. Customer to talk to? He’d steer me towards them by grabbing my waist, even when I pushed him away. A break in the customer madness? Then it was time for spontaneous hugs! Eventually, he started pinching my arms and “accidentally” brushing against my breasts and ass.

Mulan butt slap GIF

Harassment: not okay, even when Mulan’s doing it.

And the poking continued.

Now, in “real life,” – in situations where I can’t get fired for punching people – things might have ended rather painfully for the Gentlemen Groper.

Because I am the Feminist Batwoman, and All Shall Fear My Wrath.

Lilo and Stitch GIF Batwoman

FEMINIST BATWOMAN RAAAGE

But I was at work, where stepping on The Gentlemen Groper’s foot or pinching the nerves in his forearms would not go over well. [hey, I knew a lot about self-defense. Where do you think I got these mad batwoman skillz from?)

So I tried a different technique:

“Stop.”

“Please stop touching me.”

“Gentlemen Groper, stop poking me.”

“Listen to what I am saying to you. You need to stop touching me.”

“I don’t want you to hug me. Don’t hug me.”

“Don’t grab my arm, Gentlemen Groper.”

“Stop. Touching. Me.”

“You do not have my permission to touch me.”

“Stop.”

“Gentlemen Groper, I’m not kidding. Stop touching me.”

“Don’t poke me.”

I kept my voice low and serious. I refused to laugh. I did everything the textbooks on harassment say to do: I was clear, concise and forceful. And I’m pretty sure I used every variation on “stop” in the book.

None of them worked. The Gentlemen Groper would just laugh, and accuse me of being oversensitive. A few minutes later, he’d touch me again, and I’d suppress the urge to scream.

Lilo apology Lilo and Stitch

I WISH this had happened.

I told my friends and parents about the harassment. They were all supportive, especially my mother (who offered to come to the store and threaten the Gentlemen Groper with the force of her awesomeness), but at some point in our conversation, she said what I’d dreaded hearing ever since the harassment started:

“You know, maybe he’s just really bad at flirting.”

Jennifer Lawrence Oh Yeah GIF

What she said.

HAHAHAHAHAAHA… no

No.

No.

There is a difference between harassment and flirting.  I don’t care how terrible you are at flirting, the words “no” and”stop” always, always, ALWAYS mean STOP. And if you refuse to stop, then it’s not flirting anymore.

It’s harassment.

But even if I knew my mother was wrong, there was a reason I’d been dreading the flirting line. I was afraid. I was afraid that my supervisors wouldn’t see the Gentlemen Groper’s behavior as harassment. Or that my harassment wasn’t bad enough to “count” as real. That it would just be interpreted as harmless flirtation. That I would be accused of making waves for no reason.

So I didn’t ask to file a harassment form.

Instead, I started having minor panic attacks every time anyone came near me at my job. I was tense for entire shifts, waiting for the pokes and gropes and hugs that (inevitably) came. When work was done, I noticed that my muscles were actually sore with pain because I’d been holding them tight for so long. I approached shifts with the Gentlemen Groper by putting on tunnel-vision glasses so I couldn’t concentrate on anything but my job and the words I would (inevitably) need: “Stop.” “Don’t touch me.”

I used to love closing the restaurant; now, I hated working late at night. Closing shifts meant there was no one in the store except me, the Gentlemen Groper, and a manager. No witnesses. Worse was all the space between me and my bike, out in a dark parking lot with no one around. If the Gentlemen Groper wouldn’t stop touching me in public, what would he do in private, at night, where no one could see? How far would he go?

Once I got on the bike, though, I felt safe – finally. I’m a fairly fast rider at the best of times, but fear of the Gentlemen Groper made me exponentially faster.

Mulan horse GIF storm

Me on my bike (shut up, it’s an awesome bike)

I was safe.
Until the next shift.

There was a point when I actually started timing how long it took for me to get from the restaurant door to my bike.

That’s when I knew I was terrified.

That’s when I knew something had to be done. This was not okay. I couldn’t go through more shifts of constantly being touched. I couldn’t go through more shifts of wondering if things would get worse. I needed to do something.

Unfortunately, I was still too scared to file an official harassment report. So I did the next best thing. I started making a point of saying “No,” in front of managers. That way, I thought, they’d see what was happening, and they would back me up.

Oooh boy, was I wrong.

My new strategy worked about as well as my old one. I made sure to stick around the managers, so they wouldn’t be able to miss the Gentlemen Groper’s actions. Then Gentlemen Groper would poke me, or grab me, and I’d say “Gentlemen Groper, I’ve said this a hundred times. You need to stop touching me.”

I’d steal a glance at the managers to make sure they’d heard me. They had.

But they didn’t back me up.

Most of the managers said nothing, either to me or to the Gentlemen Groper. Worse, some of them encouraged him.

Examples!

Once, when I told the Gentlemen Groper I didn’t like being touched, a manager started laughing, telling the Gentlemen Groper I was playing “hard to get.”

After another poking incident, the Gentlemen Groper said: “I just poke you because I like you!”

To which a manager near us said: “Bet you don’t have any good replies for that one, C.D. He’s got a good point!”

Good point? GOOD POINT? I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that the Gentlemen Groper’s good disposition towards me gave him unrestricted access to my body. I thought *I* was the only one who could grant that access.

Stitch fake death GIF lilo and stitch

My reaction

From those interactions, it was pretty clear to me that management just did not care. Correctly or not, I assumed that if I filed a formal complaint, the reaction would be the same – indifference or worse.

Discouraged, but not yet defeated, I continued my campaign of snapping at the Gentlemen Groper every time he touched me. I might not be able to stop him, but damn it, if I was going to deal with panic attacks, I was at least going to get the satisfaction of telling him off.

And it turned out I’d been wrong. One member of the management did care.

The restaurant’s single female manager had been on vacation leave for the past few weeks. The day she came back, the Gentlemen Caller and I had another one of our lovely interactions.

“Stop touching me.”

“But why?”

“Because I asked you not to, that’s why.”

“That’s not a good enough reason!”

Suddenly, the Managing Savior stepped in: “Yeah, but Gentlemen Groper, you need to stop touching C.D. If she says she doesn’t want you to touch her, then you don’t touch her.”

And then he stopped.

Sherlock fainting gif

I am not even joking. He didn’t touch me again for another two weeks (and then he started again, but that’s another story).
Talk about the power of management! I’d been telling the Gentlemen Groper to stop for weeks; the manager says one sentence, and BOOM.

Snape slapping Ron GIF

BOOM

***

Here’s the thing. My story  isn’t interesting because it’s rare. My story is interesting because of how fucking banal it is.

After the Gentlemen Groper stopped touching me, I found out that he’d done the same thing to every single woman on staff who was in my age range.

Every. Single. One.

He wasn’t just a Gentlemen Groper. He was a Serial Gentlemen Groper.

[Sidenote: you know how all the other women got him to stop? By telling the Gentlemen Groper that they had boyfriends. Because we live in a fucking patriarchy, where an invisible boyfriend has more authority over a woman's body than she does.]

Like I said, my harassment story is ridiculously banal. Even within my workplace, I was the rule, not the exception.

And out of my workplace?

31% of women report that they’ve been sexually harassed at work

7% of men report that they’ve been sexually harassed at work

62% of the targets took no action.

Sexual harassment isn’t some kind of rare crime that happens to people you don’t know. It happens everywhere. It happens to everyone. A third of the working women you know have been sexually harassed.

ONE.

THIRD.

And close to one-tenth of all the working men you know have also been sexually harassed.

Whooooooops.

Malificent Sleeping Beauty GIF Oh Dear What An Awkward Situation

Yeeaaaahhh…. I’m not sure “awkward” is the word I’d use.

Rage-inducing might be more like it.

WHY IS THIS EVEN A FUCKING PROBLEM?

I mean, I realize I’m reinventing the feminism wheel over here, but seriously. This is a problem that should never even be a problem, because people should know that “no” means “no.” They should know that people’s bodies are their own, and you don’t touch people without their consent. And managers should ENFORCE THOSE RULES, and pay attention when their employees are all “NO TOUCHING.”

Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten?

No touching! Arrested Development, George Bluth GIF

Here’s the end of the story:

My summer ended. I left to go back to school. And the Gentlemen Groper? He’s still there.

Other women will come and work at that store, and I don’t doubt he’ll do the same things to them that he did to me.

I know there are people reading this who will think I didn’t do enough. That I should have reported him, formally. That I must have been inviting the attention, somehow. I fear I’ll get a bunch of comments in the vein of “well, if you’d told him to stop in this very particular way, he would have stopped!”

Heck, there’s a part of me that believes that I could have done something differently. That I was inviting the attention, or that I’m responsible for the Gentlemen Groper’s future actions.

But let’s dissect that for a minute, my fair readers.

I was harassed. I was poked and prodded and groped. I lived in a near-constant state of panic attacks. And because all these shitty things happened to me, I’ve also been endowed with some magic responsibility to control The Gentlemen Groper’s actions for all of eternity?

With Great Victimhood comes Great Responsibility?

Tyrion Lannister Game of Thrones GIF

Tyrion Lannister Does Not Approve

What is this Reverse Spiderman crap?

I mean, seriously. Not only do I get sexually harassed (hurrah), but on top of everything else, my being sexually harassed gives me EXTRA responsibilities? The fact that I was harassed means I need to be subjected to even more more scrutiny and humiliation? I have to put my job and my safety even more in danger in order to report the harassment to supervisors who, let’s face it, didn’t look particularly interested in stopping it?

I told the Gentlemen Groper to stop in no uncertain terms. I did it repeatedly. I did it fifteen times a shift, occasionally.

And he did nothing.

My managers saw the Gentlemen Groper harassing me; they saw me tell him to stop; they saw him keep doing it.

And they did nothing.

So you know what? If you’ve read this post and your first reaction is “well, you could have done THIS differently” or “why didn’t YOU file a harassment report”?

Then I could give a fuck about what you think.

IDGAF Janelle Monae GIF

The person responsible for my sexual harassment?

The Gentlemen Groper.

The people who should have helped, but didn’t? [and who, in some cases, actively encouraged the Gentlemen Groper]

The managers.

Their behavior should be the issue, not mine. I know the extent of my responsibility in the incident of the Gentlemen Groper.

I know what I can do. I know what I “should” do.

***
Quick tangent: You know what the most annoying thing about this whole situation is?

The guilt.

I still feel guilty, two years out. There are parts of me that still feel like I should have been able to “handle it.”  I should have been able to have that legendary sense of humor. I should not have “overreacted.” I shouldn’t have bothered everyone with this. It wasn’t that bad.

Hell, why am I even writing this blog post? It’s not that big a deal! I should stop bothering all of you with my silly stories. There are people out there experiencing real sexual harassment, as opposed to… whatever happened to me.

Those feelings? Those are the most annoying part.

And that’s why I didn’t report the harassment.

That’s also why, I suspect, most people don’t report sexual harassment. Because we as a culture teach people – and especially women – that they just need to put up with this crap. We as a culture refuse to stand behind harassment victims. We teach people that they should be “flattered” by the attention. That they shouldn’t make a big deal. We remind people that their harassers have lives too: “Do you want to ruin the Gentlemen Groper’s life, C.D.? Do you want to ruin your manager’s lives by bothering them?”

Sexual harassment happens because our culture encourages harassers and silences victims.

***

I’ve gotten (somewhat) over blaming myself for the harassment. I’ve moved to a place where I can be proud of myself for recognizing what was happening, and for standing up for myself.

I’ve gotten over telling myself I could have done something different.

I’ve gotten over the whole idea that victims have a special responsibility to confront their harassers and magically end sexual harassment through the power of gumption and bootstraps.

But I wanted to do something.

My story is banal. There are millions others like it. But sexual harassment thrives in a culture of silence. We just don’t talk about it. *I* didn’t talk about it.

But I wanted to do something.

So I wrote about it.

Because the first thing we can do – the first thing I can do – is talk about the harassment. Stop pretending it doesn’t happen.  Tell people what it looks like. Make it clear that it’s not okay.

Sexual harassment thrives in silence. And no matter how guilty I feel for speaking up, I will not be silent anymore.

***

Resources: If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed, remember: the harasser’s behavior is not your fault or your responsibility.

Some people want help and advice. Hell, I could have used help and advice while I was being harassed. If you’re one of those people (and you don’t have to be)  here’s a good listing of sexual harassment hotlines and resources.

Another, less formal resource is Captain Awkward’s post on the Creepy Dude. It’s brilliant, funny and the  advice therein (and in the comments section) is remarkably not-victim-blamey and useful.

***

Comments policy: any victim-blaming bullshit will either be deleted or mocked. If you write an entire screed about what I “should” have done, you are warned, I will mock you, and I will not be nice about it.

General advice for sexual harassment victims  is okay, within limits. Tread carefully. Do not use the word “should.” Remember that people experiencing harassment have enough to deal with without being made to feel inadequate for not behaving “correctly.” Also, if your comment is anything like “well, you can magically control your reactions to being constantly groped,” I will mock you.

And if your comment is ANYWHERE near “but will all flirting be banned then?” or “it’s so hard for men; they constantly have to watch themselves to make sure they’re not making people uncomfortable” (wait, this is a bad thing?) I will mock you SO HARD.

Finally any comments diagnosing the Gentlemen Groper with some kind of mental illness or disability will similarly be deleted or mocked. Excusing the Groper’s behavior because of a disability/illness is insulting to other people with mental illnesses (like me) or mental disabilities, because it assumes that people with mental illnesses/disabilities are a) all assholes and b) are incapable of understanding the word “no.” The topic has been well covered elsewhere, but I’ll say it again: people with mental and social disabilities are still perfectly capable of understanding the words “stop” and “no.”

Stitch Lilo and Stitch caffeine rampage GIF

I will be like Stitch on a caffeine high with victim-blaming comments. You are warned.


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