Psst! You! Readers! is CD around?
No? Oh, FANTASTIC. I’m just going to let myself in, then! You guys don’t mind if I take over blogging duties for the day, right? Right!
Yes, yes, it’s me. The Feminist Batwoman. Champion of Intersectional Feminism and Enemy of Restrictive Gender Roles!
I know. Very exciting. I keep meaning to drop in and blog, but C.D. is kinda paranoid, and she doesn’t want me around. Something about the police putting her in jail for
being harboring a vigilante blah blah blah.
Also, she’s convinced that people think SHE’S the Feminist Batwoman. Which is obviously not true. CD and I have actually never met! How can we be the same person if we’ve never met!
Anyway. I think the problem with C.D. is that she just doesn’t have trust. I mean, I love that woman, but… seriously. You guys aren’t going to turn me in, right? I’m the Feminist Batwoman! I fight for Intersectional Feminism and Gender Equality Throughout the Shadows of the Interwebs.
AND I have a fabulous mask. Why would anyone turn me in?
See what I mean about the fabulous mask?
So now that we’ve established that you aren’t going to turn me in, let’s turn back to CD.
Have you guys noticed that she’s a bit… off, recently? She keeps writing about all this UBER-depressing stuff, and going on long rants and freakouts. Now, as the Feminist Batwoman, I fully support long rants and freakouts, but…
I’m worried that CD has lost her joy.
I mean – did you SEE what happened two weeks ago? The American Election? SHE SHOULD BE OVER THE MOON ABOUT THAT! She should be blogging kitten GIFs and celebratory confetti and explosions ALL THE TIME.
The activist joy should be EVERYWHERE!
So, you know. I thought I would cheer up CD (and bring on the return of the Kitten GIFS!) by reminding her of all of our Great Victories this month.
Maybe if CD remembers all the happy things that happened, she’ll be happier! Can’t hurt, right?
Let’s start at the top:
#1: Mitt Romney, oppressive douchebag and plutocrat supreme… Defeated!
I will not have to spend the next four years tracking down and defeating his Legion of Anti-Roe judges! I will not have to fight his attempts to turn over Obamacare and get us in more wars and cut the budget for food stamps and medicare and medicaid and social security and education. And hey, we won’t have to deal with his racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and classicism and general… barfiness.
My costume is already SUFFICIENTLY covered in the Barf of Oppression just from fighting to defeat Mitt Romney’s campaign. I’ve had to go to the dry cleaners ten times this election cycle. They’re giving me REALLY weird looks.
Imagine what I would look like if he were president. *shudder*
2. President Obama (a somewhat too-conservative-for-my-taste but generally pretty-decent- president) won. And President Obama is someone I can work with. He’s the man who brought us Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and Obamacare and who ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and who passed the mini-dream act. He saved the economy and made insurance companies cover contraceptives and signed the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay law. He passed a bill that made it a hate-crime to commit an assault on someone based on their sexual orientation; he extended employment benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees and he became the FIRST SITTING US PRESIDENT to come out in favor of marriage equality. Oh, and he extended health insurance to four million uninsured kids (why, in the name of the Holy Batmobile, do we have FOUR MILLION uninsured kids in the richest country in the world? QUESTIONS).
Like I said. I can work with this guy.
All good news so far, right? All news that should make CD happy, right?
It gets better.
3. In Maryland, Maine and Washington, people voted to legalize same-sex marriage. YES THEY DID. We broke the 32-state losing streak (including a loss in my – I MEAN CD’s – home state of Wisconsin) with a three state victory! We finally got a popular victory for same-sex marriage!
(although I object to people’s fundamental human rights being put on the ballot, but if they’re going to be put on the ballot, this is the desired outcome)
Moreover, Minnesota had an amendment on the ballot that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. You know what happened? Voters said NO. AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate my fellow Anti-Oppression Superhero Alliance member, The Queer Question (also known as Renee Montoya), who led the charge in the fight for same-sex marriage. The Question knows how to stop the Forces of Oppression, y’all.
Has CD cheered up by now? If she hasn’t, I have even MORE good news for her (because this election is just the gift that keeps on giving).
4. The next American congress will have the highest number of female senators in recorded history: twenty
(which: it is super-gross that 20 is a HIGH number of women in the senate. But we’re getting better).
And let’s talk about those women! Because it’s not just that we’ve got more women senators and representatives – it’s that the ones we’ve got are incredible.
Elizabeth Warren won a senate seat in Massachusetts. I’m quite fond of that woman. She scares Wall Street half-to-death, and is already fighting the Forces of Economic Oppression. Go Warren!
Tammy Baldwin WON A SENATE SEAT in Wisconsin! Tammy Baldwin is now Wisconsin’s first female senator – and the first openly gay member of the senate in US HISTORY.
I’m a huge fan of Tammy Baldwin’s. She’s been
my CD’s representative for years (since I’m CD is from Madison). Her work in the House was incredible; and I fully expect great things in the Senate.
CD, of course, was terrified that Tammy Baldwin – an openly gay woman from the hellmouth of hippie-liberalville (Madison) would have no chance of being elected in Wisconsin. And I do like proving CD wrong.
Claire McCaskill defeated Todd Akin (aka: “Mr. Legitimate Rape”). She won the Mississippi Senate seat – one that almost NO ONE thought a democrat could hang onto – by fourteen points. Because she is an incredible campaigner and she knew how to let Todd Akin hang himself by his own rope.
And to cap off our list of amazing women senators, Mazie Hirono won Hawaii’s open senate seat, thus making history as the USA’S first Asian American female senator. Whoo!
My good friend and fellow Anti-Oppression Superhero, the Anti-Racist Black Bat (Cassandra Cain) (who happens to be one of the few Asian members of the DC Universe) is REALLY excited about Mazi Hirono’s election.
Cassandra is also rather pissed that it took until 2012 for an Asian-American woman to be elected to the Senate.
The fun doesn’t even stop with senators! The great state of Illinois elected Tammy Duckworth to the House of Representatives. Duckworth served in the Iraq war, where she lost both legs. She is the first female war veteran with disabilities elected to the US House of Representatives.
You will not be surprised to know that Disability Rights Oracle (Barbara Gordon) was thoroughly pleased by Duckworth’s election!
And the great State of Hawaii elected Tulsi Gabbard, another female war veteran – AND the first Hindu member of the US House of Representatives.
But the best part of this election – and yes, we haven’t even gotten to the best part yet – wasn’t just that a League of Awesome Women were elected.
5. It was that the League of Awesome Women (in conjunction with the Anti-Oppression Superheroes) defeated the Evil Alliance of Rape Apologists.
Senate candidate Richard “Rape Babies are a Gift From God” Mourdock? DEFEATED.
Senate candidate Todd “If It’s A Legitimate Rape, the Female Body has ways to Shut That Whole Thing Down” Akin? DEFEATED!
House candidate John “The Rape thing” Koster? DEFEATED.
House candidate Joe “‘there is no such exception as life of the mother” Walsh? DEFEATED. By the way, Mr. Walsh, if pregnancy can’t actually kill women, what happened to Savita Halappanavar?
Vice Presidential Candidate Paul “Rape is just another method of conception” Ryan? DEFEATED.
All congratulations are due to The Consent Culture Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) who took point in the Anti-Oppression Superhero Alliance’s battle with the Evil League of Rape Apologists. I think we can agree she did a pretty fabulous job, no?
So, overall, I think the forces of Anti-Oppression did pretty well this election cycle, no?
We defeated the forces of oppression and darkness and plutocracy! We brought down the Evil Alliance of Rape Apologists! We elected a swath of Awesome Women!
Its definitely party time at the Anti-Oppression Superhero Alliance Headquarters, if you know what I mean!
(No, I don’t mean an orgy. Get your minds out of the gutter).
Party! Party! Party!
And I totally think CD should join us in this great party of activist joy, don’t you? Now that she’s undoubtedly been cheered up by all our good news!
I mean, come on. We won! Time to stop moping and stop ranting and smell the Victory Flowers, no? Or else CD is going to go all Batman, and be angsty 99% of the time, and no one wants that, do they?
It’s time to bring the joy to CD, ANTI-OPPRESSION PARTY STYLE!
I’m just going to check CD’s agenda book and see when she’s got a free slot for the party, shall I? Then we can all persuade her to go.
Huh. Can’t find CD.’s agenda, but… there’s this blog post draft on CD’s computer. I’ll just go ahead and read it (Hey, I’M not Consent Culture Batgirl. Privacy is not my only priority. Also, CD and I are
the same person friends!)
Well, this blog post is disturbing.
And by disturbing, I mean:
Montana voters passed a state ballot measure that puts in place a parental notification law: any person under the age of 16 who seeks an abortion needs to notify their parents. A PARENTAL NOTIFICATION LAW?
Well, HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
OH GREAT, and IT KEEPS GOING.
After helping to pass Texas’ abortion sonogram law, Texas State Senator Dan Patrick is trying to cut off Rural Texans’ access to abortion. Because there’s nothing Dan Patrick cares about more than controlling women’s personal medical decisions!
The head of the Maine Republican party thinks there was voter fraud, because “dozens’ of black people showed up to vote, and no one in rural Maine knows any black people! Mitt Romney says Obama won because he gave “gifts” to women, young people, Latinos etc. Paul Ryan blames the urban vote (*cough* people of color *cough*).
Okay, I know I was complaining that CD seems really pissed off these days? BUT THIS? THIS IS PISSING ME OFF ALL OVER AGAIN.
Scott Walker is trying to end same-day registration in Wisconsin, because the best way to follow up an election full of voter suppression is MORE voter suppression.
In Kansas, the city of Selina passed a proposition that overturns the city’s protections from discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The City of Hutchinson also overturned their city’s discrimination protections.
Proposition 35 passed in California. It raises the penalty for those convicted of sex trafficking to as high as life in prison, which SOUNDS great, until you figure out that survivor groups were against the proposition. Why? Because the bill conflates sex trafficking and sex work, which means that both sex workers and sex trafficking survivors could be penalized, put in jail, put on sex offender registries etc. The bill will probably have a much worse effect on sex workers and victims than it will on actual bad guys. Melissa Gira Grant wrote a smarter and longer analysis of the problems with Proposition 35.
… And Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action practices in state government hiring, education and contracting. But that’s okay, because apparently they weren’t using affirmative action anyway! And it’s not like there’s institutional racism or sexism in the USA, because, as everyone knows, we live in a post-racist and sexist society.
… yeah, okay. Maybe there’s a reason CD is still angry. Hell, I’M ANGRY.
You know what? Victory party canceled. We can have a victory party later. I can use the streamers to tie up some misogynists. Kyriarchy-Blasting Wonder Woman can use the helium from the balloons to power her invisible jet. We can throw the confetti in the eyes of the racists.
CD’s right. Our activism isn’t over, not even after this victory. People are still being oppressive asshats. A woman’s ability to choose is still under fire. People of color are still being targetted. Homophobia is still ruining lives. Misogyny is still rampant.
Time to get back to work.
ANTI-OPPRESSION SUPERHERO ALLIANCE, ASSEMBLE!
Oh, uh – before I leave to go fight oppression, could you guys do me a favor?
Could you NOT tell CD that I was here?
Like, keep it all hush-hush?
Also, you really don’t have to mention that I changed my mind and actually, we can’t celebrate yet because there are so many other things wrong in the world we need to deal with.
She doesn’t need to know she was right. That woman is not a gracious winner.
Just keep it… quiet, is my point. Okay? Okay!
Great! I’ll be back soon, faithful readers! In the meantime, I will go forth into the Shadowy Corners of the Interwebs and Fight Against Restrictive Gender Roles and All the Other Forces of Oppression!
Until next time.
– Your Friendly Interweb Feminist Batwoman.
CD HERE. WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO WITH MY BLOG, FEMINIST BATWOMAN?
… oh, fuck. I knew I shouldn’t have
had that half-glass of beer and put on the mask left my computer unattended. The Feminist Batwoman is devious. Super-devious. And in no way related to me. Ignore the shot of my shoulder in the last picture. That’s not my shoulder. I’m not the Feminist Batwoman. Yeah. I had nothing to do with this.
I need to change my passwords. AGAIN.
Anyway. Sorry about that, everyone. I’ll try to
stay away from the mask keep a better eye on my computer in the future.
Although I do agree with the Feminist Batwoman’s point. We did win a big victory this November, and we should celebrate. But we should remember that there’s still a war on. It’s not time to lay down our weapons yet.
As Consent Culture Batgirl always says:
- I’m not ready for this to be the end of the fight. There’s so much ground to cover still. More misogyny and racism and homophobia and ableism and transphobia and oppression to uncover and stop. A new, better society to build.
- What are you still fighting for?
- ETA 2: Okay, FINE, ONE CELEBRATORY KITTEN GIF. But only because of the marriage victories in Maryland, Maine and Washington and Minnesota. And because of Tammy Duckworth and Tammy Baldwin and Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren and Maizie Hirono and Tulsi Gabbard.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
“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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
And close to one-tenth of all the working men you know have also been sexually harassed.
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?
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?
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.
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]
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?
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.”
*MASSIVE SPOILER FOR THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, I AM NOT EVEN JOKING, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, DON’T READ THIS POST*
So. Er. Did anyone notice that here really weren’t any women in The Dark Knight Rises?
Everyone Else On the Internet: “… No?”
Yeah, I’ll admit this seems like an out-of-place critique. Compared with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises was practically FLOODED with women.
We had not one, but two female characters! They both had big important roles! And both of them were defined by more than just Bruce Wayne’s romantic interest in them! We finally – FINALLY – got Catwoman.
But I, the resident Feminist Batwoman, still have some complaints about the presence (or lack thereof) of women in the movie.
In the immortal words of Selina Kyle:
Okay, so, I will gladly admit that there are actual women in The Dark Knight Rises. I will even gladly admit that they are interesting, well-rounded characters. We have Miranda/Talia. We have Selina Kyle. We even have Selina’s friend Jen. And then we have, er…
A quick search of IMDB informs me that the other women included Maids #1-#3, a female security guard, and Ra’s Al Ghul’s wife, who never talks (and honestly, we never even see her face).
So… not so much in terms of “other women.”
Oh, but maybe The Dark Knight Rises just doesn’t have a lot of named characters! Maybe that’s why there aren’t that many named women!
Least you ask, there are some fifteen-odd named male characters in The Dark Rises, including Bruce Wayne, Fox, Alfred Caine, Commissioner Gordon, Blake/Robin, Dr. Pavel, The Mayor, Strykker, Daggert, Ra’s Al Ghul and Foley.
It’s a product of how few women there are in action movies full stop that we look at two (or three) women in a superhero movie as a lot. Named female characters in The Dark Knight Rises are vastly outnumbered by named male characters. So while I’m pleased that we’re finally moving towards having more well-rounded, interesting female characters…
I’m not ready to start baking feminist cookies yet.
Okay, so, not a lot of named female characters in The Dark Knight Rises. Sure.
But frankly, it wasn’t the lack of named female characters that struck me. It was the lack of unnamed female character. The lack of female extras.
The lack of women in the movie’s background.
The Dark Knight Rises is filled with people. The filmmakers must have hired thousands of extras to create all of their crowds; it is, after all, a film about a city.
And most of the crowds are divided into very specific groups: Groups of terrified civilians. Groups of Bane’s henchmen. Groups of cops. And groups of young children.
According to my very un-sophisticated analysis, the four “groups” that were the most important in terms of the plot were the henchmen, the cops, the prisoners (both in the Gotham and the Bane children) and the children. All four get big chances to shine, both as heroes and as sympathetic (or antipathetic) figures. There are, I will admit, a lot of shots of terrified crowds, but they’re more important in terms of atmosphere than in terms of thematic importance. The scene of the police advancing on the henchmen, or the children stuck on the bridge, is much thematically important, in my understanding of the movie, than the shot of all the bankers screaming as they exit the stock exchange.
Perhaps most importantly, the henchmen/prisoners, the children and the police serve as mirrors to the larger themes of the movie: sacrifice, service, loyalty and family. The children and the police are the two sides of Bruce Wayne – the innocent, wronged child, and the protective, warrior-adult. The police, moreover, are the lawful side of Batman’s quest – they too, work to protect hte civilian population. The henchmen are the more brutish manifestations of Bane and Talia Al Gul. And the prisoners are in the middle – symbolic of Bane and Talia’s past, but also of Bruce’s challenges. They are the dark side of the population of Gotham, the angry hordes hidden inside prisons, just waiting to be released.
So. Four major groups of people. Huge thematic importance. Thousands of extras.
And you know what?
There aren’t a whole lot of women in those groups.
In fact, in most of those groups, there are no women at all.
Try to think of a female policewoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Any. There were hundreds of police officers in that movie, both in and out of uniform. They’re everywhere.
And I will be highly impressed if you manage to find one woman in the mass of teaming cops.
I saw the movie twice; the second time I was specifically looking for these elusive background women. I think I managed to catch a glimpse of one female cop near the middle of the movie. I can’t be sure.
Sure, I think we could probably find one or two women cops, if we looked hard. But one or two women in a group of hundreds – or thousands – of policemen?
… that’s all kinds of ridiculous.
And I will bet you actual cash (not a lot of it – remember that I’m a poor college student) that you cannot find a single female henchman. Again, I looked pretty damn carefully, and I did not see any.
There are a LOT of henchmen in The Dark Knight Rises.
None of them are women.
Bane’s group of merry terrorists are solely and exclusively male.
Not surprisingly, there are also no female prisoners
(with the notable exceptions of Selina Kyle and Talia Al Gul, but crucially, but women are cited as EXCEPTIONS. Selina is in a men’s-only prison, as is Talia Al-Gul, and in fact, prisoners are so coded as male that no one guesses the escaped prisoner (Talia) might be female. Also, both Talia and Selina are named female characters – there are no random female prisoners walking around as extras).
So yeah. Women can’t be “normal” bad guys (henchmen/prisoners) and they can’t be “normal” good guys either (the police).
Now, I can hear the objections already.
Oh, well, that’s just ACCURACY, that is. Because there AREN’T a lot of female cops or bad guys in real life, so The Dark Knight Rises is just being ACCURATE.
I HAD NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT.
(that was sarcastic, in case you couldn’t tell).
Okay, Point the First:
The Dark Knight Rises is about a man who dresses up like a bat and fights bad guys in the dark of the night. I’m not sure it’s going to win any prizes for accuracy. Also, that part where Bruce Wayne’s back is broken and all his cartilage has been destroyed, but he gets back to top physical form in less than, like, two months?
Point the second: There aren’t female terrorists or female cops in real life?
In the United States, most local police departments have at least 12% female officers. In big cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago (one of the places where the Batman series was filmed), nearly one fourth of cops are women. In Canada, TWENTY PERCENT of cops are women.
Female cops EXIST.
There is no good reason why, in a movie with dozens of shots of hundreds of police officers, we can’t spot more than one or two female officers. That would indicate a 1% female enrollment, which is SIGNIFICANTLY lower than the actual rate, even if you take the lowest one one (12%).
And henchmen? No female henchmen? Oh, right, there have never been any women involved in terrorist movements, or resistance movements, or populist uprisings.
… with the small exception of ALL the terrorist movements/ resistances/ populist uprisings.
There are women suicide bombers and female members of terrorist groups. Some populist resistance groups/ freedom fighters are mostly female. It’s ridiculous that I even need to do a historical overview, because women freedom terrorists are so damn ubiquitous it would be like trying to prove the existence of MALE terrorists.
[Sidenote: I’m about to cite a whole host of groups that have been classified by the west as terrorist organizations. This does not mean that I personally believe they are terrorists; it’s just that the popular western imagination SEES them as terrorists, so they’re organizations that someone like, say, Nolan, would look to to craft Bane’s group]
Here are just a few examples of women in terrorism: Women have been central figures in Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers (a group that pioneered female suicide squads), Chechen terrorism (the “black widows”), the liberation movement in Algeria (where women smuggled weapons, planted bombs and served as spies), the Shining Path in Peru, the Japanese Red Army (founded and led by a woman), the Weathermen of the United States and the Ku Klux Klan of the United States (okay, these guys are definitely terrorists, no qualifications needed. They’re also racist assholes).
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of female involvement in terrorist groups.
Believing that a Bane-like revolt movement would not have any female participants involves such a willful ignorance of history and social realities, it’s somewhat mind-boggling.
Of course, the place where the whole “but there aren’t that many women in those groups ANYWAYS” argument *really* falls apart is with the children.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are usually approximately the same number of male and female children, right? That’s a thing, right?
So why the hell are there no female children in The Dark Knight Rises? (I will get to the notable exception later; don’t kill me).
I mean, the filmmakers even make a POINT of coding children as male: they make sure to specify that Blake went to a home for young boys and when Blake tries to save the children, he returns to that same home for young boys. When the Wayne Mansion is converted into an orphanage, it’s pretty clear that it’ll be a boy’s orphanage (I didn’t spot any girls in the crowd of children running in, and I was looking pretty closely).
Where the fuck are all the female children, that’s what I want to know. Do they get fancy orphanages? Are there any organizations taking care of them? Does anyone bother trying to save the orphan girls during the nuclear explosion?
Why don’t they matter enough to be a part of the narrative?
Did some kind of plague kill all the girls?
OHMIGOD, HAVE THEY ALL BEEN KIDNAPPED?
BATMAN! GET ON IT.
Do women just pop out of the ground, fully-formed, like Athena from Zeus’s head?
What aggravates me is that children – or, more precisely, boys – are SUPER important thematically. The orphan boys represent Bruce Wayne’s past; they also represent Gotham’s future protectors (since both Blake and Bruce were once orphaned boys). Moreover, they’re symbolic of what Batman has to protect, both with his fortune (by building orphanages) and with his life (by sacrificing himself so the boys don’t die).
[note that even in the previous movie, The Dark Knight, the child Batman saves at the end is a boy]
And women are completely excluded from that. They’re excluded from this narrative of loss, and eventual growth:
They don’t get to be protected. They don’t get to be the orphans who grow up to be heroes. They’re not part of Gotham’s future.
Because all the children in The Dark Knight Rises are boys, the Batman cycle is an exclusively MALE cycle: young boys with dark pasts grow up to protect other young boys.
It’s also quite disappointing to see this lack of girls in the movie because of Selina Kyle. In the comics, Selina Kyle was also an orphan. After her parents died, she was put in a juvenile detention center; she escaped and, in order to survive, she became a child prostitute. Later, she transformed into Catwoman in part to protect and feed (with her ill-gotten gains) her fellow child-prostitutes.
Thus, in the comics, Selina Kyle serves as another side of Bruce Wayne’s narrative of loss and protection. The movie, however, refuses to let her mirror Bruce in that way.
Selina Kyle proves that the Batman story – the story of loss and eventual heroism – is not an exclusively male narrative; instead, The Dark Knight Rises CHOSE to make it an exclusively male narrative.
Random People object: ARE YOU SAYING NOLAN IS EXCLUDING WOMEN BECAUSE HE HATES THEM AND HE’S A MISOGYNIST? YOUUUUU SUCK.”
Answer: Yes, I do suck, but for other reasons.
And to be fair: No, I do not think Nolan and his fellow filmmakers excluded women on purpose. I think it was almost entirely unconscious.
That’s what so damn depressing.
I will bet you a giant pile of jellybeans that when Nolan and Co. looked over their crowds of policemen, henchmen and children, none of them thought: “Huh, there aren’t a lot of women.”
And I will bet you another giant pile of jellybeans that most people who saw the movie weren’t thinking that either.
In fact, both the filmmakers and their audiences probably saw these giant, male-dominated crowds, and thought it was perfectly normal.
They also probably didn’t think “oh, look at all those men.”
They probably thought: “Oh, look at all those people.”
If you’re casting for a pretty gender-neutral group of extras – like, say, policemen or children (yes, I think policemen are gender neutral), you would assume that in a gender-neutral world, people would cast their crowds approximately 50-50. But in our world, you can cast an entire set of extras as men and not have anyone (except me) bat an eye
Because men are the default.
That’s why we don’t notice when we see all-male crowds, or all-male movies. Men are the default. Men are people. You grab women when you specifically want a woman (like for Catwoman), but you don’t cast women to just be people. People are men.
That’s why feminists – including me – did a happy dance when Barack Obama used a default female pronoun to describe the life of an average American child. Because we’re so used to thinking of these average workers, average children, average voters – as men.
Women are other.
If men weren’t the default, I guarantee you that I would not be the only person ranting about this gender inequality. I don’t think people didn’t notice it because they’re sexist, I think people didn’t notice it because we’re used to having men be the default. I don’t think Nolan cast his extras this way because he’s sexist, I think he cast the movie this way because he’s used to having a male default. Need a random bit character? Cast a man!
Hell, if men weren’t the default, there would be tons of female henchpeople serving Bane, and no one would say anything, because of course women are henchpeople, why wouldn’t they be?
Here’s the really important part. The part I think everyone – mostly superheroes – need to understand.
If you assume a male default, you’re REALLY SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE FOOT.
Look, the only reason Miranda/Talia managed to pull off her whole “hiding in plain sight” routine is because everyone assumed the “child” that climbed out of the prison was a boy. The child had short hair, no one called her a “girl” – so Bruce assumed it was a boy, and thus assumed it was Bane. If he hadn’t assumed it was Bane, maybe he would have, you know, done research to check the evidence.
And the reason the cops let Selina Kyle go during the bar shoot-out scene is because they assumed that a frightened, screaming woman couldn’t have anything to do with the kidnapping. WHOOOPS.
Assumptions are a dangerous thing. Because we’re so used to seeing women in action movies as a single role – the love interest – most of the audience didn’t even consider that Miranda/Talia could be anything but that.
You assume a male default, you’re basically allowing women an automatic advantage of surprise.
…And I really don’t think someone like Selina Kyle or Talia Al Ghul needs any more advantages. They’re pretty badass already.
Women can be bad guys. Women can be cops. Women can be children (no shit). Once we start moving away from these huge inequities and gendered assumptions, we won’t have to construct plots based on the major surprise of “OH MY GOD, THE CHILD WAS A GIRL.”
So yeah, I’m not giving The Dark Knight Rises a feminist cookie. Like I said, I appreciate that there are more named female characters. I’ll appreciate it even more when women aren’t treated like exceptions or like “surprise bad guys” or Othered in various ways. And I’ll appreciate it EVEN MORE when I can see a crowd of police ready to take on the bad guys… and half of both the bad guys and the police are women.
There’s a point in The Dark Knight Rises where one of the Baddy McBadGuys (Daggert), flush with his evil victory, says “Hey, can we get some girls in here?”
You know what, Mr. Baddy McBadGuy? Much as I disagree with your morals, I very much agree with the sentiment. Can we get some girls in these movies?
… I don’t think it’s going to bring the quality of the action down.
I should note that I loved The Dark Knight Rises. LOOOOVED it. I want to follow Selina Kyle around and give her buckets and buckets of roses and champagne and pearls. I want to give Alfred a big hug. Hell, I even want to give Talia a high-five for pulling one over Bruce Wayne. You are one BAMF, Talia. I salute you.
And I was SOBBING through the end.
EVERYONE in the theater could probably hear me.
And for the next three days, I was just like:
I really loved The Dark Knight Rises.
Which I think speaks to the fact that art is COMPLEX, and people are COMPLEX, and we can have COMPLEX feelings, and be having joygasms over awesome things while also pointing out the ways in which they suck.
It is possible to like problematic things, everyone!
Talk amongst yourselves.
[BRUCE WAYNE x SELINA KYLE OTP]
[This is a very silly post. You have been warned]
I am, of course, terribly excited about this new development. Whoo! I have enough traffic that I’ve got vehement disagreement!
They may even be trolls. It’s hard to tell.
But still! Troll-like comments. Oh, I am marvelously excited about this!
Buried beneath the comments about how “feminists are all misandronists” (does anyone know what a misandronist is, out of curiosity? Right now, I’m going for a cross between a misandrist and an android) and the comments telling me how offensive I was, and the ones explaining that I was everything that was wrong with the world…
… there was actually a point I thought was worth addressing, from the Very Long Comment Left by a Very Concerned Commentator:
“So for the love of the gods, get off your soap boxes and relax. Maybe have a bit of fun for a change.”
Now, I have to admit, I was very confused by this… suggestion. I mean, I appreciate the sentiment, don’t get me wrong! It’s nice to know that the Very Concerned Commentator, despite thinking that I’m a horrible person, does want me to have fun.
My reaction, however, wasn’t so much: “Oh, god! They’re right! I must immediately stop blogging and go to an amusement park instead!”
It was more along the lines of: “But…I am having fun.”
Yes. Seriously. I know you’re skeptical. But I am having fun. Not just low-level fun either. I’m talking Lord of the Rings Marathon fun. Giant ice cream-party-fun. Playing with a kitten fun. Learning to do a handstand fun. Digging a space-time tunnel to Shakespearian England fun.
Hey, I get it. Maybe writing giant 5000-word-rants isn’t your thing. And that’s fine. Some people toilet-paper houses. Some people climb Mount Everest without bottled oxygen. Some people parachute out of airplanes. Some people belly-dance. Some people dip their fries in milkshake. Some people watch the Star Wars prequels (*shudder*). To quote the inestimable Hoban Washburne:
And some people – me – write self-righteous feminist analyses of pop-culture. Because that’s my idea of fun. Bizarre, I know, but I love deconstructing stuff. I love ranting. I love writing. Fuck, I would do this for free…
… and in point of fact, I do. (unless someone is paying me without my knowledge, which seems unlikely)
So I appreciate your concern, my dear past-and-future commentators. But rest assured that it’s fine. I am having fun.
Which leads me to point #2 of My Dearest Very Concerned Commentator’s Concern. They suggested – several times – that I should get off my soapbox.
I’m going to assume that My Dearest Very Concerned Commentator was not, in fact, referring to an actual soapbox, but was referring to my blog. Mostly because I don’t own a soapbox, and the Very Concerned Commentator has no way of knowing whether or not I own a soapbox, and sometimes people use metaphors… and yeah.
The soapbox is probably a metaphor for the blog. Right.
Again, this is interesting advice. But as we’ve seen, I actually enjoy writing this blog, so not writing it would mean having less fun, which directly contradicts their prior advice to have MORE fun –
So in spite of my deep gratitude and appreciation for My Dearest Very Concerned Commentator’s advice… I did not follow their instructions.
Wait! Wait! Before you spill all your tea in shock! Let me explain!
Very Concerned Commentator is right. This blog is my soapbox.
Which means I get to talk about whatever I want on it.
Kittens! Puppies! Feminist rants! American Idol! Science Fiction! More kittens! Stupid jokes! Weird GIFS! EVEN MORE KITTENS! FEMINIST KITTENS!
Whatever I want.
Now, you may disagree with what I write. That’s perfectly fine. You may think what I care about is trivial. That’s also perfectly fine. You may argue with what I write. Again: perfectly fine.
You can even get your own soapbox/blog and talk about what you want on it. You can talk about how wrong I am for hours and hours and hours and hours. Have fun (and I don’t mean that sarcastically)!
Hell, you don’t even have to read me! Unlike a real soapbox, where you’re stuck listening to whatever dolt is ranting on the public square, no one is forcing you to read this blog. Absolutely no one. If you don’t want to read my rants… don’t.
But you cannot tell me to get off my soapbox.
Because I built it and I will stay on it as long as I damn please.
See! There’s my soapbox! My feminist soapbox. Isn’t it awesome? It isn’t exactly a soapbox – I’m pretty sure it used to contain books, not soap – but it’s pretty close. And the colors are shiny.
…Yes. Yes, I did literally build a soapbox to stand on. Or sit on.
Yes. Yes, in fact, I did take that comment way too far. WAAAAAAY too far.
Even though playing with markers was pretty fun.
[By Jove, I love the smell of sharpie in the morning. Smells like… gender equality.]
Let’s recap, shall we?
Yes, everyone, this blog is my soapbox. Yes, everyone, I am having fun on my blog/soapbox.
No, you cannot tell me to get off my soapbox. Not unless you want me to take your comment waaaaaaaay too literally and spend an hour-and-a-half building an actual soapbox.
I know everyone was deeply concerned about these questions. Now that they have been answered, feel free to go about your normal business!
Feminist Batwoman – I mean, Culturally Disoriented – out.
*Any resemblance between Culturally Disoriented and the masked vigilante and Protector of Gender Equality known as the Feminist Batwoman is purely coincidental. Even though they’re wearing the same mask. And they’re never in the same place at the same time.
It’s. A. Coincidence. They have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Like Bruce Wayne and Batman.
**Also, if anyone knows what a misandronist is… page me.
*** If you would like to build your own feminist soapbox (or anti-racist/LGBT/trans-issues/star wars/whatever soapbox), please do! But remember that actual cardboard boxes are quite flimsy, and probably won’t support your weight. My cat fell through the box when she jumped on it. Cardboard = not the best idea.
Why does mine work? I propped it up with a giant stack of books underneath.