It is Absolutely Unnecessary for Men to Touch the Small of My Back

To make these points, I am going to have to rein in my disgust and fury at the very thought of men grazing, slithering, or pawing their hands against the region of my back below my shoulder blades and above my behind. This is because I really do think most men (or at least the men I can bother to try educating) have no idea just how bad it is when they do this to me and other women.

The usual disclaimer applies — a behavior that is gross/scary when it is unwelcome can be comfortable or even exciting when it is welcome (e.g. touching each other’s bits!). And in frequent-enough cases, all that it takes for a behavior to be “welcome” to a woman is for her to think you’re hot. It’s still non-consensual to touch someone out of the blue and you still shouldn’t do it (’cause you can’t be certain she thinks you’re hot) but I’m sure you can come up with a handful of exceptions when a girl has been totally down for you to touch the small of her back (your girlfriend, your prom date, your mutual crush). I’m not talking about these exceptions — except to say, don’t assume you’re an exception, hot stuff.

If I’m being honest with myself, this is what probably actually goes through a guy’s mind when he touches the small of my back (as he passes by me at a party or the club):

blank-mind-dude-has-no-idea-he-is-being-super-creepy

He thinks nothing at all

Regardless of his intent, this is what goes through my mind:

Meanwhile my mind is like: SPIDERS

Meanwhile my mind is like: SPIDERS

Yes, spiders. All I feel are spiders.

  1. Men who do this never make eye contact first and often approach from an angle where I don’t see it coming. Therefore I tend to be caught by surprise and it’s startling. Like with spiders.
  2. Men who do this also tend to use a very light touch (except the occasional drunken paw-ers). I’ll get into why this may be so and why it’s upsetting, but the effect is also: spiders.
  3. I happen to not like being touched by men I don’t know well (‘cuz I’m pretty gay yo, and also rape culture), which reminds me of how sometimes there are freaky little intruders in my personal space, a.k.a spiders.
  4. A lot of men who do this linger like they just wish their hands could hang out on my back for as long as possible and it feels like that slow-mo moment of discovering something is crawling across your body oh holy f– IS THAT A SPIDER?

Look, while some guys are just plain creeps, I’m pretty sure even the most decent of guys (e.g. you) have done or still do this behavior. I think that guys, usually at a preteen or otherwise sexually-awakening age, witness other men doing this to women. They see that and think, gosh, I’d like to touch women, too (I mean, come on, touching women is awesome). So then they try it. And nothing bad happens to them. So they keep doing it.

i-wish-i-could-be-all-the-bad-that-happens-to-guys-that-do-this

I wish I could be all the bad that happens to guys that do this in order to deter them from inflicting back-spiders on myself or anyone else ever again, but there are a couple of things going on which prevent that.

1. It is usually difficult to react due to practical reasons. Guys tend to do this as they are passing by me in a crowded room. It may be too loud to effectively shout my dismay, I might need to focus on getting through a people bottleneck and not getting trampled, and/or I might be carrying a very full drink that would spill if I leapt away in horror.

2. I am not socialized to immediately react to this particular offense and neither are bystanders. If a strange man were to touch my butt it would be “understandable” for me to make a “big deal” out of this, hunt him down, scold him, slap him in the face, and/or sic a boyfriend or security on him, depending on the severity of the butt-touching. The back, however, is not as protected as a “sacred” place and I will neither get sympathy for or even fully understand why it so bothers me when dudes touch it like that.

Ok, but let’s break down why this is so screwy.  A man blatantly touching my butt knows he’s being a perv and knows I know he’s being a perv. A man ever-so-softly touching my back, whether or not he realizes this, is communicating to me that he knows he should not touch my butt (or even my back, really, hence the soft touch), yet wants to get as close as possible anyway. That is scary dude!! You know better but you’re still going to try to get away with something??

I am socialized to think the small of my back is not supposed to be a big deal, but I’m picking up on all these subtle undercurrents and I’m going to feel weird about it anyway. Violated, even.

This is key: whether or not you realize this, you are communicating certain things to me. Look, other men just don’t touch other men on the small of their back like this. Don’t pretend they do. They don’t. Maybe you’ve never thought of it like this, but it is totally a gendered behavior. By that, I mean gender difference is totally involved, and for this behavior, sexual intentions (conscious or not) are totally implied. Whether or not he realizes this, a man touching the small of my back is communicating to me that he has (even the fleeting-iest) sexualized energy for me as a woman, and he feels entitled to act it out in a small way by actually touching me.

Of course, some men don’t particularly have “sexualized energy” for me (or even any women; gay guys touch me inappropriately sometimes too) but what they do still have is that sense of entitlement. That’s even more terrifying, because it communicates uneven power: “I’ll do it anyway and you must accept it because ‘society’ says it is my right.”

The “don’t do this because it makes women uncomfortable” part is thus established, now let’s get back to the “Absolutely Unnecessary” aspect of this behavior. You don’t have to do it. Not ever. Not because you need to get past me in a crowded room. Not because you need to alert me to your presence when you think I can’t see you. Not because you’re worried I’m going to topple over in my high heels (this one makes me the most angry — dude, I am fine, I chose to wear these and I CAN walk in them but it’s kind of my problem to live with if I can’t… AND how is lightly touching my back even going to help me if I am actually falling???).

You don’t have to do it #1 because it’s not consensual and you should not, and #2 some acceptable alternatives do exist, in this order:

  1. Stop being in a hurry and just hover nearby until I notice you and get out of your way, like most folks do (jeez).
  2. Use your words. Speak up, shout if you have to. Hearing-abled people like me like this method the best ’cause it means you’re not doing the touching thing :)use-your-words-right-behind-you
  3. If I can’t hear you (due to environment, deafness, or otherwise)…? Just tap me on the shoulder. Tap tap. There’s a reason why the next thing that popped in your mind was a very polite, “Excuse me miss?” — because polite people put shoulder-tapping in the manners rulebook long ago and manners are really just about choosing actions which should make the most people as comfortable as possible.hand-tap-tap-on-the-shoulder-excuse-me-miss
  4. Didn’t react to your tap or there’s just no time for pleasantries? Use the back of your hand or forearm to respectfully push against the region around my shoulder or my arm above my elbow. Use your palm if you MUST but it’s better if you don’t imply that you are going to grab me. In a crowded room, this movement can be like pushing through a dense thicket. Ah yes, I am simply a branch in your path, not a girl you are going to sneakily touch in her sweet little back parts.touch-here-for-minimal-creepiness

In other words, think about how you would touch a dude if you had to and just stick with that. Oh wow, why did I write this whole blog post when I could have just written that last sentence?

TLDR; If you’re about to touch a woman you don’t know well, think about how you would touch a dude if you had to and just stick with that. (Or just, like, don’t touch her.)

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How to be a Lesbian in San Diego

We’ve got Hillcrest. We’ve got Gossip Grill. (Ok we lost Bourbon St.) It’s not too difficult to be a lady lovin’ lady in San Diego. Yet the girls are shyer, here. They are more difficult to spot amidst so many straights sportin’ hot-weather-ready short hair and music-scene-festive side-cuts & undercuts. Maybe it’s because I’m decidedly femme, but the issue I most struggle with is invisibility. I’m fighting the pervasive assumption from the old rich yuppies that run this city & its media (thx Fox news) that I don’t even exist, and then I have to go ahead and love long hair and girly clothes and ridiculous shoes.

1. The Easy Way

The simplest way to be gay here is to cut off your hair and wear plaid.

how-to-be-a-lesbian-haircut-plaid

2. SD Lesbian Uniform

Of course, plenty of us don’t want to do that. That is why we have an alternative uniform, the Basic SD Femme. Carefully select clothes that you could wear to the gym (but probably don’t because they’re your going out clothes), wring your hair into a messy but tight bun (do not use those tutorials you saw back when you used to read Seventeen mags; this bun needs to look like something a man would try to make), and then add all the makeup you want.

Oh, and flip flops. San Diegans always wear flip flops to the bar. Which I hate. Please stop. Bar floors have puke residue, and cigarette ash, and spilled drinks. Protect your toes. Wear a cute and ever-so-butchy pair of slip-on deck shoes instead.

sd-femme-lesbian-uniform

Thing is, I don’t want to wear this uniform. I don’t go to the gym (so why fake it), I don’t want to wear flip flops if I’m not at the beach, and I don’t want to restrain my glorious mane. Yes I have donned this uniform and yes it probably got me girls’ numbers, but that is beside the point.

3. Lipstick

To survive being a (femme) lesbian in SD, I had to get proactive. I had to learn x-ray vision. I brushed up on all the signs I learned from Effing Dykes; the asymmetry, the chin nod, smirking, gettin’ vibes. I don’t remember if this was an Effing-D thing, but one of my favorite “rainbow” flags is lipstick.

gay-femme-lesbian-lipstick-drawing

  1. Even straight women don’t really wear lipstick for men. They wear it because it’s hot. Lipstick is armor. Lipstick is alpha performance of femininity. Lipstick is “I know the secret and precious world of Barbies.” Lipstick is “I could be famous.” Lipstick is “so what if my boyfriend doesn’t like it because it means he can’t kiss me? I’m sexy af.”
  2. Queer women take that attitude one step further and pick a color that is just a little off-putting. Garish, even. Orange-red that ever-so-slightly clashes with her skin tone. Bluish pop-pink. Neon fuchsia.

If a woman is wearing lipstick, especially if it’s nothing but lipstick (no foundation, little-to-no eye makeup) and it could be described as “bold,” your gaydar should go *ping.*

4. Gay Eye Contact

Gaydar isn’t just sitting on your figurative instrument deck, passively scanning all that surrounds you and emitting a soothing bell noise whenever it finds a match. Gaydar is something you do. The best way to use it is to try some prolonged eye contact. Just look her in the eyes, and try to send her the telepathic message, “I know you’re gay.” She’ll then know you know she is gay and will telepathically respond, “I am super gay.” Here’s me, initiating eye contact with you:

note the upturned chin and smirk

note the upturned chin and smirk

A straight woman’s reaction will look something like this:

gay-eye-contact-comic-straight-1

gay-eye-contact-comic-straight-2

 

She doesn’t understand why you’re kinda staring at her awkwardly, so she looks away almost immediately.

A queer woman, however, keeps on looking back:

gay-eye-contact-comic-1

gay-eye-contact-comic-2

gay-eye-contact-comic-3

 

Or, for the extreme version:

 

2 Years of SD Survival Guide

February 6th, 2015 was the actual anniversary, but it wasn’t in my Google Calendar so it didn’t exist.

Luckily today is poop and I don’t feel like writing, so the annual recap is perfectttt.

Links, pics, and excerpts for your enjoyment!!!!!!!!!!!!  The exclamation points are how you know I am enthusiastic and not just boring and sad :D

Snapchat-20140131100329Last year’s recap… Also uses the word poop. I’ve worn a few 2-dimensional identities in my life — the kind people use when they’re trying to describe you to a friend. They’ve varied from “Anthony’s girlfriend,” to “redheaded lesbian” and at least one unpublishable moniker in-between. Slowly, over the past year, “writer” has been taking over.

IMAG0487_1Giving myself excuses to be mean lol. Also viddygames & feminism. I’d like to give you some insight into the spiraling self-doubt that occurs for me whenever I say something remotely divisive on these social media channels.

Paranoia in the digital age, snapchat, and hangovers. Hangover is a philosophy, a way of being, in which fears and anxieties are either muffled, too heavy with the poison in your blood to run rampant over you, or they are amplified with the urgency of vomit.

girlfriend-in-party-hatOne of my fav posts: Crashing parties in PB. I met an incoherent philosopher. He made us give him really long hugs, but they were more drunken than amorous so I was fine with that. Maybe because he shared so many gooey-ooey thoughts about humanity I stole one of Katelyn’s cigarettes and traded it with a stranger who wandered up to the back wall for a high five.

Bad-feminist-fuck-itFEMINISM WITH RAD PICTURES. I saw an article, “5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having,” by HuffPo and got excited to get my feminist morning-read on, but….what was I thinking this is HuffPo.

tutu rave fishnets furry legwarmersRavetastic adventure. Event page said: “dress like Bruce Lee, get in free” which is a dumb and impossible, but Katelyn confidently put me in a cheongsam-inspired top and a tutu and said it would count.

I insult you on the internet because I love you or something like that. The truth is, for me, I’m just obsessed with all of you sometimes. I want to know if it’s okay to write about you. Picasso’s girlfriend probably didn’t tell him to hide away the portraits he made of her saying, ‘baby, what? I look so ugly, do you really think my nose is that big? My eyes are that..awkwardly placed in relationship to the rest of my face parts, seriously they aren’t even pointing in the same direction…??’

Party-planning-guest-listI’ve been obsessed with parties since childhood look read my diary. Candyland was the obvious choice for my “Sweet Sixteen” but I have to admit I was most excited about making giant lollipops out of balloons and cellophane.

If you take out a notebook and write down what a person says to you, they will fall in love with you.

Being Artsy Fartsy because Sports Bars…?? Draw a puzzle piece that’s open on all sides. Explain these connections happen to you all the time, that you’re easy. Explain you understand it was special for him, but it was common for you. When you hug him goodbye, he will recite his phone number into your ear.

I love birds. All of my snapchats are of birds.

I am the worst at nerd so I write an essay on why nerd is boring and I don’t need to try. Check out these birds tho. I understand, I really do, that having a common lexicon is a short cut to establishing shared experiences. But if you go on and on about Naruto, and I don’t know jack about Naruto, what am I supposed to do?

wpid-wp-1397760228272.jpegGood weather in SF means I am cursed. Trust me this makes sense. San Diego perfect weather is relentless. San Francisco sunshine is just a little bit delirious. I know I can’t live here because in my heart of hearts I know how inconsolable I get on a “blustery” day. I know this, but the Curse tricked me into thinking I can do these things.

Snapchat-20140417115114LOL fuck I fucked up my leg. Turns out if there’s a lump sticking out of my shin a terrifying extra 1-inch, my reaction is mostly jovial. This is a battle wound. Also, I had taken 3 Ibuprofen before the concert in anticipation of wearing my improbable shoes.

My friend Alexis found a live scorpion when she unpacked her luggage in America.

Went to mexico. Killed scorpion. Temporary veganism ensues. They are giving their bodies nutrients instead of Taco Bell and are rewarded with endurance and energy. I was trapped in a vicious whiskey / crunchwrap / gatorade cycle just trying to survive ’til next Friday.

EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE.

infantino-squeeze-pouch-for-babies-holds-2-shotsLifehack put liquor in these things and then in your pants. Infantino makes a squeeze pouch “feeding line” (are they children or are they livestock??) so that yuppie parents can package up custom applesauces, vegetable purrée, and other goo for their toddlers to quaff. … I will demonstrate in pictures how to alter this fine product to smuggle liquor in your underwear.

Sami is sad maybe party help? 

Dude my parents are super cool. As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered the joys of combining alcohol with activities I once hated, such as camping, sports, weddings, and now, socializing with my parents. If it is at all possible for you, I recommend getting to the point where you can get blasted with the people who made you.

Yes I am wearing a bunch of beanie babies I hot glued together as a garment.

Confidence. Let’s break it down. I am (usually) good at empathizing.  This makes it easier to understand other people’s actions and motivations and avoid blaming myself for things that aren’t my fault.

Sexual Predators :(

…So obviously feminism.

…And more feminism.

Dafuq am I doing with this blog shit got serious all the sudden? I could form an elite group of partiers who would descend on events like glitter locusts and leave kickbacks sparkling with glaze of alcohol and shimmer of sex-sweat.

This is where my parents met. Well, that's what K'nB Wine Cellars believed for the longest time.

In case you didn’t know, there are real neato perks to drinking at the same place all of the time. Go on Mondays because you need a beer to recover from the trauma of restarting your work week. Go on Tuesdays because you wish you came with an appetite on Monday and really wanted to try those sliders but, tomorrow, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Hi, the weather is great today in San Diego and also I am not your girlfriend.

Back to feminism because I give the people what they want. In a world where, “I’m a lesbian,” works less than half as well as, “I have a boyfriend,” we need more people who are willing to make it obvious that it is simply valid for a girl to reject a man because she says so. No explanation needed.

Le Butcherettes are worth driving to Santa Ana to see, apparently. I saw her pulsate and shake in a way that defies sexually-charged gazes. I dare you to objectify me.

Remember the space koozie I was so proud of....?

Burning man.

More burning man.space koozie after

Also burning man.

dairy-drought-takes-a-lot-of-water-to-make-happy-cowCows are causing the drought, I decided. Also shrubbery. Forget just turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, the best thing to do is find alternatives to a lush green lawn. If your front yard looks like a sad, tawny shag of neglected responsibility, consider yourself the hero of this story.

Writing partyI’m writing a book!! I’ve started mentioning this wordy beast when people ask what I’m doing with my life. You know, because besides drinking, it’s all I’ve been doing with my life.

How do you speak up when it feels like it’s too late? I have been beating myself up recently for leaving things unsaid. Friends have said or done things that I was not okay with, and I pretended everything was okay and did not say anything.

Just when you think I’m done writing about festivals… I present this packing list. Things You Bring But Never Use: 4 extra friggin shirts; 2 extra friggin blue jeans; Book for “downtime” …

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 6.55.50 PMGoddamnit now this song is stuck in my head again. I “just don’t get” why the skinny shaming in Megan Trainor’s hit single is a big deal.

Unwanted sexual attention :c I often get some variation of, “If you weren’t gay, I would totally have tried to date you.”

Wanted sexual attention :) So, you think your lezfriend is smoldering hot. I’m guessing since you called her “lesbian friend” and not just “friend,” you’re either straight or bi/queer.

Resticles.Day.CloseUpHey look, burning man. And testicles.  Despite resembling hairy sacks of balls, they were very pretty.

matt-taylor-shirt-comet-landing-pensiveIn some ways it’s just a shirt, but really it’s so much more than that. This is what happens when an intelligent man is faced with his mistakes. He feels them more truly than those too defensive to see clearly. He sees the thousands of implications of his tiny, tiny, oh-not-so-tiny mistake.

Thanks drawingThanksgiving feels. I am imperfect. I am too afraid to join conversations when I imagine a response that will overwhelm me (Ferguson). I fantasized about posting a “cheat sheet” today for avoiding cultural appropriation, with cute drawings, timely for Thanksgiving, and posturing as if I have a clue.

Lost-panic-typewriter-drawing.jpgAt least some good writing comes out of my personal problems. I struggle with trigger-induced panic. Often, it is easiest to say I suffer from PTSD, though I haven’t been formally diagnosed and do not want to diminish the experiences of others who may have it worse than I do.

Jury duty made me miss my fun date to the Birch Aquarium so I sent her snapchats of "fish" all day.

JURY DUTY WAS A PARTY AND A HALF. And the prosecuting attorney was kind of adorable. He was soft-spoken, kept messing up what he was saying, and one time didn’t have his notes for a particular witness. “Uh, I’d like to request a sidebar..” he said when he realized he didn’t have them, “It’s kind of embarrassing…”

wpid-wp-1419367560968.jpegBeing quirky and mysterious is another way to avoid writing a serious blog post, lifehack. Go to the liquor store. Buy a cheap pair of sunglasses and an iced coffee. Go home. Drink half of the coffee. Write her name backwards in the the lenses of the sunglasses with a dry erase marker, and wear them.

I AM FROZEN I DON’T MEAN THE MOVIE. Friends of mine from places like Oregon *caughAlexDialcough* try to say that 44 degrees is not that cold. Relatively, no, it is not. But experientially, for us San Diegans, it is THE MOST TERRIBLE COLD WHYYYYYY

Creationism Museum Lol :D Proceed through the days of creation. Find animals. Exclaim, “Oh my god there is animals here!” Wonder if the docents have heard you take the lord’s name in vain.

Why do people treat me like a prostitute is it because I am a woman? *fake smile* kthanksbye North Park: Some guy will yell “How much?” at you from his car when you’re walking with your girlfriend to your car. It kind of ruins your night.

IMAG0150Inclusivity and cats. Recently I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I have a space and the agency to throw my own parties, so that’s added immediacy to my Responsible Friendshipping goals. I get to say who comes to the party and what the theme is! I’m also interested, however, in the bigger picture. Am I helping my friends move in a healthy direction in their communities?

Inviting people to parties the best way possible is something I think about a lot. Another strategy I’m considering experimenting with is masterminding a small groups rotation pattern. I will make it clear to friends that, to limit the size of the party, I will invite smaller portions of my larger friend base. If they are not invited to the current party, rest assured they will be invited to the next.

actually-happyGiving myself life advice on the internet and people liking, nice :) What better way to show I respect someone than to support their ideas? At times it verges on enabling, the way I cater to people’s fantasies, but I’d rather do that than be a source of discouragement for the people I love.

Wow, today is less poops. It was really lovely to remember that I’ve put all this content out there and that, for the most part, I’m pretty happy with it all. In other words, I’m rad and I deserve to feel rad :P

More importantly, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. It means so much to me when people mention reading my stuff. You make me feel heard :)

If any of you blog, please let me know! I’d like to start following more people this year.

*hugs*

sami

You Are Not My Boyfriend (Being a Better Ally)

I’m no improv expert, but it’s my understanding that the key (perhaps) ingredient to a good scene is to Say Yes. Don’t immediately shut someone down when they say something crazy, try to welcome and grow their suggestions, etc. My gut reaction to an untruth is to correct it, so in a party atmosphere I try to put on my “improv” hat and encourage, as much as possible, delusional thinking. This means pretending to have the same astrological sign as anyone who asks, and getting excited about their birthdate-based analysis of my personality. This means catching when the ball is thrown, and dancing when my hand is asked. It’s not always easy for me, but when I get it right, it’s fun.

I was surprised, then, when one guy was “bothering” me and another called me his girlfriend, that I immediately rejected the idea. “Don’t pretend to be my boyfriend,” I said. “It doesn’t help me.”

Hi, the weather is great today in San Diego and also I am not your girlfriend.

Hi, the weather is great today in San Diego and also you are not my boyfriend.

Was I being a little harsh? Would I have allowed the play-act with a more conventionally attractive guy, or one with more social leverage? This acquaintance-friend was just trying to help me.

No, I was not offended simply because this particular person claimed me as his girlfriend. I was offended because stepping in as a woman’s pretend-boyfriend in order to protect her from other men is bad feminism and poor allyship.

Had *I* made the improvisational statement (“He’s my boyfriend”) and, seeing my aggravation, he allowed it, then that is fine. Of course, no one is obligated to accept lies about themselves or participate in a boyfriend-girlfriend role play (which could be really uncomfortable). A good ally response to a woman trying to pretend to be your girlfriend could also be: “Hey man, she’s not actually my girlfriend but the fact that she’s pretending to be is a pretty clear sign that she’s not interested in you and she wants you to give her space. Please respect her attempt to reject you in a nice way.”

Had I been more on my toes, I might have said something similar, “Oh, he’s not my boyfriend but it’s obvious he offered to pretend since he can see that you’re bothering me. I was trying to think of a non-confrontational way to tell you to please give me some space, but I think it’s time I just say so.” Instead, I was startled.

Somehow, it did not work when he made the improv-move. By telling another man that he was my boyfriend, he put me in the awkward position of needing to defend my space from not one, but two fronts. If I accepted the role, I would then need to negotiate, such that the other man wouldn’t catch on, the terms of our “relationship.” Would he try to hold my hand (which would make me uncomfortable)? Would he use pet names (this also would be weird for me). Kiss me? He did motion like he was going to put his arm around me, which is why I barked at him. Don’t pretend to be my boyfriend.

Telling someone that you are a woman’s boyfriend to “protect” her also has several, more nuanced problems:

1. It assumes that she “needs” your help.

First, people generally do not like attention drawn to their vulnerabilities or weaknesses. In the case of people with systemic disadvantages due to racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, etc., there are webs of social risks attached to having their vulnerabilities revealed. I know, as a gay woman, I feel a lot of pressure to protect the “problems” in my relationship(s). Marriage is a legal privilege I have only recently been granted in my state, and socially I sometimes feel pressure to “prove” that I “deserve” it. I might avoid talking about my more complex, unconventional, or really any relationship problems, and I might avoid getting help for them, because I often am made to feel I have to be an “example” for all gay women. I don’t want to give fuel to homophobes to criticize gay women.

A woman who is not interested in a persistent man (lesbian or not) faces a fire hose of insults. If she shows or admits that she is unsure, oftentimes a man will use that to assume he has a chance or that she can be persuaded. If she is too dismissive too fast, often he will assume her evaluation of their match potential is wrong because how could she know so quickly, she barely knows me? Any crack is seen as a way for the offending man to blast her defenses and get what he wants, or even feels he deserves. Many women know what they are up against and have their strategies for coping with this, and not all interruptions in their strategies are welcome or even effective.

It is not helpful for someone to focus on and draw attention to my weaknesses when they could instead help me in my goal to represent myself as strong and independent. Even if it seems obvious (to you) that I’m hanging for dear life off the edge of a cliff. I may be perfectly capable of saving myself, or I might just resent the way you made me look weak in front of the other lemmings.

2. Whether or not she can use your help, it does not allow her a graceful way to accept it.

Second, to be a good ally you must offer help in a way that can be accepted or rejected gracefully and, as much as possible, invisibly. Ana Mardoll gives a good example about a co-worker who used his presence and a plausible excuse to diffuse a common uncomfortable situation at a bookstore. The boyfriend play-act is my bad example because it makes too many assumptions, and too obviously, such that if I accept I can’t appear to be independent and able to help myself. It’s either: I have a boyfriend and I accept him interjecting in my conversations with other guys (ew), or I reject the role play and I’m back to finding another way to deter my persister.

Yet, assuming that someone needs help is something that we have to do when we are in situations where we see how our privilege could be leveraged to protect another person, with less privilege, from discomfort or harm. It is a socially risky and necessary part of attempting to be an ally.

I use the word “assuming” because that is exactly what you do. Any time you identify a situation to inject your help, you are making an educated guess that it is needed. The risk comes in for you because you could be wrong, whether or not you are wrong you could be rejected, and whether or not you are rejected you open yourself to the conflict in which you tried to intervene. I say it is necessary to “assume” because 1. People will often not ask for help (vulnerability), 2. People with less privilege than you often do need the help of allies, directly or indirectly, and 3. You must assume that you are even able to give this help. Please always remember that you are making assumptions when you offer help, and use this mindfulness to be gracious and modest.

Many people try to reward themselves at this step by claiming hero-ship or some other gain (getting a super amazing pretend-girlfriend such as myself), perhaps because they unconsciously know the effort it takes to help a person and want to reward themselves. Occasionally, the reward is a by-product of another goal and can be permissible, e.g. posting your efforts to facebook to encourage other people to do the same (awareness) and getting compliments and attention (reward). However, as difficult as it is to stick out your hand for someone, you are not the person who is hanging off the edge of a cliff. Please consider the awkwardness (now everyone knows there’s a problem, great), discomfort (do I have to hold your hand, now?), or danger (did you make him angry at me?) you might put them in by making yourself out to be a hero.

 3. It perpetuates the idea that women should “belong” to men and that other men should respect men’s spaces, not women’s.

Third, using the boyfriend game to attempt to help a woman perpetuates sexism in the long run. It displays to the “predator” that what should really deter him from “bothering” her is that she “belongs” to another man. Resorting to the boyfriend excuse nullifies all of her other attempts to signal to the predator that he should go away. Her comfort, desires, and needs don’t really matter, but what does are those of her imaginary boyfriend.

In a world where, “I’m a lesbian,” works less than half as well as, “I have a boyfriend,” we need more people who are willing to make it obvious that it is simply valid for a girl to reject a man because she says so. No explanation needed. Women are told that they are not inherently sexual creatures, that they are wishy-washy about what they want (and sometimes we are, everyone can be), and if the guy persists long enough he will wear down her defenses and she will realize/admit she likes him. Excuse me, assholes of the universe, you are not an advertising campaign, women are not your consumers, and no matter how obnoxious your commercials are, I will not buy your penis (I swear a lot of commercials these days just try to be as awful/weird/disturbing as possible so we remember that you can get insurance from a talking box with an eyebrow problem, ugh, fuck CGI talking things).

Progressive box guy I hate you and you give me nightmares.

About Being an “Ally” in General

A final note, remember that the final arbiter of whether or not you are an ally is the group of people or person you are trying to support. Oftentimes it is beneficial to publicly name yourself an ally (e.g. raise awareness) but it does not make you 1. an Expert, 2. inscrutable, 3. a hero. While calling yourself an ally could expose you to criticism and even hate, it does not magically erase your privilege. Yes, a business which labels itself an ally to a cause could be a target of vandalism, which is just dreadful. But, a person who has a black friend is not “practically black” by association and does not get to use the n-word (in good taste), for example.

Just think of it this way, a true ally knows that supporting [insert group here] is the right thing to do and everyone should feel the same way. It shouldn’t be special or heroic to support people; society should just change such that we are all allies to each other.

Goodwill to all who made it this far (jeez, what an essay),

Sami

—–

Comments Policy

This is new for me…. But I like the idea of having post-specific comment policies.

  • As the owner of this website, I reserve the right to delete any comment, for any reason, of course.
  • But, to generate trust with my commenters, it is very unlikely I will delete your comment
  • If I do delete your comment it is because you are not writing in the spirit of the post, as detailed below.

This post is intended for people who are interested in being good allies, promoting good allyship, or deconstructing allyship. It is not intended for people to debate whether feminism is “valid” or privilege is “real.” There are other places on the internet for that! Enjoy.

P.S. Anyone can comment, you don’t need to make some sort of account or “sign up.”

Comment Here

Why does a party lifestyle blog need feminism?

Why does a lesbian need feminism? Why does a lesbian going out to a gay bar during San Diego Pride week need feminism? I mean, I’m categorically sexually disinterested in men, I’m in an environment which should not have friction or competitiveness or predation between women and men, and this week is, in theory at least, all about solidarity in our minority status as LGBTers. So you’d think I could take off my feminist hat and just enjoy my Adios, right?

Actually, my interactions went fairly well last night. The only example I can truthfully give is that a friend-of-a-friend started to tell a story and stopped at the word bitches, “Sorry, I always say that word. Anyway these bitches…” So, at least he was aware. Fuck though, I hear the most misogynistic crap come out of the mouths of gay men.

Part of me wants to give them a break. If the world has been trying to force-feed you women on a platter like they’re juicy delicious burgers (every Carl’s Jr ad, ever) and you finally want to express your right to want something different in life by proclaiming, “ewwww vaginas,” who can blame you, right?

I’m full of empathy until gay men I’ve barely met spin me around like I’m a little doll (ok, sometimes I like that because my shoes are awesome — but it doesn’t matter if I like it; he should get my permission first) or whistle at me in a drive by or slap my butt or (and, of course this happened) touch my crotch. They basically do this because there’s some sort of agreement between gay men and straight women that she can treat him like a little pet –hashtag gaybestfriend!! — in exchange for a boost in confidence from his (male) approval, and he can…well I’m not sure what he gets out of the arrangement but I’ll have to talk to my gay male friends and get back to you. Perhaps the social mobility through her straight world? Anyway, whatever the deal is, I think it’s a weird and kind of fucked up relationship. And it certainly doesn’t work for me when I’m assumed straight and so desperate for validation from a man that I will accept it gladly from one who isn’t even sexually attracted to me. More willingly, even, because I’m not expected to “pay out” for the favor.

Even when I attempt to retreat from the pressures of the straight world — when I try to go somewhere where I’m not going to be bombarded with cheesy pick-up lines or creepy staring — even at a gay bar, my interactions are still colored by the gender roles which filter and mutate into my environment. Sure, I’ll be able to relate with a gay man on many points about our shared queer space. But there are still going to be moments here and there where his viewpoint as a man means he’s going to trample over me. I will grant a few jabs because of my femme privilege — in that I blend into the straight world so easily and by choice of appearance or whatever he might not. But, I think there is a point where a negative attitude against women goes beyond the objection to the oppressive straight culture and into just mirroring sexism from that same culture. There are moments where I am made the object of a joke, or I have to witness a drag performance which is overly mocking of women rather than gender roles in general, or I’m actually molested, or I see other women treated this way. These things remind me of why we need feminism.

Just because it is to a lesser extent does not mean it should be ignored. Party environments can of course amplify misogyny — hello booze and hook-up culture. But environments which are expected to be safe can still host some of my most uncomfortable moments. Even a party thrown by a particularly enlightened bunch of hippies. Not every moment is going to be puppies and rainbows, but as long as the risks are so dire (rape, violence against women) I’d like to not be reminded of them. Not when I’m trying to get drunk on blue liquor, especially.

And that’s just the gay bar. Like I hinted at before, booze and hook-up culture makes for some pretty desperate maneuvers (and upsetting behaviors) at any party. All I really need to say is I live in a world where telling a man that I’m a lesbian does not turn him away; it turns him on.

There is no escape from the restrictive narratives which police gender. There is no escape from the entitlement that many men feel they have in regards to women’s bodies. Not even parties, and especially not parties in a lot of ways. People are trying to get drunk and fuck, after all. So long as I am surrounded by people who are trying to have sex with each other, and our larger cultural example of how to negotiate around sex and gender is so broken, I am going to be a witness, collateral damage, and/or a target of sexism. And I’d like to help fix that. So I can drink in peace.

Go to Bro Bars

Go to bro bars. Order a Miller Light. No one will think you are drinking it ironically, so get that out of your head. Enjoy it, instead. Talk to strangers. Talk to strangers who ask if you don’t mind if they sit next to you. Don’t mind.

Spend the night listening. Spend the night believing you’ll be gleaning wisdom, or “stories of the people,” or perspective, or a new way to arrange the same sentences everyone says, always, everyday.

If you take out a notebook and write down what a person says to you, they will fall in love with you.

If you pull out a notebook mid-conversation to write what a person just said, they will fall in love with you.

Mean something to someone. Turn him down easy. Turn him down hard. Draw a puzzle piece that’s open on all sides. Explain these connections happen to you all the time, that you’re easy. Explain you understand it was special for him, but it was common for you. When you hug him goodbye, he will recite his phone number into your ear.

Listen.

Johnny Cash.

Basketball shoes.

Faggotron.

bro-bar-notes-faggotron

Take out a notebook. A bartender named Gregory will tell you, you don’t need to write a poem about him. Buy a lotto ticket. Win 4 dollars. Gregory’s dog does a trick — puts both big black paws on the bar and drinks water from a shot glass.

These places are quiet on Thursdays. These are the neighborhood places. There are regulars here, and you aren’t one of them. Not even close. Order another Miller Light. It’s half good when it’s cold.

 

1 year of SDSurvivalGuide

This Saturday will mark the 1 year anniversary of SD Survival Guide.

I’ve worn a few 2-dimensional identities in my life — the kind people use when they’re trying to describe you to a friend. They’ve varied from “Anthony’s girlfriend,” to “redheaded lesbian” and at least one unpublishable moniker in-between. Slowly, over the past year, “writer” has been taking over.

For that, I am calling this a success. The encouragement and feedback I receive make my fucking day, ya’ll, because I constantly think about how happy I would be if I had an audience for a book, and if I could write one that is worthy of them.

Many of you lament that you’ve gotten behind in my posts, so this week I hope you enjoy an excerpt from each one.  And pretty, pretty please write me a comment, text me, or send me a snapchat with any thoughts about my writing.

Snapchat-20140131100329

Simulation

Cutesy post introducing SD relationship with the weather: Hypo-manic with fear, we discuss rain and sun and fog in a tone that is easy to confuse with eagerness.  Oh, we’re not pleasant or easily amused; we’re terrified.

Nausea-filled regret at first post + epic tale of misogyny: Trapped in a bar stool between smokers, a railing, and his body, I felt like a cornered animal.  Even as I chewed him out for what must have been at least 20 minutes, he stood alternatively with his face so close to mine I could feel his breath or with his crotch against my leg.

Attempt to draw in San Diego Googlers using keywords: There’s sort of an ennui in happiness and stability, and this is not the best town in which to forage for chaos. In this heaven, we’re a bit oblivious to evil and all the fun it brings.

Party story about violence against inanimate objects: The bear arm results from the potent combination of three things. Me, alcohol, and unrequited lust.

Here's a drawing of Katelyn murdering a unicorn.

Examining  appropriation of LGBT culture: I thought of the trendiness of swinging, straight couples hunting for that perfect bisexual woman who will love both of them in a harmonious triad, and 1-dick-per-relationship policies.  I thought of dudes who ask me to sleep with their girlfriends, but insist that they at least be allowed to watch.

Party Monster Kill Switch + I freaking love Sour Cream: “Fluffy bear got me through a lot of hard times, too.”

Katelyn's planning to use this purple vase with her 3 hose hookah next.

Thrift shopping primer for San Diegans: I still thrift primarily to impress people at parties. I try to be selective, but having a conversation starter is more valuable to me than closet space.

My embarrassing familiarity with hangovers: But then everything is too loud so I sit in a dark room. Everything is too dark so I move to a dimly lit room. My blood is uncomfortable.

The “Gay Gambit” + map I found: “Gossip Gril is Vagina Stronghold?” I said, unimpressed. “More like where I go to remember I hate lesbians and cigarettes.”

I wanted to remember how bad I am at math and make it about alcohol: Ok, I lied, sometimes we feel poor and we drink piss water. Can I find a drink that doesn’t cost more than my student loans?

sdsurvivalguide-banquet-chicken-fingersBlaming orange juice for my problems:  I’ve been living off gatorades and cheese-foods since Monday. Cheese comforts me. Katelyn, I said, I want something like chicken fingers or macaroni n’ cheese. Something little kids eat.

Carpe diem for stupid people: I just want to know, how is throwing on a trucker hatt, getting smammered, and drooling on a young woman while she gyrates against your crotch seizing the day?

Another picture by Mel Marcado. I wasn't too sure about my decision to wear braids until a girl ran up to me, touched them, and told me I looked "so cute, like an anime character."

Reviewing a little SD rave: It felt like being in a kindergarten where you’re allowed to eat the crayons.

What is our civil duty to interfere in bad situations?Pro-tip: pretending to be my “boyfriend” in order to “rescue” me from some asshat is going to annoy me almost as much as the dude telling me I’ve got pretty teeth 10 times in one night.

I fell in love with a stripper: “No,” I said in her ear, “I don’t care if he gets off. I want you and he has the money.”

Lame short post b/c I procrastinated getting ready for SCA War: Each fight could represent their last day on earth, so at night we party.

mac-n-cheese-pizza-ketchupKatelyn told me to blog about pocket cheese: . After getting off work at 7 and taking your pre-party nap and laboring over your costume, there is no time for food. You can’t chop a salad, you can’t toast a sandwich and juice a carrot. You have to eat on the go. So we have this thing called “Pocket Cheese.”

K1-to do listSaga of my christian-phase closeted love-triangle: I hadn’t had an orgasm since I found Jesus.

Some 35-year-old said something I didn’t like, so I blogged about it: Ah crap. I’m that stubborn young woman who doesn’t like to be told what to do with her life and doesn’t have respect for people’s personal beliefs.

I got the slut strep: How do you tell your doctor that you may be responsible for spreading a nasty disease with a Jameson fueled make-out binge? (Forgive me, for there was a dimly lit bounce house on premises.)

An ex-boyfriend said something I didn’t like, so I blogged about it: An expired apology is one that is so old in respect to its crime that it’s completely missed its window and should stay in a deep basement to rot with the rest of your baggage.

I got the slut strep AGAIN: I can barely stay awake, and when I do manage, I’m confused and vaguely nauseous.

my kaleidoscope of face parts

Artsy thing I wrote about a warehouse party: She liked me. I shouldn’t have been surprised; wives always like me, come on to me, kiss me. Yet, she focused on me so quickly, when my irises were just starting to quicken again.

I missed Pride because I was sick and I examined my coping strategies for FOMO: Do you realize how many strains of new and exotic viruses are flying in from around the country, world even?  No thank you, spawn of swine flu.

Audio interview (I procrastinated so I never transcribed it): For my very first local celebrity profile interview, I’m featuring a very close friend and source of my inspiration, Xanadu Rocketship.

hungover-couch-girl-cartoon-underwearBuncha theme ideas for parties: I have been throwing theme parties since I was 7. I would plan for my next birthday just as soon as the last one passed, brainstorming ideas in my journal.

Almost missed a deadline for a post, but my brother called and I was inspired: Other people don’t sound like themselves on the phone, but I just hear my brother in the hot piece of plastic against my ear. He mentions how the Illuminati or maybe the overlord lizard-brains are monitoring our call, trying to intercept it, how he’s been really into conspiracy theories…

I attempt to forgive myself for not knowing enough about pop culture: Due to my delusional escapades as an alien princess, a Christian, a heterosexual… my connection to reality is a bit flimsy.

mr-scumbag-from-sprint-telephone-business-card-college-storeI learned that Sprint has tricksy awful sales-hobbits: Katelyn needs a new phone as well, because it never seems to work when I need her immediate attention and dammit why doesn’t she ever text me back?

I spent 3 hours making an OkCupid manifesto: You are meeting a stranger. Off the internet. You do not need to invest heavily in this date.

Benefit of being a writer, life lessons are now blog fodder: But when I checked my bank account Monday and discovered my wallet was stolen I wasn’t sure if I felt more like a victim of crime or a victim of my hangover.

6 monthiversary is an excuse to analyze keywords!: I know there’s plenty to do, I know there’s stunning and quirky and intelligent and sexy people in this city. I am making it my mission to connect these people together.

Taco Wow Cafe San DiegoDelirious with new technology: I’m relentless. I won’t stop. The smartphone eats my dreams. I don’t need to sleep. I have 7 years of technology to absorb.

Sometimes I kick people in the butt and I have to leave the party: Now I’m no stranger to butts in my face, but I don’t like stranger butts in my face, and this guy didn’t even know my name.

comic-lesbian-first-sleepover-sexBoobs: There are basically two ways to be a feminist at a party. One is to stand up for your beliefs and counter any bullshit the best you can, whether through reasoned quips or belligerent screaming, as is necessary. The other is to realize you are outnumbered, down another drink, and to instead store up your dismay and upset for an angry blog rant.

I struggle with coming up with something so you get to read my diary: If only, if only, I can become such a celebrity that people will want to read my diary.

Cutesy post about tourists: This weekend I met a woman from Chicago who awed at the mountains, and yes they were very effective at blocking my cell reception but I stopped cursing T-mobile and also spun in a slow circle. Ok, yes, I’m looking at them. Wow.

Lame last-minute blog post about Halloween costumes: I’m down to 15 minutes before I need to start assembling my own costume, and I realized if I really do want to provide a service through this blog, I can at least share some last-minute, cheap and lazy, DIY Halloween Costumes that I found / imagined.

Lookin' like a supermodel in my onesie jam jams.

I’m so full of myself I ask people to tell me something I don’t know when they say I’m beautiful: Make yourself memorable with a fraction more thought given to the compliments you choose…

I often leave parties without saying goodbye and why you should do it too: Immediately a man I didn’t know put his arm around me, people were dancing barefoot in the backyard to no music at all, and worst of all, I realized, everyone was dry as paper. Sober.

Based on Eysenck's personality theory (I didn't make this up) -- click for larger view.

An introvert said something I didn’t like so I wrote a blog post about it: Yes, the Eysenck test divides emotional instability by introversion/extroversion. But I won’t accept cherry-picking the emotional problems you identify with as a valid “diagnosis” of introversion. Perhaps, like I did, you have a secret extrovert inside of you who is trapped by feelings of moodiness and pessimism.

I played a game of Cards Against Humanity and I was bored so I wrote a blog post about it:  In general, just realize that nobody is paying attention to you because this game is designed for narcissists.

Got lost. Doesn’t matter, had waffles: As you probably already heard, I scooped chicken and waffle alike with my hand shovels into my mouth bucket, and then wiped all with individually packaged moist towelettes, and felt sated and warm.

grinch-who-stole-facebookToo much upworthy pissed me off:  If I don’t know the person too well, such breaches have me reaching for the “hide” or even “unfriend” buttons. Facebook only lets me see you in one-dimension, and the one you’re giving me is ugly.

I whine about not wanting to go to work:  I know that when I have to go back to work, the night previous I will be a restless mess of reluctance. I will do something pathetic with my time, like watching cable television and playing solitaire on my iPad. I don’t know why, but I waste every moment that is my last, simultaneously berating myself for not doing something more valuable with what I still have.

electric-grape-leather-80s-comic-strawberry-blondeBar story about a guy being nice to me: The “wrong” bar and my general lowered expectations for birthdays should have set me at unease, but maybe I just feel like I can do anything in a pair of Jeffrey Cambell’s and 1000 square inches of electric-grape leather. Maybe I could even accept free drinks from strangers.

Mean Girls don’t actually exist:  I find it immensely rewarding to get people to come out of their shells, even if it is a shell made out of gender shenanigans.

Kitty-leggings-patterned-tightsCigarettes are like little puke torpedos: Luckily drunk-sami became a smartphone photographer so I’ve managed to reconstruct memories of Jenga and flogging.

Don’t read this when you’re drunk; trust me I’ve tried: I’m beginning to identify two major structures in which a party group can operate. I’ll call them the Creatives and the Nostalgics.

Another attempt at Google traffic, but it’s actually a decent read if you ask me: Those kinds of conversations, about how SD is so nice and the weather is fucking rad, are immensely boring to me.

Thank you again for reading (I fucking mean it) and please tell me in the comments below which posts are the SD Survival Guide “must reads.”