Guide to San Diego Catcalls

La Jolla

Someone will yell “Hey sexy lady” at you in the parking lot outside of Ross, but you won’t be sure if it’s maybe someone you know.

PB (Pacific Beach)

Walking from one house to another, you’ll get an assortment of whistles and a “Yeah party!” You kind of like the “yeah party!” It’s fun.

Old Town

You hear “How’s your day, pretty girl?” from what you thought were a pile of clothes behind the Wells Fargo History Museum. Eh….please don’t.

Midway

The catcalls are louder and more frequent when you’re with other women. You don’t know if you feel comforted because it seems like they know it’s extra creepy to catcall a woman by herself or annoyed because they know it’s extra creepy to catcall a woman by herself.

Downtown

Surprisingly few calls. You are sad that you’re surprised.

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.

Normal Heights

Alone on El Cajon Boulevard, a guy will whistle at you from his car. You flip him off. You wonder later why you didn’t pound on his window. It was right there. Fuck him.

catcall-im-a-person-not-a-parrot(True stories.)

 

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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

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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

Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too

…here is Part 2.

You saw in my last post that, “Women Hurt Women, Too.”

Patriarchy hurts men, too. It hurts men because it self-perpetuates. Even women become willing participants in patriarchy. Even women ignore other women’s struggles; even women use #notallmen on their tweets. And a self-perpetuating patriarchy does not give men much room to be their true selves; it punishes men for opposing it.

This is going to be a rather dense post, so here are the bullet points you can discuss on your Facebook walls in lieu of actually reading the whole thing:

  • Patriarchy is a system that, by its own (sloppy yet powerful*) “design,” holds itself together and pops up everywhere
  • Men are hurt by patriarchy, too
  • Patriarchy punishes men who want to be “different”
  • The fact that Patriarchy exists means that women have (valid) reasons to be distrustful of men, for their own safety. For a well written, male perspective on this, I recommend the “Women are Defensive (With Good Reason)” section of Pepper’s larger essay (which, though it is about nonmonogamy, is useful in general)
  • This distrust hurts men (especially those who are sexually interested in women), too. Men have a crisis of identity, because they are told they could be “accidental rapists” and, like, no one wants to be that
  • The Patriarchy protects subtle, hurtful behaviors such that they are supposedly invisible even to the men that do the hurtful behaviors. This hurts men, because men can begin to believe that they can’t trust themselves.
  • Part of the solution is to banish these hurtful behaviors from the shadows. One of the ways to do that is to, as men, call out other men you see doing hurtful, Patriarchy-supporting behaviors.
  • If it is not obvious to you what these behaviors are, spend more time listening to women and to feminists who have spent a lot of time experiencing / thinking about these behaviors

*Sloppy Yet Powerful is my new band name.

Liberal media is talked about like it’s a monolith, a fucking machine or a conspiracy meant to control our brains. Regardless if that is true (and I have my suspicions — a little cog named Jenji Kohan got me fantasizing about conjugal visits with particular jumpsuit-wearing actresses), there’s another monolith that controls our interactions as if by invisible gears — actually, it mostly uses social scripts — and that is Patriarchy. For the benefit of my readers that might not throw around the word “scripts” like I do, they’re not just the things Laura Prepon memorizes for her job. Social scripts are those little memorized stories that tell us what to do when we have to interact with other human beings.

Social scripts tell us that when we love someone, we kiss them, and that when we really love someone, we marry them. They tell us that when someone is being a nerd, and it makes you uncomfortable, you laugh at them. They get rewritten so that nerds can be geeks, and some geeks are cool, and if you aren’t a big enough geek, maybe you’re not cool.  Social scripts are passed down to us from our parents and grandparents and/or other guardians. They play out in our favorite TV shows, and movies, and the movies we hate but we watch anyway because they’re on TV and the remote is too far away.

“Alternative” scripts are shot down, demeaned, framed as a waste of time, and, worst and most frequently of all, not imagined in the first place. Ordinary men are Patriarchy’s unconscious deliverers, because without help, ordinary people cannot imagine their own scripts. Ordinary men aren’t told any other way to be, and are seduced by the charm of stories whose outcomes they know. Any impulse to be otherwise, to be “different,” is squashed, leaving men the apparent choice of a hyper-masculine bravado (and its spoils) or an empty valley (some people call this the “friendzone”). This personality crisis hurts, too.

This is how men do not realize that #yesallwomen experience discomfort at the hands of men. The monolith of patriarchy makes a smokescreen for men like Pan to exist in the “benefit of the doubt” arena where their behaviors are seen as “normal” and not “fucking creepy.” Because it’s “normal” for guys to “sweep women off their feet,” or “seize women in a passionate kiss” — I saw it in all the movies, ever. And it’s “normal” for women to want these things, because princesses.

(Update: when a friend told Pan that “Blotted” was too fucked up and should be left alone, Pan said we are adults and she could make her own decisions. Either he has no idea about “too intoxicated to consent” or he’s using a facade of ignorance to do whatever he wants.)

Patriarchy hurts men too in that it allows these subtle aggressions to live unchallenged. That is: any man can expect that sometimes (or often) his transgressions will be invisible. Predators abuse this system; average men bumble into predatory territory because these walls are kept hidden from them. I have male friends who tell me they worry so much that they could be like the man in the “I Need a Man” story — that someday women could earnestly tell these stories about them.

Part of me is baffled, because my friends are good men, and how could they see themselves that way? Part of me knows that even my most consent-obsessed friends have moments of blindness, where they make other people uncomfortable because they take their sexual agency for granted. The world tells them it is thus, and how can they escape it?

I have a friend that was falsely accused of rape. First, the criminal justice system intervened and found him not guilty. Then, quite some time later, administrators in his college found out about the case and decided to conduct their own investigation and protective measures. This is how his entire campus found out. The administrators’ actions make sense in a lot of ways – they know how ineffective the so-called justice system can be and need to protect their students.

What is most painful for my friend is not the repeat “trial,” though it is stressful and hard and depressing, but the reactions of people he thought knew him better than to mistrust him. That his “friends” are quite capable of seeing him as “the enemy” now, when they happily fell asleep next to him on couches or walked arm-in-arm with him before. Now they are swatting his hands away not just from themselves but from others. I am sure he has even had moments where he asked himself what has he done, no truly, what has he done to deserve this?

Guys, the impulse to fear that you could accidentally be a predator is the right one. The system protects predators, makes excuses for their transgressions. The system will make excuses for your transgressions. It will tell you that you were too drunk, too overcome with testosterone, just trying to be friendly, just trying to have fun, just teasing a little, that girls like bad boys, or strong boys, or confident ones, that nice guys finish last. This same system means there is no easy distinction between rapists and men like you. As long as predators are allowed to lurk in the shadows, the women who have lived in fear of the shadows will see you in them. It is their right to be afraid, lest the shadows devour them.

Proclaiming “Not All Men” is not the answer. Women know not all men are like this, in fact a lot of heterosexual women look forward to the fact that not all men are like this and they might fall in love with one (or more) of them. Yet, for her own safety a woman has to assume the potential for any man to hurt her. She knows that other men and even other women will count her the most responsible for her own safety, rather than protect her from or blame the predators. She should carry mace. She should stand up for herself. She should know better, shouldn’t expect better. The world shows her it is thus, and how can she escape it?

This is how patriarchy hurts men. It assumes everyone is a participant. It tears the ground right out from under them when they resist it. It creates shadows around all of us. The solution is to shine a big blaring spotlight into those shadows. To stop protecting the transgressions of others. I know (some of) you see yourselves in those shadows, are afraid of being called to stand trial for your bumblings. But when the excuses stop, the dark mirror will break, and you will see which pieces of yourself you need to throw away with the shards. I really hope you will.

If you are not sure how to shine this spotlight, stop and listen. There are people out there who can help direct this light. There are people who see the shadows when they close their eyes in fright. It is not their job to tell you, because they have a hard time knowing if you are made of shadows, too. It is merely your job to listen.

How to Spike Your Shoes + a Tale of Violence

If you came here from the google and just want the tutorial for how to make spiky shoes without using goddamn power tools, jump here.

I have mixed feelings about my interest in fashion… in that I know it’s incredibly shallow at times but I’m not a moralist so I know I don’t really need to make an arbitrary value judgement about being shallow.

If I am going to justify my interest in fashion, which is mostly an obsession with shoes, I will say…Jeffrey Campbells kick ass. At least when they are on my feet they do.

I went to my friend Mindy’s going-away party (sniff, we will miss you Mindy). It is probably the last time I’ll see her apartment, which I will also miss, sliced in above a Thai restaurant in Hilcrest. I took my gas mask photo there for her Apocalypse rager.

I wanted to impress Mindy because she is stylish and has an adorable laugh, so I wore these boots of kicking and stomping:

jeffrey-campbell-spike-black-wood-quilt

I was having a pretty good time until some misogynistic monster told the story of forcing an underage girl to walk home with jizz in her hair. Even in his account, she very clearly said not to do that, but he thinks no means yes and he even rubbed it in for her. This guy was basically who everyone thinks Tucker Max is, but actually an asshole. I mean, so is Tucker, but he knows he is. This monster I met last weekend pretends to be self-deprecating as an excuse to tell stories for attention in which he is always the hero and women are unfortunate victims. Because, you know, sorry, that’s just how men are lol haha what-a-riot no fuck you.

“I bet she’s traumatized for life,” I said.

I was possibly also cranky because I was sober. I’ve been trying to be nicer to my liver. Aside: I have been really hungry lately and I realized it is because I’m consuming less liquid calories.

By about 2am I’d ironed out most of my crankiness talking to a new friend on the couch about his job at Alesmith and how I really ought to give the new Skrillex album a chance. I mean normally I would be like oh no, sir, my DJ friends told me never to Skrillex but this guy could make even Skrillex sound appealing, is what I’m saying.

I was quite enjoying the conversation when a new guy walked into the party with his dudes, put on Bubble Butt by Major laser, and asked me to dance.

“I’d rather not,” I said, and my Alesmith friend waved his hands, no thank you. Bubble Butt said if we refused him, he’d shake his bubble butt in our faces.

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. I mean, please, people, don’t put your butts near my body parts without a proper introduction!  I raised my right foot high, a clear message, I thought, that if he proceeded with shaking his bum-bum near my nose, it would only meet boot.

Yeah, I shoved him with my shoe, pretty hard. Then I caught Katelyn’s eye and we high-tailed it outta there. My only regret is that I didn’t stay long enough to say, “Oh, I’m sorry, are you butt-hurt?”

I immediately scored two new pairs of Jeffery Campbells at the PB Buffalo Exchange. For my protection. Against butts.

jeffrey-campbell-usa-americano-damsel-paint-white-lita

DIY Easy Spiked/Studded Heels

These are pretty quick to make. I finished mine in the commercial breaks between watching Breaking Bad. Did you see the last episode? Holy fuck, what a phone call.

You’ll need…

  • Screw-on spikes. Spikes are expensive. Try Amazon, maybe. Mine are like these.
    screw-on-spikes
  • An awl. To avoid using power tools, we’ll make the holes by hand. So keep that in mind when picking the shoes – are you strong enough to stab ’em? I got one from Ace Hardware San Carlos Hardware for $4
    awl-it-is-stabby
  • A screwdriver with a plastic handle
    screwdriver-plastic-handle
  • Shoes. If you want to do pumps like me, you’ll need to choose a pair with a seam down the back, because I am not strong enough to stab through 12 layers of plastic/fabric/plether/suede/whatever-the-fuck so I’ll just go in-between the stitches
  • Maybe some super glue
  • Maybe like some felt dots or something

One

bushmills-whiskey-reed-ginger-beer-cocktail-mixed-drinkPour whiskey over ice and splash some sours or ginger beer or nothing on it. This is always step one why do I even have to remind you??

Two

spikes-close-up-shoesTake a good look at the shoes and plan where you’re going to place the spikes. I opted to go in between the seams, with 4 spikes in each shoe. Space between them makes them look more menacing. I didn’t need to mark my holes, because I can count stitches relatively well, but if you need to do that probably some white out or a pencil, right?

Three

stabbin-shoe-with-awl-lookit-my-glitter-nails-spikesPlace the tip of the awl in between the seams from the outside of the shoe. Place the plastic handle of the screwdriver inside the shoe, and use it to help you make a clean hole without denting the shoe and also so you don’t stab yourself. Go slow so you don’t break the stitches, and push inward with the awl while twisting. Like you are killing something through its eye-socket and you want it to suffer.

If you do break a stitch, you can be paranoid and put a drop of super glue on it though I’m pretty sure the screwed-on spike will hold everything together.

Four

Screw that spike on. Do I really have to explain this? Tighten it with the screwdriver, too.

Five?

The way my particular shoes fit, I can’t even feel the screws, but if they rub on your feet in an uncomfortable way you could try a felt dot or a piece you cut from a gel insert to add space between your precious foot and the screw. Or you could just suffer for fashion like everyone else, duh.

candies-suede-spike-gray-heels-DIY