Rude Men and Rape Culture

I don’t usually post one right after the other but I’ve had two experiences in the last 24 hours that are challenging my ability to be a nice person right now.

Looking people in the eyes is something that I have been taught.  My parents taught me to look at others when I was talking to them.  A teacher taught me about the importance of body language and meeting someone’s eye when listening.  I tend to look at other people and try to make eye contact even they are just passing by me on the street.  Then I smile.  That’s right, I’m that person.  The one who makes other people feel super awkward because, stop everything, I tried to make a human connection.  You never know, that other person may need a smile that day, or someone to talk to.  I try to never be too busy that I can’t stop and talk to a stranger, or (attempt to) give them directions, or just let them know they aren’t alone.  I’ve had many great conversations through this eye contact making thing.  Granted I have been sucked into some awkward ones, and those people selling things on the street usually try and talk to me.  But hey, I figure they deal with the cold shoulder all day, I might as well smile while I say no thank you.

Today on my way to work I stopped at a coffee shop.  While waiting for my drink I look up and see someone walking towards me.  We meet eyes, I smile, he raises one eye brow, cocks his head, and body checks me.  Not the type of body check you’d see in hockey but the kind where a man slowly lets his eyes roam down a woman’s body and then back up again (I’m sure this happens to men as well but we’re talking about me right now).  Not only did I feel super violated, I felt dismissed and like I was “less than.”  All I was trying to do was be nice and this man, a complete stranger, managed to make me feel super shitty about myself.  Thanks a lot asshole.

Experience number 2 happened last night.  I get off work at midnight on Saturdays and since I refuse to pay $20+ for parking I take the bus.  At night I will still look people in the eyes but the reasoning changes a little.  I am letting that person know that I am aware of my surroundings, I see them, and I will remember them.  Yay for rape culture at its finest.  So, I am waiting for the bus and I see someone start to walk by out of the corner of my eye.  I look up, we make eye contact, he stops and proceeds to call me a mother-fucking-fat-ass-bitch.  He keeps walking then changes his mind and turns back around.  He got right up in my face and called me a bitch one more time before leaving.  I thought he was going to spit on me for a second.

Even though the first guy was definitely a jerk it is the second one I’d like to talk about.  I work with women who are often experiencing some kind of (untreated) mental illness.  I am threatened on a nearly daily basis.  I’ve been threatened with a gun, a knife, an axe, and a 2×4.  A man broke his hand on the door next to me when I wouldn’t let him in the building.  I’ve been stalked and the police had to escort me to my car once because someone was waiting around the corner with a baseball bat for me to get off work.  People are up in my face, yelling at me every day I go to work, calling me names that are way worse than this guy did.  And yet, this one man managed to rattle me more than almost all of these other experiences.

I think first and foremost it was because it was out of context for me.  I deal with crazy all day at work I just wasn’t prepared for it outside of work.  Secondly I was alone at the bus stop.  There was no one else in sight and I had no idea when the bus was coming.  I remember thinking if I scream would anyone hear me, if I hit this guy and run could I make it, and if I say/yell anything back would it make it better…or worse?

This is exactly what rape culture does.  It makes women afraid to go out at night and to be alone.  I can talk against it all I want but that doesn’t mean I am not a victim of it.  I can hate the fact that women, that I, have been taught to be afraid of men.  I can hate the fact that people are becoming desensitized to more and more amounts of violence, and that jokes about rape and the degradation of women are not taken seriously.  I can be against all of this but it does not change the fact that I take off my jewelry and change my clothes when I leave work late at night.  It does not change the fact that I check my back seat before I get into my car, or that I choose to park under lights and away from other cars.  These are not things that I was explicitly told to do by someone else.  These are things I learned, almost instinctively, by watching the culture around me.  I do almost everything to avoid drawing attention to myself at night.  Everything except look at people.  There was nothing I was doing to draw this mans attention to me.

I refuse to stop looking people in the eyes when I walk around and though I don’t really feel like being a nice person right now I refuse stop doing that as well.  So take that random rude men on the street!  I refuse to let you change me, though I may call you out a couple times before the day is done…

I’d like to end with this video.  Think about it.

Update:  I’ve been trying to remember where I first saw this video so that I could give the person credit.  It was on One Woman, “I am tired of the silence.”  Thanks Aimee!

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13 thoughts on “Rude Men and Rape Culture

  1. Tannis says:

    Yeah. This. All of it. I HATE THAT FEELING.

  2. Rosie says:

    I learned to be afraid walking down the street by ten years old. And just the other day a guy told me I had a fat ass simply because he didn’t like something I said to him. Thank you for another excellent post and for that video, which says so much. It makes me want to do a “Man-on-the-Street” thing in my own town, stopping people and asking them that question. Maybe I will.

  3. […] actually is and how others in society have to act to stay safe.  I found this video over at Unladylike Musings along with her narrative of what it is like for women in society, today as in right now, as in the […]

  4. There are a lot of guys, especially those who think equality has been achieved and women who have nothing to complain about, who should be made to watch this video. Thanks for posting.

  5. bennyd10 says:

    this is exactly how i feel. i hate doing certain things, just in response to rape culture. i used to always cross the street when i saw men walking towards me and i was alone (the time of day didn’t even matter) and to this day, I still have the urge to do this and takes a lot from me to not cross the street.

  6. L says:

    Powerful post. I know what you mean about context, I also work at a women’s refuge and have experienced shaky scenarios, but my twenty minute drive home to my pretty suburb makes me forget all about experiences at work. Yesterday at a market around the corner from my house i was promoting slutwalk when I had another experience where I felt (sort of) victimised but because I knew I lived around the corner and I was in my safe space it shook me up. Thanks for the post. xo Laura

  7. This is amazing. Wow. Rape culture is horrendous, in part because it is in fact so unrealistic! Most rape does not happen from strangers in dark alleys, but as women we’re trained not just to be wary, but to feel varying degrees of fear (and sometimes even outright terror) in all of the circumstances mentioned by you and the women in the video.

    Another tragic aspect to it is how invisible it is to men. Thank you for posting this – I try to be reflexive in my own life, but so often I forget! I am planning a trip to Chicago with schoolmates, and had the SAME CONVERSATION with TWO different men in the program – “I wasn’t sure about a hostel for safety reasons” “Safety reasons? I’m not worried!” – duh. I’m specifically thinking of rape. For both men that conversation continued with explanations of why it’s silly to feel unsafe in public. Again, such a total ignorance of rape culture and its deep hold on the psyche of so many women (deserved or not).

    I am definitely going to be spreading this video around, I haven’t seen it before! Thanks again.

    P.S. I think this blog is just ladylike enough 😉

  8. […] Rude Men and Rape Culture – Unladylike Musings […]

  9. […] I really empathised with this post by Unladylike Musings on rude men and rape culture. […]

  10. […] I was preparing to do a new “Bees in my Bonnet” post and then I came across the following video on End Rape Culture.  This video was done by Project Unspoken at Emory University in Georgia.  They are working towards breaking the silence that surrounds sexual assault and rape culture.  I’ve shared one of their videos before called “I am tired of the silence.” […]

  11. […] words to the frustrations of so many people.  Of so many women.  When you live in a culture that perpetuates rape, even “unintentionally,” you can only take so much.  There comes a point when you have […]

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