Stuff What Boys Can Do
This is a list of ways that boys can ally themselves against misogyny. Examples, anecdotes, and stories. This list is for men that want to help but don’t know what to do. It is also for anybody who wants to share a story of something good that they saw.
Anybody can contribute to this list. Here are the rules:
- This list is about men and their actions. I know there are lots of other things this list could be about, and it would all be awfully interesting. But I don’t want a general list about allies; I want a specific list about men and misogyny. If you want to create another list addressing some other way that privileged people can ally themselves with oppressed people, let me know and I’ll link it at the bottom as related material.
- If you want to contribute to the list, leave your story in the comments. I will delete the comment and copy and paste it into the list. I’ll cite your username and URL, if you leave them, so leave it anonymous if you don’t want that.
- The examples can be big or small. It all counts, and it’s all worth something.
- The examples don’t have to have a happy ending. If oppression wasn’t ended by one dude saying, “Hey, guys, rape is bad,” well, none of us are surprised. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to do.
- Stories do not require a follow-up, though follow-ups are welcome. That is, you don’t need to tell us whether or not this action really made a difference in one way or another, or whether it all really went to hell. If you want to share, though, by all means, do.
- I’m not allowing comments about what a guy should have done, or what could have been done better, unless the person who shares the story specifically requests this kind of feedback.
- Stories can be shared by the dude in question, or any witnesses to the dude’s action. The storyteller isn’t as important as the story.
- The stories don’t have to be about good people. If you know a complete asshole who this one time really did the right thing, share it. This list is about providing examples of things men can do to ally themselves against misogyny, but the examples don’t have to come from allies themselves. The actions and behaviors are still worth something to others, even if the source isn’t, at the moment.
- I’m not defining misogyny. If you’re confused about what constitutes misogyny, google up some definitions, or discuss it in the comments. If I feel a story is perhaps too off-topic to be put in the list, I’ll still leave it in the comments for discussion.
- Personal preference, and not a rule: Please don’t start a story with disclaimers. Don’t start with, “I’m not really a good writer, but…” or “I don’t know if I did the right thing here, and I’m pretty stupid sometimes… “ or whatever. I just want to hear the story. I don’t want to hear about your crippling self-doubt, unless it’s a part of the story. This is just a thing, as a writer, that drives me nuts, and it makes for really bad reading. I won’t delete or ban you if you do it, though; I’ll probably just roll the hell out of my eyes.
Here’s one to start us off. Harriet Jacobs, 09/18/2009.
A few years back, my boyfriend had been in a bar with a couple of friends, and they were all pleasantly wobbly and drunk. On the way out of the bar, my bf saw a man and a woman having an altercation in the parking lot. The man had the woman in a headlock. It could have been a friendly tussle, and it seemed like all the other witnesses were treating it as such, but it gave my bf a bad feeling in his tummy. He wasn’t sure what to do, and all his friends were wheedling at him to just leave it alone, get in the car, let’s go – which I think is further confirmation that something more than a friendly tussle was happening.
Instead, my bf just stood in the parking lot, and made it very obvious that he was watching. The guy noticed him, let go of the girl, and started a very basic aggressive monkey dance. If you’ve ever watched documentaries of monkeys establishing territory and dominance while trying to avoid an actual physical fight, this entire interaction will be very familiar to you. The guy started thrusting out his chest, making vague grunting noises. My bf just stood there, staring. The guy started making general stomps in the direction of my bf, but my bf just stood there (all the while, his friends were whining that he should leave it alone and let’s just go, seriously). Finally, the guy did a classic pant-hoot and headed across the parking lot for a confrontation. My bf has some defensive martial arts training, and he was pretty confident he could diffuse a physical altercation, so he held his ground. The dude approached, pant-hooted some more, than poked my bf, in the forehead, with his forefinger. My bf just kinda stared at him like, “Seriously?” Dude deflated some, then grunted his way back across the parking lot. By then, the girl was gone, having headed back into the bar.
Oh my god, I have one. I’m kind of stunned to realize this.
This happened several years ago, after a night out drinking with a group of friends of both genders. My friend dropped me off at home. I had roommates, but they were all gone, so I was there alone. I had walked the dog and was about to get ready for bed, and a car pulled into the driveway and then someone knocked on the door.
It was this guy, Tim, who had been out with us. My secret nickname for him was Belligerent Tim, because he picked fights with random people when he got drunk. Physical fights, I mean. He was too drunk to drive, so he talked his friend Cory into driving him to my house. Cory was a guy that I kind of made fun of for having a pronounced “hick” accent and enjoying bow hunting (classist of me, wasn’t it? god I was an asshole), but everyone liked him because he was super nice. Not “Nice Guy” nice, but genuinely a kind, patient, good-natured person.
I didn’t particularly like Belligerent Tim, and he was engaged, and we hadn’t really even talked much over the course of the evening, so I was very much thinking “WTF are you doing here?” but I let him in. I thought maybe he just “needed to talk” or some such crap. I also thought Cory would be coming in, too, but he stayed in the car. Apparently the plan was for Cory to just drop Tim off. Great! But Cory was just sitting out in the car for some reason.
Tim said he’d seen the way I’d been looking at him all night and made it clear that he was there to get laid. I tried to politely decline, but he started sort of following me around the room as I evaded him. I was getting somewhat nervous at this point, but there weren’t obvious “DANGER! DANGER!” signals going off in my head. Then he poked his head out the front door and yelled at Cory to leave, and I thought, “Oh, SHIT.”
The guy was much bigger and physically stronger than me, and I’m not a small woman. My only chance would have been to outrun him and/or lock myself in the bathroom, and he’d have no trouble breaking the door in (I would have called the police, but I didn’t have a cell phone and our land line had been shut off for non-payment, yay for college students).
Fortunately Cory didn’t leave. He came inside without even knocking and very firmly told Tim that it was time to go. Tim protested, at which point Cory took his arm and dragged him outside, telling me to lock the door behind them.
It wasn’t until that point that it occurred to me what had almost happened. That man would have raped me, no doubt about it, and if I’d fought back, he would have probably broken some bones at least.
A lot of men would have just dropped off their buddy and left. Most of the men I knew at the time would have–for that matter, most of the ones I know NOW would have done the same.
May at May’s Machete, 09/18/2009
Several years ago, I had a habit of getting falling-down drunk a LOT. I was going through severe depression, and hanging around alcoholics didn’t help me to drink more responsibly! My friend Nigel, no matter what, would always spend the night and make sure that all the girls who were drunk didn’t have anything nasty happen to them – even though we were all hanging out with friends (or at least acquaintances) he never left anything up to chance.
His care and watchful eye probably saved me from being raped many times. He made it very clear that he was protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves and he often helped eject guys from the party when they were out of control.
He is one of my heroes. I would love to see more men stepping up like this for their female friends. Just knowing his watchful eye was there for us often caused guys to leave a party, looking for easier prey.
Rebecca J, 09/18/2009
My friend told me about a situation involving a male friend of hers who is a soldier. She said one day at the barracks (or whatever) he came upon a group of male soldiers watching porn. It was exploitive and they were laughing at it because the girl was crying. He confronted them and “made a scene,” continuing to object even as they tried to rebuff him, asking them what if it was their daughter, or sister, or friend (not that it should matter, but I get why he was saying that). I was pretty impressed by that story, I didn’t know there were actually guys out there who didn’t just go along with the flow of macho culture.
Years ago, I was walking late at night near a bar in San Francisco when I saw a Latino man hassling two women I assumed were two lesbians. Just the 4 of us on the street. Was it serious? Didn’t know. Who started what, I don’t know. But I stayed about 10 feet away from the 3, following as they moved up the street. At one point the man knocked off one of the women’s glasses. Whether out of macho or not, I still wonder whether I should have gone at him, but I was pretty stoned at the time and has somewhat afraid. But I started moving closer and he backed away. Finally, they disengaged and the women moved away, making a snide remark to me about me protecting my “friend,” and that she was a black belt.
I continued my stroll, and a block away was stopped by a motorcycle cop. He walked me back to the two women, me feeling a bit indignant. They told the cop I wasn’t the one, and we gave each other the slightest of nods. I continued my walk.
The tiniest part of me resented that my “heroism” was under-appreciated, the macho part of me regretted that I hadn’t been more aggressive. But I knew that those were the stupid parts of me and they passed. The cop? I don’t like cops, but I was glad that he was doing his job, when he could have ignored the women.
And the bottom line was that the women hadn’t been hurt. I still feel good about that.
This incident occurred one night when me and my partner had some friends over to play Rock Band. An argument got started about oppression, and whether it sucked more to be a woman or a man.
One of the men there made the comment that he dressed up and did his best to look good, and these women still won’t sleep with him! I asked him “Are you saying you deserve women?” He yelled “With the amount of effort I put into my appearance, yes!”
I got very upset, and went into the bedroom to try and calm down, at which point my partner spoke up. He said that women weren’t objects that men deserved, and no matter how much effort he put into his appearance, he did not *deserve* to get sex.
Afterwards, I had a quiet talk with this person, when things were less heated, and explained why I felt that what he said was horrible. Something my partner had said got through to him, and he apologised profusely and spent the rest of the night trying to make it up to me.
In college, my friend L lived in an apartment complex notorious for crime and sexual assault. the first time he protected women there was when, after my roommate and I were ready to sign a lease for the place down the hall, he drove us around town to find another place to live because someone had been raped in the laundry room the night before, and he knew it, but the leasing agents weren’t telling any prospective female tenants.
The second time, he heard what was obviously a physical altercation going on next door. He went into the hall and found his female neighbor running down the hall half-dressed and bloodied, banging on all the doors to no answer. He pulled her into his apartment and told her to lock the door. He then went to her apt., found her asshole boyfriend, punched him the face to stun him and then SAT ON HIM while calling 911.
I used to work at a restaurant where we had to wear uniforms, usually consisting of a T-shirt or polo shirt. I was a shift manager and I was told that if the regional manager ever came by and an employee’s shirt wasn’t tucked in, the manager on duty would be written up. So one day, an employee had been refusing to tuck her shirt in, and I went to my boss, the store manager to tell him, and he said “Don’t bother with it. I’d rather get written up than have to look at her fat rolls all day.” Later I also found out that he’d been browsing the catalog to buy a uniform for another employee and he point one out that was more low cut and said “I’d like to see [so and so] in that!” He also had a habit of leering at customers and then pointing them out to other guys working. Anyway, I told our regional manager about all of this and he got fired for sexual harassment.
I used to work for a woman who had risen to her position while our industry was still very, very male-dominated (I might omit one “very” to describe it now) and who seemed threatened by having other women around. She had corralled a female junior employee into essentially being her assistant, which wasn’t the job the younger woman had been hired for. She used to block me from meetings which were so integral to my job that not only would every decision need to be reported to me later, but often the meetings would get stalled because my input was required, despite not being allowed. etc. etc.
It makes me proud of the group of people I work with that I can say that several male coworkers with seniority have praised my work and taken up advocating for me in many ways. One dude in particular has been a hero – like connecting me with clients and making sure they know how involved I am in “his” projects, nominating me for cool tasks, and going out of his way to teach me some of his vast knowledge.
We just got “restructured,” and Ms. Antifeminist is gone. Mr. Hero Dude is one of my two new bosses, and spent a good part of the day after the big chop securing new, essential roles for me in our streamlined chain of command. Moovin on u-up…
My brother is a volunteer firefighter, and the firehouse is a boys’ club in many, many ways. True to habit, they turned on the Victoria’s Secret fashion show when it came on one year, and my brother stayed for a few minutes, then left. When people asked him where he was going, he said (pretty congenially) that he didn’t like objectifying women, and he thought that it was boring.
The firehouse has a LOT of teasing as part of their culture, and he got razzed about this, but he didn’t really mind. However, the station … manager? head? guy with power over the other volunteers stepped in later that week and stopped it. (My brother thinks this is because they thought he was gay, but it never came up explicitly.)
This happened about a year ago, with me and my partner. For context– we’re both men. He’s cisgendered and very clearly male. I’m non-op and transexual, and look like a woman to most people.
We were in bed late at night, and my partner heard screaming outside. We both ran downstairs in my apartment building, and found a woman we didn’t know in the lobby, along with one of the folks who lives in the apartment. He had been smoking a cigarette outside the building; she had run away from a guy attacking her and run into the building.
I sat with her, got her water, and talked to her for awhile. She was clearly more comfortable with me then my partner– I think because she perceived me as a woman. I certainly wasn’t going to correct her right then when she had just been beat up– I was glad she was comfortable with me. So, we sat on the stairs and talked awhile. My partner and the other tenant in my building both went back into their apartments and went back to bed.
At some point the police showed up; I don’t remember who had called them. I sat with the lady while the police talked to her. I was worried because she’s a Latina lady, and looked a little scruffy, and where I come from in Virginia cops sometimes victimize women of color when they’re called in for a crime. Calling the police is so complicated; I’ve done it before and I will again, but there’s always the fear that they’ll attack the victim, as well as the general horribleness of racist policies in locking up men of color.
So I sat with her the whole time the cops were there. They behaved respectfully the whole time. They told her that they wanted to arrest the guy, so that he couldn’t attack her again that night. They told her that he didn’t have the right to beat her up, and if he had done it once he had done it again. I was relieved that they were respectful and appropriate.
Eventually she left with them– voluntarily– to identify the man who had been attacking her. I really hope she’s okay. Part of me thought that I should stay with her until she got home safe– but I was also really really tired, and after an hour or two with the two police officers I was pretty confident they weren’t going to hurt her as soon as they were alone with her.
Harriet’s Mom, 09/19/2009
Your Aunt L was putting her hands on your Gramma H once in a common kitchen argument, after a lot of hollering, standing over her threateningly- it escalated into her shoving your Gramma causing her to stumble or something like that. Even though everyone in the family looked on your aunt as second class somehow due to her schizophrenia, your Dad stepped between them and carried her (like a bride) over the threshold reverse fashion depositing her pretty gently on the front porch. He came inside, locked the door and told L through the door she should leave or he would call the cops. She did leave. He sure could have done more, as in roughing her up while physically removing her from the kitchen and depositing her outside. I believe everyone there would have happily turned a blind eye because of “all the shit she put them all through”. But he didn’t. He achieved an amazingly controlled act of protection and humane treatment of someone “less than”. There were 3 other men more burly, macho and steel working than your skinny Dad but he was the one who did the right thing. I was very proud of him. We left cuz you kids were tiny and it was scary anyway everyone was twisted up by that episode and it wouldn’t be long before someone gave him shit for his action and I didn’t want him there for that.
Wow, thanks, momma! I don’t have many memories of dad doing good stuff, but I do remember that whenever he talked about Aunt L, he sounded very sad, and very angry with Grandma and Grandpa H and the rest of the family for not doing better by her. That’s an easy feeling to have — Aunt L has a hard life — but it’s nice to hear he put that into action, too. I know it sure couldn’t have been easy for him to keep a level head with the family.
A few years ago I wrote a post about male allies in my high school protecting us from sexualpredation many many years ago now – it’s long, so a summary follows:
* local guy notorious for repeated one night stands with girls that he offered a lift to their home when they were drunk but somehow afterwards the girls never wanted to date him again (nb In Australia legal drinking age is 18 and many girls back in the 80s easily drank in pubs from age 15/16 onwards).
* young teetotal guys in my school took to hanging around us girls at drinking parties and just keeping an eye on us around various predatory local (older) blokes – the teetotal guys were a genuine nice-guy-patrol of blokes who cared.
* I was drunk and walking out for fresh air one time when notorious one-night-stand guy materialised and offered to walk with me. My teetotal guy schoolmates materialised nearby and casually did not leave me alone with him. I ended up having a short nap in the back seat of a car with two of the teetotal guys sitting in the front seat, and then went back in to the party.
* Years later I realised that notorious one-night-stand-guy was probably a serial sexual predator who took advantage of drunk young girls quite deliberately whenever the opportunity came his way, and that other guys suspected this but because of the social dynamics of a small town it was never spoken of openly. The girls kept quiet about their trauma and pain because, after all, they had willingly got into his car, so by the thinking of the time they had no legal legs to stand on. But presumably some brothers/cousins/friends were told, and the “watch out for Roota” knowledge gradually spread.
* So the nice-guy-patrol just silently and firmly kept an eye on him and other older guys who hung around us younger girls, and by doing so almost certainly saved quite a few of us from rape/coerced sex that would have happened in such a sneaky way that we would have blamed ourselves and felt silenced.
I didn’t realise what they were doing at the time, so I never got the chance to thank the nice-guy-patrol for what they did for us all.
Another incident occurred when my partner and I were at our weekly get-together for dinner. As we’re regular customers, and have a large group, we usually sit outside in a private area at the back of the restaurant.
On this occasion, some of the people there thought it would be funny to make rape jokes. I still remember the exact wording of the joke. Immediately, my partner turned to me and said in a quiet voice “We can go inside if you want.” We made the excuse that it was cold, and went inside.
Although there weren’t any minds changed during this incident, I still feel it was a win for me. It showed me that my partner did not find that type of humour acceptable, and knew that it upset me. Also, the way He phrased His comment made it clear that the decision was mine to make, and He had my back either way.
It’s important for me to know that my partner supports me in my feminism, and will stand up for me if the time arises, which is what I came away from this incident feeling.
Sometimes you get lucky, and there’s a way to ally against misogyny in some small way without actually putting oneself at any kind of risk at all– not even emotionally.
This happened in Japan, and everyone in the story is Japanese except for me.
I’d been out to see some guy friends play a music show. I watched the show with some friends — all girls (about half were girlfriends of the musicians). After the show, we all decided to go to a cafe– about ten of us. Because the guys were all packing their gear up for a bit, the girls and I got to the cafe first. We went to a nice big table at the back– one side of the table was against the wall, with nice booth seats all along its length, while the other side was just run of the mill, slightly uncomfortable chairs. Immediately I went to sit on the booth side. Then I noticed that all of the girls were sitting on the other side of the table from me.
“What, do I smell bad or something?” I asked. The girls laughed and said no, it’s just that it’s the traditional Japanese way for the women to take the outer seats. Well, this didn’t fly with me, and I came back to the girl’s side of the table and made a point of sitting there with them. I explained that I couldn’t support the second-class segregation of women like this, and came to sit with them in solidarity. I invited them to shake things up by crossing sides themselves, but nobody wanted to.
Then, when the boys came back, I explained why I was sitting where I was, and why they should all join me and sit on that side. Nobody except me wanted to buck the accepted seating tradition– but they all thought it was funny of me to care.
And so my point was made, without putting anyone on the spot, without causing any hard feelings, without raising anyone’s defenses. People were entertained, but I also felt like I’d succesfully communicated my point of view, to both the men and the women.
I admit, a small gesture, but still a worthwhile one, I think.
A few years ago, I was out in the City with a group of friends when I began to realize that I was having a panic attack, and needed to go home, which involved walking to a BART station and then walking to a bus terminal to catch a bus home. Not a terribly difficult task at an ordinary time, but actually really hard when you are having a panic attack.
Despite the fact that I was obviously in distress, none of my “friends” offered to escort me home, and I ended up meandering in the Mission District, hopelessly lost, because I was so disoriented that I couldn’t find the BART station. I ended up in kind of a sketchy spot with a skeevy bar, and a bunch of men out front were leering at me and making lewd commentary when a total hipster type emerged from the crowd of goons and asked if I needed help.
I claimed to be “fine,” but he could tell that I was having trouble and was getting pretty agitated, so he walked me to the BART station (which actually turned out to be very close), taking care to take me via a well-lighted route and to avoid touching me, and found a police officer who ended up taking me home.
That anonymous Mission Hipster almost certainly saved me from something very unpleasant that night, and I have never forgotten the kindness of a stranger who helped me when my friends didn’t.
My friend’s boyfriend was sitting at a table in a bar with a group of male friends. At a nearby table, there was a group of women. This is in New York City, where you can’t smoke in bars, and so when people want a cigarette, they go outside. Usually when people go outside for a smoke break, they put napkins over their drinks to indicate that they’re coming back. Anyway, these women put their napkins over their drinks and left, and a group of skeezy-looking guys came over and lifted the napkins off their drinks and looked like they were about to put in some kind of pill. My friend’s boyfriend yelled, “Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” and luckily, the guys just left. I think that’s pretty awesome.
I work in a male dominated environment, and several years back I went to a project management meeting as the rep for my company in a multi-company project. We’d just hired a new sales guy and he asked if he could tag along for the experience and the meet and greet. Not a problem.
The co-ordinator for the meeting kept addressing the sales guy I was with, despite my having been introduced as the technical and project management person. Eventually sales guy said “There’s no point in speaking to me, she’s the expert, I’m just here to watch.”
It didn’t work, the guy kept talking to him, but it made me giggle and I came away glad I was working with a good guy instead of just furious at the other one.
When I was studying for my doctorate all the postgrads in the department used to show up once a week to listen to a paper by an in-house or visiting academic, and participate in the post-seminar discussion. I grumbled to the friend I used to sit with about how heartily sick I was of being the person everyone looked to to give the feminist response, and he suggested that if I muttered my criticisms to him, he would be happy to be the one to make the point. I should emphasise that in no way was he wanting to take credit for my ideas, and that I wasn’t the least bit shy about making myself heard and my position known. I was just so irritated at being the Designated Feminist in the room, it was great to have a white/straight/young guy prepared to demonstrate that this was about making the appropriate critique, not being the expected person.
Before we were going out, and even after we had started dating, my husband and a bunch of us used to go to a certain club every Saturday. There were several women in the group who enjoyed drinking and dancing a lot and were very attractive. This got them a lot of attention, some of it unwanted.
My husband, a 6′, long haired biker-looking dude, was frequently the “designated boyfriend”. He’d be standing there and suddenly have one of the women worming their way under his arm and snuggling up to him until his attention towards the guy following them warned off the persistent unwanted suitor.
I like this story because of the fact that all the females in our group felt comfortable enough with him to know that there was NO WAY he would let anything they didn’t want happening occur, and that they could come to him to help avoid uncomfortable situations in a way that was essentially non-confrontational and was comfortable for them.
While it wasn’t an obvious strike for feminism, and could even be viewed as patriarchal since they came to him for “protection”, the fact remains that he created a safe place for them.
I’m just glad I’m not the jealous type.
I’m a bit shocked, although I shouldn’t be, that so many of these stories are about men protecting women from physical violence.
I know some nice men. I have an old friend who is rather asocial: he is quite shy and feels it necessary to prove his masculinity around other men, and does so by almost becoming a parody of macho attitudes. I like him a lot, have worked with him very fruitfully, and put up with his shit because I know that underneath he is a decent fella. He’s married to a woman called Mary.
One day he was out with two of my male friends. They’re men who respect women as colleagues and equals. My first friend, let’s call him M, was ogling every single woman they passed in the street: cor, get a load of those tits! wouldn’t you like a bit of that! she’s stacked! and so on and on and on. My other two friends didn’t respond, but became more and more embarrassed and annoyed that their obvious unenthusiasm wasn’t reaching him. They reached the pub and bought a drink. M was still making crass observations about the breasts of woman patrons. Finally one of my friends, who’d had more than enough, leant over the table and asked pleasantly: “And what are Mary’s breasts like, M?” For a moment it looked as if M was going to punch him; then he turned bright red and muttered, they’re ok. Finally it got through to him that he’d been talking about real people. And he shut up. According to my friends, he hasn’t made comments like that since. At least, around them.
If a woman had made the same point, it wouldn’t have had nearly the same impact. Men can help by turning the peer pressure around, and demonstrating that misogyny just isn’t manly. Or cool.
I was at a gun show this past weekend, and while it was me looking for a pistol, I’m used to the men (and sometimes women) behind the booths doing this thing where, no matter what I say, they hand the gun I want to look at to my husband, who then hands it to me (really obviously; he’s a good ally). One booth owner, once he realized it was for me, handed the guns I wanted to look at straight to me, every time, even if I then handed it over to my husband to look at as well.
So I thanked him. And we bought from him. It’s so small that kind of thing, and yet so big at the same time.
think mps, 09/21/2009
I’m glad to have found this discussion and will be checking back regularly.
My story: I went to visit a cousin of mine at a state college in Indiana. He is in a fraternity and we spent a short part of the evening at their fraternity house, having a couple of drinks with several others who were just hanging out. There were some girls there – the evening was fine, actually, everyone congenial and respectful.
When we left, my cousin and his friend began making remarks and jokes about the women who had been there – calling them cows, saying they were glad we had left because none of them were showing interest in the men, and particularly making fun of one woman who they assumed was a lesbian because she had short hair and was wearing “ugly clothes” – regular jeans and a flannel shirt. I surprised them with argument. The women, I argued, may have not found any of them to be attractive. It’s a two-way street, and an optional one at that. I added that lesbian or not, the other woman’s sexuality was none of their business. Show some respect!
I’m from a pretty small place (well, it’s Indiana), and it was a long journey to get to the point of arguing back against people in this kind of situation. Social expectations can be very powerful – smothering, even. By nature, I’m a quiet person, so for some time I simply checked out of bad situations, or remained (conspicuously?) quiet when a group’s conversation or attention turned negative towards women. Speaking up feels good – still, today, it’s not the most natural thing for me to do but it’s important and each time makes it more natural the next.
At that time, my cousin and his friend were silent for a while, then one of them said – yeah, you’re right.
I work for a bakery/deli staffed by three people: the male owner, E; one male employee, T; and me (female). E is about 50 and sexist in that old-fashioned southern gentleman way. Sometimes he’ll follow up a sexist remark with “I’m not a chauvinist or anything!”
Today at work he was complaining about his ex-wife, and he said, “Most women want to clean house and do all those woman things, but not her!” I said, “E, I thought you weren’t a chauvinist!” He immediately started trying to explain that he wasn’t commenting on all women, just his ex, completely missing the point. T jumped in and explained that the problem was E’s assumption that there were “woman things” and “man things.” He also pointed out that he and E were currently engaged in stereotypically female activities: cooking, baking, and washing dishes.
I don’t think E got it at all, but I really appreciated T speaking up to him.
A few years ago when I was in college I was out at a bar one night with some girlfriends. I didn’t feel good and wanted to leave but my friends weren’t ready to go yet so I left on my own. My apartment was only four blocks away so I didn’t think walking would be a big deal. I was walking through the bar’s parking lot when a big (probably drunk) guy I didn’t know came up and offered me a ride home. I just casually told him no thanks and kept walking. He suddenly pushed me up against the side of the building and insisted I ride with him. I screamed at him to fuck off. Then he hit me in the side of my head and grabbed my arm and started dragging me. I was so stunned I couldn’t really fight being dragged away or even scream. I think he was mumbling something about how that was what I got for being such a bitch.
I don’t think he’d dragged me more than ten feet before I heard a guy who I’d known since third grade yell at us. He was a scrawny, geeky kind of guy who’d always been really quiet. I didn’t know him very well but we’d been in the same classes for forever. I don’t remember exactly what he yelled but I know he basically told my attacker to let me go. The guy holding me yelled back to mind his own business. He hit my attacker as soon as he was close enough. The guy let me go to fight him and I ran/stumbled back to my apartment as fast as I could without even looking back. I spent several hours shaking in my apartment until one of my roommates came back in the early morning. I told her what had happened and she called around and found out that my rescuer had been taken to the hospital by his friends at the bar for a mild concussion and a cracked rib. The police never found the guy who tried to abduct me and beat him up… if they even looked.
The next day I thanked him profusely and insisted that I pay his hospital bill but he just shrugged it off as no big deal and begged me to stop, as if my thanks was just suffocating him. I always assumed it was because he hated me for leaving him alone.
Two months later he killed himself. Apparently he thought he was a worthless piece of shit who couldn’t do anything right. I can’t go a day without thinking about how wrong he was and regretting not standing up for someone who was willing to stand up for me.
This was only a little thing, but I was so grateful to have backup from the man in question.
My employer had put on a week-long training course for a few of us, mostly recent graduates. They had several different (highly qualified) people that would be coming in to teach us various things. On the Tuesday morning, a few of us (all women) were waiting around for the others to arrive, and the man that would be teaching us that day made a comment that haha all the girls have arrived early because they will need extra help with this topic. We sort of laughed it off, but I was totally not cool with that.
When HR was asking for our feedback after the course, I mentioned that that guy had made an inappropriate comment, and when the HR manager asked for more detail, this guy Thommo from HR who had been there at the time backed me up, confirmed that something inappropriate was said, saving me from having to recount the actual comment (which I always feel really uncomfortable about, because of the inevitable “oh it was just a joke, can’t you take a joke?).
So thanks Thommo, you’re a good guy.
When my friend JD and I are out late spending time with one of our friends in the city, he walks to the BART station with me and catches the bus from there, rather than going to a closer stop in the other direction that would be more convenient for him.
It is not the worst neighborhood in the world, but it is sufficiently dodgy, and after a few run-ins with that which comes out after dark and my recent loss of mobility, I am not always comfortable alone.
The first relationship I ever had, with any element of sexuality in it, was with an online friend from very far away. We started just talking every day, then kissing and groping and running up to a little bit of fingering and fondling –all cybered, of course.
And I realized one day that this was all just too much –I was a terminal prude, and all this, even with the screens, was making me uncomfortable and scared. So I managed to tell him, stumbling through the conversation asking if we could slow down.
“I’m sorry” I said (for it is my nature to please, and taking care of myself comes difficult, especially at the expense of another’s joy)
“What for?” he replied, and went on to tell me that if this had been going on for some time and I hadn’t told him, he was going to be quite annoyed with me. There was a little undercurrent of anger in his words that actually scared me –not anger about stepping back, but anger that I would’ve let him do something that made *me* feel uncomfortable.
I never go out drinking and I don’t really have any friends who drink and show up drunk, so I don’t see much of these kinds of story.
However, there was a time my senior year of high school when I went to a party at a friend’s house. My friend, whose house we were in, is apparently the depressed rant kind of drunk. I was trying to get her to sleep it off but she wanted me to take her virginity. I explained two or three times that I would not because I didn’t have a lick of liquor, I was stone-cold sober and even more awake than the 1 other person who was sober, and I refuse to rape.
Tearfully she was separated from me by other friends who were apparently close-by listening in somewhat (who would otherwise love the idea of the two of us having sex), who got her to let me leave the room so she could get the thought of losing her virginity, and they got her to sleep it off. Barely. It was more like, accept that she’s passing out, then she did.
(if you want to cut it off there as an entry for this list, that’s fine)
It’s taken me years to appreciate how well these less-drunk (should I say buzzed?) friends actually intervened at exactly the right point, which is impressive not only as people, but as people who had also been drinking a bit. And what’s more, I was not given any praise for refusing to rape. At all. That’s exactly how it should be. I did not do a good thing; I just did not do a bad thing. I don’t deserve cookies for doing what’s expected of me as a good person, and none were offered. That’s exactly what should have happened.
Many years ago I was attacked at knife point, which has left scars on my body. When I was younger, the first time I slept with a man was always a fraught and awkward experience for me because at some point I would have to warn him about the scars so that he wouldn’t be shocked when my clothes came off. I found the whole thing terribly embarrassing, and thus generally only slept with a man after I’d known him a long time and had already discussed my history with him.
One day, however, I met a man with whom there was instant chemistry and with whom intimacy progressed much faster that I was used to. It was a fun, exciting experience…until the shedding-of-clothes moment when I suddenly realized that he knew little about my past and I hadn’t “prepared” him for the scars. When he saw them, he grew very silent, while I sat there rigid with embarrassment, stuttering out some kind of rapid explanation. He continued to be very silent when I was done … but just as I reached for my shirt to get dressed again (thinking “oh shit, oh shit, he can’t deal with it; I’m a freak and I’m a moron for thinking I can have a fling like normal girls”), he took both of my hands in his, looked me deeply in the eyes and said the following:
“I’m so sorry, I’m probably freaking you out by not responding right away — but I’ve been sitting here trying to find the *exact right words* so that you don’t ever, ever, ever feel like you have to apologize for who you are, how you look, and what you’ve been through to anyone again.”
Then he proceeded to kiss every one of those scars and the night went on from there…
And I realized that he was right. I wasn’t just explaining the scars to potential lovers, I was *apologizing* for them. And from that night on, I never did so again.
I haven’t seen that man in years (it was just a brief fling we had), but his words have stayed with me to this day.
This story didn’t happen to me personally but has been re-told to me many times by my mother.
When she and my father first married in the late seventies they moved into a poorer section of Toronto. Their apartment building was mostly inhabited by recent immigrants and others who were financially struggling. My mother had a job where she worked many late nights, as did my father. Since they didn’t have a lot of money they only had one vehicle. My dad needed the car to get back and forth to work because his job was located in an area inaccessible by public transit. Thus my mother was often taking the bus home alone, late at night, to a bad part of town.
I’m sure this was incredibly stressful for she and my father. I’ve been there myself and know how the imagination can run wild. My mother never told me if anything happened but that doesn’t mean it didn’t. It would not have been the first time she was a victim of male violence.
Anyway, my parents were friends with another couple in their building. The man, who happened to be quite large and intimidating on the outside, found out that my mom was often walking home from the bus stop by herself and got upset. From that day on he met her at the stop, no matter how late, and walked her home.
I just think that was really great and I know it eased a lot of the worries my dad must have had at the time.
I have two.
First, I had a professor of literature who teaches a lot of the old-dead-white-guy stuff. It would be very easy for him to ignore women altogether in his subject matter, but he does not. Not only does he go out of his way to include female writers and female perspectives in his classes, he challenges students to think about harmful cultural assumptions and inequality within the subject matter. After I took one of his classes, he lent me a book by Joan Smith called “Misogynies” which contributed greatly to my feminist awakening. It is out of print but well worth reading if you can find a copy.
Second, there is a guy I’ve been seeing for a little while now. Once in a while, he jokingly says that this or that is crazy, and occasionally, I am the this or that. I recognize that it’s harmless in his case, but it still bothered me a little. So I sat down with him and explained that I’m sensitive about the word “crazy” because of abuse by a past partner and because it’s a word commonly used to denigrate and undermine women in general. He listened very carefully to what I said and then apologized and made sure I understood that in no way did he actually think I’m crazy, and then he promised to be mindful of his use of that word in the future. He has followed through on that.
It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. So much could change if more people in general, and men in particular, would just really listen when women are trying to express their feelings and concerns about misogyny and how it affects them and then continue to be thoughtful and aware about what they’ve learned.
It’s interesting that so many of the stories are about physical protection.
A few things come to mind for me.
1. When I was about 19 I had been out drinking with friends and I missed the last night bus home. I didn’t have enough money for a cab, I was staying on my own, and my friends had left. This was pre mobile phone days. A guy saw me upset by the bus stop and when he found out the situation I was in, he gave me $20 to get a cab. He wouldn’t let me take any details to try to pay him back or even send a thank you card – he just said he hoped someone would do the same for his sister.
2. I worked at a newspaper where our editor wrote an opinion piece where he said a columnist had been “pack raped by the media”. Many of us were appalled by the analogy. About 30 journalists on staff, men and women alike, signed a letter complaining that this made light of rape and the trauma suffered by rape victims. Admittedly, it was a group of women who wrote the letter and circulated it but the men did sign it and that was important. (And of course men can be victims of rape too).
3. My father when he took his young kids to the park would run into friends and neighbours from around the neighbourhood. Often they would say things like “oh you’re babysitting”. To which he would reply, with his dry humour, “I don’t think it’s called babysitting when it’s your own kids”.
4. Another story about my dad. When I was in high school the girls in my class started a campaign to let us wear trousers to school (we had a school uniform). As well as presenting our own arguments we also asked our parents to write letters of support. My dad’s letter said “we won the right for women to wear pants in the 1970s. I never thought I’d have to fight this battle again for my daughter in the 1990s.” Yeah, my dad is awesome.
Thank you so much for writing this blog, and thank you so much for putting this project together.
Here’s my story. I am female. A couple of years ago I worked at a university, in a very male-dominated discipline–Computer Science. This one time I was working for a professor, together with three other teaching assistants (all three male). We were all grading papers; I gave one paper a perfect mark and set it aside.
“Oh,” says the professor, “did you give her perfect because she’s a giiiirl?”
I was stunned. I said, rather drily, that I gave her a perfect mark because she turned in a perfect performance. He giggled feebly and said it was just a joke (of course). Every one of the male teaching assistants, though, spoke up in protest–and his little ‘joke’ claim fell into a disgusted and very eloquent silence. I was too young and shy at the time to make more of this (though I should have complained about the professor to the department!), but having my colleagues’ support meant so much: instead of my being made to feel out of place in my profession by this man’s inappropriate comments, my colleagues clearly communicated that *he* was the one out of line, the one whose behaviour was unwelcome, and that what counted was my knowledge and my work. Thank you, gentlemen.
Geek Girls Rule, 10/03/2009
I spent nearly a decade working in a Goth/Fetish club, and while all of our bouncing staff were very attentive to “Did that drunk woman come here with that guy? Where are her friends? Is she too drunk? Miss, I think we should call you a cab” and just knowing who the local predators were, sort of issues, we had one bouncer, B, who went sort of above and beyond. B was 6′7″ and a good 290 lbs, easily. He had multiple facial piercings and tattoos, a beard and a network of scars on his face from getting hit with a beer stein.
You all know that guy who starts hitting on you by invading your personal space, and keeps getting closer if you say no, all the while asking you “why not?” B used to watch for these guys, and if he saw them doing that to girls, he would walk up to the bar and do that to the guy in question. It usually took less than a minute for the guy in question to start freaking out. At which point B would say, “Yeah, well guess how you made that girl feel.”
We rarely had repeat offenders.
At a backyard barbeque this summer, my friend Anne got drunk and threw herself at my other friend John. John, realizing Anne was drunk, very nicely said, “I don’t kiss drunk girls.” Anne persisted, but John kept refusing, even asking her if she should think about going to bed soon to sleep it off. He finally settled her on a couch across the room.
Within an hour, Anne then proceeded to get even more drunk, to the point where she couldn’t form complete words and could barely stand. She threw herself at another “friend” (I use that term loosely here, after this incident), Bob. Bob suggested that he and Anne go into one of the bedrooms for the night. This was after he had been making passes at her all evening, which she kept rebuffing.
Anne was too drunk to say no — or yes for that matter — and started to follow Bob into a bedroom. Thankfully, John and the party hosts stopped Bob and Anne, decided Anne should sleep it off in the hostess’s bedroom, with the hostess in the same bed and the door locked. John and the host slept on either side of Bob all night on the living room floor to make sure Bob wasn’t going anywhere.
My dear brother, himself a straight white male, college football player and fratboy quit his frat when they inducted (is that the right word?) a known rapist. And he didn’t do it quietly, either. He debated and yelled and defended the girl who everyone else in the room said was “asking for it” or that she wasn’t really raped, just trying to get the football player who raped her in trouble. I don’t know if he changed anyone’s minds, but by refusing to be a part of a group that condoned that action, I think that was pretty awesome.
Char LeFave, 10/09/2009
This happened about a year ago, when I was at an overnight college visit, with a girl I’ll call L. We had gone to a party that lasted until about midnight, and L and I were headed back up to the dorm where I was supposed to be staying. But when we opened the door, we found a bunch of girls and guys all laughing and drunk silly.
L looked really angry (apparently, her roommate threw these parties rather often), and I probably didn’t help her by asking what I should do. She whipped out her cell phone and called a friend who lives in the same dorm, and was also at the party. After a brief chat, she told me to go up to his room for the time being. It would be safer than in her room or the hallway.
I was still a little apprehensive. After all, I had only met him tonight, and I didn’t want to be saved from a bad situation only to be in a worse one. But I didn’t have much of a choice. So I went up the stairs to the floor where his room was, and waited for him to get back.
When he did, he never asked me what I was doing there. All he did ask me was if something was going on in L’s room, and when I explained the situation, he let me stay in his room for as long as I needed to, and he could even offer me crash space on his floor. Even though he’s not very big (he is tall, though), he made sure I was safe.
It made my first college visit much less scary. He’s still a dear friend of mine, and I hope he watches out for his female friends at school as much as he did for me.
Short-time reader, first-time commenter, and thanks for this space.
One time in college I was at a party, hosted by a social group I was (and am) a member of. I was a sophomore. Two friends of mine were at the party as well: a man I will call R* who is one year older than me, and a woman I will call M* who is two years older than me (incidentally, I’m male, and zero years older than me). M* had been dumped by her boyfriend recently in a particularly asshole-ish kind of way and she was feeling terrible. And so at the party she drank more heavily than she intended, and she became a bit nauseous. So R* and I helped her over to a couch in another room, one of us got her a drink of water, we had an empty trash can handy just in case. The three of us stood and sat there for a while, talking in the relative quiet. Then M* paused in the conversation and said, “I’m really glad you guys are my friends and good people, because you totally could have raped me just now.” That’s not verbatim, but it is at least the gist of her statement.
Wait what? Um. Of course we wouldn’t, don’t worry, and thanks? I guess?
…is roughly what R* and I said. R* is gay, while I’m straight. When she was younger, M* had been abused and raped, which I knew already, and which I know that R* knew it as well. But her statement was shocking to me. It was the first time this point had ever really — I mean, really, fundamentally, viscerally — hit home, that other straight males may have raped M* in this situation.
We talked more after that about more trivial things, and eventually M* felt better enough to call it a night. And the three of us all individually turned in. (Nobody found twenty bucks or made out.)
So my story doesn’t really have intentional gallantry or chivalry, nor thrilling action sequences. Just a situation where BOOZE and an awful break-up would have been bullshit reasons one and two in the rapist-excusing victim-blame for a rape that didn’t happen.
Harriet Jacobs, 10/09/2009
This is a small thing, but I was glad to have a bear who can see and act on the small stuff as well as the big stuff.
The bear and I made a late-night pudding run to Target last night. I paid while he bagged the groceries. There was no mistaking who paid. I reached into my purse, pulled out my credit card, swiped it on the machine, signed the screen, and put the credit card back into my purse. At no point was the bear ever involved in any aspect of paying for the groceries. When the receipt printed, I was standing directly in front of the cashier and the receipt printer. But she took the extra effort to turn around and walk a step over to my bear in order to hand the receipt to him. He stared at her for a second, took the receipt, then handed it to me while still staring at her. “Thanks,” I said loudly. “Of course,” he said loudly right back, both of us staring daggers at the cashier.
On the way out, my bear quipped, “Please do not make eye contact with my paypod. It gives her the uppity thoughts.”
My partner, a friend and I went to our local motorcycle shop to admire the newest motorcycles. I sat on a nice 750cc sport bike to check out the feel of it. Mounting a motorcycle is a practiced skill; the difference in grace between someone who’s thinking of someday buying a motorcycle and someone who’s considering upgrading their motorcycle after many miles is really easily visible, even to the untrained eye. So it should have been instantly obvious to any sales guy that I wasn’t a new rider. But a sales guy who had been previously ignoring my existence for several minutes looked over from a conversation with my (male) partner and (male) friend and said, “that bike’s much too big for you.” I was a bit slow on the uptake and thought he was joking, so I gave a weak laugh. He insisted, “I mean it; you’d never be able to handle that bike around a corner”. I stood there stunned while my partner and friend laughed in the sales guy’s face. My partner, once he’d recovered his composure, said “her current bike is that size, and she handles it just fine, thank you”. The sales guy stiffly replied “forget I said anything”, and stalked away. I really appreciate that their first instinct was to consider that kind of sexism entirely absurd, and to deem it worthy of openly mocking.
As an aside, the world of motorcycling is astonishingly sexist even within the parts that are supposedly reputable. A lot of it is sold as based on physical attributes, that people should follow arbitrary rules about how big a motorcycle should be relatively to leg inseam or weight, and isn’t it too bad that few decent bikes are sized down for women? But I’ve never seen a short man get ignored or discounted at a motorcycle shop.
My guy “X” and I hang out on this forum where gamers from our area meet up and discuss games and whatnot. This one jerk (we’ll call him “B”) has been very pushy about inviting people to a Warhammer Fantasy league he’s starting.
X, seeing that B has been pursuing one guy fairly heavily tells B, “dude, leave that guy alone, he plays 40k, not fantasy.”
B says, “40k huh, hangs out with the rest of the fat chicks does he?” indicating my group of friends, in which I am the only female. X was pretty pissed “‘Fat chicks?’ WTF mate?”
B claims to be joking and whines that X is taking him too seriously. X responded by saying that B has, in the past, acted like a jerk on purpose. B tried to complain that our current community is different from his old group, and claims that he doesn’t know what he said that was offensive. “Who takes a offence at being called a fat chick by a stranger, it’s so over the top you’ve got to have you head screwed on too tight.”
X, being an awesome person says this, word for word, “I’d say everyone who has a negative body image and/or considers themselves to be overweight. Every guy who was teased in highschool about not being manly enough. Every guy who is homophobic. Everyone who lives with gender disphoria. The women here, who are sick of hearing their sex used as an insult. Everyone who doesn’t know you and Everyone who is not your friend. Now STFU.”
My man is made of awesome.
Oops – forgot to add. B very quickly shut up and was officially reprimanded by one of the (male) mods on the forum. X got a couple of private messages from other guys who saw the exchange, thanking him for saying something.
Harriet Jacobs, 10/12/2009
From BBC News:
A waiter given a £10,000 reward for helping to convict a rapist has donated the money to the victim.
Lloyd Gardner, 22, of Ottery St Mary, Devon, contacted police in 2006 after seeing CCTV footage of a man wanted in connection with the rape in Exeter.
He spotted two women he knew on the film – and they led police to rapist Jakub Tomczak.
Mr Gardner said he did not deserve the reward and hoped the cash would help the woman rebuild her life.
He said: “I was told I was entitled to a reward because I gave police the lead they needed as I recognised the two girls and through them detectives were able to track the man down.
“It was a difficult decision to make because it is a lot of money and it would have been very helpful but I didn’t feel like a deserved it at all.
“With the state that the girl was in after the incident, I really felt that it would go towards making her life a lot better over the next couple of years.”
The 48-year-old woman who was attacked in July 2006 was found naked and unconscious in Exeter.
She had suffered a skull fracture and brain damage in the attack and her injuries were so severe she was left with no memory of what had happened and now uses a wheelchair.
Mr Gardner added: “I know that it was the right thing to do. I would have probably spent it on an expensive car or something which doesn’t seem right so I am happy with my decision.”
I was a pioneering woman in a “man’s” job as a field engineer – installing satellite earth stations and repairing minicomputers. I had a large territory that I never needed help to cover, an I always got great evaluations.
Of course there was daily sexism on the job; I was used to that. I grew a thick skin and learned how to deflect sexist remarks (”You’d rather have a male technician? Do you have a racial or religious preference, so I can tell dispatch who to send?”).
What I didn’t know was that with my seniority, large territory, excellent job reviews and all, I was being paid less than every other person doing my job – all of them men, of course. I even made less than the most recent hire, who was still in training. I only found this out because my boss’s boss told me and gave me a printout of names, dates of hire, size of territory a pay rates. He encouraged me to take it to the EEOC and get them to file a discrimination suit.
I did, but the EEOC at that time was headed by Clarence Thomas. So, no suit. I confronted my boss with the evidence, but got no satisfaction. Shortly after that I was laid off. My boss’s boss was laid off in the same week.
I want to give credit to the man who stuck his neck out for me. He saw unfairness and tried to fight it.
When I was twenty, my best friend started dating a specialist at the nearby army base. One night, we were hanging out in one of the rooms in the barracks after hours and she left with her boyfriend for his room for more privacy, leaving me with three other guys, only one or two I knew (as in, having been introduced as friends of the boyfriend), and only one who actually lived in the room. For the rest of the night, until I fell asleep on one of the beds, they played Spades with me.
It wasn’t notable at the time; looking back, these things I notice. Those three guys, only two of which knew me, never left the room (or me) until my friend came back and we went home. They taught me Spades and how to cheat. I sat on the floor against the bed because it was comfortable for me to lean against something. The position made it impossible for anyone to sit near me unless I wanted them to–I had two guys on either side just close enough so no one could just slide in, but not close enough to threaten me. They never restricted my movements–to get a drink, go to the bathroom–but every time I came back to play, they moved to give me the position that, in retrospect, I think they felt would make me feel safest. When I fell asleep, I woke up alone on a bed and all three guys were there still; one asleep, two awake, playing poker between the beds.
All night, men came and went from the room, drinking, back from a party, whatever, and I never realized until now that none of them ever approached me any closer than the elbow of the guys on my left and right playing spades. That space was crystal-clear and demarcated as my space alone, and they never said anything, not to me, and as far as I know, to anyone else. They just did it.
I don’t remember their names now, but I wish I did. I’d say thanks. And also, I still remember how to cheat at Spades.
I went to get gas for my car recently and it was later in the day, approaching dusk. I was in a hurry but noticed that a man who was near the store part of the station was watching me…he then walked closer to my car…then came up and started talking to me. I thought he was just going to ask for money. Instead he looked me up and down and said, “Hey there, you sure are pretty, do you got Indian in you? Whats a pretty girl doin pumping her own gas…don’t you have a boyfriend to do that for you…here let me help you.” He reached for the gas pump, and I replied, “no thanks, I’m just fine…I can manage.” He said, “aww come on, I’m just trying to help…how bout we go out sometime, lemme get your number.”
Meanwhile, a guy on the other side of my gas pump was taking his receipt and was heading toward the front seat of his car…but he kind of lingered…slowed down his pace. He got in his car but left the door open and kinda looked at me with an expression of concern, like he was saying, “Are you ok?”
The other man continued to make inappropriate comments and I said “sir, you are making me uncomfortable…I’d appreciate it if you just left me alone.” He said, “Oh, well, excuse me, just tryin to have a conversation thats all.” He walked off back to the store.
I finished paying for my gas….and the guy at the next pump still waited….he watched the other guy walk away…he waited for me to get in my car, and shut the door…he looked at me and gave a nod and slight smile to which I reciprocated. He then closed his door and drove off.
Such a simple action…he didn’t even say one word to me or the guy. But just his ability to make me aware that he knew what was going on and was there to help if I needed it, made me feel safer and appreciative of his kindness.
When my husband and I were planning our wedding, one of the discussions that came up was The Name Thing. Of all the various things that we’d discussed over the course of our relationship, that had never come up. When I asked what his feelings were, my normally calm, rational significant other vehemently declared “I do *not* want you taking my name. Please do not support that horrific, outdated, misogynistic practice. I don’t own you. I don’t want to own you. Do you know how that got started?!” which led into a rant about the practice, how it started, why it offended him so deeply and how he’d think less of me if I took his name.
Needless to say, I didn’t I did, however, love him just a little bit more.
My business partner and I – he’s male, I’m female – run our own semi-successful company. Last Spring we had prospective customers come in from out-of-town for a largish-sales and planning meeting.
Our receptionist was out ill and I sat at her desk first thing to get the overnight voicemail. Despite having been introduced to me before as a principal in the company, one of our visitors arrived, spotted me sitting at the front desk, and said, “Honey, could you make some coffee? I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
Before I could say anything undiplomatic – and it was right there on the tip of my tongue, trust me – my partner spoke up and told our guest (very nicely, too) that the instructions for making coffee were posted on the wall above the pot in the break room. He then looked me directly in the eye and said, “Now if our Vice-President of Marketing would kindly join me in the conference room to go over the final agenda, we’ll get started in about five minutes….”
We didn’t get that contract, but neither of us particularly care, either. It’s still a WIN in my eyes!
My utterly delightful manfriend came with me to scout locations for a conference I was holding. He doesn’t work for my company, but he had some free time and I wanted to have another set of eyes. I was clearly the one in charge — doing all the talking, handing out business cards, describing what I would need for the conference. etc — but the male sales rep at the first place we went would NOT deal with me directly. He kept addressing himself to my boyfriend, even pulling him aside to “talk business” — at which point my boyfriend said, “Actually, she’s the one in charge — I just make sure she has coffee. In fact, why don’t you go get her some coffee now?” It shut him up AND I got coffee. He lost that sale (to the tune of $250,000. Sexism doesn’t pay!)
Think MPS, 10/18/2009
Yes, perhaps intent plays into whether it’s ‘OK.’ Maybe that’s the word for it.
It’s hard to articulate what I want to say here. I’ll start with an example – the other night, I walked my roommate’s friend (a woman) home the other night from a small dinner party at our house. I did this because she didn’t feel safe walking alone. I think either one of us was probably about equally capable of defending ourselves, but women are more likely to be attacked and, rape culture being what it is, more likely to be sexually assaulted. If I was attacked, I would probably be roughed up and have my money taken.
I want to emphasize that I’m not doubting her agency. I’m doubting our society. I give us both equal agency/ability to defend.
More generally, men need to be allies. Help, in whatever, form, should be given freely, unconditionally, and with open ears.
– Street Harassment –
I live in DC. I see men harassing women often. This is a more vague situation that I’m not wholly sure how to handle. I try to be judicious because it seems that ‘helping’ could be counterproductive – causing a confrontation where before there was only an annoying comment to be ignored. I try to guess if a woman would want something said – or just, ‘let it go’ – sometimes, such has on a bus, or men leering from a car, I think that interposing my body – physically – without being confrontational is helpful.
I (male) met R (female) at a friend’s large party. She’d come into our city for the long weekend with a few people she knew who lived near her, and one of them had taken her to this party where she knew nobody. She really liked the vibe of it, and the people, and stayed there for the rest of it – the party actually went into the following morning.
She was looking for a place to crash for the night. I’d been talking to her for a while and liked her so I offered and she took me up on it.
Turns out she *had* a place to stay: One of her friends who she’d come into the city with, had parents who lived nearby, and that’s where she’d spent the first night, with him. But, she explained, it was awkward and uncomfortable because he was very sexually interested in her and she wasn’t so much. I don’t remember specifically whether he was too touchy at night, or kept asking, or just generally made her feel like he was put out that she wasn’t interested. Anyway, we went over to his parents’ house, he wasn’t there at the time, his mom let us in to grab R’s stuff from this guy’s bedroom, and off we went.
We had a good time hanging out. When I asked her if she’d prefer a guest bed in the living room, or to stay with me in my bed, she opted for the latter. We already had a cuddly affectionate interaction going so I wasn’t surprised.
Now, here’s the thing: I was attracted to her. We were getting along great. She was in my bed. I wanted to kiss her. Normally, in such a circumstance, I’d ask. But I thought, wait, no – I just get her out of an uncomfortable situation where a guy wanted sexual interaction that she didn’t want; the last thing she needs is to feel like that’s what I’m after. I’ve been receptive enough to her that if she wants to kiss or do any more, she can bring it up herself and expect me to react well. If she’s not going to bring it up, I won’t.
She didn’t, I didn’t, and we spent a comfortable, cuddly, and entirely non-sexual night together. The next day, the end of the long weekend, I returned her to where she could meet one of her friends for the return drive home.
I work with an organization that runs an internship for young adults (age 18-30). We have both men and women in leadership, and get a new group of young adults every few months.
Some time ago, there was a setting where one of our female leaders was correcting a handful of the young men. They complied — eventually — after giving her significant guff, snark, and brushing-off. Nothing overtly violent, but definitely disrespectful.
This lady approached the head of the internship, who is an imposingly-built man with martial arts experience. Her question was mostly along the lines of what she could do differently to dissuade such behavior in the future.
Our boss flatly refused to let her accept any blame of non-prevention. Then, he rounded up the offenders into a room, and asked them if they would have conducted themselves the same way if he was in the room. After a nervous, reluctant no, he lit into them for being cowards for a) disrespecting a woman at all, and b) only having the courage to do so because there was no man in the room to stop them. I think he kept at them for a good half hour.
None of our female leaders heard a snarky peep from any of these guys again.
Recently my boyfriend went out drinking with a bunch of people from his old job. He called me at midnight to tell me he was bringing someone home to stay the night. I was a little bit ‘WTF’, but thought he must have a good reason.
It turned out it was a female ex-colleague who had got much too drunk and my boyfriend wasn’t happy for her to go home alone (and it would have been a looong round trip for him to have taken her home then come home himself). Everyone else left and he realised that he was the last one and couldn’t allow her to go off on her own.
She was sick on our floor and the walls, and we had to wash her clothes so that she could go into work the next morning, but I am so glad he brought her home! Anything could have happened if she’d gone off in that state.
If by any slight chance she’s reading this; Hi! I was really glad you came over, because it gave me a preview of what my boyf will be like as a dad cleaning up sick etc, and it turns out he will be pretty good at it!
When I was in high school, I regularly attended a goth party house. It was a place where nearly anything could happen and many things did. It wasn’t uncommon to see people having sex on the couch or someone being flogged in the doorway. This was all fueled by plenty of alcohol and marijuana.
What made this place work was that there were basically two rules a) no means no and b) consent means informed consent. You could ask anything, but if the answer was no, you had better give up immediately. A man who pushed past no or asked repeatedly would very quickly find himself surrounded by multiple large men. If the woman wanted, at this point, or if he did this repeatedly, he would be ejected, forcibly if necessary.
In my several years of attending these parties most weeks, I only had problems twice, and both of them were addressed quite quickly by these men. I’ve certainly dealt with this far more often on the street then I did at this highly libertine party, because these men policed it well enough that everyone knew and held to the rules. Even outside of the party, when I was at a science fiction convention and was harassed by a man who thought that the fact that I flirted with him entitled him to more, these men were the first people I turned to. It’s amazing how much less attractive a woman is as a target when she’s surrounded by 2 or 3 over-6-ft men.
The Nerd, 10/22/2009
Even when we’re getting hot and heavy, my boyfriend always verbally asks me how far I want to go. I love it that sex isn’t just the result of me not saying “no”, but also because I say “yes”.
Another one about “X,” the awesomest person I have ever dated. X knows my history, and understands that because my first adult relationship consisted of a year of sexual abuse, I still sometimes mistake sex for love and affection. So if I initiate sex, he’ll cuddle with me for a few minutes first, then ask “is this what you really wanted, or do you still want something more?” And sometimes I realize that what I wanted was love, not sex, and sometimes I really just wanted some lovin’, but either way I always feel comfortable answering truthfully, and he always respects my feelings.
A few things men have said to me, which they probably didn’t realise were such a big deal, because they didn’t know how long I’d spent hearing the opposite:
“Take your time to think about it. I’m sure you’ll come to the right decision.”
“No, I didn’t think it was problematic – but if it’s a problem for you then it’s a problem.”
“If you’re not enjoying it then there’s no point.”
Emily CK, 10/27/2009
I have, as a youngish lower classish white girl in the midwest, had run ins with crappy sexist male health care practitioners. You know the ones- they talk to you like all of the blood that should be supplying sweet rich oxygen to your brain is busy in your lady bits.
So I had taken some pain killers before my appointment yesterday and walked to the clinic.
Things went wrong and I needed to go to the pharmacy after my appointment, and my awesome dentist said “I don’t want you to drive anywhere because you’re all crazy right now…..” Then looked me in the eye, caught himself and said ” You are NOT crazy. I MEANT to say, you are under the influence of pain meds and I want you to be safe.”
Maybe he wasn’t thinking, “hey women get painted with the big crazy brush all the time, thats not cool!” Who knows-
but it was really a big deal for me that a guy my age (mid twenties) in the health care field would catch himself, and not just go with an offensive comment. Thanks Dr. J! Holiday cookies for you this year.
I was working at the restaurant I’ve worked at for 4 years this summer, with two guys. One I’ve known for about 6 months, and the other had just started working there about 1 month earlier. The latter had been making me uncomfortable since he started… with comments from “I want to rape you” to overt threats of brutal violence. I would stand up for myself and tell him that those things aren’t matters to joke about, to which he would respond with an even more heinous threat. I got to the point that I would end my shift at 1 in the morning and feel sick with fear to walk through dark downtown home because I knew he could easily follow me. I decided to report his threats to my management after the first week, to which they offerred only to sit down with both of us together to chat and remind him of the harassment policy. I was so afraid of this guy that I couldn’t imagine sitting down with him to get him in trouble. That might sound weak, but I was so scared that he would know I had a serious complaint about him, that he would get revenge with me outside of the workplace. I felt awful, like I was overreacting or something, until I talked to my brother and several guy friends about it. I wanted them to know what was going on just in case something did happen. They were all outraged by my managements failure to fire the guy.
A few weeks later, after keeping on with his comments and making worse threats (to kill people?) I sat down with one of my managers and told him I couldn’t handle being around this guy. He agreed with me, and said he would deal with it. He sounded like he was going to fire him right then and there, and told me to get back on the floor.
Something happened to me as I walked past this lunatic guy to go back on the floor. I just panicked and got so anxious that he would come out after being fired and act out all of those threats. I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe, and like I was in danger. I was all lightheaded and so afraid. I walked up to the bar and my other male coworker was there. He looked at me, and asked me if everything was okay.
I gave him a quick point form run down of what was up, and that I was so afraid that this guy was going to come out after being fired and do who knows what…
Instead of dismissing me as crazy, or telling me that I was catastrophizing, my coworker just put his hand on my shoulder and asked me what he could do to help. Instead of waiting for my answer (I had none and he knew it), he told me to stay by his side and walk the floor with him. When we approached tables, he just told them that I was his trainee and that I was shadowing him to learn the ropes. No one questioned us and people were just lovely.
This guy was a major hero to me that night. He took me in my place of fear and just walked with me through it. I was able to finish out that night feeling safer that before. He didn’t dismiss me as irrational or hypersensitive, but stood by me as a person who had a right to feel safe at work. He didn’t do it to “be a man” or some knight in shining armor, but did it to be a loving person.
Other guy got fired for threatening people. Finally.
My best friend lives two and a half blocks away from me. We live in the heart of downtown and it can be very dodgy of a neighbourhood. He walks me home from hanging out at his place at all hours, even though it is just a couple of blocks away. No matter what.
I never thought of it before reading some these, but I think that makes him a pretty outstanding guy.
Aurora Erratic, 10/29/2009
My husband once got himself banned from a blog that he was otherwise enjoying, for his stubborn refusal to back down from the point that it is not okay to suggest that a woman deserves to be raped, no matter how much you dislike her, her politics, her actions, anything.
Did it do any good? Hard to say. He stood against wrongness, and that is good in itself.
About 5 years ago, I was being driven back to my house by my boyfriend. It was around midnight and my house is next to a baseball field. We parked by the field because I was feeling very upset. I wanted to have a shoulder to cry on before I had to go inside, and I decided to talk in the car so that I wouldn’t be late for my curfew.
About ten minutes into our conversation, a car pulled up next to our vehicle. The man driving peered through the window of his car and gestured to me while my boyfriend’s back was turned. He obviously mouthed the words “Are you okay?” and held up a cell phone. I stared, shook my head, and gave him a thumbs up. He smiled and looked relieved, and then waited a bit before driving off.
When I told the boyfriend what had just happened, he paused for a moment. “It is pretty dark around here,” he told me. “I’m glad someone thought to ask if you were okay. I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere, alone, in a car, and you were crying.”
I hadn’t thought about that at the time, and that really stuck with me. Even though I wasn’t in danger, I really wish I could have thanked that guy for checking to make sure that I was okay. He didn’t know me at all, and he made an effort to make sure that I wasn’t in trouble.
Sir, if you somehow read this, thank you.
Found this list (somewhat late) from links on the Schroedinger’s Rapist blog, and have very much enjoyed the stories. Here is my contribution:
Several years ago, I was on an overseas study trip. Our first night in Cairo, Egypt, I went out with some members of the group, and in the course of walking got slightly separated from them. I was quickly surrounded by a group of young men, and before I could break free to rejoin my friends, a couple of them groped me. Fortunately, I managed to get away before anything else occurred.
A few months later, I was back in the US, telling my friend and her boyfriend all about my trip. I mentioned the experience in Cairo, and somewhat to my horror, I found all the things coming out of my own mouth that get me so angry when someone says them about another woman: “I probably shouldn’t have gotten separated from my group, I should have been paying closer attention to my surroundings…” and so on. (I guess I had internalized these ideas more than I thought.) When I had finished speaking, my friend’s boyfriend looked me in the eye and said, calmly and simply, “But you know that it wasn’t your fault, right?”
It seems like such a small thing, and intellectually I was already aware of that, but to hear someone else say it made it feel more real. And the man wasn’t saying it just because I was his girlfriend’s friend; he and I didn’t know each other that well at that time (much of the time they’d been dating, I was traveling). It seemed that he would have said it to any woman who had been treated in such a way and who seemed to blame herself. And it wasn’t that I needed a man to tell me that it wasn’t my fault, but the fact that he immediately and unquestioningly took that stance instead of minimizing the event or agreeing that I should have done something to prevent it made it clear exactly what kind of guy he was.
A nice silly one:
My boyfriend “Sam” came home the other day with a funny story: he’d been out at a local casino, playing poker, where he is usually surrounded by other men, very into their manliness to different degrees. Apparently at some point, a woman at the table farted, and a crusty middle-aged guy to Sam’s right was incensed.
This led to the following exchange (line accuracy preserved wherever possible for full dingbat appreciation):
Crusty Middle-Aged Guy: She farted!
Sam: ::shrug:: No big deal. I fart, too, sometimes.
CMAG: But she’s a woman!
Blank look from Sam.
CMAG: Ladies aren’t supposed to fart. That’s why they’re called “ladies.” [Editor's note: Seriously. He said that.]
Sam: Well, I fart, and so does my Mom. [Editor's note: Seriously. He said that.]
End result, CMAG reached out to a fellow dude for some “keeping the ladies in check” time and came up empty.
I repeat this story without suspicion even though I didn’t witness it because Sam didn’t even realize he was being a Gender Hero. He just said what came naturally, and passed the story on to me because he thought the guy was so ridiculous.
As silly as the whole encounter was, though, I was still thrilled and proud to hear it. I’m not in CMAG’s in-group (I am, in fact, a “lady”). If it’d been me and not Sam at that table, then most likely (a) he wouldn’t have gone for the misogynistic camaraderie attempt, and (b) if he did, nothing I said in response would’ve been taken seriously. Either way, nothing changes for him. But it wasn’t me there, it was Sam, and he was invited to CMAG’s Manly Misogyny Picnic and he said “Your picnic is stupid.”
And that’s Stuff What Boys Can Do.
(Alternate last line: Stuff What Boys Can Do: standing up for a woman’s right to fart!)
Thanks for this page! Great idea, great stories.
Years ago now, I got a promotion which involved moving to my company’s head office and working for a man who held my absolute dream job. I was hired to be his heir apparent, basically–the idea was that he would train and mentor me for several years and eventually, when he left or moved up, I’d be promoted to his role.
On my first day, I was thrilled and nervous and wanted to do everything possible to stay on the good side of my boss, who I’d been told was talented but difficult. We were going to have a meeting and I offered to get him some coffee.
He looked at me sternly and said, “I appreciate the offer. But let’s get this clear right now: Your job is not to bring me coffee. I can get my own damn coffee. I’m also not going to ask you to buy my wife’s Christmas presents or pick up my dry cleaning. Your job is to learn how to do my job–and I think you’re going to do it so well that you’ll make me redundant.”
I wanted that job a lot–enough that I would have put up with a fair bit of crap. Instead, he refused to take advantage of my eagerness, treated me respectfully and fairly, and taught me everything he knew. He was a fantastic mentor, and his faith in me also really helped me establish my reputation in our business, which was a bit of an old boys’ club.
I did end up succeeding to his role a few years later and I am still doing it today. Thanks, Mark, for everything!
The last girl who my boyfriend dated had been raped, and was not 100% ready to have sex with him (despite being described by some of his friends as a “very naughty girl” who seemed “up for anything”). So they didn’t have sex.
It seems like such an obvious thing…
but it contrasts sharply with the experiences of my sister, who has dated several guys who didn’t stop or check in on her when she checked out during sex.
Recently, a guy friend and I were having a friendly chat about sex, during which I jokingly called myself a whore. I laughed. He didn’t. He then asked, perfectly politely, that I refrain from using that word, because it made him uncomfortable to hear his friends using sexist terms. I apologized, and we kept talking. I loved that he was willing to call me out on that, even though I’m a girl. I hear too many of my friends using individual women’s misogynist behavior as an excuse not to alter their own. (“But I heard this joke from a WOMAN, so it can’t be offensive!”) It was refreshing – and very endearing – that he asked me to change mine.
Late to this one, but: a few months ago, I was sat on the pavement by a street corner in a busy part of Sydney, waiting for a friend. A young chap (who, it became clear, was absolutely out of it on something-or-other) came up and started chatting to me. I’m not averse to having friendly conversations with random strangers, and it was the middle of the day, so fine: he offered me a cigarette, we chatted for a bit, he was clearly feeling a bit lonely.
Anyway, the Stuff What Boys Can Do part: a very little way up the road there was the sort of bar which has bouncers outside even on a Sunday afternoon. The bouncer wandered a little towards me, caught my eye behind Young Lonely Dude’s back, and raised his eyebrows a bit in an “are you OK?” way. I nodded yes, it’s all fine, he nodded back, and wandered back to his bar doorway.
I found it really sweet and reassuring that he was aware of what was going on and made the offer to help if I needed it.
(As it happened, Young Lonely Dude got a little more importunate and personal-space-invading after a couple of minutes, but at a level I could deal with myself by going “no, I am not going to hug you” and moving away a bit.)
So this is a small but encouraging thing that reminds me why I LOVE MY GYM. It’s a small gym, no classes or spas or anything. It’s basically just a big room with good equipment and 3 trainers on staff…and it’s open 24 hours a day. That’s a dealbreaker for me, because I’m one of those weird nocturnal creatures that likes to get my treadmill on at 10:00 pm. That also means that feeling safe is very important, because at 10:00 I’m often alone or in the gym with only a couple of other people. The vast majority of the time, safety is not an issue. The gym is well-lit and has security cameras and panic buttons and all that shit, and I can park right next to the entrance.
But there is this one dude I’ve run into sporadically this year when there were others in the gym with us. He is, to put it succinctly, rather fucked up when it comes to the gym etiquette and appropriate social boundaries. It’s beyond the “normalish” anti-social gym behavior one often sees: leaving giant sweat stains on weight benches, refusing to re-rack weight plates or dumbbells, etc. I’ve seen him throw medicine balls across the fucking room and knock shit off the walls. He does stuff that seems specifically designed to draw attention to what a badass he is, including grunting like he’s making amateur porn while benchpressing. I have never spoken to him about the behavior and have, in fact, wiped down a bench he just left because I want to use it. Why? Because this guy seems aggressive and unpredictable what with the chucking 10 lb. medicine balls across the room and whatnot. Something finally clicked when I was working out with only him and my significant other in the gym and realized that if my SO hadn’t been there, I’d have turned right around and gone home rather than work out alone with this dude.
So I wrote an email to the management, trying to cite specifics but pretty much just rambling about how this dude made me feel somewhat unsafe and I did not want to be alone with him. I pointed to the misuse of gym equipment in particular, figuring that the owner (who is a very nice man who always says hi to me) would probably like to know about that. I realize now that I fully expected my concerns about feeling comfortable and safe to be dismissed with a “oh, that guy? he wouldn’t hurt anyone” and “we’ve got security cameras” (to which I might reply, “Oh GOOD, so you’ll be able to watch what happened after my body is found the next morning”). Lo and behold, I got an immediate response that thanked me profusely and went on and on about how important it was that members feel safe and comfortable and that this be a particularly friendly place for women to work out (I have realized that one of the reasons I love this gym is because the atmosphere is distinctly NOT meat markety).
I even received a follow-up email today stating that the individual in question had been taken aside and reprimanded, that my concerns had been corroborated by at least 2 other members and wanted to know if I had had any further reasons to feel uncomfortable. In fact, the one time I saw this dude since the night in question was during the day time, and I noticed a trainer going out of his way to interact with him. Dude seems young and pretty awkward, so it’s probably a case of just being flat-out clueless regarding appropriate behavior in this setting, but I was nevertheless impressed with the way my concerns were taken seriously and addressed so immediately and effectively. Dude wasn’t thrown out on his ass, but I still feel much safer knowing that the management feels a sense of responsibility toward both of us in pretty much equal measure. That’s honestly really all it takes alot of the time: a sense that you are hearing and accepting someone else’s concerns about comfort and safety as A) real, and B) tied to your own interests in some way (i.e. having a gym that women love and feel 100% safe in is going to increase your market share by lots).
Dang, that got REALLY damn long.
I am new to reading your blog, and have to say that you’re probably one of the best (and most honest) internet writers out there. Thanks.
I don’t know if this anecdote counts, but hopefully it does. When I was 18 I was pretty stupid when it came to the dynamics of men and women…actually, this statement holds very true up until maybe two years ago. After leaving home, I didn’t quite realize that relationships with adults weren’t the “oh you’re such a cool kid, so grown up”, that I’d dealt with a lot. I was then viewed as a very naive, very young and very vulnerable woman. Especially when it came to older men, and especially because I allowed myself to be in a lot of crazy situations seeking positive adult (male) attention.
So my then-boyfriend and his roommates were friends with this supposedly gay man in his forties. We went over there for dinner parties on the regular, and just hung out and chatted. It didn’t occur to me that his interest in me was less than chaste. So one night, he called our apartment, and my boyfriend sent me over with his blessings and yada yada, cause he had to go to work. So I went, by myself, not thinking anything of it. He got me drunk, while staying relatively sober, and I didn’t think anything of it. Until he took advantage of my drunken, vulnerable stupid-and-18 state.
I didn’t tell my then-boyfriend what happened, because honestly I thought that I had done something wrong, that I’d fucked up. And then there was the whole guilt thing. It wasn’t consensual, but the part of me that was made to feel guilty felt like I’d cheated, which I hadn’t.
I did however tell two of my other male friends what had happened. The whole confessions-good-for-the-soul crap that we raised Catholics were taught to absolve guilt. The two of them got *pissed*. Not at me, and they decided that it would be best to take care of it on their own without telling my then-boyfriend.
So the two of them hatched a plan to ruin his car. And they did. The three of us walked to his house one night, and I hid in the bushes when they went up the driveway. They had with them two buckets of that wood varnish stuff, and a bunch of sugar. One of them dumped the varnish all over the exterior while the other put sugar in the gas tank. Then we ran like hell.
The next day, one of the guy friends and I walked past his house, just to look. Dude was out in the driveway with one of his neighbors, and he called us over, showing us the car, obviously upset, but not thinking it could have been us. It was all we could do not to laugh in his face over it. Then, it clicked that it was us, and the look on his face was astonished, knowing and angry. But he didn’t verbalize it. He let it go. Just knowing that *he* knew made all the difference in the world, because he knew he hadn’t gotten away with it. He knew that the consequences could have been a whole hell of a lot worse.
In any event, if it hadn’t been for my two guy friends saying, “No, fuck that. Thats not right and we have to teach him a lesson.” I think I would have had to live with the guilt for a very long time.
a few friends of mine i’d like to credit here. one of them, G, is very traditional and takes deep offense at any affront to women. i wouldn’t call it chivalry because he knows women are equal, but he takes it to an insane level. whenever a guy touches any of his female friends inappropriately, if he thinks it was uncalled for, he will flip out and need to be restrained if the girl in question actually didn’t care. if she did, woe unto the aforementioned asshole.
another, F, is a devout christian, very naive and a bit oblivious, but a great guy. whenever a guy is in a female friend’s personal space, he will go up to the guy in question and ask, “did you ask her if she’s okay with that?” most of the time, it’s completely unnecessary, but one of my guy friends, K, is way too touchy-feely and creeps a lot of people out. he’s a good guy and has boundaries, but it’s pretty easy to get into a situation where you’re uncomfortable, but don’t want to tell your friend to back off, and it’s nice to know that F has my back. usually, that gets K pretty pissed at F, but if i tell K he was actually kinda making me uncomfortable, he backs off pretty quickly. F is also a good cock-blocker in general, and is the designated guy who sits next to me and tells everyone i have a bf when someone hits on me and my actual bf isn’t around.
most of my friends, though, are a lot more subtle. when i was in hs, one of the girls on my robotics team, an attractive sophomore newbie i’ll call T, was getting a lot of unwanted attention from the guys on the team (go figure, it’s not only a pretty male-dominated sport, but most of the guys are sex-starved ubergeeks.) in particular, V, one of the co-presidents, was stalking her (he actually is a good guy, just completely clueless when it comes to seduction.) T told me about this before one of our group socials and asked for my protection. I told A, another senior robochick who had a reputation for being tough on chauvinist pigdogs, and both of us escorted her everywhere she went, walking arm-in-arm. a few of the guys started joking that we were lesbians (three attractive, single women surrounded by (not-so-)hot guys? they must be lesbian!,) not realizing what was going on. my younger bro, who was also on the team (and, oddly enough, also liked T,) noticed V hovering around T and told a few of the more mature guys on the team. within seconds, there was a fluid mosaic of tall guys drifting between V and T, which they maintained throughout the social. as more of the guys realized what was going on, the “funny” crowd dissolved and integrated itself into the wall of people. afterwards, a few of them explained to V that what he was doing was inappropriate, and that he should back off. he apologized to T and they straightened things out between themselves. i’m glad to know guys like that, and especially glad that my bro is among them.
I was at a restaurant with my fiance and two male relatives. One of these relatives (who I’ll call “M”) started hitting on our waitress. He was making her, and everyone else at the table noticeably uncomfortable. He does this regularly, and also tends to get upset when the woman doesn’t share his enthusiasm (e.g., after a much younger woman ignored his advances in a grocery store, he pronounced her a stuck-up bitch). At the restaurant I ended up confronting M about his behavior. He got angry at me, and told me that I was oversensitive and making a big deal out of nothing. He then turned to my fiance and said, “How do you put up with her?” My fiance very calmly responded: “She’s very smart, she’s right, and you should listen to her; it will make you a better person.”
how ’bout this.
my friend *r* is just a beautiful beautiful man. like, an exceptional and beautiful man. i have a son who is 19 months old. we were all hanging out in the backyard, playing with dirt one day and my son totally ate it, hard, and came up screaming. my neighbor (who is not cool, just drunk and pathetic) happened to be out there with us and said something totally fuckwitted like “suck it up, kid, act like a man.” i turned to give fuckwit neighbor what i hope was a scathing look of general unimpressedness, and when i turned back around, *r* had my kid in his arms and was singing him a little song in his ear and rubbing his back. the kid totally dug the snuggle, and then proceeded to wiggle down and get back to his very important business in the dirt. *r* came to stand with us and looked fuckwit neighbor in the eye and said “men have a whole range of feelings too. and ya know what? it’s ok to show them.”
not only was he shooting down that indoctrinated notion that the only acceptable display of emotion for men is the display of anger, but he was also totally empowering and being an ally for my little dude.
In high school, there was this creepy dude, let’s call him Joe. He was obviously very unsocialized, but there was something extra distressing about his unsocialization. I mean, I know unsocialized people who re-enact Monty Python too much because they aren’t really sure how else to be funny, and he wasn’t that kind of unsocialized. He was, “Let me tell you about my knife collection” unsocialized. I went to a generally eccentric high school full of artistic weirdos, so people were moderately more accepting of him than they maybe should have been.
Joe was creepy around girls overall, getting way too close into their space, and his unsocialized talk would immediately transition from “creepy shit about weapons” into “creepy shit about your breasts.” I’ve always been fascinated by this kind of unsocialized behavior; so few social cues are getting through this person’s filter, so they base their limited conversational topics on the blatantly obvious. As in, “Blah blah blah talking about stuff,” and then a girl walks in, so it immediately becomes “Let me say the first thing that pops into my head that is tangentially related to women um um um RAPE JOKE heh heh topical.”
After it became established that Joe was generally creepy toward women, I noticed the boys in the school (maybe unconsciously, maybe not) became hyper-aware when Joe was in a room of mixed company. If he moved close to a woman, he’d immediately find himself surrounded by guys who just happened to be standing there, what’s up? I don’t think Joe realized what was happening; it came out later that he thought he was really popular, that everybody wanted to be around him.
Eventually, he picked one girl to obsess over and started stalking her. It escalated to the point where she would scream at him, in public, purple in the face, to leave her the fuck alone, and he’d just hurfle blurf tit joke? A bunch of boys got together and confronted Joe when he was alone. They told him, pretty succinctly, that she didn’t like him, didn’t want him around, and that they were (politely) asking him to leave her alone. Joe figured that they were jealous of his insane prowess, and told them to go fuck themselves.
There was talk of having a “beat the fuck out of Joe” day. I’m conflicted about using violence as an effective response, though I understand the impulse and motivation, and I don’t think it’s inherently the right or wrong choice, especially when you have an unreliable police force or judicial system. But I do feel like it’s a tactic that gives credence to the mindset a creepy guy already has. What the girl wants doesn’t matter. What she says doesn’t matter. What men say and want and do matters. It’s not important to respect a woman’s needs so much as it’s important to note whether or not there is a man present who will win a dominance game for the object that is the woman.
Which is why I really respect what the boys did instead. They documented the discussion they had with him. They asked the girl to document all her interactions with him. They had other girls document their interactions. They put this all together in one big folder, with an explanatory letter summarizing the issues and solutions they hoped to see.
Then they hand-delivered it to his mother.
Joe’s mom was shocked, especially when she read the girl’s signed account. She immediately recognized the girl’s name, because Joe came home every day telling her a new story about what he and his girlfriend did today. The girl would write an account of, “He followed me around at lunch and I had to run from him,” and he came home and told his mom that he and his girlfriend played tag like sweet young lovers in the sunshine.
To the mother’s credit, she completely believed all the accounts. She and Joe’s dad put Joe in therapy. They talked to the school, and teachers were notified to watch Joe’s interactions with women, and intervene when necessary. Joe was required to check in with the guidance counselor once a week. And the administration made it VERY clear that they were open to any student coming in to lodge a complaint against Joe. While Joe never stopped being creepy, he did learn that he had to keep certain physical boundaries, even though I’m not sure he really understood why.
Everybody did right in that situation — Joe’s parents and the administration and the boys — but super kudos to the boys for taking an extremely level-headed, proactive course, even though they were only freakin’ 16.
My best friend is a guy. One of the greatest things he does is NEVER offers to walk me home when it’s late at night…because he knows I’m smart enough to always be aware of my surroundings, I know my limits, I’m responsible enough never to walk anywhere drunk, I’ve taken women’s safety classes and carry weapons AND because he knows I’m stronger, faster, meaner and quicker in crisis than he is. Now that’s friendship! I’m so sick of patronizing guys who offer to walk me the one block from my apartment to the convenience store after dusk. They tend to be the same guys who offer to park my car for me because “it’ll just be easier.”
Another small, but heartening example (actually it’s the small stuff that can make a huge difference). I’m involved in a gamer community, a gamer community that myself and my friends have worked hard to make a non-sexist, non-racist, non-homophobic space. We call out the use of “rape” to describe what a virtual character did to another virtual character with a virtual sword, etc. But in a community of 50+ people and more or less constant turnover with “Friend of so and sos” getting invited in all the time, the occasional asshat slips in.
Around the ‘08 election, one conservative guy, in particular, started really losing his shit. After the Republican Convention, he posted on our forums in raptures about Sarah Palin. When someone raised concerns about her experience level, etc., he immediately shot back with the following:
“I like conservative women. They’re less shrill and bitter than their liberal counterparts…blah blah, something comparing liberal women to terrorists.”
A male member of our community (someone pretty unexpected, quite frankly), immediately pointed out how gross this was, basically saying that all women are shrill and bitter, conservative women just less so. Later, after the first dude posted a long, condescending, self-indulgent narrative about how he had come by his earnest and well-considered political beliefs about how women suck and Obama is a socialist Muslim terrorist, I came at him with the Wrath of Maude, and the male members of the community (about 75-80% of our group…it’s the gamer world after all) cheered me on. In other words, in a VERY male dominated space, the men cooperated with the women in letting this asshole know that his earnest and well-considered political beliefs were, in fact, batshit and offensive to the people he thinks of as friends.
My father is amazingly aware of men’s potential threat to women. In the fatherly sense, he understands it abstractly, and it’s a little overbearing. In the good citizen sense, though, I have grown up watching him go out of his own way to give women he doesn’t know space meant to indicate that he is not threat. When I was younger, he and I were walking along a relatively deserted city street at night. We were walking behind a young woman, who was alone, for a few blocks when my Dad indicated that we would take a side street the rest of the way to our car. I asked why, and he said it was something different and just as quick… but once we got out of the woman’s earshot he explained to me that he didn’t want to make her think he was following her, because she was alone and it might make her nervous. Now my late twenties, that is the only solid story I have to offer, but am grateful that there are many more for me to read.
This happened many years ago, on a night in mid-December. I was out with my friend Rita. We had had dinner and were driving around town looking at the Christmas lights. It had snowed, which made the roads icy, but everything was lovely and festive
About 1:30 in the morning, we stopped at a red light: no other cars, no people; everything was still. Then we saw a woman running up the street, screaming for help. When she got to our car she was nearly hysterical. She begged us to take her home and on the ride she told us what happened.
She had gone on a date with a guy from her work. She didn’t know him very well, but they ended up at his apartment. Whatever their conversation was, she became frightened, convinced he was going to kill her (there was a serial killer at large in the city at that time). She bolted for the door and kept running when she hit the street; she didn’t see anyone until we stopped for that light, three blocks from his apartment.
We took her home – about fifteen miles outside of town on icy roads – watched her go into her apartment and shut the door, then headed back to town. I don’t know if she called the police, and I never saw or spoke to her again.
Several months later they caught the serial killer, a man named Arthur Shawcross. He lived in an apartment three blocks from where we met her, in the direction she was running from. I’ll never know if he was the same man, but either way I’m glad we stopped at that intersection.
There is a really loud, obnoxious guy in one of my breadth classes this semester who will frequently come out with sexist demeaning comments. During a group discussion with the professor about sexism on students’ evaluations of teachers, he said something particularly gauche and also particularly typical. Responding to a statement made by the teacher that his female colleagues often get back evaluations with comments about their breasts or asses written on them, this misfit said, “Now that’s something I’ve gotta do next time!”
At least three boys in the class spoke up and told him that was a really stupid thing to say and think. When he tried to brush it off as a joke, saying he didn’t actually mean it, they said it didn’t matter. They said it in such a disgusted tone that it must have got through to him, because he didn’t comment again for the rest of the class.
If any of the girls in the class had spoken up he would have dismissed them outright, but since he was being criticized by boys he stopped immediately. I thought it was really great that the boys did what they did, especially when it’s easier to act jovial and carry on a “joke” even if it isn’t funny.
In a long, virulent, and stupid flamewar amongst friends, my husband thoroughly, repeatedly, and gleefully called out a few “boys” for posting all sorts of sexist nonsense. (And not the obvious rape-and-violence stuff; the subtle crap that most guys and even some women gloss over.) Now, there was no shortage of women engaged in the fight, but his participation backed us up and then some – he wasn’t being polite about it, shall we say. I know for sure it kept me from saying much, much worse.
The entire argument was really painful to me, because one of the perpetrators is – was? – a good friend, and while I knew he was a bit… weird… on gender issues, he had managed to keep a tight lid of “chivalry” over it all up til that point. Meanwhile, a mutual male friend was trying to patch things over between me and another of the “boys” by saying the dreaded “but he’s not a bad guy!” Sure, not bad to _you,_ dude. I don’t need to spend my time with a guy whose idea of gender understanding is “but the ladies, they are weak! And emotional! Us men are stupid and you mustn’t expect anything from us!” Bah.
Now, my husband has never once tried to shut me down for being a mouthy feminist – if anything, he encourages it. But neither of us would have really called him a feminist up until that point. Afterwards, he told me, he could suddenly see all the sexism I’ve been seeing all my life: “it’s like mushrooms – you see one in the forest, and suddenly they’re everywhere!” Yes, my loud, argumentative, button-pushing husband has been radicalized to the feminist cause. It’s terrifying, and totally adorable.
I grew up in New York City. From the age of about 10 onward, I got to school via public transportation; a ride of an hour or more each way, alone. For whatever reason, whenever I was leered at, groped, frotteured and/or flashed (which happened all the effin time), I could never seem to raise the alarm. All I could bring myself to do was simply move away from the perpetrator. Silently. It was imperative that I not attract attention. Of course, at the same time, I’d be fervently hoping someone’s attention would be caught, and they’d intervene. But nobody ever seemed to notice what was going on.
One winter morning when I was 12, I was riding the express bus, standing one step down in the rear stairwell to stay out of the crowd. A man stood at the top of the steps facing me and the door, holding the posts on either side. As he stood there with his arms apart and slightly raised, the flaps of his long overcoat fell open and enclosed me in this little space, completely blocking the view of everyone else on the bus. (Those guys are good.) It’s clear that this isn’t accidental, but what can I do? The bus is crowded, there are no upcoming stops, and he’s behaving seemingly innocently (sorry, but it’s packed!). I have to endure it. Each time the bus sways, the man leans further and further into my space, so that soon his crotch is nearly touching me. I’m in agony. And then, as if it couldn’t get any worse, the bus driver straight up yells at me, super pissed. “You! Standing in the stairwell! Get up here to the front!” And I instantly forget about Creepy Man and I’m like, “oh no, technically you’re not supposed to stand in the stairwell and now an authority figure is pissed at me and I’ll get kicked off the bus and I’ll be late to school and I’ll get in trouble and it’s sooo cold…”
And when I squeeze my way to the front, all trepidation, the bus driver says to me in a low voice, eyes still totally on the road, “I wasn’t quite sure, but it looked like you might’ve needed some help back there,” and nods toward… the small parabolic mirror mounted so he can see the rear stairwell! My gast was so flabbered, I don’t think I managed to get out any actual words. I seriously almost cried from disbelief and sheer gratitude. He was the first person who had ever noticed. And not only that, he’d stepped in! I rode standing at the front of the bus until my destination, basking in safety, relief and renewed faith in malekind, and as soon as I got off I realized I’d never thanked him. God, I wish I had. I hope he saw it on my face.
[Cut here if desired.]
I’m 33 now. I’ve been harassed many, many times since, in much more threatening ways. That scuzzy guy wasn’t going to attack me. He was probably never going to actually touch me. Still, I probably think of that bus driver at least once a month, and I tear up every time (eg: right now). As far as I knew, people literally couldn’t even see that stuff: I’d been flashed in Union freakin’ Square in the middle of the afternoon, with dozens of people mere yards away! This? This was incredibly subtle! So I just couldn’t believe that someone (a stranger!) would actually help me in a situation like that. And looking back, I continue to be amazed at the way that he did it— even though he wasn’t quite sure; working so cleverly within his little slice of para-authority; without any apparent notice of my age or race… and most of all, without embarrassing me. It almost feels wrong to say that last one without some kind of disclaimer, because basically what I’m saying is that I was glad he didn’t call the guy out. But… I was. I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want that bus pulled over and that man confronted/ejected and every eye in the bus directed my way. That would have been almost as excruciating. I don’t know if the driver had any sense of that (could a person even be that sensitive??), but either way, he did just what I needed. Thank you, Mr. Bus Driver.
Well, if you’re still adding stories I’d like to share my own- it’s pretty low-key but it makes a big difference to me.
The context of these stories is that I’m a Civil War buff and reenactor- always have been, ever since I was a kid- and the Military History field can be a real boys club sometimes. Most of the leaders in this academic field as well as the reenacting world are male. I’ve been lucky enough, however, to have a lot of great experiences…
1) The unit I’m reenacting with these days has a policy of having a strong civilian contingent- it often happens in the hobby that the civilian members are women and children, and you rarely see men doing this impression, all for historically valid reasons that I, as a historian, support. The only reason I support this gender division within the hobby, though, is that the men in our group make sure that the women have equal control of all the unit business and have an equal say in everything that goes on. The men don’t run our organization and they don’t try to control what our Civilian section does and they were adamant when we got a new military leader that he treat the women as his equals, rather than (as this man put it) “guests of the unit”. Knowing that they weren’t going to put up with that remark made me sure that I’d picked the right group, and made me proud to be associating myself with men who were actively going to stand up for the women in the group, even though they could probably have gotten away with doing otherwise.
2) I recently started a student reenactors group at my University and as it turns out all of our officers are women. Being the president, I was probably most aware of the possibility of facing sexism from people I was trying to work with, both male club members and men in reenacting units that our members are interested in falling in with. Instead, I’ve gotten genuine respect from the guys who are in the club. They accept that I’m the leader and that they can learn from me. Instead of turning to the men, who, I freely admit, can sometimes answer questions about the military stuff that I don’t know as well, they continue to come to me first and put their faith in my knowledge and ability to lead them. I’ve gotten the same respect from the men who run the military section of our unit; though I’m female and probably at least 10 years younger than they are, they treat me as an equal and support what I do within the club. (“Whatever she says, that’s good information.”~ our lieutenant)
To top it off, the boys vehemently refused to get involved with a local Civil War Roundtable (discussion group) that doesn’t allow women as members. They said they’d rather walk the few mile trip to a group that allows women to join as full members than support a group that won’t allow the women to participate equally.
A friend of mine saw Pirate Radio on a first date with a friend-wanting-to-be-more of hers. There’s a scene in the movie (which I haven’t seen myself) where two guys come up with a plan to “switch” who’s having sex with a girl so that the other guy can get laid. As the plan was announced onscreen, the date leaned over and whispered to my friend, “Yeah, that’s called rape.” I was so impressed when she told me this–a guy who recognizes that situation as rape and calls it out!
I’ve got a story of a guy being damned helpful…
I was out at a dive bar for karaoke with friends and their friends. It was my birthday, and I was dolled up and feeling friendly and energetic. I didn’t know most of the people in the group I was with, so I turned to the woman I knew and trusted and told her I wanted to play pool… Could she find someone for me to play with?
She tapped one of the three guys standing in front of me, saying that this good friend of hers would play pool with me. He looked a little startled for a moment, then stepped up and said sure! He would totes play with me!
There was just one cruddy little table at the back of the bar, and it was in use at the moment. This new acquaintance took a gentlemanly stance with me from the start, taking the lead on claiming use of the table, offering to get me a drink, and getting the glass of ice water I wanted without trying to talk me into something alcoholic. (Actually, he fetched me several glasses of ice water through the course of the evening, only once making it clear that he was willing to pick up the tab if I wanted anything else. “Are you sure you don’t want a Coke or something?”)
We started playing, and having a great time talking and joking. Did I mention he was being a perfect gentleman? Seriously, he wasn’t trying to look down my shirt or check out my ass, much less lay a hand on me. Eyes above my shoulders the whole time, as far as I could tell. I was having a genuinely good time with this Girlfriend Approved Nice Guy, and it was turning out to be a good birthday.
And then this old, drooling, drunk guy came half-stumbling over to us. He looked old enough to be my grandfather, which lent a slight frailness to his appearance, but still… He was drunk. I had and still have a profound dislike and distrust of drunk men, and this one was approaching me like he was not old enough to be my grandfather. He had that slimy look on his face that sleazy men use when they THINK they’re being cute and charming, and he was very definitely looking at my figure and not my face. I gave him a dirty look and prepared to hit him with my cue if he got any ideas about touching me.
The Nice Guy spotted the sleazy old man about two seconds after I did. He immediately moved around the table to stand right beside me, closer than he’d stood all night. He carefully put his arm around my waist, keeping his hand very definitely ABOVE my waist. He didn’t step between me and the old man, but he did tell the old guy that the table was occupied for a while longer, and he did call me, “Honey,” loudly enough for that guy and a couple others to hear.
With that, the sleaze decided that I was not up for grabs after all. He had apparently ignored the possibility of being bludgeoned by a 20-something woman, but he was not going to ignore the apparent prior claim of another man. He backed off and left me alone the rest of the night, as did every other man within hearing range of the Nice Guy when he called me “honey”.
As soon as the old guy wandered off to harrass someone else, the Nice Guy also backed off and resumed his gentlemanly behavior. He even apologized for getting so familiar with my person. He told me that he saw my eyes flash and my grip tighten on my pool cue, and knew that this was not attention I was interested in receiving. He also said he could tell by my body language that I would beat the man down myself if I thought it needed doing, which is why he didn’t get between me and the guy. I told him it was all good, that I didn’t mind, and even appreciated that he was willing and able to lend a hand without treating me like a helpless girl.
To this day, it annoys the crap out of me that my visible threat of bodily harm meant less to that jackass than a guy’s arm around my waist, but you know what? I didn’t have to beat an old man bloody in an unfamiliar bar, and my birthday night out was only disturbed for a few minutes.
There’s a reason I’ve been referring to him as the Nice Guy… That whole “nice guys finish last” thing is a crock of b.s. and I get tired of hearing it. Over the next couple of weeks I had some lovely conversations with that Nice Guy, and we went out on our first formal date exactly two weeks after we met. We were completely inseperable after one date, and within a month we were madly in love. We’ve been together almost four years now, married for over a year, and I’m carrying our second child. I adore my Nice Guy husband, who still dotes on me while respecting my strength and independence.
So there you go. Guys, don’t be the sleaze, be the gentleman. It doesn’t matter if you’ve known her for years, just met her that night, or don’t even know her name. Respect her ability and determination to take care of herself, but if one of your fellow males is failing to respect her boundaries, stand up and tell him to back off. Bonus points if you can do so without wrecking her night with bloodshed!
I’ve been babysitting since I was 14 (I’m now 22). All the men/fathers that I have babysat for have been great with me, and they’ve all made sure I got home safely afterwards even if it was only 10pm at night and I lived just a 10 minute walk away – even if it meant calling a taxi for me to get home because they couldn’t leave their kids home alone, and even though it would have taken me just 15 minutes to walk home by myself.
I forgot to add this to me previous comment but I wanted to add this thumbs-up to my male relatives and family friends: They have all treated me well, have respected me as a human being, and have supported me in whatever I’ve done (eg. studying Law at University). I have some very upstanding men who are my father, brother, relatives and family friends – and I really appreciate that. When other men who don’t really know me treat me badly at least I have that strong foundation of good men who see women as equals in my home and family.
I come from a Christian family. Some of our family friends are lovely people but they have been taught that wives should submit to their husbands, and they have always practiced it in their own marriages. My father challenges them on this. It is difficult to criticize your friends, so I appreciate that my dad doesn’t just ignore this issue but brings it up when appropriate.
I’m realllly late to the party but I wanted to add a story because it’s kind of funny, and it really made me happy to have happen.
I was in college (this was about 2 years ago) and I was talking on my cellphone, upset, and walking around the neighborhood near campus. It’s a very safe campus and a very safe neighborhood, so even though it was probably 1am, I didn’t expect to see anyone, and if I did I wouldn’t have been worried.
A man, a little older than college age, was walking in the opposite direction down the opposite sidewalk, obviously drunk.
“Hey, do you have a cigarette?” he says, I shake my head no, but when I look over he can tell I was crying. “You okay?” he asks, “You waiting for a cab? You want me to wait with you?”
He kinda starts to cross the street, but I say no, I’m on the phone, and he says okay, and keeps walking.
Right after that, a police car comes by – they watch drivers pretty carefully, since there are a bunch of college kids on a friday night in the zillion bars next street over. The car slows down next to me, and the officer asks “Was he threatening you?” I tell him no, too, and he looks at me like he doesn’t believe me. I tell him the guy was asking for a cig, and he believes that, and I finally finish my phonecall.
It was nice to not only be in a place where I felt safe walking very distracted next to a pitch dark parking garage, but also have any potential creeps actually be people who care about my safety, instead. The cop even wouldn’t have let me get away with shrugging off routine harassment.
I love you, Appleton, WI.
Guy’s Guide To Feminism, 12/28/09
From Tyler (the Guy from the Guy’s Guide):
So this is around February or March 2005, very soon after Lawrence Summers (who was president of Harvard at the time, not sure if he still is) made those comments suggesting there are less female tenured professors in the math and sciences because women do not have as strong innate abilities for these disciplines as men do.
I’m out to dinner with a group of guys. Most of the members of the group I’m with fashion themselves as Ayn Rand Objectivists, so they are obsessed with ideas of self-interest and pure capitalism.
But really they are just North Carolina conservatives and staunch supporters of Bush/Cheney Republicanism (AKA they are neo-conservatives.) But because they are young, they try and give their views a hip, libertarian twist.
Anyway, so one of the guys works for a Beach resort as part of the catering/events staff. His boss had recently been promoted, and the person they brought in to replace his old boss was a woman.
From what I understood, this woman was already the #2 to the old boss, so the promotion was pretty much a given based on the woman’s seniority, experience, performance, etc.
But my friend was angry b/c he felt that i) she wasn’t as capable, ii) there wasn’t a full interview process (in his dreams he felt that he was qualified, though he in no way had the requisite experience to even merit an interview), and iii) he outright said that he believed his new boss got her position because she was a woman.
Though the L. Summers’ stuff did not come up directly in this conversation, I had had plenty of debates in the wake of those comments a month or so before with this very same group. So I know that those sentiments played into this guy’s feelings.
Obviously, everyone but me agreed with this guy. They chalked it up as another overreaction to gender inequalities and affirmative action politics that, they felt, are crippling free enterprise.
Quelling my initial reaction to just laugh and say, “You’re just sexist, why not just admit it?” I decide instead to try and have all of these guys reach this conclusion through a simple series of questions.
Their love for all things capitalist and Ayn Rand related was clearly the best entry point… So I asked something to the effect of, i) What’s one of the main benefits of a pure free-market economy? and ii) What is the goal of policies that look to rectify institutionalized gender or race inequalities in the workforce?
Their answer to the first question was the predictable long spiel that could be boiled down to the naive idea that if everyone acts in their own self-interest, markets will work efficiently, everyone will have the same motivation to work hard and achieve, there are no free-rides, etc., etc.
Their answer to the second question was so muddled and mean and riddled with political rhetoric that I had to prod them for an “objective” answer. Essentially, I had to ask them what they thought the philosophy behind a policy like Title IX truly is.
Eventually, through this line of inquiry (a couple of the guys were philosophy majors in college, so they at least understood my method and sort of appreciated it) I got them to admit that such measures were enacted because women (and non-whites) did not have the same initial advantages as men (whites). They also made the connection that in their free-market dream world, it is assumed that every person starts on the same level playing field. So if their dream world were ever to become a reality, we would have to work damn hard to create a workplace where everyone has the same opportunities (hence, things like Title IX and affirmative action policies).
Lastly, I asked if his new boss had any connections at his workplace that could have influenced her promotion (she’s related to the owner, etc.) He admitted that she did not.
So when I asked him that, given the place where we live and the area’s predominate politics (largely traditionally conservative), was it safe to assume that his new boss probably had to work a little extra hard to get to where she is b/c she probably had to endure similar biases like the ones he (the guy I was talking to) was espousing a half hour earlier…
And he admitted that that was probably the case.
Who knows if any of what we spoke about that night stuck, but it was a small victory.
From Marie (Editor at the Guide):
Well, I was a Jr. in High School and I did set construction and was a stage manager for HS plays. When new people joined up, we’d have someone with more experience show them around and explain the different jobs and how stuff worked and, literally, show them the ropes (that tied up curtains, backdrops, etc.)
So, as someone with a few years experience, I took this new freshman boy around. He was generally known as someone’s weird, awkward and scrawny little brother and was definitely not a ‘cool kid.’
I was almost done showing him around and as we walked out of the prop closet I saw my big, older ex-boyfriend struggling to hand-saw a gigantic piece of wood he had propped up on two chairs (our equipment was so pathetic we re-used screws and nails.)
Each time the ex tried to take the saw to it, the vibrations would vibrate the wood off the chair and fall, which is a disaster waiting to happen. So, without any conversation, I took one end of the wood and held it in place so he could saw the thing w/o chopping off his arm.
He proceeded to saw the wood (while I kept it in place) and then told me to “Fuck off.” I replied that I was just helping him and his wood would have fallen off if I hadn’t. He cursed at me again and I just shook my head and walked away.
The freshman was there the whole time and started to follow me out but went back in. He told my ex not to be such an asshole and that he should thank me for saving him from hurting himself or destroying equipment.
I heard my ex saying as the freshman left (something like) “You little shit,” which is how I know the freshman actually got to him.
I thanked the freshman and told him that took some guts. I hadn’t realized how used to guys letting other guys treat women and girls like dirt I had become. I guess I took it for granted that guys don’t question one another until the least likely guy did.
My mother told me a story about her uncle. When he was a child (1930s, maybe?), he overheard two men talking. They didn’t know he was listening or didn’t care. One was a police officer who was bragging to his friend about how he had forced a woman in a holding cell to give him a blow job. She had protested that she wasn’t “like that” and he had “convinced” her with his night stick. My mother’s uncle went home in tears and asked his father how someone could do something like that. His father told him, “That’s why you’re going to be a lawyer when you grow up. You’re going to make them stop and you’re going to speak up for people like her.”
I like that response because he didn’t try to explain or minimize what R. had heard. He acknowledged that it was an injustice, and one that a child should grow up to fight. Other than that, I’m not aware that my great-grandfather was particularly progressive in his views. On anything. My mother’s uncle did become a lawyer, but that’s all I know.
Shaan Michael, 01/03/2010
I want to submit a story, but I don’t know where, so I guess I’ll just do it here….
This past April I took a trip to Germany with a few other people. It was myself [a skinny pre-op/hormone transman], two cisgender guys [Jared and Tim (who aren't anywhere near the skinny side)], and a girl [Melissa (who is all of 5'2 and 130 lbs)]. We were there for business but ended up having a great deal of free time, so we walked around and found a club. Melissa went outside on the patio where a few guys we didn’t know were while myself, Jared, and Tim stayed inside and watched TV [it was a slow night, since it was a weekday]. I periodically checked on Melissa, especially since she was the only girl out there and she’s a pretty small thing. She was alright, just getting more and more intoxicated by the minute…along with her new drunken ex-Marine, now-Army friend [who stood somewhere around 5'9 and 250 lbs of muscle]. We didn’t want to ruin her good time, so we kept checking on her to make sure she didn’t leave with the guy or anything. When it was time to go, we all went out front. Her new friend began to get act more “drunkish,” took off his shirt, and attempted to display his drunken machismo. Melissa was beyond the point of drunk because she could hardly stand up, but she was laughing and egging him on. Me and the other guys just kept our distance and watched them flail around for a bit. Then other people started showing up so I went over and tried to pick her up items [cell phone, shirt (she had a few on), keys, etc] that she had dropped all about. Then I tried to get her, but she pushed me off and went back to flailing. We let her keep at it for a bit more, then some people started laughing at her. At that point I pretty much “snatched her up,” meaning I grabbed her arm and dragged her across the parking lot against her will. Her ex-Marine now-Army friend began to follow us, shouting that I needed to let her go and various things he would do if I didn’t. She sobered up a bit and realized that this wasn’t a playful situation, then told us she wanted the guy to leave her alone. So we sped up our pace and cut through some woods to loose him. And we did…..for all of about 5 minutes. The guy literally materialised out of thin air and popped up behind us. The other two guys kept walking, but I was fed up, so I turned around and asked why the f**k he was following us. His claim, he just wanted to make sure she got to her room [we were in a hotel] okay. I pointed out that she quite obviously had 3 dudes taking good care of her, so his assistance would not be required. Of course I said it in a bit more aggressive tone and speech, but you catch my drift right? He got a little mad face going, I kept staring him down, and eventually he slowed his pace and stopped in the middle of the parking lot. We got up to our rooms, got ready for bed, and I went to check on Melissa [just to make sure he hadn't still followed us]. She was alright, and kept thanking me, Tim, and Jared for keeping an eye out on her. It wasn’t a big deal to me, that’s just how I am. But I gave her a hug, made sure she locked her door, and then we all went to bed.
On a side note, some people are wondering if men “protect” women out of chivalry or because we see them as the weaker and lesser gender. For me it’s the former, plus the fact that it’s just a person in potential danger. Whenever I go somewhere with women I get fairly over-protective. I watched their every move, hold on to their personal items, watch their drink, whatever. I’m the same way with guy friends too [for the most part]. I just don’t want to leave people in a bad situation. This goes for whether I know them or not.
When I was 16, I had gotten separated from my group of friends while we were at a large summer arts and music festival. I was standing on a raised walkway searching for them when a man, maybe homeless, maybe mentality unstable, dirty, but nonetheless friendly comes up to me and starts telling me that I am the prettiest girl out of all the girls from that corner, to that corner, to that corner, to all around the park. I thank him and wish him a good time at the festival. He continues complimenting me and offers me a hand to step down, and not wanting to be rude in such a friendly environment, I take it. When I stepped down his hand tightened around my wrist, he started patting my stomach and offering to buy me a cheeseburger while me pulled me close to him. I tried to pull away but he held on too tight and I started to get scared. Then I heard a loud “There you are!” and another man running toward me. He put his hand on my shoulders and said, “Where have you been, I’ve been looking all over for you!” I was even more terrified that this had been a set up and now this guy was going to drag me off somewhere, but he turned to the man grabbing my wrist and snarled (snarled!) “Get out of here.” The man holding me let go skulked off, and the man who’d ‘been looking for me’ said “It looked like you needed a little help. Are you okay?” I didn’t even know what to do, I was still shaking. I tried to tell my friends about it and they kinda shrugged and went “oh.” I didn’t even realize what an amazing thing that man did for me until much later. So, I guess thanks, sir.
What a great list! I have an experience that I’d like to share also:
About three years ago I was living with some friends and working part time at the pool hall (billiards, not swimming) at my University. It was summer and I wasn’t taking classes so I worked a couple of afternoons during the week and occasionally on the weekend. It was a small facility and with no more than a few customers on weekdays, at least during the summer, each shift was only assigned one employee. But I got paid and was allowed to read if it was slow so it all seemed like a pretty good deal.
One afternoon I was working I didn’t have any customers until three men — all significantly taller / larger than me and looking to be about ten years older than me — came in. I handed them their pool balls and they decided to play at a table very close to the counter I’m seated at. Two of the men started playing immediately but the third leaned on the counter and started chatting me up. His questions seemed pretty innocuous at first; he asked me if I’m a student there, what do I study, stuff like that. This was my first customer service job and I was eager to please, so I assured myself that he was just making small talk and answered politely. The questions slowly became more probing; what do I like to do for fun, do I have a boyfriend, that sort of thing. He eventually suggested that we get together sometime, and made it clear that he was only interested in sex. He made a lot of very explicit comments and was leaning on the counter as close to me as he could — I was extremely frightened that he’d grab me but all I could do was mumble that I wasn’t interested. I kept glancing at the note on the counter with the building security number on it but I was so afraid that any step I took to protect myself would be met with more harassment or even violence that I couldn’t even move. At that point he flashed his wedding ring, of all things, and started telling me all the things he thought I’d be willing to do if he weren’t wearing that. Then his friends started to leave, and just kept saying that he should leave also until he finally did. I immediately broke down but didn’t think I could call my manager to go home — I was terrified that she would berate me for not being more assertive and that she would think I was weak and a bad employee. Instead I called a friend (male), P, who came out to sit with me so that I didn’t have to be alone. It was so comforting just to have someone I knew and trusted with me for a little while, I think it really made a difference not only in how I felt that day but how I recovered from the incident over time.
The next day I went to work nervous and frightened that the same men would come in looking for me. Fortunately nothing of the sort happened (in fact I never saw them again, thank goodness) but by the time my shift was over I was feeling very worn out, both physically and emotionally. I decided to go to a local bookstore to try to relax and distract myself a bit before going home. After being at the bookstore for a little while I got a phone call from one of the friends I was living with (male), J. He asked me where I was and when I told him I was just at the bookstore reading, he said, “I asked because you were harassed by a customer at work yesterday, so when you didn’t come home when your shift was done I was worried that something had happened. I’m glad you’re ok.” I assured him that I was alright and that’d I’d be home soon.
It was such a simple gesture but it meant the world to me that J had not only taken me seriously when I told him about the incident, but that he was observant enough to notice I wasn’t home at the usual time and concerned enough to make sure that I was safe. It’s the seemingly small, personal steps like this that men need to take to really support women and help us to feel more secure.
I was at a club with a group of friends, about 4 guys and 4 girls. We were all enjoying a good time watching the Junior Boys play, and naturally we wanted to be close to the band. My friend, who shall remain nameless, we’ll call her A. went up to the front, and some guy literally picked her up and moved her, because she was standing in front of him.
She went to all of us guys in the group and told us the story, and suggested we kick his ass. No guy wanted to do it, they were all pacifists. I didn’t want to do it for many reasons, I didn’t see it, I was inebriated, I was afraid of getting in trouble. Looking back I realize it shouldn’t have mattered that I didn’t see it.
I tried to calm her down and let her know everything will be fine. Not getting the results she wanted, A. went back to the guy and gave him a piece of her mind. I was watching like a hawk now. The guy did not touch her, but told her to fuck off.
Then, the guy’s female friends supported what the guy had done and started talking shit to A.
At this point, things looked like they were getting heated, one guy and 3 or 4 girls against a small girl, so I stepped in and grabbed the guy’s neck in a friendly way and told him “let’s just all have a good time.”
He did not respond verbally, but started flailing his arms trying to push me away. He then pushed me hard into some other people, but I stood my ground, and I stood next to him the rest of the show.
Looking back on it, I am very angry for many reasons. 1) that a stranger had the audacity to pick someone up and move her because of her size 2) that other females supported the decision 3) that I had not acted sooner and more forcefully, that I wasn’t as loyal as I could have been.
I am really mad at myself for being lame in the first place and not taking action the second A. told me. Did I do the right thing? Was there a more right decision? And why the fuck would other females support misogyny?
I have one.
It was the first day of college for the second year, all the students were back from summer break and there was a big house party. Lots of local kids too, since Woodstock N.B. is a small town. I was happy to see everyone I missed, and I had to much to drink – 10 years later and I have never drunk that much again. I can’t remember the night that well, but I remember a red baseball hat quite clearly.
Most of my friends had gone or passed out. There was this guy…I don’t remember anything about him. I was at the point of not being able to talk or function, but when he kissed me I’d kiss back…I don’t know. I couldn’t…I was to drunk to think. his friend with red hat knew this, even though he didn’t know me and was probably half as drunk. “come on man, don’t do it. She’s drunk”, over and over. “no, she totally likes it, see?”. Looking up, at the guy in the red hat. He eventually convinced his friend to leave me alone. How, I’ll never know. I guess just by not leaving us alone.
So, was I asking for it by kissing back? I can’t remember how drunk I was, or how drunk he was, I can’t remember much of anything. I’m at home, hung over and look at the pants I was wearing last night. Oh, right. I was looking up at the red hat guy because the other guy was dragging me, turns out I was an un-cooperative drunk after all, you know, not being able to stand and walk and all. My pants are ruined with mud and grass streaks all down the back.
Thank you red hat. You saved me from being raped, you saved me from my drunken stupidity (why did I drink so much and make it so easy to be taken advantage of?). I have never drank that carelessly again; guys like you might not always be around.
I didn’t realize that I had any stories like this until I was reading the ones already posted… (Also, feel free to split these up if you want.)
In high school, I was a TA for a class – which basically meant that I sat in the back room and did nothing for long periods of time. During that time frame, there was one guy whom I knew tangentially (he was a friend of a few friends, etc.). This guy, Matt, did not respect my boundaries at all. I am very picky about my personal space compared to most people I know, and somehow despite my obvious “go away” body language and verbal requests to back off, I don’t want a hug, no -really-, no one gets to pick me up he didn’t seem to understand (or care) that I really meant it. It’s possible that it was a misunderstanding – for whatever reason, my reaction to anger and annoyance is to smile (the more annoyed, the happier I look to anyone who can’t tell the difference), but that’s irrelevant. After a few weeks of dealing with this behavior becoming more and more common, I complained to a different friend of mine, who it turned out knew Matt. After finding out that it really was bothering me, but that I didn’t want to report it to anyone, my friend basically forged an e-mail from the principal about the school’s sexual harassment policies, ‘telling’ him to talk to her again if the behavior continued. He then ‘forwarded’ this e-mail to Matt, who did not touch me again afterwards.
There are a few others that at the time I had interpreted as just annoying and embarrassing, though in this context I realize that they were actually trying to look out for me. Two major points for both of these stories are that (1) I look really young (I’m 20, but I look maybe 16) and (2) my fiance is active duty Air Force. Both of these happened while I was visiting him on/near base.
First, we were just a few minutes off base, having gone to get something to eat, and we were walking back obviously together – he may even have been carrying me at the time. A bunch of guys in the parking lot of the place at which we had been eating started giving him a hard time about it. It took me a while to figure out why they were accusing him of basically tricking me into going on base with him, until I remembered that it looked like he was escorting someone very obviously underage, fairly late at night.
The second time was more recently. We were on base, just outside the hotel where I was staying, again holding hands and very obviously a couple. A police officer (MP or Security Forces or whatever it is that the Navy calls their version – yay needlessly specialized terminology!) came up to us and checked our IDs, explaining that I don’t really look old enough to be with him. At the time, it was just embarrassing and awkward (and definitely not the first time we’ve gotten dirty looks for being in public together, even though he’s only 6 months my senior), but in retrospect I appreciate that he was just trying to make sure that I wasn’t being taken advantage of.
One unrelated to my age, though related to the military thing, just occurred to me. I was locked out of my hotel room on base, and had to wait for my fiance to get back from work to give me the key – I couldn’t just call him and have him bring it on his lunch or something, because he can’t have his phone with him on duty – so I got to spend several hours hanging out in a public area of the hotel. Several people came up to me and, having seen me spend hours basically playing solitaire and looking out the window, asked me if I was alright. One guy in particular, though, actually invited me into his room down the hall to watch tv or something, and (after texting the room number to my friends, because I knew I was possibly entering an unsafe situation) I accepted. And… yeah. We hung out, watched some ridiculous show on sci-fi, he offered me food and his bathroom, and eventually said that he had to go to sleep since he had work in the morning, but that I could stay for as long as I wanted, as long as I locked the door on my way out. In some ways, I can’t believe that I actually accepted his offer – I’m sitting here right now telling myself that it was a stupid idea – but the fact that he noticed and cared that I had been sitting out there for hours, and offered me a place to stay for a while – and didn’t push it in the slightest – makes me really grateful. I never got a chance to thank him afterwards, unfortunately; I hope he realizes that he did do a good thing, and even if he doesn’t deserve commendations for not taking advantage of me, there are a lot of guys who would have.
Palau Seribu, 02/02/2010
I took a South African literature class in college. The professor, a South African, explained his conscious decision to include only black authors, because of the priviledge awarded to “coloured” people like himself over blacks, let alone whites. I thought there was a female writer in the group from a title, something like “Call me Not A Man,” which I then realized was a male author’s idea of ultimate insult. All the authors were male.
So, I addressed the issue in a paper. The prof talked about it in the next lecture, rather contrite, without pointing me out. It could have been him covereing for himself, but it appeared that it hadn’t occurred to him that, in his efforts to explose a highlight extreme racisism, he ignored the sexism in their writing and excluded women writers.
I appreciated that a highly intellectual man would publicly make such statements. I certainly was punished later by other profs if I called them out for anything, but the one who got it made it worth the effort of stating the obvious.
Ni Aili, 02/03/2010
I go to a big state university known for being a big “party school,” and it’s generally not advisable to go out alone on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights, when lots of people will be wandering around from bar to bar. As someone who doesn’t drink, I usually don’t bother walking around outside on those nights, but last semester I had to pick up my best friend, who was coming to visit me, at the bus station at 1 a.m. on Thursday night/Friday morning. It was dark, cold, and raining, and the bus station is in a sketchy part of town a good 10/15-minute walk from my dorm. It was my first semester and I didn’t have a lot of guy friends besides my ex-boyfriend, who had always respected me and whom I had remained friends with. As a shy, petite, 5′2″ woman with little self-defense training, I thought having a tall guy walking next to me would deter any unwanted attention, and it did. He could easily not have bothered–it was cold and wet and he had a class early the next morning–but instead he walked me to and from the sketchy bus stop to pick up my friend. It’s good to know that even though we aren’t that close now, he still has my back. It’s sad that we both felt the need for him to do this, but awesome that he did.
Reading all these stories makes me feel awesomely optimistic that there are lots of decent, respectful guys out there. Right on!
When I was in eighth grade or early high school, I was walking home from school. This (much older) guy literally jumped out of a white van that sped off, and he started to talk to me on a street corner. I was young and very scared to appear rude to him, so I paused to entertain the awkward and unwanted conversation until it got into the “total creeper” stage, with him asking me all kinds of weird personal questions and whether or not I smoked marijuana and offering some to me. It was definitely a sexually charged encounter–the comments were progressing quickly to a lewd and “pretty lady” type nature, and they made me extremely uncomfortable, so I blubbered what I thought was an appropriate exit to the conversation and continued walking.
The guy started to follow me home, only he walked across the street from me and kept shooting glances over at me and leering and smiling rather strangely at me. This behavior naturally set off severe alarm bells in my head–obviously it appeared he was following me home, only by walking across the street rather than behind me it seemed he was making some effort to appear as if he was not trying to follow me home. Maybe he would have followed me home and broke in then and there, maybe later that night, maybe later that year–thankfully, he never found out where I lived.
There was another guy nearby, Matt. I knew him from the bus route and vaguely from school, and he lived right around the corner from me, so we walked virtually the same routes home. I saw Matt walking up some distance ahead of me, and I skittered up to him and asked him to walk me at least to his street because of the creeper. Matt did, no questions asked–he didn’t have to ask why I was scared of the guy, he didn’t give me any funny looks, he just walked next to me and kept normal conversation with me. The first guy began heading in a different direction as soon as I started walking next to Matt–I suppose his towering stature and linebacker physique helped quite a bit to scare the first man off.
After the fact, Matt didn’t make it seem that I “owed” him something for helping me scare off the sleazeball or anything like that. He was a genuinely nice kid, and I hope he’s grown up into a respectable man by now. I don’t talk to Matt anymore and I haven’t in a really long time, but I’m really thankful for that small action of his when we were both kids. I shiver to think of what might have happened to me if he hadn’t been there, or if he had said “no.”
When I was in high school, our coach taught health class, which basically amounted to 6 months of really boring dry vague descriptions of the circulatory or endocrine systems punctuated by three months of OMG! …*whisper* sex.
Our coach was a 6′3″ man’s man type, logo jackets, baseball cap, jeans, belt buckles of various interesting cities he’d visited. He liked to talk to boys about hunting and basketball and lacrosse and often flailed around socially when confronted with conversations that included women that he didn’t have a pre-designated reason to talk to. He had no idea how to relate to female students, and found questions about sex from females to be intensely embarrassing, though he struggled through them anyway.
At one point during our (whisperwhisper) Sex! unit, he made the usual glossed over remarks about how nonconsensual sex is rape and how sexual partners should be treated with respect. He followed it with comments about how a man could handle his own “needs”, and was actually rather diligent in explaining masturbation, disposing of waste, being polite and discreet about it, but he didn’t talk about it shamefully.
Toward the end of that speech, he said that you should dispose of any sexual paraphernalia – condoms, tissues, etc, in the wastebasket, because condoms or thicker paper towels would clog a toilet and embarrass you. So, he said, dump it in the trashcan.
A smart ass from the back of the room said, “Pft. Isn’t that what girls are for?” The room went very very quiet, and the coach said, “Excuse me?” as if he hadn’t heard. The kid, brazen, jockish, and crude, said, “Dumping your cum in. That’s what girls are for.”
The coach walked to the back of the room where he was sitting and leaned both his very large hands on the table in front of him. Everyone went all ‘Oooooh’ as they hoped for the jackass to get sent to the principal’s office. He leaned forward on his knuckles and said very quietly, “That’s not cool, son.” Then he walked away.
Hearing that affirmation of my value as a person and that respect for me as a woman and a human being stuck with me; he was everything a male stereotype is supposed to be, but he did it with an amazing amount of integrity.
My birthday had just passed and it was now my (male) friend E’s birthday so we were celebrating at the local bar. A (also male) and I went outside for a smoke and found another friend’s girlfriend walking up the street. She was just 17 and had been drinking & doing some drugs, got into a fight with her boyfriend and was now heading home in a daze.
While A and I were chatting with her, trying to gauge how well she was & ease her into letting us walk her the rest of the way, another “friend” came outside. This guy always gave me a bad feeling and I’d been the unfortunate recipient of one of his creepy passes. He immediately caught on to the girl’s vulnerable state, threw his arm around her shoulders and steered her into the bar before A and I could even protest.
We quickly followed them, calling to the girl, but he marched her into the unisex bathroom and locked the door behind him. We shouted and banged on the door, and could hear her saying “no” and “stop” and “leave me alone.”
I ran to get E and he went around the back, forced the window open and climbed inside the bathroom to rescue the girl. She came out into our arms, saying “he was kissing me,” while creepy guy protested and E held him back. A and I got the girl safely home.
A new prospective coder came into IRC and wanted to know why there were four gender options: male, female, other, not disclosed, as this new fellow thought it should have been three: male and female, as “gender is determined by your chromosomes”. All around me, I could feel IRC bracing for impact.
Mark, the leader of development and one of the owners, asked whether the new fellow had read the project’s diversity statement. He directed the new fellow to the wikipedia article on gender. He made it quietly and firmly clear that “other” was a valid designation, and that he was prepared to override anyone who attempted to declare otherwise.
I heard yelling and crying in my apartment complex. I popped outside with cellphone, maglite, and keys (this is getting to be a habit), and couldn’t locate the source of the noise, and by this time it had stopped. A couple hailed me; they’d heard it too, and were considering calling the cops except they had no idea where the problem was. We agreed that if it happened again, we’d call the cops.
The altercation started up again, and I popped outside. The guy I’d talked to earlier was already standing outside, on the phone with the police. The woman who was part of the yelling and crying stormed into the garage, followed by the man. Since the helpful guy was already on the phone to the police, I signed <3 to him, and got the license plate of the vehicle as someone — it turned out to be her — drove away. He relayed it to the police.
It meant a lot to me that I wasn’t the only one who was paying attention to the noise, and that he was on the phone to the police first.
My son plays an on-line game called “Mafia Wars.” Both women and men play it (and women who reach the top levels of power are called “Godmothers,” not “Godfathers,” so the game is clearly intended to be welcoming to both sexes), but more men play than women.
A new player posted a rant about how women should not be allowed to be leaders in Mafia Wars, because they weren’t competent to do the job. The rant continued that women shouldn’t be allowed leadership positions in real life, for the same reason.
Within two minutes, there were over thirty responses, all from men. Every one of them was an angry response refuting the original poster and praising the Godmothers and female crew leaders the commenters worked with.
Within two hours, two Godfathers had posted an announcement that if any crew adopted the newbie, thus giving him protection, they would make a public example of the crew by destroying every member.
A new player in Mafia Wars is safe for 48 hours, giving them time to be adopted by a crew. At 48 hours and 1 minute exactly, the player was “hit” and eliminated. The actual hit was done by a women, because she was a Godmother and had the right to stake him out as hers, but I understand that the list of people asking the various Godparents for permission to hit him was loaded with angry guys.
The player returned a few times. If he’d behaved himself, the rest of the players would probably have assumed he’d learned his lesson and let the whole thing died quietly. Since he returned with the same misogynistic attitude, the rest of the players marked him, and his characters were killed repeatedly until he got the message that he and his attitude were not welcome at Mafia Wars.
Once, when my sister was still in the 14-16 innocent country mouse stage of life, she was walking with my dad across the street. Nothing major, just crossing the street in front of our house. A group of construction workers that were parked at the intersection started catcalling and making general innappropriate comments.
My dad slammed his hand on the hood of their car, made sure he had their attention, and said “Hey, that’s my daughter.”
They shut right the fuck up.
I love my dad.
I worked throughout my 20’s as a prison librarian. I’m a straight male, for context. One afternoon our female GED teacher was attacked by an inmate she intended not to forward through the program if he didn’t attempt the tests. No GED work meant no recommendation for parole. Another inmate waiting in line outside to speak to her rushed in and pulled the irate inmate off the female teacher, and the rest of us watched. I’ve always wanted to admit that I was paralyzed by shock and fear, no matter how often I fantasized about violence in order to prepare myself for it.
Winifred Smith, 04/05/10
I recently applied to and interviewed for grad school. For those who haven’t done it, the last night of the usually 3-day interview is basically going out to all the undergrad bars with the other applicants, maybe a few students, none of whom you’ve known longer than a few days, and getting really drunk. I have a story from each of my two interviews:
UT Austin: I got separated from my assigned roommate, K, fairly early in the night. We met up briefly around midnight, after which we separated again. I returned to the room around 2 am, wondered where she was, but couldn’t do anything, didn’t have a number, was drunk, so I fell asleep. Suddenly, I hear pounding on my door. I look at the clock, and it’s 4 am. I open the door, and there are two dudes, mid-20s, standing there, literally holding K up, because there is no way she could stand. This struck me as suspicious, but several things because pretty quickly obvious, and allayed my fears: they never spoke to her inappropriately, they were completely respectful, they never touched her more than was necessary to get her to the hotel room and keep her upright, they asked even to help her that much, they never touched her after she got to the hotel room, they were respectful to me (I’m a 4′11, and I was still a bit drunk myself), and K was not even a bit uncomfortable; she actually looked really happy. They weren’t students or prospective students from our program, just two guys. But their story (which K corroborated in the morning), was this: they found her at a bar, to drunk to stand, to drunk to get back to the hotel, alone in an unfamiliar city – so they put forth the effort to find out where she was staying and get her there safely. K and I decided the next morning, they are awesome.
U of AZ, Tuscon: Last night of interviews again, me, my roommate, and three guys go out drinking. We walk into probably the last open bar at 3 am, and order some more beer. Then this guy walks in and starts making comments in my general direction about how he likes redheads (I am a redhead), and about how he likes natural redheads, and am I alone? And immediately, almost before I’ve comprehended what’s going on, two of the guys I’m with step between me and the guy, and the third (and biggest) asks me if I’d like to accompany him to the other side of the building, the restaurant side, and order a pizza for everyone; I accept. None of them said anything, not even to me, but when the five of us left and the same guy followed us out, they stood one on either side of me, and the third at my back, and didn’t respond when the creepy stranger called out to them, just kept talking to me and my roommate like the guy wasn’t even there until he left. Thanks, dudes.
So coming to the party really late with a small something:
I used to spend a lot of time at goth clubs and ended up doing the door for an alternate/goth/punk night. Generally it was pretty cool as the goth that showed for this night were easy going and punks are sweet hearts at the best of times, but every so often you’d get an influx of “norms”. Norms being drunk, hetro, white guys for the most time who’d come in and give me a hard time for not letting them upstairs with our liberal, happily making out with anything with legs regardless of gender mix, freaks of nature.
The response of everyone from the rocking punk that ran the gig to the big burly older goth I ended up dating was to wander into proximity and when the guys invariably turned on them to say “Don’t worry about me, I’m just here to hold her jacket.”
“I’m just here to hold her jacket”was their way of telling me that however I chose to handle the situation they had my back, and while I never did have to throw anyone down the stairs at that gig it was nice to have them openly acknowledge that I could handle myself.
The best part for me though is that their faith in me in turn has been reflected in their girlfriends and other female friends faith in me. As a woman I can escort them places their boyfriends can’t (bathrooms at rowdy events for a start) and see the things that guys will often miss. Its nice to be able to help create a safe space for them given that many of them have been assaulted over the years and really appreciate it.
This incident happened while I was dating an abuser. I was going through the all-too-typical “What did I do to make him do this to me?” stage. I confided in a male friend of mine about my “guilt” in the matter. I was convinced that no-one would still be able to love me after knowing what I’d done.
He was wonderful about it. He held my hand and told me that it wasn’t my fault, and that he didn’t see why what someone else did should effect my worth as a person. His support gave me the courage to end that relationship soon after.
I recently stopped at a convenience store and was locking up my bike when this visibly, smellably drunk guy started leaning way into me and eyeballing my bike. I assume he was going to ask about its folding capabilities, because people are always asking me about my folding bike. But he was uncomfortably close and very drunk and I was kind of afraid he was going to puke on me or grab my boob or something. These other guys walking by started talking to the drunk guy in this exuberantly friendly tone that grabbed his attention. It gave me space to get away. I think they did it on purpose, but they were subtle and diplomatic about it so I’m not entirely sure.
Also, at this party in college, this otherwise sexist douchebag I was dating saw a guy trying to feel up this girl who’d had too much to drink and was semi-conscious and immobile. My sexist douchebag boyfriend stared daggers at the rapey douchebag until the rapey douchebag laid off the girl. That’s all you need to do, guys. Give them the stink-eye.
I had some office space in a tech start-up incubator. This office had a maintenance/security person who is a little loose in the head. I once left the door propped open so that I could go downstairs and get some coffee. Other tenants (men) would do this quite often. When I returned (and was on my cell with a client), this “security” person proceeded to yell at me and get in my face about leaving the door open in “his” building. I managed to make it through the phone call with my awesome client (K) who took me at face value when I told him I was ok after he asked what the hell was going on and who would ever talk to me like that.
I was totally triggered, however, and wrote a long ranting email from my phone to one of the co-founders of the incubator space as I left the building and wandered the neighborhood crying so I wasn’t having a total freak out in the office. M (incubator co-founder) was completely professional in his response, let me call the shots as far as how to confront (or not) the situation, making sure I had a safe space during the confrontation and demanded new policies from the building management as far as this person’s interaction with the incubator tenants. Loved that I was so backed up by M and respected by K in what could have been a professionally difficult situation.
On a side note – I stopped renting space in the tech incubator for various reasons, but occasionally return for tech community events. My fantastic bf who gets called ubergeeky by my nontech friends, calls it by an alliterative name that references male reproductive parts because it is such a male dominated space. While that may not be a “super ally” thing to do (though he is), it is a funny that helps make some of the nonsense laughable instead of frustrating.
So, I gave this short speech at an Ignite event and got a lot flack /flaming for it, since I bring up date rape and misogynist speech as barriers to dating. Many women shared their approval, admiration, happiness and personal stories with me privately afterward, which was awesome. Most of my public defenders and supporters, however, were men.
This happened online (Twitter and the Ignite blog) as well as in public discussions where some (I thought unlikely) men acknowledged the difficulty women face navigating a rape culture. All of it made the trolls much easier to handle.
So special thanks to Ram Shahid, Brahm Pitoyo, Jeff Hardison, Todd Kenefsky, Steven Walling, Justin Kistner and other unnamed but amazing allies. Y’all rock! Thanks for the encouragement.
I love this list, and was always saddened that I didn’t have anything I could add, even though I have awesome friends.
But now I do! I am a feminist who chooses not to shave her legs for several reasons. One day I was talking to my good friend C and his friend L (also a guy)… somehow the subject of leg hair came up, and then C said “I’ve never shaved my legs”. L said that neither had he. I then mentioned that I haven’t either. Then, unfortunately, L said something along the lines of “Well this kind of awkward” and in my head I was like “Argh! Why is it awkward only now, when the lady mentions her leg-shaving preferences? There are so many reasons why a man or a woman might or might not choose to shave their legs? Does it occur to you that we might actually all not shave our legs for the Very Same Reasons? Hmm???”.
Anyway, I mentioned all this to C the next day, and he was so understanding and apologetic. He said he was really sorry, and asked if there was anything he could do to make it up to me Honestly, I was a little bit flabbergasted by his response, so I just told him no, of course not. I wish I had asked him to speak up in defense of the non-awkwardness of a girl’s/woman’s leg shaving choice (especially since someone else, a guy no less, brought it up!) if it ever came up again, but I think he might do so anyway, particularly if there was someone of the female persuasion present. I really appreciated his immediate acceptance of my irritation and frustration as valid, and his willingness to right the situation if he could.
ps: Harriet, I’m sorry if this is too long. And also, I love you and your blog So Fucking Much, and you are the most incredible thinker and writer (which I’m sure your legions of other readers will agree is a Very Winning Combination) that I’ve ever known on the Internet or off of it, and I’m so delighted to be finally posting a comment here for the first time
[[Many of these examples are bubbling up in my memory, but--aside from this one--only vaguely, so I'll add more if/when I recall them.]]
My core group of friends and I were stopped at a shopping center between other random destinations for the day. The majority of the group was out at one of the stores, but I and two others (myself male, and my two friends female and male, respectively) stayed behind in the (rather large) van in the parking lot.
In the passenger-side mirror, I noticed a female/male couple near the car directly behind the van (a few feet away), having some sort of unpleasant interaction. I maintained what little bit of a conversation we were having while staring at the mirror, intently watching for anything slightly more aggressive than what currently seemed like a (relatively) mild argument. Despite there seeming to be no rise in intensity, I was heatedly debating stepping out of the van in my mind.
Shortly after myself, my present female friend noticed what was going on behind the van, and like myself, she was instantly concerned and uncomfortable; she voiced that she’d noticed this, saying that she felt she should do something, but didn’t know what. The situation outside had remained unchanged, but this additional motivation was enough for me. I said something like, “We can just get out,” and after giving a bit assurance that doing so would probably be fine, the three of us exited the van–two out of the back doors–leaned/stood at the back of the van, and (at least I) looked directly at the couple.
I recall that whatever was going on between the two got mildly physical–the male loosely grasped the female’s wrist, occasionally–but in each case she quickly responded in kind (sharply snatching her hand away and glaring/responding verbally, in the above example). It seemed pretty clear that they knew each other, and the male seemed like he may have been intoxicated to some degree. Things didn’t even escalate into yelling & screaming, and after a while, the two calmed down and entered the car they were near–the woman driving, the male staring off from the passenger’s seat.
Being highly protective of my friends, highly observant (especially in public), and highly conscious of external tension, body language, & personal space, I am often quickly aware of when my female friends are receiving unwanted attention or are uncomfortable for any reason when we’re together, so I do little things–casual verbal and non-verbal check-ins (‘You alright, [name]?’ ‘You look cold; wanna switch seats?’/getting eye-contact with a friend and subtly gesturing in the direction of something/one that may be causing discomfort)–and medium things (casually relocating myself to obstruct a visual or physical path; getting the attention of an antagonizer for some off-putting looks or other mild body language). Even around females I don’t know (on public buses, around college campus, etc.), I’m unconsciously calculating the ‘near bye female-to-male ratio’ in my head and offering a ‘yeah, it’s probably a good idea to look anywhere else right about now’ glare to leering guys, as well as a ‘hey, I acknowledge you as a human being’ smile/nod/wave to females is general (attempting also to subtly communicate ‘if something happens, you’re not alone’).
Fortunately I’ve yet to feel the need to respond more seriously. I dislike the posturing, the tones, the facial expressions, and the other crap associated with violence and being a “man,” but in this case it’s pretty much all I know how to do to help. Anyone who could hold their own in a fight could probably kick my ass, since I lack pretty much any knowledge in terms of fighting (as well as much physical strength), but I’m somewhat large and have some other features that are often seen as imposing. More usefully, I understand that–up until an actual fight–nothing matters beyond appearances, perceptions, and words in diffusing a potentially violent situation; a fact which I use to my advantage, for the advantage of others.
[[I feel like I got a bit off-topic, so feel free to take out anything if you so choose.]]
[[So, of course, I immediately remembered another example. I'm debating the relevance, but here's the story.]]
Last semester, I had an anthropology class that documented the culture of a group of indigenous people of Papua New Guinea, particularly from a perspective focusing on social dynamics regarding sex. As a somewhat vocal student, I think I made pretty clear to anyone who may have been listening in that class my opinions regarding the treatment of females in that, and our own society. (As a side note, I think *that*–males being vocal about societal bullshit regarding females, and just how bullshitty it is–is extremely important.) Near the end of the semester, I had a short chat with a female classmate with whom I was vaguely acquainted. She was very quiet; I’d noticed her around a lot, but we hadn’t communicated much.
During the time between classes and finals, the same classmate showed up late to an on-campus event I had attended (the event was inconveniently timed a few hours before its title implied). I had stayed afterward, hanging out and chatting with a friend of mine and devouring what few leftovers there were. On a whim (and because I thought she was a cool person), I introduced myself, explained the mix-up (at least three others had made the same mistake that night), and we chatted for a bit about our class. I offered, and–having nothing to do–she opted to join my friend and I, after which we chatted some more before all heading back to the same residential hall (/dormitory).
A day or two later, between two finals, I was in the cafe getting lunch. I noticed her enter, but figured she would acknowledge me if she wanted to talk, and went about grabbing something to eat. After a while we made eye contact and started chatting again, through me buying my food and us taking a seat at a table. I still don’t really remember how; probably via my tendency to pick up on how people are feeling (/just ask them), but this casual conversation between acquaintances became her explaining to me a terrible mental state that she had been in throughout the semester, stemming from an ‘incident’ that occurred earlier in the year. After a while it was made clear that she was sexually assaulted, and to avoid details I’ll just say that her relation to the guy and the situation itself made things especially twisted from an emotional standpoint, and said guy was actually her only support to deal with it for a couple months (after which she had none at all, and had been [and still was] on the verge of suicide).
I simply remained receptive and listened, occasionally responding just as part of listening and sometimes to clarify–yes, it was sexual assault, and yes, it was terrible so it made sense to feel that way, and no, it wasn’t your fault no matter what you or your friend said, and no, it wasn’t your fault that you froze up instead of denying him, and no, it wasn’t a bad or stupid decision to invite a grieving friend over, despite the ‘rule’ that you weren’t supposed to be alone with guys, and no, you don’t have to tell me specifically what happened, and I’m sorry if I sound angry, but it’s due to what happened to you, I’m not at all upset with you…
It went on for a while like that. Silent crying in the middle of the cafe full of oblivious people focused on finals. A friend approached, noticed how quickly the conversation stopped, and excused herself. I was keeping an eye on the time because we both had finals coming up, but I was more than willing to miss mine or miss time on it to be there for this new friend. As she reached the end of venting emotions and became more quiet, I expressed some attempts to help de-program her from some kyriarchal/rape culture thought processes with which she was torturing herself, mainly how she felt that it was her fault and that she had betrayed another friend. Refuting some ‘but I’m a girl, so I should have…’ statements. Making logical observations and planting feminist seeds rather than refusing to give merit to the guilt she felt, however undeserved, or commanding her to quit blaming herself, and making every effort to acknowledge the pain and depressions she was clearly expressing.
I gave her my email address, my phone number, and repeated, clear expressions of my willingness to listen, chat, give advice, or help out any other way I could, if she wished, when she wished. When we stood, I felt a very powerful urge to give her a comforting hug, and refrained, knowing full well the discomfort it could cause (though she soon initiated a hug herself, anyway).
Since then, we’ve communicated pretty much daily, and as someone far-enough removed from the intricate web of people involved, as well as one of maybe four or so people who know what happened (including he and she), I’ve essentially been a single-person support system. I’ve also since forwarded her to some relevant posts on feminist blogs (including this one), always with a careful consideration of timing and balancing potential emotional impact versus potentially greater understanding.
Recently, I was hanging out and watching a movie with a male friend at his house. We were talking, having a few beers, and cuddling on his couch, and his house-mates were around/ in and out of the room while this was going on. I was feeling some chemistry, so I set about obviously flirting with him (well, it felt obvious to me). As the conversation went on, I asked for a tour of his place, which I had not seen in its entirety yet, with the intention of ending up in his bedroom. We ended up sitting on his bed and talking for half an hour, and this is where he went from “pleasant guy to be around” to “Quality human being” in my estimation. While he would cuddle with me downstairs, when other people were around, and where I had easy access to exits, once we moved upstairs to his bedroom he sat a respectful distance from slightly-tipsy, revealingly-clothed, college-aged me. In fact, at one point he got up and said “well, if you need anything, you come and get me.” I had to explain at this point that I wanted him to stay *here,* in *this* bed, with *me.* We had a wonderful night together : ).
When I reflected on his behavior (which I had originally read as plain old awkwardness), I realized just how wonderfully this guy handled himself in that situation. Even though I was sitting in his bed at 1 am, and even though I was still a bit inebriated, and even though I was wearing a shirt that exposed about half of my breasts, he didn’t assume I was there for sex (!). He didn’t even ask me if I was interested in hooking up with him, he just treated me like he would treat any talkative friend at one in the morning: talk for a bit, make sure I have water so I wouldn’t have to rummage around in the kitchen in the middle of the night, tell me to get him if I needed anything, and he had the intention of crashing on the couch, since I was in his bed. Now, there’s no way this guy could have known that I am a survivor of childhood molestation, and perhaps the respectfulness of his actions wouldn’t have hit me so hard if I weren’t, but in my opinion this guy handled himself beautifully by stripping away what ‘a man should do’ in that situation, and just treating me like a human being, listening to me, and waiting for me to verbalize my intentions, rather than assuming them.
I doubt I have ever felt so simultaneously turned-on and comforted by a man’s actions, and that’s why I’m excited to see him again : )