Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Space: Not the Website

“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke . . . She will need her sisterhood.” - Gloria Steinem

It's very frustrating to realize that all of history has strategized to create a society in which men feel absolutely entitled to my space.

I went out to the bar with a friend -- I'd been having a fantastic evening and I was jazzed to have a beer, dance, hang out. But all night long I encountered the same problem...Extremely forward men. I don't know if it was worse than normal, or if I was just more aware of it, but I ended up feeling uncomfortable the majority of the night until I ended up home early with a stomach ache unrelated to the singular beer I consumed but completely tied to the way I was treated by random men.

It was several different things, beginning with the Aggressive Staring across the bar that is like, theoretically harmless except undeniably threatening and violating nevertheless. All I can do to avoid potentially dangerous confrontation is try my best to ignore them, avoid their eye-line, and pretend that dancing under their gaze doesn't make me feel like I exist to entertain them. That's not my job. (If you want to watch me like that you really should be paying me, I'm just saying.) I could not possibly care less how a random man in a bar -- or anywhere -- perceives me; why do they feel the need to wink and wave like I should be grateful for their approval when I've CLEARLY spent all evening grimacing at their advances and distinctly shifting away from their approaches?

That's one thing...Then there's the Cornering.

It happens literally out of no where: two grown-ass men will swoop in together and all of a sudden, there's one in front and one beside and only one way out. It happened twice in one night! At one bar! In the same general area! Four different men! What is this?! I'm very small, but I'm not invisible...even if they aren't making eye contact (????????? what is this about ??????) I know that they see me. I've been dancing in this spot for an hour. Back yourself up. But no, I have to grab my stuff from the spot beside me and shimmy down the bar, the bar that is entirely empty on either side because it is 12:30 on a Tuesday night, and re-establish a position over there. Amazingly enough, a minute later the men decide they aren't so attached to that specific spot anymore and leave. Shocking. What made that particular spot so appealing just a moment before?

That move must be totally unrelated to my presence, though, right? Am I making this all about me? Am I being self-centered? Except then I sit on the wall, an elevated shelf there, and I'm just minding my own business, casually swaying to Lil Wayne and watching Betty White inexplicably on TV. Then BAM! In the blink of an eye, there's a man directly blocking my left and an even larger man blocking my front -- completely barring me from being able to hop down to the floor without confrontation. But they won't look at me! They're both literally UP AGAINST MY KNEES!!!!!!! But they won't actually make eye contact! (I mean, I definitely don't want to make eye contact with them, that can turn aggressive too quickly. It's just such a strange sitaution. It's like they're ignoring me from directly on top of me. Why?) I stare in stunned disbelief, and heave a sigh. I'm appalled. I throw my hands up and pull my legs onto the bar instead of jumping down; I step over the pile of coats and scarves and bags and sit on the other end of the entirely. empty. bar. AKA: where they could have gone to set up in the first place instead of forcing me to move. Then (NOTICING PATTERNS) they leave. As soon as it registers that I'm gone, they evaporate into thin air. Unbelievable.

It is an entirely empty bar, but they choose to stand in my lap. When it happens twice within an hour, it's not a coincidence or merely oblivious drunk dudes...it's a problem with an utter disrespect for women's personal space.

The cherry on top, the complete trifecta of Awful Interactions With Men, was the Verbal Attack in the form of a man directly pointing out my physical disadvantage to him. My friend and I had decided to finish the night at another bar, ran into the rain and across the street, but of course it's crazy to think that two young, attractive females could hope to exist in a bar undisturbed. While I had been annoyed originally, pissed off by the second intrusion, it was the third instance when I knew the night was over.

Let me break it down for you: There's a giant problem when a drunk man at the bar leans into my face, staring unseeing and uncaring at my disgusted expression, and points out repeatedly that I would be unable to fight him off. That is literally what I had to deal with and I'm expected not to pepper spray him just for saying such a thing. Thank you for needlessly pointing out our size difference! Thank you for senselessly disregarding the fact that I am ignoring you and just continue to repeat the phrase, "You have no bows!!!! You have NO BOWS!" in reference to my lack of muscle mass over and over and OVER again until I literally throw my weight into the elbow I do possess an inch from your face and I want nothing more than to obliterate your nose right then and there. He continues, "I'm like, 250 pounds. You've got nothing. That's weak. That's weak."

I could vomit right now just remembering hearing that.

This is not flirting. This is not cute. This is threatening. I am aware I am very much half your size, male person, I am reminded of this every second of every day in every situation I am ever in. The fact that the idea of my inability to defend myself was something this man fixated on so passionately...It makes me sick. "That's comforting, thank you," I replied. There was no life in his eyes and he couldn't see me, let alone imagine me as fully human. A friend of a friend I just met two seconds previous and with no relevance or provocation whatsoever he began screaming that I "have no bows." It wasn't even like we were cracking jokes about play fighting or something weird and dumb and casual; I didn't say more than "Hi, yeah, I'm friends with so-and-so," when all of a sudden he was obsessed with my elbows and stature.

What a magnificent time to be had by all. Once again, after only being in the bar for five minutes, I couldn't do it anymore and left.

I feel like there's so little I can do in response to these things! That's the most frustrating part. Is there a Best Way To React? I'm forced to leave the environment that they've now claimed as their own because I am small and helpless and "a bitch" if I say something.

Forget that.

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