Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Two Sides of Chauvinism

Walking down the street, my red hair (everyone says it is blond here) pulled up in a ponytail, wearing my Chaco’s, grubby pants, and t-shirt, I noticed a group of men ahead. Quick figuring in my head assessed the situation: I was grimy but I sure looked exotic, there were five males all eyes on me, 30 seconds to pass them; I estimated cat calls in 15 seconds. Internally, I rolled my eyes. Seriously, people! Gosh!

As I passed, I could feel their bulldog eyes fixed on me. They were practically drooling, slobbering, and foaming at the mouth like a pack of over sized, big-balled Great Danes. Here it comes, I thought, and sure enough, a few of them got enough of their senses back to hiss and whistle at me. Fine, I was going to stick it to the man, the great chauvinist idiots. I turned to them, and with sweetly sickening spite (just polite enough) in my voice said, “good afternoon!” My strategy is that if I remind them that I am a human, maybe they’ll treat me with respect. I’m over the “it’s another culture” bs. These men need to learn a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. They couldn’t be impolite; they had to respond with, “good afternoon,” too. Ha!

After the catwalk parade to the bus stop, I waited in line for the Number 2 bus. Finally, its red, hulking, diesel-spewing frame wheezed across the street. When I got on the bus, no seats remained. I grabbed hold of the railing and braced myself for the roller coaster ride to school. The bus huffed off down the street, wheeled itself around the corner, and dropped down the steep hill towards the university.

I felt a faint tap, tap on my shoulder and I looked over to see a young man offering me his seat. The ride is only a few minutes so I started to say no, but he insisted, so I said, “thank you,” and sat. It warmed my heart, this side of chauvinism. It’s so nice that women are offered this funny “special care” place in society where men open doors, offer seats, and pay for meals. I don’t quite understand how this “respect” for women works when five seconds before there had been no respect for my rights as human being. I still prefer this side of chauvinism. Thanks, dude. For all of you reading this, remember to stick it to the man and say thanks if someone opens the door for you! Ha!


Nancy Patterson said...

"I was just reading your
critique of male behavior and I think it's funny that like many women,you like the better parts and dismiss the rest as insensitive. I'm all for equality of the sexes, but I find it funny how women still
don't like doing a lot of theunpleasant things (like taking out the trash-- a task that men generally get saddled with). The disease I've noticed is more common among younger women, especially those that want men to let them have careers, but themselves still don't want to take on other less glorious tasks. That's a broad generalization though, and
there is nothing wrong with guys looking at you and expressing sexual desires. Someday you will probably miss it!"

This is my friend, Levi's response to my blog post.

For me, the experience has nothing to do with just accepting the good and rejecting everything else as insensitive. I think blatant staring and cat calling is truly a lack of respect (tho they probably think it is a cultural differences) and is truly a demonstration of power for males. I always take the garbage out and expect equality in life, which would include equality in labor, employment, and wages.

Levi said...

Thanks for your comments, Nancy (here and via email). I certainly agree with you that systematic attempts to belittle women should be curtailed. Although I guess I err on the side of Europe in my attitudes toward sexuality. I think Americans particularly find it intriguing because there is also an element of taboo we are incorrectly taught as kids. This manifests itself in exploitation and primarily sex-driven displays of women in media. And the effect is recursive. Likewise though, men are generally taught by the media to "act like men do" (i.e. boys will be boys). I disagree with these generalizations on principle as they are marketed, but then again there are differences between women and men. We are also *Supposed* to have sex. Our ability to behave appropriately and politely is possible only because of our brain size. So it's kind of a delicate tightrope to walk. We don't poop on the floors of our bedrooms, so I guess we don't have to vocalize all of our sexual desires. Alright, that's it for my ineloquent knee-jerk post-post-feminist thoughts.

P.S. Thanks for taking out the trash! You could set a good example for some of those women I have known.

Nancy Patterson said...

YES! I'm stoked I make a good impression :). Thanks for the really interesting debate! It keeps these ideas fresh and circulating in my mind. I really enjoy it.

Craig said...

Interesting commentary!
I am wondering also how responsible we are for how our own perspectives cause our own suffering - like men shouldn't whistle at women, or if a man whistles at me I choose to get upset.
While this may seem simplistic, we create our own internal worlds, and when reality does not conform to our expectations we typically question reality, and not our own cognition.
This particular situation does bring up questions of respect, fairness, justice, power, and culture. So let's change it a little to the men 'challenging' Nancy by begging for money, instead of begging for attention. They are still the same men, with their same life history and biases, and still we can find ourselves uncomfortable in their presence.
Also I see the action as being influenced by themselves, each man is powerless without his group's affirmation, I must act this way such that my male friends here do not ostracize me.
How much are we prisoners of our social relations, and how much are we prisoners of our own minds?