Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “rape culture”

Fuck off, Pizza Man

I have not felt compelled to contribute to this blog for a very long time. I am a writer who really only writes for the catharsis — for the experience of emoting via word ammo.

For a long time, I have not been inspired to write because while I have had many meaningful experiences, none gave me the deep feeling that I NEEDED to put my thoughts on a page (or screen, as the case may be).

Today that changed.

As you may know, I am a teacher at a public high school. I love my job — even the parts of my job that I complain about.

I was having lunch today with a few of my colleagues. If you are familiar with the daily routine of a teacher, you may know that our lunch break lasts for about 25 minutes. We get very good at eating very quickly.

I finished my lunch fast and a colleague asked if anyone had a moment to help him carry some pizzas into the school. He had ordered 20 pizzas for an assembly we were having honoring students who had perfect attendance.

It was no problem, I told him. I could come help.

The pizza man came down the street with two giant insulated bags of pizza. He handed one of those bags immediately to my colleague. When I reached for the other bag, he said, “No, no no. Here — take this instead.” Then he handed me a plastic grocery bag with styrofoam plates in it. It must have weighed only a few ounces. The pizza man struggled to carry his bag.

I asked him if he did this “because I am a girl.”

His response?

“You’re too pretty.”

I am going to let that sink in for you.

Women readers are already getting it. Many male readers might not. In fact, some of my male readers (actually, do I HAVE male readers?) may have the same reaction as the Pizza Man did when I responded to him.

“I am not sure that’s a compliment,” I said.

“You should say, ‘thank you.’ It was a compliment, right?” This was his response.

Go fuck yourself with a rusty pen knife, Pizza Man.

I handed the bag of plates to another colleague in the hallway. I did not want to be near this man anymore. Then I went back into the room where I was eating lunch with my colleagues: four men and a woman.

One of the men in the group still doesn’t know why I am upset about all of this. One left the room when I started talking about it. Another got on his computer and tuned me out. The last shook his head and understood and cited that viral video of the girl being catcalled and harassed simply for walking down a street in New York. When man #4 referenced this video, man #1 said he’d not seen it, but asked what the girl in the video was wearing, you know, “just for a frame of reference.”

When lunch was over, I walked down to my classroom and I tried not to cry.

Men: this isn’t that fucking difficult. Stop the bullshit. We are not that hard to figure out.

Telling a coworker she looks nice is FINE. Telling her she looks nice in that sweater is NOT.

The difference? One is a simple acknowledgement of an effort someone put into looking pleasant. The other is a direct reference to anatomy. If you say I look good in my sweater, you are talking about my body — the personal parts of myself that I have chosen not to show to you because I put them underneath a sweater.

Look — I am no spring chicken. I am not as young and hot as I once was. And, I don’t think that this matters much. I still have men say inappropriate things to me, whistle, or ask me “how YOU doin’?” in a tone that perhaps suggests that I am not being asked an honest question regarding how my day is. I am NOT thankful that I’ve “still got it.” I don’t feel good about myself because at my age someone has called me “pretty.” This is mostly because I do not measure my self-worth on the opinions of random strangers who refuse to let me carry pizza.

Now, perhaps you may wonder if it isn’t chivalrous for a man to offer to carry something for a woman. Yes. It is. I don’t think, however, chivalry necessarily is the issue. It would have been chivalrous to OFFER to carry something for me if I were struggling with it. It would have been chivalrous if, when I had offered to take the pizzas, the Pizza Man said, “Oh, that is so nice of you to offer, but I am doing just fine. Would you mind taking these plates, though? That would free up an extra hand for me to carry these.” It is not chivalrous to refuse to permit me to help you then tell me that it’s because I have both a vagina and a cute face. This is not a good deed. It is an insult.

I let this man escape with his life for three reasons:
1. I was at work in a school full of impressionable young people and I would rather not show them that violence is the answer to anything.
2. He was old and is probably from an era where a good ass-slap was a welcome indication of a job well done for perky secretaries and receptionists. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, but does help me perhaps understand it.
3. I can’t go to jail. I have a family to think about.

Now, there are a million ways I wish I had handled this and a million things I wish I had said. And, this all reminds me of when I was raped as a teenager: I am dealt an injustice; I am treated disrespectfully. Then, I end up being angrier with myself for not immediately responding better; for not being stronger and for not being a quick-thinker. This is the great sadness of womanhood: thinking of one’s own faults when someone else has done wrong.

I honestly don’t know what to do now. I am angry and sad and disappointed and reflective and thinking all kinds of awful things. And I had been having such a fantastic day. And a few words from a stranger has sent me into such a different direction. And, when the bell rings to end my brief “free” period, I have to teach a room full of 31 15-year olds. And, I can’t let this color my work with them.

If you can relate in any way to this story, please comment here. I do welcome respectfully dissenting opinions, too. I’d love to open a dialogue about this.

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Feminism and I Don’t Care that You’re Different

I’ve been swept up in the #YesAllWomen whirlwind.  I actually heard about this before I heard about the incident that helped push this hashtag activism to the top of the Twitter trends.  As a busy mom, sometimes I get a little behind in my news.

Since I was a teenager and first heard of the Riot Grrrls, I was secretly hooked on feminism.  I loved punk already and this next step was inspiring.  But, because I was a follower who so very much wanted to fit in, I left my brooding and my secret love of Liz Phair for my private time and shopped at the Gap and wore my boat shoes with those little culry-cue tied laces in my public life.

At college, I was raped, but that wasn’t the most important thing that happened to me during my time there.  I met the man who would be my husband there and this has proven to be far more significant to my life.  However, I also remember being dumb-struck when I looked out of the window of my freshman dorm to find a mini-mock-cemetery erected to “show respect” to the “babies” who had “died” from abortion.  I was sickened.  And, my festering feminism grew.

I had always been self-conscious and bordered on a having a bit of an eating disorder until my adulthood.  Yet, there were always men who ogled, cat-called, or bought me drinks.  No, I didn’t find any of it flattering.  It all scared me in a way I couldn’t quite define then, even if I made jokes about it.  In fact, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that sarcasm is my defense mechanism.  When I’m cornered, I crack jokes.

Still today, when I walk alone, I am always acutely aware of when there are men around.  I hold my purse tighter.  I listen to the pace of their footsteps behind me to gauge whether they are “gaining on me.”  I check my rear-view mirror often to make sure I am not being followed in my car.  Once, I am certain that I was followed.  I was about 19 and pulled into the completely empty parking lot of the tanning salon where I worked as a cleaner on Sunday mornings.  No other businesses were open in the shopping center.  The car that followed me into the lot couldn’t have been an innocent shopper.  I high-tailed it out of there before putting my car in “park.”

A few years back, as a precaution, I was asked to have a breast ultrasound as a semi-routine part of my women’s health check-up.  The technician found an unusual clump of fibers that turned out to be nothing at all.  But, she needed to call in the doctor on staff to double-check her work.  I am pretty sure that as he moved the ultrasound wand over my breast, he let his pinkie finger rest along side of it, rather than on top of it with the rest of his hand.  This allowed his little finger to stroke my breast and linger over my nipple while he worked.  I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining things or if I would be overreacting to a medical professional just doing his job.  So, I said nothing.  I still feel like this was wrong today.  I am angry that I didn’t say anything.

I never hold the elevator for anyone if I am alone.

I carry my keys between my fingers if I am in a parking lot by myself, regardless of who is around.  I never enter my car without checking the back seat.  In parking garages, I check under the car before approaching it.

I am shocked by how much fear I live in and I never thought about it until the hashtag revolution of All Women.

And, I am shocked as I look back on my life and realize how much I wanted to be a feminist, but how afraid I was to be a “feminist.”  I am sad that I still avoid using the word “too much” because it might make me seem like a “man-hater” or a “feminazi.”

What made me solidify the idea that I was finally (after, like a quarter of a century) ready to embrace my feminism came when I realized that the “other” people I was looking to shelter from the harshness of my equity search just didn’t have a say anymore in my politics.

You’re different?  Great.  You’re a man who doesn’t rape, oppress, kidnap, assault, attack, belittle, misjudge or objectify women.  I actually don’t fucking care.

I mean, that’s nice and all.  And, I totally know a ton of you guys.  Really, the vast majority of men I have come into contact with personally are of this category.  You’re not different.  I truly believe that you are the norm.

But, it so very sadly does not matter.  Or, does not matter enough.

One armed psychopath killing pretty girls because they don’t love him and killing innocent men because he’s jealous of their happiness is one too many.

One fucked-up Clevelander who held women hostage for over a decade in his home, repeatedly assaulting them is one too many.

One court judge who tells a woman she ought to forgive the husband who repeatedly drugged and raped her is one too many.

And, when we add in contraceptive tampering, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, honor killings, sex slavery, forced prostitution, bride-buying, human trafficking, female infanticide, rape and the slew of other crimes that “some” (a few? a small number? a relatively small percentage?) of men commit world-wide, it makes me grab my handbag and remember what my 11th grade gym teacher taught me about popping somebody’s eyeballs out if I were ever attacked, even though 95% of my personal experiences with men have been positive (or at least neutral) so far.

You’re different.  Super.  You being different didn’t help any of the millions of women on this planet when they were beaten, enslaved, mutilated, raped, tortured, sold, murdered, held captive or made to live in fear.

It is not your fault.  You are not responsible for the men who ruin your sex.  I do not blame men as a unit for their part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Men as a unit have no part in the myriad of crimes against women daily.  Indeed, it is not *all* men who treat women like shit.

But, because even a very small few have, I don’t walk at night alone.  I don’t blame you for this, but it is something we should talk more about.

Feel free to leave me your comments.

 

 

 

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