Girl Talk: We have all been there. At work, at school, on vacation, on the subway, at home, at the store, at the gym, anywhere, someone (typically a man) has said something that, for some reason, ran through the filter of their brain but still made it out of their mouth. I cannot speak for the entire female population (because I am not a man) but I typically respond at first, and then sink into a black hole of despair, close my mouth, widen my eyes, and internally scream since (a) the person rarely realizes their mistake and (b) I know I am going to hear the same shit again tomorrow. In an attempt to save myself (and hopefully others), here is a list of things that I am tired of hearing.
Aggressively, he turned to me, “Why do you have to do that?” I don’t understand the need to justify myself, but I did it anyway (out of habit): “Well he paid for my nails and haircut today, so the least I can do is pay for the groceries.” Even though I said this, he wasn’t listening because his mind was made up. Because he is a man. Because this is a man’s world. Ignoring me, he took the money from my boyfriend, as if mine was tainted:
“That is the man’s job. To take care of the pretty lady.”
Haha, of course. Silly me. I jumped over the counter, pushed him aside, and shoved my money in the register – or should I say, I would have done that but I just got my nails done and I am a pretty lady after all. Instead, I gave the money to my boyfriend as we exited the store and allowed the cashier to believe that it was the 1950s and I was rushing home to get my pot roast out of the oven. It is almost as if the cashier was the man who wrote the well-intended, yet tragically flawed, article, “Should a Man Pay for Everything?” You know, the article that outlines and advises men to follow THIS scenario:
“You: I’ve got this one.
Her: [Possibly looking shy and a little nervous]: No, let me pay for at least half.
You: [Smile and say in a joking manner]: Hmmm…actually, maybe you should pay for all of it because you were such a chatterbox over dinner. I had to sit here listening to you for like an hour. So, you pay for it.
Her: [Most likely laughing and blushing]: Um, okay…really?
You: [Smile and say] No, I’m just kidding. I love talking to you…you’re beautiful and interesting, so I’ll get the check this time. We can split the bill next time.
Her: [Giggling and blushing some more] Okay.”
If only the cashier engaged me in such pleasant banter, followed by compliments of my appearance! Let me revise the conversation to make it more suitable:
Her: I got this one.
Him: Wow, thanks!
Everyone Else: Minds their damn business.
The mistake that I made was working out alone, without headphones. I had just finished a set so I thought that it would be perfectly acceptable to take a break and let myself breathe. Once again, silly me. I saw a man, most likely in his late 50’s approach me. The second mistake I made was allowing eye contact:
“You need help there?”
Confused, I responded “No, thank you.” I immediately became mad at myself: Why did I respond so politely? Why was I thanking him? Nothing about my stance nor my expression signaled that I was in distress in anyway. Yet this is how I responded because this is how I am conditioned. Reject them politely. Do not anger them. Ignore that you are offended. You do not want to offend them. I look down, waiting for him to walk away. As he comes closer, he lingers: “I’m only joking.” I turn around, lips pursed, eyebrows slightly raised, eyes squinted, and nostrils flared with a deep sigh that contains: “he did not just . . .” Another thing I am conditioned to do, turn my words into breaths so that I can remain quiet to ensure that he will leave.
You see, I get that you are joking but the only funny thing here is the fact that you thought you had comedic gold when you were just offering me up some coal. It’s funny how you believe that, even at your age and position, you could offer me more help than I can for myself. Oh, you know a joke is hilarious when you have to announce that it is a joke. What is even funnier is the fact that according to a survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment in 2008, 23% of women paid to exercise in a gym rather than outside since they had a (justified) fear of street harassment, yet I pay $30 a month to be exposed to your comedy hour. Anyway, to my response: I kept my lips pursed, nodded my head, and avoided eye contact as you disappeared believing that you had accomplished your mission. Whereas I had officially ranked you after Gabriel Iglesias on my humor scale.
I work as a teacher. I love my students dearly. I probably care about them a bit more than I should, but I suppose I am just a bit sentimental. Time and time again, I always hear someone saying:
“It’s those motherly instincts.”
I am nobody’s mother. I do hope to be one in the future, but this is a decision that I have made, not a destined life path. The same people that claim my motherly instincts are the reason behind my profession are (a) not aware that there are amazing male teachers *gasp* and (b) the ones who question a woman when she is going to have a baby rather than if she is going to have one. According to Ragsdale’s “The Maternal Myth,” “To qualify as an instinct, the behavior should be automatic, irresistible, triggered by something in the environment, occur at some particular time during development, require no training, be unmodifiable and occur in all individuals of a species” (Psychology Today). Keep this definition in mind and pair it with the nurturing essence that people categorize as maternal. Based on this belief, a father simply cannot care for his child – he is not nurturing, he does not have maternal instincts, the child is in grave danger, the wife must remain at home so that she can care for the child, this is the law of the land – this is the law of 1950. As we are in the year 2017, and I bust my ass to succeed in my career, I would appreciate it very much if you accredited my success to my intelligence and work ethic, or your primitive mindset will activate my primal Fight instinct.
Anger. Annoyance. Frustration. I am sure that these are feelings that are not unknown to you. I am sure that you have felt them before, yet for some reason, when I am mad, there is always a question behind it, and no, it does not involve my well-being, instead it is:
“Are you on your period or something?”
You know, since women lose complete control over their emotions when they have their period. Having cramps is uncomfortable, and I may be irritable because of it, but I do not undergo a metamorphosis and turn into someone with no emotional regulation. I cannot count the number of times that I have heard this question directed towards me, or towards someone else. In fact, when I was younger, I internalized this belief and even asked this question myself. Thankfully, I, unlike some, learned from my mistake by noticing the discrepancies among how we treat feelings in relation to men and women. How come men can be short-tempered at times without experiencing a monthly phenomenon that transforms them? It is as if these emotions are not accessible to women – as if these emotions can only be achieved once a month when the planets align on the 28th day of the cycle. As if our period is some omniscient creature in the sky determining our interactions. I am sorry that it is not clear that my annoyance is a direct response to your stupidity. Period.
In middle school, I wore a spaghetti mustard-colored tank top. Although this was before mustard was deemed a worthy yellow to be worn, I was surprisingly not policed by the fashion institution. Instead, I was confronted by my principal because I was dressed inappropriately since he said:
“Your bra strap is showing.”
SHIT! Thank you for letting me know! I forgot that a visible bra strap is worse than looking directly at a solar eclipse. Although this was my first time hearing such a remark, it was certainly not the last. To be honest, I am not quite sure what reaction people expect from me when they tell me this. I think that they are hoping that I will end the madness and come to my senses before the disaster reaches its peak and is past the point of return. In reality, they are simply enforcing (without even meaning to sometimes) that a girl’s body is objectified. That a girl cannot have her bra straps showing because it serves as a reminder that a girl has breasts. That a girl cannot reveal that she has breasts because it is not modest. According to Laura Bates, interactions like the one that I had with my middle school principal lead to “several big questions[:]  Are we saying that girls’ bodies are dangerous and sexual, even if they themselves don’t choose to seem them in that way?  Are we really saying that boys can’t control themselves and girls are responsible for covering up because otherwise the guys won’t be able to help themselves from looking/harassing/groping?  Who is being ‘protected’ and why?” (Girl Up 67). And the answer to question number three is certainly not a bra strap because those things are hella sturdy, but perhaps the male fragility is what’s being protected.
When I told the principal that I did not have a sweater to put on, he commanded me to go to my gym locker and throw on my gym shirt since my current outfit was:
Yes, sir – but the fact that you made me retrieve my gym shirt made me miss class. But sir, the fact that I had to wear my gym shirt the entire day distracted me. But sir, the fact that my peers were able to somehow find their way through the halls despite my hazardous shirt seems to suggest that perhaps it is only distracting to YOU. As Valenti adequately notes, “‘It’s not the responsibility of female students to mitigate the male gaze. You find female bodies ‘distracting’? That’s your problem, not women’s” (I Am Not A Slut 152). Yet at that time, I did not have the sense of the world that I do now. Instead, I immediately felt ashamed of my body. Not to mention I was incredibly embarrassed because I had to wear my gym shirt the entire day at school, which caused a stigma. I was wearing my gym shirt because I was dressed “inappropriately.” Without even knowing the word yet, I felt like a slut. We discipline girls because we believe that their bodies distract our boys, but we seldom teach our boys not to objectify a girl’s body.
We have all seen the jokes behind a guy, with good intentions, reaching out to a girl and her automatically assuming that he is trying to flirt with her so she responds with the notorious: “I have a boyfriend.” I admit that I find some of them funny, and that sometimes the phrase is not needed but I do want to call to attention the reason why we even feel the need to use this phrase. You know, since the word “no,” or the blatant response, “No thanks, I am not interested,” is not a clear indicator that a girl is not interested in a guy.
When I used to manage at a retail company, I would walk over to the pizza shop to grab a bite to eat – since I am human and I need food in order to survive. Yet I often questioned my need for survival because of one worker who apparently loved being sleazy as much as I loved a greasy lunch. Every single girl that worked with me knew who he was because he tried the same tired tricks on all of us. It would begin with a simple compliment, and always led up to him asking to hang out. I would always politely decline, yet one day he finally asked me:
“Is it because you have a boyfriend?”
Something that has always bothered me. Why not ask me of I had a boyfriend before asking me out several times? Why ask this question after constantly making me uncomfortable? Because even though I never flirted or showed him any interest, he refused to believe that I was simply not into him. For him, there had to be something else. Yet being single or taken did not determine that I did not have any interest in him. I have never walked into that pizza shop and asked for a single order of pancakes, because no matter how bad I may have wanted it, it was not available. So for the pizza guy who was constantly trying to order a stroke for his ego: I was never there for you to believe that I would have been into you “if it weren’t for my lousy boyfriend”(cue Scooby Doo villain voice), I was there for the 2 pizza slice and 1 soda can lunch combo.
Unfortunately, some of you reading this article will leave with this ridiculous notion that I am some man-hating feminist, and to that, all I have to say is: (a) you are probably a man, or (b) you are a woman in denial who has yet to discover the sexist world that you live in so you rather tear down enlightened woman due to the fear that if you agree, you will look like some man-hating feminist (which if that is the case, please return when you escape the darkness).
In this day and age, society would like to believe that it has evolved past these “trivialities,” but as someone who was able to compile a lengthy article that documented and analyzed multiple occurrences, it is very clear that I highly disagree. This article is meant to illuminate how some of us have internalized, and later project, very sexist notions – but then again, I am just a pretty lady who gets to hear this shit everyday.