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.
great post that i feel compelled to pass on. i plan on making a contribution myself.