Sunday, August 3, 2008

It's hard out there for a [feminist]

Sometimes it is so friggin' hard to be a feminist.

Case in point: I went out last night with my sister and some friends. We went to a couple of bars and clubs. (-"Is that what you're wearing?" -"We are going to a nightclub" <-- Name that movie and win 10 points) My plan was to go out, drink, dance, have fun. Should be easy enough, right? Turns out it's not so easy to have fun while being bombarded by the overt misogyny thrown at a woman who is drinking and dancing.

We went first to a dive-y sports bar. We were left alone for the most part. Walking into the pizza place next door to grab a slice, however, merited whooping and catcalls from the men loitering within. I ignored them as if I were oblivious. I just wanted some pizza.

Our next stop was a club with a mechanical bull (for Friday night Bikini Bull Rides, of course) and a dance floor. The harassment started in line outside. A large drunk man had appointed himself to the position of keeping the line orderly. Mostly this job included eyeballing all the women and mentally undressing them. "What's your name?" He asked, looking me up and down hungrily. I do not take kindly to this type of harassment. It's such a pervasive example of how widely accepted male entitlement is; it is the "harmless" end of the spectrum of rape culture. But I suppressed my raging inner feminist. I was in a good mood and having fun with my friends. I wasn't about to let this asshole spoil it. I didn't just let it go, however. "What do you think my name is?" I asked, playing along. "Happy," he replied, eying my bright yellow top, but clearly thinking about what was beneath it. I had nothing to say to this, so I rolled my eyes and moved up in lines.

Inside, it was about as dark, loud, and sweaty as is typical of this type of establishment. (Note to club DJs: Playing two different songs at once does not qualify as a "mash up." Sorry, you're going to have to try harder than that.) The woman who collected our cover, as well as all the female bar tenders, had her shirt cut open to reveal what can be best described as heavaing bosoms. On sale behind the register were all sorts of bachelorette goodies (feather boas and cowboy hats) and sexxxxy souvenirs (ladies' underwear that said "I got bucked" with a picture of a lasso). We walked through the bar area and down a ramp to the dance floor. My stomach did a little jerk when I saw the stripper poles on raised platforms at each end of the floor. There were no professional dancers, just waxy tanned club-goers, some with bachelorette tiaras, gyrating against the poles and each other. (Ariel Levy, eat your heart out.) At this sight, I tell my shoulder feminist (like a shoulder angel or shoulder devil) that she might as well retire for the night. [Note: I realize that I haven't explained why the stripper poles were problematic. I don't intend to use this post to go off on that particular subject. It is the same reason why the "I got bucked" undies are a problem. For more insight, I highly recommend this "click"-inducing post by Twisty over at I Blame the Patriarchy.]

As we snaked our way through the crowd of grinding bodies, I felt a hand reach out and grab at my stomach. Ew! Who cops a feel of a girl's stomach? I whipped my head around, but there was no way of knowing which leering creepoid was the perp. I shook off the slight but glaring violation and continued on, following my group towards a less dense spot on the dance floor.

Sigh. Being a feminist is hard work. It's hard to "turn it off" for a night. It feels like the only way to have fun in the nightlife-scene is to put your principles on pause. But not to worry, the Patriarchy will still be there in the morning. You can resume your fight once you've sobered up.

That being said, I had a great time last night. I drank, I danced, I had fun. I hope to have more nights like it before the summer is out.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Things Facebook Thinks it Knows About Me

Based on the advertisements I see, Facebook thinks I am:
- Female (true)
- A student (true)
- Single (true)
- Jewish (true)
- Broke (true)
- A Yankees fan (false! EGREGIOUS ERROR! Why would you even think that!? What in my profile could possibly lead you to that conclusion!?)

Once you pop, the fun, etc...

dear mr. and/or mrs. sender-
we're pleased to inform you that your application's been accepted
- "Sex Changes" by the Dresden Dolls

If I were a rap music producer, I would sign a rapper called 35 Cent. She would be just like 50 cent, but her albums would cost 70% less. Y'know, to market to women who get paid 70% less than their male equals.

If I had my own cable channel, one of the shows I would launch would be called "Patriarchal Myth Busters." It would be just like Myth Busters, but it would bust Patriarchy-instilled societal myths rather than urban legends and pop culture hypotheses. The pilot episode would debunk what is perhaps the most persistent and pervasive product of Patriarchal invention: the existence of a thing called "virginity."

What is virginity? Is it a state of being? Or is it something that can be lost, taken, given up and given away? Ask a know-it-all grade schooler and she or he will tell you that a virgin is a woman whose hymen isn't broken. So then "virgin" is a category of woman, right? It is a category based on the state of one's hymen. In Virgin: The Untouched History, (which I admit I never finished reading), Hanne Blank goes through quite a bit of trouble to show that the "natural" state of the hymen is very indefinite. Therefore, women can't really be categorized by their hymens or lack thereof.

As is the trend with many Patriarchal myths and inventions, virginity is not a pseudo-scientific assertion of biology, but a social construct. (See here for an excellent introductory explanation of [feminist] usage of the term "social construct.") It is yet another way for men to appraise the value of a woman. Hanne Blank delves into the history in depth in her book, but I found one particular explanation especially compelling: virginity was invented to ensure the continuity of a patriarchal line. When a man wanted to marry (read: sell) off his daughter, she was worth more if she was a virgin - not because virgins are inherently more valuable or more "pure," but because that way it could be guaranteed that any children she might bear would have been fathered by her husband. It had little to do with the woman and everything to do with the offspring. (Remember, women aren't people; they're slaves for making babies and sandwiches.)

The reason I am writing about this now is because of this article called "The 19-Year-Old Virgin" that will appear in the magazine section of tomorrow's Boston Globe. The tagline is "Sure, I've had the opportunity to have sex. Here's why I've decided to abstain." The article is written by Emma Morgenstern, a 19-year-old who has never had sex. (Shock and awe, right?) Morgenstern is an articulate Jewish college student, in other words, normal. She is not a promise-ring-wearing, wedding-day-waiting loony. What the article attempts to do, though I'm not sure if it is Morgenstern's intention, is make abstinence cool for the atheist crowd.

Morgenstern writes,
But I've realized that being a virgin isn't that big a deal - except for one thing: The one real downside (aside from not having sex, of course) is the unknowns that come with it. I don't know how my first experience will change my life or my relationship. I don't know if my first time will be with someone I love. I don't know how to buy condoms. That's OK, though. I know I have plenty of time. Being a virgin simply means that a person hasn't had sex and therefore probably has more unanswered questions about it. But maybe even this isn't accurate - after all, that senior on my couch seemed as if he had some things he wanted to ask.
Drinking alcohol the week before I turned 21 did not feel much different from drinking alcohol the week after. It makes one realize how arbitrary the age limit is. It is my hope that when Emma does have sex, she will find that not only is virginity not a big deal, but that, "the drinking age," it doesn't really exist in any concrete way. (I realize that this is not a perfect metaphor.)

I had sex for the first time when I was 19. December 8th. It is a big deal to have sex for the first time. But everyone's circumstances are different, so the extent to which it affects a person will vary. When my then-boyfriend brought up the subject for the first time, it was something that I too was thinking about. I really wanted to have sex with him. But I'd never done it before, so I wanted some more time to think. Like Morgenstern, I didn't know how having sex with him might affect our relationship. We'd been seeing each other for two months and were already very intimate - we just hadn't actually "done it" yet.

[[Digression: Morgenstern writes, "You might be wondering what it's like, in today's sex-obsessed world, to be a virgin at the age of 19. Well, you get used to the stares after a while. If I confess my sexual status to the cashier at the movie theater, he'll often give me a children's-price ticket." Why would you confess your sexual status to a box office boy?
Anecdote: At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, B.C. (Before Coitus), a bunch of my housemates were sitting around in the kitchen trying to figure out the house ratio of virgins to vegetarians. They asked me if I'd had sex and I said no. One girl responded, "Really!? But you seem so...liberated!" She assumed that because I kept condoms in my drawer (courtesy of Planned Parenthood) and talked freely and openly about sexuality that I had, in fact, had sex.
Moral: Nobody can tell if you've had sex or not unless you tell them.]]

So after a couple weeks of deliberation, I decided to go for it. We did it. The only thing that changed about our relationship is that we had more sex.

I don't like to say that I "lost" my virginity. The only thing I lost was my ace in the hole for winning Never Have I Ever.

Image used in this post yoinked from Rakka.