Because this pissed me off today.
I wrote that — and unfollowed the person I reblogged it from — but I’ve been thinking about it all day. Something I couldn’t articulate. I’d like to try.
This “bah, who can understand women?” bullshit is completely wrong.
We live in a culture that tells us that women are second-class citizens, that our bodies are there to be objects of viewing pleasure.
How many jokes have I seen that basically boil down to “Hahaha stupid, crazy women, they’re all stupid and crazy, am I right?”
FUCKERS. LET ME ‘SPLAIN.
If you aren’t a woman, imagine that you are.
You live in a culture that bullies you. That tells you your body is not good enough. That it’s too fat, too thin, too lumpy, too flat, too dark, too yellow, too light, too freckly, too hairy, too smelly, too marked up from scars and stretchmarks and blemishes and time.
You live in a culture that tells you that your body doesn’t even belong to you. Access to abortion is, by now, damned fucking hard to get. Birth control is still debated, as if a whole, entire woman is less important than two ounces of meat that might have a baby in it. (Your uterus, two-thirds the size of a “healthy portion” of meat — and you’re expected to care about that, too — but so fucking important to how human society considers you to be.) You’re supposed to have sex, but not too much, and only with the right guys. You’re supposed to know which guys mean well and which don’t. But it’s your fault if you get raped, so, you know, watch out for that. If you get raped or abused, beaten, threatened, the laws that are there to protect you will fail you, because the people who enforce them are just as fucked up and sexist as anyone else, so people can get away with harming you pretty much because you are female and nobody cares. Jesus, Mary, and God himself help you if you are transgender, or a woman of color. Your abuse and/or death is a statistic that they barely even acknowledge, because your body is worth less than that of a white, cisgendered woman. But hey, free drinks for having tits, that’s nice.
You are expected to endure the attentions of men whether or not they are expressed appropriately. First, the boys on the schoolyard, pulling your hair, teasing you, stealing your stuff, because they “like you.” Later, copping a feel, groping your boobs, staring at your ten-eleven-twelve-year-old-body in a bathing suit that’s suddenly too small this year and yelling “slut” at you, mocking you for not wearing a bra because you don’t think you should have to. After that, high school guys talking shit about you. Slut if you do, bitch if you don’t. They still want to fuck you, and they’ll try. Date rape starts now, because they’ve never been told to take “no” from a girl. College, and hopefully the guys are better, but now you have serious boyfriends and serious breakups and hey, the boy likes you, he’s so nice, but he winds up pounding on your door at 3 a.m., drunk, and angry-crying, because you broke up with him for perfectly legitimate reasons, and he can’t handle that, and hopefully, hopefully he won’t hurt you. Later you have bosses and coworkers, and you’re expected to tolerate that too. Expected to wear certain things, makeup, painful shoes, clothes that make you uncomfortable. Guys on the street holler and jeer and you are expected to take that as a compliment. You get creepy offers, really creepy ones, now and then. Walking the dog, and some guy pulls up and wants to pimp you to his construction crew friends down the street. With your unbrushed hair and frumpy dress, no makeup, you thought you were probably safe, but there’s tits and ass visible under there, lots of it, because despite a culture that tells you it’s morally wrong, you haven’t yet started starving your body to make it more acceptable. So you walk around the block two more times with your three-legged dog wheezing the whole way, because you’re scared he’ll SEE WHERE YOU LIVE. And you never walk the dog in that neighborhood again. He gets the backyard. And you wonder which construction site it was, because there are several. It’s having the same guy in the silver car drive by you on your walk five times in the next neighborhood, and follow you home, and pull up and start to back up down the street, so you stand in your front yard, looking right at them, and you call your own voicemail and leave a message with the license number. Only then, when they see you staring, when they see your lips moving, do they go away. But if they don’t actually hurt you, you’re supposed to give them a chance. I mean, literally, like, right up until they cause you real harm. And even then, the cops might arrest you for firing a warning shot at a dude who wants to kill you. (Yes, the dog thing happened to me personally. And the asshole in the silver car. Hey, a chick’s walking somewhere. She must need a ride. I’m sure that’s all he wanted. Five times around the block to follow me to ask if he could help. I’m sure he was a nice guy.)
You aren’t supposed to upset other people with your words or actions. You are taught from infancy that you are the emotional sex, but you’re trained to be the ones to do all the fucking work, to try the hardest to make roads, to mend, to build, to fucking understand your own feelings and those of others, because men aren’t allowed to do those things any more than you are allowed not to do them. You are taught to put your feelings second. Behind the authority of your parents, behind the authority of whatever boys, and later, men, you associate with romantically. Behind your husband, and then, if you have them, behind your children. You are expected to be the one who does these things because you are expected to be the one who can.
You have your anger stripped away from you, cut away from you, burned away with no and quiet and don’t talk to me like that and you don’t really hate anyone. You are told these things, just like boys are, but you are told them more often. Even if you don’t get it at home, you get it at school. You see that girls and boys behave differently, you see it all around you and on TV. And so you learn, the anger goes inwards, and the grief, which you are allowed as long as it doesn’t inconvenience anyone too much, comes out. You’re hysterical, a weepy woman, you’re overemotional. But men who are angry, they’re just men. Even when they yell and scream and throw things, they aren’t overemotional. They have an anger problem, maybe, but it’s just that one feeling that’s the problem. Not every fucking feeling there is.
If you are abused, you are probably told that the man abusing you loves you. He’ll say it. His family, his friends, possibly yours as well. The man who beats you says he’d die for you. But men love their dogs, too. They will jump into floodwaters and fires to save their dogs. You can love, deeply, another living thing and not consider it as human as you are. You can need its presence, even its approval, and not consider it an equal. (Meanwhile, women who feel this way about their cats are crazy.) And many men who do not abuse “their” women love them like dogs, too, they are just gentler people, so you don’t really notice it. Some only reveal it later. You lose a breast to breast cancer, and your husband leaves you. He never even comes to pick you up from the hospital, because you aren’t perfect anymore.
You live in a world that denies your equal place in it. It tells you it has one ready for you, just waiting, but first you have to prove yourself. Prove you really understand math, maybe. Prove your athletic competence well enough to overshadow any objections someone might have about your appearance. Prove you like the things you like. Prove your skill well enough not to be called a “woman journalist” or a “woman doctor” or a “woman scientist.” Prove yourself to the world, and take the place it will let you have. Meanwhile, men are more likely to be given a place, and only asked to hold it as best they can. It may not be easy, but they don’t have to overcome the fact that, no matter what they do and what they are, they have to prove themselves more interesting than their looks, useful for more than what is between their thighs.
You live with all of this, for years. And it fucks you right up. You watch your woman friends go through it, too. You get treated like trash, you watch horrible things happen and you see nobody punished. You watch the Steubenville trials, and that week, a friend online confides to you that she was raped, that she hasn’t told anyone, that it was fifteen years ago, and she can still smell him and taste him and feel him. That she vomits when she tastes whiskey, or even smells too much of it. And there is no justice for her, for the girl she was, or for the girl on the television, who is just an afterthought between pictures of promising young men having their futures ruined. There is no justice.
So I ask you two questions:
If women act “crazy,” if we act in a way that men find perplexing, aggravating, incomprehensible, possibly charming, but also vexing … given what we put up with does that come as any fucking surprise? Because our psyches, our spirits, become mirrors for every fucking thing society does to us. And no, sometimes what stares back at you isn’t pretty. Damaged animals act in very strange ways. Go to a badly-designed zoo sometime and watch.
If men think they don’t need to understand us, what is it, exactly, they are afraid of understanding? That they’re the zookepers?