I finally figured it out — why the men in my neighborhood react with such escalated lack of consideration whenever I ask them, politely, to limit their noise. I’ve asked snowmobilers who are out racing around the lake and having a good time going VROOM VROOM to please just turn around a few seconds before they get to the very end of the lake, which is where I live; I’ve asked dirt bikers to please ride up and down and up and down on a section of road that doesn’t have a bunch of people living there; I’ve asked men who are building new houses to please put the compressor behind the house (so the building acts as a berm) rather than on the lake side (which means, of course, that the noise not only skids across the lake with wonderful efficiency, but also that it then bounces off the hills, echoing amplified all over the place); I’ve asked men to at least close their lakeside doors and windows when they’re using their power tools inside. (And I’d like to ask them if they really, seriously, need to use a leafblower — we live in the forest, for godsake.)
And almost every single time, not only has the man not acceded to my request, he’s escalated his noise-making and/or responded with confrontational aggression.
Do I live in a neighborhood with an unrepresentative number of inconsiderate assholes?
No. Here’s what’s happening. (As I say, I’ve finally figured it out.) Partly it’s because I’m a woman asking a man to do something. Most men do not want to be seen taking orders from a woman; even to accede to a woman’s request is apparently too much for their egos. My male neighbour has made similar requests and the responses have been along the lines of ‘Sure, no problem.’
And partly, it’s because making noise is perceived to be an integral part of being a man. I’ve long known ‘My car is my penis’ but I never realized that that was partly because of the noise of the car. I didn’t know that men routinely modify the mufflers of their dirt bikes in order to make them louder. And then I happened to catch a Canadian Tire advertisement on television (I seldom watch television) and was absolutely amazed at the blatant association of masculinity with power tools, the promise that ‘You’ll be more of a man when you use this million-horsepower table saw’ or whatever.
So the resistance to my requests is because I’m essentially asking that they castrate themselves.
1. SlutWalk was reportedly initiated in response to a police officer’s comment about not dressing like a slut if you don’t want to get raped. The underlying assumption is that one’s attire — specific items or style — sends a message. And indeed it does. High heels, fishnet stockings, and a heavily made-up face are considered invitations. So if a woman is wearing ‘fuck me shoes’, she can hardly complain if someone fucks her. But is that the message the woman is sending? A message that she’s sexually available to everyone? Maybe. Maybe not. Frankly, given the ambiguity, and the nature of the outcome in the case of misunderstanding, I wonder why women take the risk.
It’s much like wearing one’s gang colours in the territory of a rival gang. Of course it’s going to be provocative. Is any consequent assault legal? No. Is it deserved? No. Should it have been anticipated? Yes. So unless the intent was to make a point about the wrongness of gangs and violence, a point best made by arranging media presence for the incursion into the other gang’s territory, well, how stupid are you?
Granted, most women who dress in a sexually attractive way don’t go that far (fishnet stockings and heavy make-up), but why go any way at all? Why does a woman dress in a sexually attractive way? Why do women put on high heels, show their legs, wear bras that push up their breasts and tops that expose cleavage, redden their lips, and so on? What does she hope to attract exactly?
My first guess is that she hasn’t thought about it. She dresses in a sexually attractive way because, well, that’s what women in our society are expected to do.(1) In which case she’s an idiot. Doesn’t deserve to be raped, but really, she should think about what she does.
My second guess is that she dresses in a sexually attractive way because she wants to invite offers of sex.(2) But then, she shouldn’t be angry when she receives such offers, either in the form of whistles and call-outs or in more direct ways. That she may respond with anger or offense suggests that she wants to attract only offers she’s likely to accept, offers only from men she’s attracted to. But, men may cry, how’s a man to know? Um, try to make eye contact. If you can’t do that, she’s not interested. If you do make eye contact, smile. If she doesn’t smile back, she’s not interested. Surely that kind of body language isn’t too subtle to grasp.
And yet, many men seem to have such an incapacity for subtlety that if you act like bait, they may simply reach out and grab you. Are they entitled to do that? No. Any unauthorized touching is a violation. Is clothing authorization? Well, sometimes. Consider uniforms.
So it would be far less ambiguous if a woman who wants sex just extended the offers herself. Why take the passive route of inviting offers from likely candidates? Why make men try to figure out whether they’re a likely candidate? Why not just let them know and go from there?
2. Many people may not have been aware of the police officer’s comment. So what are they to make of SlutWalk? What are they to understand is the point? (Prerequisite to deciding whether to support SlutWalk or not.)
a) “It’s okay to be a slut!” Given the ‘sluttish’ appearance that many women present during the walk, this understanding is understandable. But whether or not one wants to endorse that message depends on the definition of ‘slut.’ See“What’s wrong with being a slut?”
b) “We’re proud to be sluts!”
c) “No woman deserves to be raped, regardless of her attire!” This is probably closest to the intended message, but in this case, better to have called it a “Walk Against Rape”. Better, further, to advocate changes that would make rape more likely to be reported and rapists more likely to be sentenced commensurate to the injuries they’ve caused. Perhaps better still to advocate a male-only curfew.
Of course, “SlutWalk” is far more provocative, far more attention-getting, than the ho-hum “Walk Against Rape”, but I don’t think the organizers considered the difficulty of reclaiming an insulting word. And ‘slut’ is a very difficult insulting word to reclaim. Harder than ‘bitch’ and ‘nigger’ and even those reclamation efforts haven’t been very successful. Mostly, success has been limited to conversations among women in the first case and conversations among blacks in the second. SlutWalk is not conducted in the presence of women only. So, really, did the organizers expect people in general to accept (let alone understand) their implied redefinition?
The organizers also didn’t think through the male over-dependence on visual signals. The gawkers and hecklers who typically undermine the event should be expected. The inability of men to process any verbal messages (even those just a few words long) in the presence of so-called ‘fuck me’ heels should be expected.
Consider that even Gwen Jacobs’ action to make it legal for women to be shirtless wasn’t immune to sexualization, despite the clearly non-sexual nature of her action; men (BOOBS!) hooted, men (BOOBS!) called out, and the media, no doubt reflecting a decision made by a man (BOOBS!), or perhaps a thoughtless woman, continues to use the sexualized “topless” instead of “shirtless” when reporting about the issue (BOOBS!). Imagine the response had Jacobs gone shirtless while also wearing short shorts exposing half buttocks. It would have been, to understate, a mixed message.
And that is, essentially, the problem with SlutWalk. High heels, exposed legs, pushed-up breasts, and a made-up faces sends a message that one is sexually available (which is why it’s appalling to me that it has become convention for women to wear heels and make-up in public every day all day) (those who accept that convention accept the view that women should be, or at least should seem to be, sexually available every day all day).(3) And if it doesn’t send a message that you’re sexually available, what message does it send? That you’re sexually attractive? Back to the top—what are you hoping to attract? (And why are you trying to attract that when you’re at work, working?)
d) “Women have a right to tease!” That seems to be the message SlutWalk conveys, given the likelihood that women who present themselves as sexually attractive aren’t actually trying to be sexually attractive to everyone or, at least, aren’t sexually available to everyone. And that’s a message that many women would not Especially those who know about the provocation defence.
There’s nothing wrong with extending invitations to sex. Doing so in public in such a non-specific way—that’s the problem. Especially given men’s inability to pick up on subtle cues and/or their refusal to understand the difference between yes and no, let alone yes and maybe. Maybe when men can handle a sexually charged atmosphere without assaulting… Maybe when other men penalize, one way or another, those who can’t handle a sexually charged atmosphere without assaulting…
In the meantime, we’re living in an occupied country, a country occupied by morally-underdeveloped people with power who think women are just walking receptacles for their dicks. So women who make themselves generally available, or present themselves as being generally available, are, simply, putting themselves at great risk (and, yes, in a way, getting what they asked for): some STDs are fatal; others are incurable; most have painful symptoms. And pregnancy has a life-long price tag.(4)
(1) There’s a difference between attractive and sexually attractive. At least, there should be. Perhaps because men dominate art and advertising, the two have been equivocated. (No doubt because everything is sexual for them. ) (Which may be to say, everything is about dominance for them.)
(2) Maybe part of her smiles to think of herself as a slut. She’s a bad girl, she’s dangerous, she’s taking risks, she’s a wild girl for once in her life. But that’s exactly what they want. Sexual access. No-strings-attached sex. We fell for that in the 60s too. Free love, sure, we’re not prudes, we’re okay with our bodies, we’re okay with sex, we’re ‘with it’. But they never took us seriously. They never considered us part of the movement. Behind our backs, they’d snicker and say the best position for a woman is prone ( Stokely Carmichael) (read your history, learn about your past).
(3) Of course there’s the possibility that if/when women forego the heels, bared legs, accentuated breasts and butts, and make-up, men will consider a little ankle to be an open invitation. Which just means the issue isn’t attire at all. It’s being female. In a patriarchy. (Which still means SlutWalk is off-target.)
(4) I hear the objections already: ‘No, wearing high heels and make-up doesn’t mean I’m sexually available! That’s the point!’ (And around and around we go.) Then why do you wear high heels and make-up? Seriously, think about it: high heels make the leg more shapely, attracting the male gaze, which follows your legs up…; make-up makes your face younger, supposedly prettier, lipstick attracts the male gaze to your lips… If you just want to be attractive, then what you do to your body wouldn’t be sexualized: you’d wear funky gold glittered hiking boots, you’d paint an iridescent rainbow across your face, you’d do a hundred other aesthetically interesting things…
Damn those insurance companies! (And I will, too!) Calling hurricanes, tornadoes, and even floods ‘acts of god’! Why, those self-serving schmucks! It’s their job to provide a safety net against misfortune!
So what am I gonna do? It’s a lose-lose situation.
I don’t show up, people will think I don’t exist. They’ll stop believing in me. Though I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. It’s not like their belief does me any good.
I do show up, well, I can see it now… (And I can, too!)
I could say I didn’t know it was going to happen, but there goes omniscience.
Or I could say I did, but I couldn’t do anything about it. There goes omnipotence.
God works in mysterious ways? Right. Some smartass will say, Try us. (Hitchens, I’ll bet.)
It can’t end well. I’ll be on the hook for compensation. Everyone who’s ever suffered personal injury or property damage from a storm or flood or lightning… my God! I’d have to restore their belongings, their houses, their land, their bodies, their minds. Their lives. There goes benevolence.
So this guy in our neighborhood has early Alzheimers and dizzy spells. He’s looking for a babysitter (his word) and someone to cook for him and do his cleaning so he doesn’t have to go into a home. And he asked me.
I have no experience babysitting. And absolutely no aptitude for it.
Yes, I do my own cooking and cleaning, but I have no interest in it, at all, and do as little as possible.
So why did he ask me? Because I’m a middle-aged woman. Apparently that’s what middle-aged women do, that’s what we are, that’s what we’re for.
Yes, I’ve been friendly with him, stopping to chat or at least wave when I walk by (as a result of which he once asked me if I like sex and whether I’m any good at it—apparently that’s another thing women do, are, are for), but I doubt that friendliness on the part of a man would have indicated that he’s available for babysitting, cooking, or cleaning (or sex).
I’ve got three degrees, I used to be a philosophy instructor, I’ve published several books, and I’m currently making a living as a freelancer. Would a man with such credentials be asked to be someone’s babysitter and do their cooking and cleaning?
Ah, but this guy doesn’t know I’m all that. And that’s also telling. If I were man who has lived in this neighborhood (small, rural) for twenty-five years, everyone would likely know all of that about me. But I don’t go around announcing these things, and no one’s ever asked. Because they just assume I’m—well, none of that. After all, I’m just a middle-aged woman.
P.S. – Spread the word – I invite women to add their own “And here’s something else that would never happen to a man” entries via the comments function. I’d love for this post to turn into a blog sort of like ‘What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?’…
‘New and improved’ is not just a bit of harmless puffery; it’s a two-party addiction. Stupid consumers must have and stupid companies must produce – new and improved stuff. And it hurts third parties. Such as the animals who are used to test a product every time it changes, every time it becomes new and improved. And, perhaps more importantly (though I’m really not sure anymore), the people who won’t get their needs met because resources are being spent on stupid people’s wants.
There is a difference. Between needs and wants. One you can do without, the other you can’t. People like to call wants ‘needs’, however, because needs are more compelling, and such people are thus being manipulative: to say ‘I need X’ makes it sound like it’s not an option, like X must be provided; but to say ‘I want X’ leaves the other more free not to fulfil the request. We need clean water, nutritious food, shelter/warmth, and sometimes, medical care. Everything else is a want. (So yes, Freud and Maslow and every man since who says sex is a need – you’re wrong. Evidence supports the contrary claim: surprising as this may seem, people who don’t have sex do not die.)
Nor do you die without the new and improved dish detergent or lip gloss. Or this year’s Chrysler. Don’t get me wrong: many improvements are indeed improvements; some are even valuable improvements. The new detergents without phosphates are much better than the ones we had before, the ones with phosphates. And the car with the catalytic converter and higher mpg is better than its predecessor. But most changes are not improvements. (There is a difference – between change and improvement.) And most improvements are not significant enough to warrant new and improved products at the rate they’re being put on the market.
Most of the new and improved stuff is stuff we don’t need. Actually, so is most of the old and unimproved stuff. There’s a frighteningly high number of people in our society who exhibit arrested development, who seem stuck at the infantile phase of shouting ‘More! More! I want more!’ I yearn for the day when kids across our country do not start each day reciting a prayer or the anthem but the words ‘We don’t need.’ Because, by and large, in Canada, we don’t. We don’t need. We already have. Enough.
Growth is not always good. We have these good associations with the word because we think of a child growing. But the healthy child stops growing when it reaches an optimum size. There’s a name for unlimited growth: cancer.
And it’s this not stopping, it’s this making and taking more than we need, that has gotten us into this dead end. The oil supplies will run out, according to the oil industry, by 2040. The ozone layer is still dealing with the CFCs we released in the 1980s. We have enough radioactive garbage to make a six foot high pile stretching clear across our country and we don’t know what to do with it. Isn’t it time to stop? To grow up and say ‘No thank you, I’m fine, I have enough’?
It really hit home when my father gave me twenty bucks for a pizza, his treat. As if I were a teenager. Instead of a 50-year-old woman with a mortgage to pay, property taxes, and monthly bills for oil, electricity, phone, internet, tv, house insurance, car insurance… Amazing. He was sitting in my living room at the time. (My living room.) A carpenter I’d hired to do some renovations on my house (my house) was outside working at the time. And yet, he seemed to think I didn’t need, or couldn’t use, any real money. He couldn’t see me as an adult negotiating my way in the real world, the one with jobs, paycheques, mortgages, and bills.
How did he think I came to own my own house? Who did he think would be paying the carpenter? Who does he think bought the car sitting in my driveway? And pays for its repairs?
I don’t doubt for a minute that my parents have given my brother and my married sister a lot more than twenty bucks over the years (I divorced them thirty years ago, so I don’t really know) (and for that reason, I don’t feel entitled to anything from them, but that’s not my point), starting with the hundred-dollar (thousand-dollar?) gifts they gave them to start their households. Said gifts were ostensibly wedding gifts, but hey, I had a household to start too. Why do they get a new fridge and I get a hand-me-down blender just because they’re starting a new household with someone to whom they’ve contracted themselves?
And it’s not just my parents, of course. The twenty-bucks-for-pizza incident wasn’t by any means the first time my economic expenses have been apparently invisible. A neighbour (a kept woman) explained to me once that she and her husband were happy to have given the commission from the sale of their property to a certain real estate agent, a woman, (instead of selling the property without involving her, which they could have done), because her husband had recently died, so she was on her own now. No similar sympathy has ever been directed my way. And I’ve been on my own since I was twenty-one.
Why is this? What can explain this phenomenon, a phenomenon that is surely causally related to women’s lower salaries? The belief, clearly mistaken if anyone cared to open their eyes, that every woman is married? (And every married woman is completely supported by her husband?) The insistent belief that women are, or should be, considered children? (And children don’t have adult needs, adult financial responsibilities…)
In 2009, American single women outnumbered married women (All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister). So what do people like my parents think? That banks waive our mortgage payments, and landlords never charge us rent; that insurance companies waive our premiums; that oil and propane companies fill our tanks, but never send us a bill; that we get our cars and bus passes for free; that we don’t have to pay for gas; that grocery stores let us walk out with all the food we want, for free; that our dentists and optometrists don’t charge us for check-ups; and that little elves come in the middle of the night and leave heaps of money so we can pay for whatever else we need.
I think many women realize that their children make them vulnerable; their love for them holds them hostage. So many things they would do (leave?)—but for the children. I wonder how many realize that their imprisonment is physiological. And, in most cases, as voluntary as that first hit of heroin, cocaine, whatever.
‘But I love my children!’ That’s just the oxytocin talking. You think you love them because you’re a good person, responsible, dutiful, and, well, because they’re so loveable, look at them! That’s just the oxytocin talking.
All those women (most of them) who didn’t really want to become pregnant, but did anyway (because contraception and abortion weren’t easily available, and sex was defined as intercourse), and then claimed, smiling, that they wouldn’t have it any other way, they love their children—just the oxytocin talking.
The assurance that the labour will be worth it, that you’ll forget all about the pain as soon as you see your baby, as soon as you hold your baby—all true. Because of the oxytocin.
Which you’ll get more of if you breastfeed.
And which you’ll get more of if you have a vaginal birth. Which is why women who intend to give up their babies for adoption or who are surrogates should have caesareans. It’ll reduce that drug-induced attachment, making it easier to follow through with their plans. (Why doesn’t any medical professional tell them that?)
“Roused by the high levels of estrogen during pregnancy, the number of oxytocin receptors in the expecting mother’s brain multiplies dramatically near the end of her pregnancy. This makes the new mother highly responsive to the presence of oxytocin.”  And, “Researchers have found that women’s oxytocin levels during their first trimester of pregnancy predict their bonding behavior with their babies during the first month after birth. Additionally, mothers who had higher levels of oxytocin across the pregnancy as well as the postpartum month also reported more behaviors that create a close relationship, such as singing a special song to their baby, bathing and feeding them in a special way, or thinking about them more. Quite simply, the more oxytocin you have, the more loving and attentive you are to your baby.” 
So those new mothers who don’t fall in love with their babies? The ones who want to throw them out the window because they’re fucking crying all the time? Their brains just didn’t produce enough, or perhaps any, oxytocin. Post-partum depression? It’s just oxytocin deficiency. (It certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. I’d throw the kid out the window too.)
And here’s the kicker: oxytocin rewires your brain. Permanently. “Under the early influence of oxytocin, nerve junctions in certain areas of mother’s brain actually undergo reorganization, thereby making her maternal behaviors ‘hard-wired.’” 
You become a mom. Permanently. Oxytocin makes you sensitive to others’ needs (not just your baby’s needs, not just your kids’ needs). It makes you want to fulfill others’ needs. (Not just your baby’s needs, not just your kids’ needs.) You become nurturing, affectionate, caring. (You become a proper woman? A woman who knows her place?) Oxytocin changes your personality. It changes you. As any drug does.
The rest of us, those of us who live oxytocin-free? We don’t give a damn. We’re not into nurturing others—children or men. When we say we don’t like kids? We mean it. And when you say ‘Oh, just wait until you have some of your own, you’ll change your mind!’ They’re right. Because we’ll become doped up with oxytocin.
So if you don’t want to turn into a Mom, if you don’t want to dedicate your life to others, to meeting their needs and desires, Just Say No.
Here’s the thing. Men are already separatists. (So really we have no choice.)
Men already exclude women from anything, everything, important. (Any inclusion is tokenism: a false symbol, a PR move.)
Men already refuse to get involved with ‘women’s issues’, whether personal or political. That feminism itself is considered a special interest thing indicates that. (It shouldn’t be. And it wouldn’t be if ‘women’s issues’ were typically included in ‘issues’. That we have to establish them as ‘add-ons’ proves that ‘issues’ are really ‘men’s issues’. See? Separatism.)
As a result of a recent exchange on a blog in which I felt insulted enough by the patronizing tone taken by the moderator that I decided not to participate any further, while another commenter (a male) responded with a mere “LOL”, I asked yet another commenter (also a male) about why he thought our reactions were so different. “Don’t men know when they’re being insulted?” I asked.
His response? “We know, we just don’t care. At the end of the day, it’s just words on a
screen. Most of us don’t expect to convince anyone else, this is a social event of sorts for people who like to talk about stuff.”
He went on to say “We don’t expect to change anything, we’re just engaging in venting,
observation, and entertainment. If we learn something new, all the better.”
I find this horrifying. Words have meaning! Meaning is important! At first I thought okay, maybe that’s just a philosopher/non-philosopher thing, but then I recalled conversations with male philosophers in which I similarly felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously, in which I felt like, the man nailed it, “entertainment”.
I don’t feel that when I speak with women on these matters. So it’s a sexist thing, not a
But it’s not that men don’t take women seriously, it’s that they don’t take each other seriously either. Suddenly their attitude toward debate—it’s a game—makes sense.
As for not expecting to convince or change, maybe that’s a non-teacher-non-social-activist thing, but again, if it’s a male thing, then again, it’s horrifying. No wonder the world isn’t getting better and better: the people in power aren’t talking, thinking, acting to make it so. Their discussions on policy are just “venting, observation, and entertainment”!
I wonder if at its root, it’s part of the male relationship to words. Women are better with language, so it’s said, whether because of neurology or gendered upbringing; men are better with action, so it’s said, again whether by neurology or gendered upbringing. So that would explain why women (in general, of course) consider words to be important, and men (in general, of course) don’t.
ImpactAn extended confrontation between a sexual assault victim and her assailants, as part of an imagined slightly revised court process, in order to understand why they did what they did and, on that basis, to make a recommendation to the court regarding sentence does not go … as expected.
What Happened to TomTom, like many men, assumes that since pregnancy is a natural part of being a woman, it’s no big deal: a woman finds herself pregnant, she does or does not go through with it, end of story. But then …
Aiding the EnemyWhen Private Ann Jones faces execution for “aiding the enemy,” she points to American weapons manufacturers who sell to whatever country is in the market.
Bang BangWhen a young boy playing “Cops and Robbers” jumps out at a man passing by, the man shoots him, thinking the boy’s toy gun is real. Who’s to blame?
ForeseeableAn awful choice in a time of war. Whose choice was it really?
Exile (full-length drama) Finalist, WriteMovies; Quarterfinalist, Fade-In.
LJ lives in a U . S. of A., with a new Three Strikes Law: first crime, rehab; second crime, prison; third crime, you’re simply kicked out – permanently exiled to a designated remote area, to fend for yourself without the benefits of society. At least he used to live in that new U. S. of A. He’s just committed his third crime.
What Happened to Tom (full-length drama) Semifinalist, Moondance.
This guy wakes up to find his body’s been hijacked and turned into a human kidney dialysis machine – for nine months.
Aiding the Enemy (short drama 15min)
When Private Ann Jones faces execution for “aiding the enemy,” she points to American weapons manufacturers who sell to whatever country is in the market.
Bang Bang (short drama 30min) Finalist, Gimme Credit; Quarter-finalist, American Gem.
When a young boy playing “Cops and Robbers” jumps out at a man passing by, the man shoots him, thinking the boy’s toy gun is real. Who’s to blame?
Foreseeable (short drama 30min)
An awful choice in a time of war. Whose choice was it really?
Minding Our Own Business A collection of skits (including “The Price is Not Quite Right,” “Singin’ in the (Acid) Rain,” “Adverse Reactions,” “The Band-Aid Solution,” and “See Jane. See Dick.”) with a not-so-subtle environmental message