The panties made me do it

These people are completely identical and gender-free

Feministing links to an interesting article about sexual harassment of female firefighters in British Columbia. Seems that in order to combat allegations of sexual harassment the city of Richmond decided against tried and true methods like gender sensitivity training and disciplinary action, and opted instead to simply require that all firefighters, male and female, should be required to wear boxer shorts. I wish I were joking.

The troubled Richmond fire department has banned front-line firefighters from wearing their own undies, briefs or boxers while on duty.


The one-style-for-all is part of the city's attempts to make the department gender-neutral and provide an environment in which men and women will feel comfortable, said [Richmond city official Ted] Townsend.

Two obvious problems here, and I'm sure long time readers of this blog already know what I'm going to say: First, the assumption of the city of Richmond is that panties, not people, are responsible for sexual harassment. And by extension, women wearing comfortable, form-fitting panties are tempting men to cat-call and degrade them. Second, why is the gender-neutral option the male option? Why not require men to wear panties, rather than women wearing boxers? And what about the bra problem? Obviously, unless men are required to wear bras, or women required to forgo them, there still exists an undergarment that is most assuredly gendered.

A commenter on Feministing falls into the obvious trap of asking this question:
“I never understood the point of a catcall. Has it ever worked? Seriously. Is there a couple out there where the man yelled obnoxiously at her so she decided to be with him? Give me a break."

I used to ask myself this all the time, whenever I was alone in my car, walking down the street, pumping gas, or doing the millions of things women do everyday that somehow prompt men to whistle and hoot and just be generally obnoxious: what do they expect to get out of it? Do they really think I'm going to abandon my car at the gas station and jump into bed with them? The answer, of course, is no. They might hope that this is the outcome, fantasize about their own Letters to Penthouse moment at the local grocery store, but that isn't the main function that catcalling serves in Patriarchy.

Thirty-six years ago, Meredith Tax wrote, “What catcallers do is impinge on her. They will demand that her thoughts be focused on them. They will use her body with their eyes. They will evaluate her market price. They will comment on her defects, or compare them to those of other passers-by. They will make her a participant in their fantasies without asking if she is willing. They will make her feel ridiculous, or grotesquely sexual or hideously ugly. Above all, they will make her feel like a thing." (emphasis mine)

Men catcall because they can. And anyone who actually thinks this street-harassment is a form of flattery has never been on the other side of it, particularly when my failure to respond favorably turns "hey baby" into "what a bitch/cunt/dyke/whore."

Kerri and I had a conversation a few months ago about this phenomenon: you're at a bar with your girlfriends, drinking some beers, having some laughs, and some douchebag “Nice Guy” feels the need to walk up to you, sometimes even sit down at your table uninvited, and insinuate himself into whatever conversation you happen to be having. The reaction amongst most women I know is to roll your eyes, entertain his sense of entitlement for a minute or two, and then steer the conversation toward something “uncomfortable” (e.g., menstruation, cancer, the deplorable size of some men's dicks) and hope that our douchebag hanger-on gets the hint and leaves of his own volition. But even then, in those moments when you ignore the guy, or alter your conversation to drive him away, he is the focus of your attention, and in a sense, he's won whatever game he was playing at. He may not have walked away with the prize (ostensibly, a cutie to stroke his ego all night), but he did get a group of intelligent, independent, feminist women to drop everything and make him the center of attention.

Forcing women firefighters (who, honestly, are about the toughest women around) to wear boxers isn't going to curb harassment—it's just going to give harassers another excuse to deride and degrade their co-workers. Now, holding men accountable for their actions, that might get us somewhere...


annamaria at 5:28 PM

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Who needs lunch when I have anger to feed me

If I didn't skip lunch, I'd be having lentil soup. Yum!

Kurt asks if my absence from blogging is due to Tiger Fever; unfortunately, not being a baseball fan, I’m unable to use such a great excuse. Then Kerri emailed me to tell me that she hates my job, because it’s preventing me from blogging. You and me both, babe.

So I looked at the blog the other day, and realized it’s been over a month since I’ve written anything. Probably explains all the pent up anger I’ve been feeling lately, since I haven’t had an outlet for it in weeks. Here is a summary of what I’ve been thinking lately on topics of major (and minor) interest:

The Amish School Shooting: Will someone please tell me why the MSM refuses to characterize this as a hate crime? If an unhinged racist walked into a school in Detroit, ordered all the little white kids out of the building, carried with him 600 rounds of ammunition and a lynching rope, and proceeded to murder five little black children, I think the racist motivation for the crime would be fairly obvious. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would be giving interviews left and right decrying the overt and violent racism of American society which allows men like our hypothetical killer to exist. And they would be right. So why is it that when a man separates the girls from the boys, brings tubes of lube and restraints, and shoots five little girls in the back of the head, execution-style, only one MSM figure notices that our sexist and misogynistic society allows for men like Charles Roberts to exist?

The Torture Bill. Fuck you, Debbie Stabenow. I know that you’re up for re-election, but as of October 9th, you’ve got a 17% lead over Republican challenger Mike Bouchard. And with 79% of Michigan voters citing the economy as their chief concern this election year, your stance on securing worker’s pensions seems like a winner. Not to mention that Governor Granholm is currently kicking Dick DeVos’s ass on the economy issue, as well. So why the need to suddenly overthrow any progressive credibility you might have by granting a corrupt president the power to ignore the Geneva Convention? Granted, he’s been ignoring it for years, but your vote has just given him, and future presidents, both the legal and moral authority to continue to do so for years to come. Congratulations. For the first time in my life I’ve actually considered voting for a Republican (don’t worry, it was a fleeting thought); instead, I’m just not voting for Senator at all. You might win, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that the true Michigan progressives support you.

Nice Guys. Amanda is tackling the "Nice Guy" issue again, and I’m left shaking my head wondering why this is still an issue. Nice Guys, for people who aren’t me and don’t spend hours reading feminist blogs, are those assholes who incessantly whinge about how women are only attracted to men who treat them like shit, and look at me, I’m so great, I don’t rape or beat women, and why can’t these dumb bitches realize that I’m the perfect boyfriend because I only fantasize about how to get one over on women, rather than actively doing it. Amanda’s take is, of course, spot on: Nice Guys are misogynists in sheep’s clothing who cling so desperately to their privilege that they fail to recognize that the Asshole vs. Nice Guy debate makes about as much sense as the belaboring the oh-so-important question of potato vs. potahto.

Last March, on International Women’s Day, I was in Ann Arbor for a Ted Leo & The Pharmacists concert. For those of you who haven’t spent much time around A2, allow me to overly generalize yet fairly characterize the student population: rich, mostly white kids who read Foucault once and think they understand oppression; such knowledge is then usually presented to members of an oppressed class as a statement of the rich kid’s understanding and, of course, moral superiority: "See, I’m better than those other rich kids, because I recognize racism, which means I’m not racist, which means that you, oppressed person, cannot accuse me of using my position of class and race privilege as a bludgeon. What’s that you say? I benefit from an oppressive system even if I don’t personally engage in acts of oppression? Fuck you, Darky, can’t you see I’m better than those other assholes?" Ann Arbor is full of Nice Guys. At the TL/Rx show, there was a guy walking around with a T-shirt that said "I don’t oppress women." The first time I saw it, I kind of chuckled. The second time the kid walked passed me, I wanted to rip his arms off and beat him bloody with his own desiccated limbs. I finally decided that the next time I saw him, I was going to ask if his "I don’t kick puppies" t-shirt was in the wash. Luckily for both of us, he managed to avoid me for the rest of the night.

Michigan Proposal 2*. Speaking of Ann Arbor, the rightie-tighties in the Mitten are apparently not content with the Supreme Court decision in Gratz v. Bollinger which gutted U of M’s undergraduate affirmative action program; proposal 2 would amend the Michigan State Constitution to ban all affirmative action policies in school admission and employment. I was driving with my sister-in-law the other day, and we noticed signs all over the neighborhood (the very wealthy, very white neighborhood) which read "Fairness, Equality, Yes on 2." At the time, I was so overwhelmed with work and whatnot, I didn’t even know what the proposal was. But I turned to my SIL and said "How much do you want to bet proposal 2 reinstates slavery or something?" Nice to know that in our crazy, post-ironic world, I was kinda right.

Vanished What does television have against the pretty, pretty Gale Harold?


First Queer As Folk takes my beloved Brian to the brink of spiritual healing, only to push him headlong back into the life of an overgrown club boy. Then I watch that crappy Vanished show for the sole purpose of spending an hour a week with a very hot man, only to watch in horror as he gets pumped full of lead and left to die in a pool of his own blood. It almost makes me want to start watching shows for their plot and not their hot actors.

The Crane Wife. Not to totally change gears or anything, but I’m burned out on being angry right now. Does everyone have this yet?** If you don’t have it, might I suggest that you get yourself to the nearest independent music retailer and purchase this sublime work of musical genius?

And speaking of The Decemberists, Ann at Feministing as an interview with Colin Meloy wherein he riffs on the violence of pregnancy and why his kid is doomed to be a Republican.

Okay, that’s it for now, since my lunch hour is up. I hope you are all happy that I forwent sustenance in favor of writing (arguably) witty and pointless things for you all. You can make it up to me later.

* I've decided that the number "2" is the new mark of the beast--the last Michigan proposal 2 amended to state constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions.
**Well, everyone but Rich since the album won’t be released in Europe until January 27th (haha!).

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annamaria at 2:49 PM

4 spoke