Most of us women, at least those over the age of 25-30, do this kind of thing by habit, and without a lot of thought. We’ve internalized that we are second class citizens, and that we – just by being female – are somehow always going to be partly responsible for the sexualization and objectification of our bodies.
And when we talk about it to the men in our lives, they don’t always recognize it as a real situation, because so many of us have this habit.
“Ignore him, he’ll go away.”
That’s the advice women get. That’s the advice fat people get too. And when you’re a woman and fat, you get a double dose.
When I was first dating my ex-husband, he would develop rage at the mere thought that another man would make either sexist or sizist comments about me in his hearing. His immediate reaction was to chase the perpetrator down, and beat him within an inch of his life.
But, I – as a woman in our society – had more reasons than I could count for asking him to ignore it. There was that myth of “ignore it, it can’t hurt you, it’s only words.” There was the simple fact that simply because I was his girlfriend, I had a responsibility to mollify his rage, to be the mature one and ensure my boyfriend didn’t “cause a scene.”
We don’t want to be seen as weak, or as a victim, so we take the ‘high road’ and ignore, minimize, suppress the hurt and pain, and try to laugh it off as being unimportant.
And we’ve done such an excellent job at it that the men in our lives eventually come to see it as being “no big thing” unless they are right there, and the other person is obvious enough and rude enough to make that man feel a need to protect us.
Almost every time someone did something or said something to me, if my ex-husband was there, he would immediately get enraged. So, my emotions were automatically switched from defense of myself to pacify my enraged partner. The enraged response was – to my habitual instinct – likely to send him to jail, because the “authorities” would somehow blame me for the issue, and for “allowing” the man in my life to lose his temper. Or, at least that was the instinct. It rarely actually came to my head in that particular form of an argument, it was just incoherent fear that I would be a) blamed for the instigation; and b) somehow I would be alone and unprotected.
Just because he said similar things in the privacy of our own home didn’t even come into the situation. What it comes down to is some other man disrespecting him by insulting or assaulting his “property.”
And I, fool that I was, took it to be a sign of love.
Sadly, I still do it. I still – even now, when I’m fighting to regain my strength – minimize these kinds of situations. Somehow it’s my responsibility to do so, even though the other person is the one who is being a bully, being cruel, or being sexually harassing.
It’s so ingrained in us that it is hard to quit the habit.
And it began far earlier than people think. There’s the men in the family who tell us that we’re just being “too thin-skinned” that they were “only joking” and “can’t you take a joke?”
It’s not just about hitting puberty and suddenly being shown attention by the male of the species. It’s every teacher that tells us a boy is only being mean to us because he “likes” us. It’s every parent that encourages us to ignore the bully or the “scamp” because the attention we give him only encourages him to repeat the activities.
We get taught that it’s OK for the male of the species to be a rampant dick, and that it’s our job to make the men around us be less like a dick.
Since when is it OUR job as women to police the actions of half of our species??
Aren’t men responsible for their OWN actions?
That’s how it should be. But that’s not how it is.