Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Problem with Shaking My Ass

I use Stumbleupon, and I once thumbs-upped a website about feminism. I don't remember what the site was, but I remember one of the comments on it, along the lines of: "Women have it better than men. They get a speeding ticket, they shake their ass. They need a drink, they shake their ass. They want a promotion, they shake their ass."

In response to that comment on Stumbleupon, I said "Yes, because I love having to get things with my ass instead of my voice." But there's more to it than that.

This morning, I thought about the fact that a State Fire Marshall is coming to my workplace, and that my boss told me that if we upset him, even if it had nothing to do with the fire code, our whole facility could be in danger. I was changing this morning, saw myself in the mirror and thought, What if he comes to talk to me while I'm working the front desk? What if he doesn't like the fact that I'm gender non-conforming? What if he says something about it?

I couldn't do anything if that happened, I told myself immediately. I couldn't complain or report it. I shouldn't even talk back to him. My workplace might have bad relations with the fire department for a long time if I did, and too many people need this place to thrive. Then my mind wandered.

What if I was looking particularly feminine that day instead, and what if he hit on me? I should take it, I told myself, to keep him in a good mood, to not endanger my job and the jobs of others.

What if I was pulled over, and the cop told me to shake my ass to get out of my ticket? More importantly - what would he do if I didn't? Would I get a bigger ticket? One that I couldn't afford? What if he touched me? What if I didn't let him? Would I be arrested? Would I be attacked?

Later today I was reading the deeply disturbing post about anti-feminist reactions to George Sodoni on Alas, A Blog. Some said that women should consider the murders a "tax" for women taking advantage of men. Some said that women deserved this for not sleeping with men.

The thing the anti-feminists ignore, or maybe just accept, when talking about how women take advantage of men, is that in their imagined situations, men have the actual power. Unfortunately, in reality, it usually remains true, that straight white able-bodied cis men have the most power - socially and economically, and they are more likely to be in positions of authority. Women, according to anti-feminists, gain access to (or "take advantage of") men's power by giving men a sense of ownership of their bodies (shaking their ass or "putting out").

Of course, the idea that this is what "power" is for women is so deeply problematic. But if we follow the logic, what happens when women deny men ownership of their bodies? They remain powerless. And those with power can (and often do) punish them.

No, anti-feminists, women don't have it better than men. Because it can come down to this. Because if I don't shake my ass, I'll get a ticket. Because if I don't flirt back, I don't know how this stranger at the bar will react. Because if I don't have sex with him, maybe my supervisor will fire me. Because if I don't put up with sexual harassment, I will be punished. Because if I report it, those in control of my life will resent me. Because if I acknowledge that my body is mine, and not yours, I am putting myself in danger.

The worst part of writing this? Is that I know there are some minds that wouldn't change from reading it.

edit: I'm not saying this is right, or that therefore women SHOULD put up with harassment or SHOULDN'T report it. I'm saying that anti-feminists who complain about women having it better don't realize that punishing women for expressing body autonomy is not a TAX or a PAYBACK for taking advantage of men - it's a system that ensures men can continue taking advantage of women.
I also think if anything DID happen, my workplace would support me in reporting it - but the people who I would be reporting on would have the power to make our lives more difficult, and whether they'd exert it or not, that's the crux of the issue.

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