Along with the blokes... what comes next?

What about other countries have people encountered? Is it worse? Better? What about the cultural divides and differences (or similarities?) that can make these lude comments continue? Is it, as suggested, that because some countries/cultures have a more tradition view of house and home and gender attitudes, that is is then okay to act this way and holler at girls disrespectfully? Or is it some combination of things? Or globalization of a media driven culture in which women are seen as the playthings for men, and therefore are treated as such? Comments...

1 comment:

jill said...

i say (d), all of the above. great insight! i hadn't really thought about it beyond the limited and superficial realm of 'women just can't win' which is of course a gross oversimplification and overgeneralization. i think the initial point you raised is particularly true in my experience in australia--there is a more clearly divided, widespread, followed "traditional" gender divide in australia. in fact, my boss teased me the other day at work that i needed to stop whistling to the music we had playing, since women don't whistle. then he told me to get my hands out of my pockets because that's not feminine either.

those are small examples, but they are indicative of a larger culture of highly and visibly gendered behavior. when i arrived in australia for the first time in 2007, i felt so out of place in terms of gendered fashion. whereas i felt the U.S. was gendered enough (my aunt has previously chastised me for putting my hands in my pockets), australian fashion articulates a gender divide that is more prominent and more closely-followed than in the U.S. I felt so androgynous-looking, not feminine-enough, in my standard jeans and t shirt combo.

do they wear jeans and t's here in australia? sure. but they sure don't have thousands of chain stores like the Gap selling the same andgrogynous basics for men AND women using the same fabric and colors, just with a slightly varied (but still arguably androgynous) silhouette.

so i went shopping. i went for dresses and skirts, but never felt like i could match the femininity of the blonde-haired, delicate-looking young aussie maidens who would never drink beer (beer is a man's drink, wine or cocktails only! a girl drinking beer is a "roughie," a 'hick' in U.S. lingo) or eat enough to be satisfied to the american standard.

what bothered me about this feeling? i couldn't fit in! of course this wasn't a consuming reality, but once in a while, jealously would result from the sight of the dainty femininity the australian girls I met embodied so effortlessly.

of course, i am me. so, often during my shopping excursions, I opted for colorful skinny jeans and funky tops and scarves. I was wearing one such outfit while on a date with a male neighbor of mine and talking to him about gender and sexuality as I perceive it, as an American living in Newtown (a very alternative lesbian community with one of the most pulsing nightlives in sydney). i was telling him how arbitrary i find gender and sexuality divides to be---case in point, a friend of mine who does not confine herself to one sexual preference or another asked if I was gay since I have a deep voice, for a girl. my date responded, "well i wouldn't be surprised if you were a lesbian, either. you wear pants a lot more than you wear dresses."

imagine if i showed him the real me, and whistled with my hands in my pockets while wearing pants--then he'd really have me pegged.

think about how often you've pegged a man as gay for being 'effeminate,' 'girly,' a 'sissy.' think about how we use words like that to (a) immasculate men (b) associate them with what we believe to be the weaker sex and (c) push him safely into a category of 'gay' to make ourselves more comfortable since 'we've figured him out.' think about the arbitrariness of what constitutes a 'metrosexual,' and how a man's personal hygene and grooming habits are used to determine his seuxality (although NOW with 'metrosexual' a man is 'allowed' to be well-groomed and into shopping with being--god forbid--perceived as 'feminine.' whatever that means.)

what is interesting to take from this discussion is the arbitrariness of 'traditional' gender expectations. what is important is to increase our effort to police ourselves in how we all perceive and judge people based on their accordance or break from those gender expectations.

in my travels i have not encountered a culture that isn't gendered in some way, which almost always results in the chastisement of the people who break from those gender rules.

so what have i been doing wrong in the West End that makes men feel like they should police me by objectifying me, embarrassing me? i've been walking alone, my figure and shoulders and legs exposed in my sundress--i represent independence, a recent phenomenon of female propriety and individuality and independence. at once a vision of femininity (sundress, long hair, purse, painted toe nails, hands out of pockets, not whistling) and a break from the foundation of gendered australian society--the gender roles thought to make the wheels turn in this and many cultures.

do i think the objectification of women on the streets happens more commonly in cultures that maintain more divided, prominent gender roles? maybe. but maybe not. what I do think is that street harassment is more acceptable or less notable---it goes unnoticed more--in cultures that make gender policing more acceptable and second-nature.

this is ladies night

washington, dc, United States
Have you ever been walking down the street and been hollered at, or perhaps been beeped at by a car - or whistled at while waiting for your ride? We know what it feels like and we want YOU to know that WE'RE RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. Share your experiences here. Share your stories, your reactions, your reflections... maybe your message will help someone else.