…or “That’s Right, Even the Flu Does Not Get You A “Pass” on Sexism
During the winter holidays, like many of us, I had fallen ill. Because my fridge most often contains only salad dressing, barbecue sauce, and cat food, I dragged my snotty, sleepy body out of bed and schlepped up to a cafe to feed my cold. And, let’s be honest, use the Wi-Fi.
I sat in the window, miserably spooning chili into my mouth and pointlessly sipping honey-lemon tea. A man whom I had never seen before in my life stopped in front of the window where I sat and started waving to me. He waved, I stared. He kept waving, I kept staring. Still spooning chili into my mouth, and probably even dribbling some on my chin. Eventually, he made his way into the coffee shop. I probably continued to stare out the window. I heard someone calling “Miss! Miss!” I knew it was directed at me, but I ignored it, hoping it would eventually stop. It didn’t. Finally, I looked up and, yes, it was the man from the window. I stared at him once again.
“Are you enjoying your chili?” he asked. I said, “Yes.”
“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” he said. I said, “Thank you.”
“I was indicating to you before, didn’t you see me?” he asked. And then he went back and stood on the other side of the window and reenacted his waving. I reenacted my staring. He was still trying to talk to me but, obviously, with him being on the other side of the glass, I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Nor did I care. So I said out loud — more for the other patrons and myself than for this strange man: “I don’t know you. I don’t have to talk to you.”
Now, listen. I’ve taken some shit for this before. “Oh, this guy is just trying to be friendly.” Or, “some people are too ignorant to take a compliment.” Or, like, “why are you hissing at every man that passes by?” Blah, blah, blah. Listen. No. I don’t have to be friendly. Just because some strange man wants to mime “Merry Christmas!” at me through a coffee shop window doesn’t mean I have to like it or be nice. I had the flu. I was trying to eat my terrible-tasting soup in solitary misery. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be nice because I didn’t feel so nice. This stranger had no consideration for how I might be feeling, what I might be going through, what I might be doing, etc., and yet I’m expected to consider his feelings and respond in the way that he wants me to? Nah, bro.
Men do this to women all the time: they interrupt our day and they hijack our time. I could tell you about a million stories of this exact thing happening. For example, my friend was once trying to grade her students’ papers in a coffee shop and some strange man she had never seen before decided to interrupt her and go on and on for hours (probably) about God-knows-what. You know what this says? That my time is not important. That what I am doing is not important. That I am not important. That you are more important than me. That I should drop everything and listen up because A Man has given me the greatest gift of all — his attention. And let me tell you, there is no polite way to get out of it. Even if you say, “Listen, sir, I’m really just here marking these papers and I have them return to my students tomorrow so I can’t listen to an impromptu lecture on science right now” or “Listen, sir, I have the god damn flu and I just want to eat this food I can’t even taste in peace so I don’t die” you’re always the bitch (and if it’s “the holidays,” you’re also The Grinch) because whoa, lady this guy is just trying to be nice, and what’s your problem anyway, bitch, can’t you learn to take a compliment?
Here’s the thing: Women Don’t Owe You Shit. Not time, not niceness, not prettiness, not acknowledgement, not gratitude — nothing. You impose on my time and hijack my day, and then try to make me feel bad when I don’t drop everything and validate your
manhood feelings? Just think about how ridiculous that is.
It all comes back to this simple rule: women do not exist for you. I didn’t come to a cafe, or wear lipstick, or order a beer, or generally exist in the world so you could talk to me and mansplain the proper way to grade papers, or tell me how pretty I am or otherwise give your opinion about my general existence. I did it for approximately one million other reasons that have nothing to do with you (how could it when I have never seen you before in my life?). Believe it or not, I don’t care if you think I’m pretty. I don’t care that you also find it cold outside. I don’t care that you really, really like Christmas. In short, I don’t care about you at all. I mean sure, if you had a heart attack or had just been stabbed I would probably care, but anything short of that does not warrant interrupting me. I am busy, and I am important. I’m not just some glittery thing flitting around the universe for you catch and put in a jar that you will then proceed to stare at and flick and poke and shake. I am a real person, doing real things. Women are real people, doing real things. Women do not exist for you, women do not exist for your amusement. And for the record, neither do fireflies. Please don’t put them in jars, either. They got glitzy things to do (probably).
If you are the kind of person who thinks that women moving around in public are fair game to impose on, then you’re probably also the kind of person who says shit like “she was asking for it” when women are sexually assaulted while wearing short skirts or drinking alcohol, and you should be avoided by all costs, even by your own self. I don’t know that is possible but, seriously, please consider figuring it out. It will be worth it. The rest of us are avoiding you and find it highly enjoyable.
And hey, don’t be mad at me for not wanting to talk to you. It’s not my fault that I have to carefully navigate every interaction I have with a man because it feels heavy with the possibility of harassment, assault, or death. And, if that weren’t enough, it also comes with the very real possibility if any of these things happen it will often be considered “my fault.” Women are harassed, assaulted, and killed by strangers, brothers, boyfriends, fathers, teachers, friends, uncles, grandfathers, employers, and co-workers, when they are infants, children, young girls, grown-ass women, and old ladies. That’s the reality of the world we live in, and something you should keep in mind every time you interact with a woman, because it is undoubtedly already on her mind. Instead of being mad at some individual woman for not laughing at your joke or graciously accepting your compliment, be mad at yourself and the other dudes that have created this monstrous world. What are you doing to help? How about you begin by not assuming women’s time is less important than yours, and just shutting the hell up.