in which I will brook none of that nonsense

18 May

Fair warning to all sad, sorry young men trolling the streets of my city: if you cat-call me (as one unfortunate boy discovered the other day), I will not take it.

I will instead stop my bike, ask you to please explain precisely why you think it’s acceptable to speak to me that way, and spend the next five to seven minutes schooling you on just exactly how sad and sorry you are; the bigger the audience, the better, because if you think that you can shame me for being a woman, then I’d very much like you to be as shamed as possible in as public an arena as possible. If you shout at me on the street, I will shout back because you are putting my body on display and expecting my silent acquiescence. If you think that my female subjectivity makes my body forfeit, then you are, in this case, sadly goddamn mistaken. I’m not interested in that game, so I’m going to shout and lecture and belittle you — I am going to get in your face — I am going to make you look at my eyes and not at my tits — I’m going to make a big goddamn scene — I’m going to crush you with my intellect and my voice and my power so that what is now on display is your pathetic misogyny, not my body.

I am decidedly not your “baby girl.” You seem to be unclear about why that’s an insulting thing to call me, a grown-ass woman, so let me explain; by calling me “baby girl,” you are attempting to reduce my subjectivity to the kind of small, manageable size that allows you to overpower me, to disregard my personhood, and to ignore my humanity. By calling me “baby girl,” you elide me. That’s not to say that the term baby girl never be one of endearment or kindness, but if you’ll recall, I don’t know and therefore cannot endear you. If I gave you permission to speak to me in that way, it would be a different matter but, hey! I didn’t, so shut your mouth. I am no one’s baby, I am not a girl, and, more importantly, I am not the kind of woman who allows herself to be spoken to in that manner. Should I repeat myself? I’ll repeat myself: if you call me out on the street, expect that I will speak back. You want a monologue, but you’ve damn well walked into a dialogue, and now we’re going to have a conversation. It’s not as much fun when your victim talks back, is it?

I apologize for the fact that we live in a culture that trains you to think that you can somehow enhance your masculinity through that kind of behavior, but my sadness will not diminish the righteous fury of my talking back. I am sorry that you’ve been led to believe that you will be bigger, better, and more manly if you belittle women. I’m sorry that your own male subjectivity means you’ve been locked into unequal, unjust networks of power. Your personhood is just as restricted as mine by these systems and that means that misogyny is a goddamn tragedy for the both of us. But you still have more privilege than I do, straight white man, and thus it is your responsibility to actively work to change those systems. You are a beneficiary of your privilege, but you don’t have to be a signatory to my oppression. If you want to actually prove yourself to be a person of worth, then you will join in the fight against this kind of bullshit instead of actively engaging in it.

And to the other men, standing around embarrassed and silent while I yelled at your friend? You are tacitly approving of his behavior by not taking a stance against it. Call him out, don’t let him save face, don’t put up with that bullshit. Because I’m about to bike away and then it will be up to you to take the next step. Do you want to be men of quality, or do you want to be passive supporters of inequality?

In sum, young sir, you picked the wrong bitch to mess with.

Follow-up #1
Follow-up #2

18 Responses to “in which I will brook none of that nonsense”

  1. Robin Raven August 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    This is fabulous. Thank you for inspiring me.

    • martinalynne August 30, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

      Oh my, thank you! It means so much to see people engage with what I’ve written so really, truly: thanks for being a part of the conversation!

  2. Pragati Singh August 20, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    This is amazing! thankyou thankyou thankyou!

    • martinalynne August 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      No, thank you! I’m so glad that you like what I said; it truly means so much to me!

  3. sweetdisarray June 12, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Thank you for writing this. What you have articulated here inspires and empowers me. I hope that I too can stand up and resist the silencing and objectification of my own female subjectivity without apology.

    • martinalynne June 12, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      Thank you so much! I can’t say how good it makes me feel to see so many people respond with fire and feistiness to my little outburst.

  4. Laura June 8, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Martina, thank you for this and the other two related posts. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to do what you did and I applaud it. Besides, it is very hard to do it and do it well. I have to say that when I first read your post I wondered if your reaction was really going to make any difference but you got me thinking. I realized that I am so used to cat-calling that I did not even think of doing anything about it. But you know what? Your posts and reaction made me stop and reflect on other contexts and instances where I may have allowed men to patronize me, belittle me, and crossed a boundary without doing enough to call them at fault. Then it hit me. It is truly necessary that we confront cat-calling. It is harassment. It is perpetuating inequality, as you well say. I’m sorry for the trolling and the disrespect that you have received in the street as well as in this blog. I am however thankful for people like you who are committed to their believes and teach by example.

    • martinalynne June 8, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

      Oh my goodness. This comment is legitimately one of the nicest and most considerate things I’ve ever had someone say to me. Thank you! I don’t doubt that whatever you’re doing to make the world a better place is profound, impressive, and valuable in its own way, whatever it is.

  5. Michelle M. May 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Thanks so so much for sharing this! Mad props to you for calling the guy out! The last time I was cat called I was walking to the campus administration building to deposit my dissertation and a group of campus construction workers proceeded to fling sexually-explicit verbal sludge. I was so angry, but since there was a large group of them I kept quiet and silently seethed. I agree that it’s a performance and perpetuation of the misogynistic power structure in which we live. It’s so much about power–the power to be able to make another human feel uncomfortable/threatened/demeaned in a very public setting with usually little (if any) repercussions. Kudos to you for challenging this disgusting practice!

    • martinalynne May 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      Ugh, on the way to drop off your dissertation? Yep, lest you forget, even when you have ascended an incredibly steep ladder to find yourself at a level of privilege and academic success inhabited by people who have thought and worked hard for what they have, you’re still an object to be publicly consumed by whomever you happen upon. I’m so sorry — what a way to mark such a profound accomplishment.

      Thanks for sharing, and for your kudos and encouragement. I am being overwhelmed with amazingly smart, kind people responding to what I’ve written and it just fills me with hope. Thanks for being a part of this!

  6. Bradeep Ncube May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    $50 says you wouldn’t do any of that.

  7. Lynne Anne May 19, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    Right on! I join you in your stance. Also, you remind me of myself in 1975, which is an satisfying experience for a mother in her 60th year. The beat goes on . . .

    • martinalynne May 19, 2012 at 8:23 am #

      Carry on, my Wayward Mom! If 1975 taught you to be a bad-ass, and you taught me to be a bad-ass, then there’s no chance I wouldn’t resemble your power. I’m a lucky girl.


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