I Heard Their Periods Attract Bears!

So last night, Al and I are having dinner at the best burger joint in the world, sitting at the bar, crammed in next to two male drunken assholes, apparently lawyers, and one female drunken asshole, a cop. Here are a few snippets of the conversation I couldn’t help overhearing, because the one right next to me was talking at eleventy billion decibels, before I fucking snapped:

You don’t understand, I work with these women every day. They all act like they’ve got something to prove. They don’t understand professional behavior.

…too emotional to practice law…

They come into the office wearing their little open-toed shoes… [For real, y’all. OPEN-TOED SHOES. ]

Well, I would never take female clients there, but that’s how business gets done! Women may not like it, but that’s how business is done.

Yes, I admit I’m a chauvinist. I have no problem with being called a chauvinist.

No, I’m telling you, I
work with women, and you would not believe how many of them are incompetent. I mean, the incompetence is just staggering.

[woman attempts to say something]

No, no, NO, you listen to ME! Don’t say anything until you LISTEN TO ME. NO. SHHHH.

[woman gets out a few words about just wanting to be a good cop]
Asshole: You have to understand you are not a WOMAN cop. You are just a cop.
Woman: I just want to be the best cop I can be.
Asshole: Well, that’s fine, as long as you understand you’re not a WOMAN cop, you’re just a cop, so you don’t get any fucking special privileges.

I’m telling you, you don’t understand what men go through with women in the office…

Aaaand that’s where I lost it.

Me: Excuse me, but if you’re going to sit there and insult women, do you think you could be a little quieter about it?
Asshole 1: What the hell? I did not insult one woman!
Me: No, you insulted us all.
Lady Cop: Why don’t you just shut up and mind your own business?
Asshole 2: You have no idea what we’re even talking about.
Me: Actually, I do, because I’ve had to listen to it for the last ten minutes.
Asshole 1: Look, we were having a private conversation here, and you–
Me: No, you weren’t. You were sharing with the whole class.
Asshole 1: You want to tell me what I can and cannot say–
Me: I didn’t tell you not to say anything. I asked you to please be quieter.
Asshole 2: All right, well let me throw this out there, then. Would you like to have a debate about women?
Me: No, thank you.
Asshole 2: Well, what the hell do you want?
Me: I want to eat my dinner in peace.
Asshole 2: You barge into our conversation, but you won’t debate me?
Me: No, I won’t.
Bartender: Hey, how ’bout we give it a rest?
Me: Thank you.

And predictably, that started up the Drunken Asshole Chorus: My GOD, we were having a PRIVATE conversation, and she just thinks she can barge in and TELL US WHAT WE CAN SAY, and some people are SO RUDE, blah blah fucking blah…

Some seats opened up farther down the bar, so Al and I moved down there, and the bartender helped us with our stuff. I apologized to him for making a scene, he told me it was perfectly fine, and then he went back over to the assholes.

Asshole 2: What the fuck? You’re on her side?
Bartender: I’m not on anybody’s side. All I know is, I don’t need people yelling at each other in here.
Asshole 2: So you think it’s okay for [inaudible]
Bartender: [also inaudible]

The bartender walked away and they finally settled down and began speaking in relatively normal tones. Al and I quickly finished our meals, gave the bartender a big tip, and walked out. I totally expected them to take a parting shot as we walked past them, but they deliberately avoided looking at us. Heh.

Then, as Al and I were walking through the parking lot, we heard somebody yell, “Goodnight, you guys!” and looked over to find another bartender, a waitress, and some kitchen staff out having a smoke, all of them waving at us. I’d only seen one of them inside the restaurant, but the waitress yelled, “Hope your night gets better!” so apparently they all knew who we were. And, oddly enough, weren’t too put off by my efforts to abridge other customers’ freedom of speech.

The thing is, the whole time I was engaged with these assholes, I was shaking like a dog in the rain, heart pounding, mouth dry, etc., etc. I sat there for a good ten minutes fantasizing about triumphantly telling Asshole 1 off before I actually attempted it, but once I started, I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. It wasn’t even that I felt threatened by them–I knew it wasn’t the kind of place where an actual bar fight would have been allowed–but I felt horribly vulnerable and exposed, even though I was speaking quietly and being fairly reasonable, all things considered.

Thus, my dinner was completely ruined, and I was still keyed up about it for the whole drive home. (Al, after 15 minutes of tense silence: “You know… he was probably right.” Me: “I HATE YOU.” Al: “Tee hee.”) And of course, I have absolutely no illusions about what I accomplished there–nor did I have any about what I would accomplish before I spoke. I know damn well that if those people ever think of me again, it will be as “that cunt who barged in on our conversation.” The whole thing went pretty much as I figured it would go, as all arguments with bullies go.

So why did I bother? I’m still not entirely sure, to be honest. I said to Al, I think I just needed that guy to hear that what he was saying wasn’t acceptable to everyone around him. I didn’t expect him to agree with me or change his ways, but I thought it was important that someone say it to him. Guys like that are allowed to spout their hateful bullshit without ever being called on it way too often.

And I guess I’m just fucking done with being yet another woman who lets that horseshit go unchecked. Of all three drunken assholes I confronted last night, I might be angriest at the woman, because she was sort of trying to stand up for herself–she’s the one who called Asshole 1 a chauvinist in the first place (Whee! We’ve progressed all the way to 1973!), and I heard her say, “Fuck you,” more than once. But eventually, she just went on the defensive, accepting that what he was saying was basically true, but arguing that she wasn’t one of those women, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Because those women are, if not a myth, a small minority. They exist primarily in the minds of insecure, unhappy men. And I’m sick of hearing about them as if they’re taking over.

I’m also sick of participating in a culture that hasn’t at least marked that kind of talk as officially shameful yet. Racism still exists in abundance, but these days, it’s a rare drunken asshole (I hope, anyway) who would sit next to an African-American person in a bar and start loudly going off about how lazy, incompetent, uppity, what-have-you, his black co-workers are. And I think that’s a step forward, however small. I’m wary of regarding political correctness as a panacea–eliminating nasty words certainly doesn’t eliminate nasty thoughts, and one would be a fool to lose sight of that. But if the average drunken misogynist asshole were as circumspect about his public rantings as the average drunken racist asshole, at least I could eat my goddamned burger in peace. That seems like something worth working toward.

Update, August 2008: I have been quite rightly called out for the idiocy of the last few sentences in this post, and I apologize for them. This post is almost two years old, and I have learned a lot about privilege since then — and still have a lot to learn. I absolutely deserve to be told I had my head way up my ass when I wrote that, and I regret that I ever thought that that was a reasonable point.

24 thoughts on “I Heard Their Periods Attract Bears!”

  1. Kudos to you for standing up and saying it. I know exactly how you must have felt – the hesitation before, the nasty taste in the mouth later. But as you said, someone has to say it to them, to let them know it’s NOT acceptable, that not everyone thinks the way they do.

  2. *applauds*

    That was a brave, brave thing. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I think I just got one step closer.

  3. Racism still exists in abundance, but these days, it’s a rare drunken asshole (I hope, anyway) who would sit next to an African-American person in a bar and start loudly going off about how lazy, incompetent, uppity, what-have-you, his black co-workers are.

    Okay, then. That’s it for me and SP. But let me make a few points, first.

    1) As a former bartender, I can tell you unequivocally and without reservation that this is completely and utterly untrue. I cannot express this more strongly without using profanity.

    2) You don’t logically get to make a contentless concession that “racism still exists in abundance,” say “I hope, anyway” that a particular form of racism is not accepted and then go on to build an argument around something you merely hope– and have admitted you can’t confirm– is true. You JUST SAID you don’t know that X argument is true (only that you “hope” it– and what does that imply?), but you go on to treat it as if it is.

    3) And to what end? I was marginally with you until the conclusion of this post. Let me see if I got the moral of this story. “This blatant and well-documented incident of sexism isn’t bad enough on it’s own, so I have to make sure you know that it is worse– in at least one respect– than racism– something I will never experience, so I really can’t make a comparison, but stay with me, okay?” Or, more likely, “The ills of racism– which I will never experience– have been better addressed than the ills of sexism, so pay attention to me now! What about my needs? Separately, I am totally piggybacking on the ‘success’ of the CRM to my own ends.” Or perhaps the moral is: “It’s better when oppression (at least as I perceive it) is less blatant, so that at least I can eat a hamburger in peace.”

    4) Sexism (as if it could be isolated) doesn’t work in exactly the same way that racism (ditto) does. Keep repeating it– over and over again. One of the ways in which racism “works” is that it is more frequently (though mainly in liberal circles, and not by as much as you assume) talked around and hushed up. (Well– at least to white ears. POC can hear it a mile away.) See, if it’s not talked about, and white folks punish their toddlers for unknowingly uttering racial slurs– without ever actually addressing the issues– everyone can be “colorblind,” and nothing changes. That “works.”

    5) But guess what else? As white people so often “agree” that they’re not “allowed” to talk about race, or even say the word “black,” without whispering it, and racial slurs are “obviously” going to get them “in trouble,” and on and on and on? And they don’t think their little comments are problematic unless they are actively calling for genocide (or in liberal circles, using the word “Oriental”)? Men often “agree” that gender difference is some sort of verboten subject quashed by the PC police and I CAN’T EVEN HAVE A PRIVATE DISCUSSION WITH MY OWN BUDDIES WITHOUT SOMEONE BUTTING IN OMG.

    I know, it’s shocking.

    Who knew?

  4. Wow. Just wow.

    Dreamy basically spelled it out, but I want to reiterate that the conclusion of your story is incredibly disappointing. Playing down the very public spectre of racism by using your own limited experience as a non-POC in service of “proving” why sexism is so much worse is just…wow.

  5. To be honest, I think you’re both absolutely right to make that point, and I really regret having said that. I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

  6. Dreamy: Be that as it may, perhaps you shouldn’t bail on a blog so easily because of a post written 2 years ago. Kate has been made aware of the privilege inherent in her post and has responded appropriately. So saying “That’s it for me and SP” is rather unfair. Just sayin’.

  7. Hi. I just wanted to comment on a two year old blog post. How dare you force me to read this. It clearly represents 100% of your point of view, and I demand that you defend flippant comments you made years prior.

  8. First of all, I didn’t notice the date. The only reason I saw it is because it popped up on the left side of my screen (for some reason I can’t now explain), as if someone had recently commented on it. Kate, herself, IIRC. Therefore, I assumed it was recent– and the title caught my eye. Oh, well!

    Second, how is that “unfair?” Am I paying her bills? Abridging her freedom of speech? Unfair to whom– and why? I’m pretty sure that choosing to end my readership for whatever reasons I see fit is completely “fair.”

    Third, racism is not flippant. And even old comments and posts on a public blog are “fair” game for discussion. And Kate’s own update acknowledges that.

    Finally, there’s a reason I didn’t double-check the date: this didn’t particularly surprise me. It didn’t strike me as wildly out of character for Kate 2008. Per her comments re: Julia’s recent post (among others), I don’t see a *lot* of evidence that Kate has really given more than lip service to challenging or questioning the whiteness of her POV. Frankly, if she had, I don’t think it would be completely unreasonable to expect/”hope” that she might have come back to posts like these and added a note of some kind, to reflect her newfound consciousness. Maybe she did edit it recently (before her update)– maybe that’s why I (think I) saw her icon in the “recent comments” box, in reference to this post. I couldn’t tell you.

    I see she’s made an apology post– I’ll certainly take a look.

  9. The only reason I saw it is because it popped up on the left side of my screen (for some reason I can’t now explain), as if someone had recently commented on it. Kate, herself, IIRC.

    Yours was the first comment since 2007, far as I can tell.

  10. Yes, you are both paying her bills and abridging her freedom of speech. (WTF?) Please continue doing one and cease doing the other. Up to you as to which.

  11. Oh, also? I call bullshit on your implication that this is par for the course as far as Kate’s 2008 posts go. No, sorry. The real issue here is that you’re a drama hunter. You picked something other than the normal posts that show up at top in the normal flow of conversation. You went digging for something to make a stink about. It took you more than one click (lots more) to find something. A post gets bumped to that comments window only after somebody makes a comment; that wasn’t the case here, and the post didn’t show up there.

    If you really were an ongoing reader of this blog you would’ve responded to specific posts that you had a problem with shortly after they were posted; that is NOT what you did here.

    And by the way, I was sitting next to Kate, in that bar, when this happened. If they started ragging about people of color, we BOTH would have responded similarly. You can theorize all you want, but you’ve already demonstrated to me that your grasp of Kate’s true self is tenuous, so spare me.

  12. It’s on the blog, it’s fair game.

    Side note, I think it’s humorous that Kate’s extreme PCness finally caught up to her. I’m glad to see you don’t live your life in a complete self righteous high horse Kate.

    Side note 2, I’m surprised there’s no PC apology for “Because those women are, if not a myth, a small minority. They exist primarily in the minds of insecure, unhappy men.”

    Seriously Kate, how would you know? You aren’t a man, how dare you downplay the persecution and stereotyping men go through at the hands of women! I’m glad you could prove that “those” women are a small minority if not myth. I’m glad you could prove that there’s absolutely no reverse sexism in the work place.

    It’s funny, you comment on drunk guys making generalizations about women, and then you go and make generalizations about men in return. OBVIOUSLY if a man thinks a woman is a vicious cunt he’s insecure and unhappy… obviously. It couldn’t possibly be the woman.

    Seems you should change yourself to “asshole 3” in that text.

    It’s ok Kate, I wouldn’t expect better analysis from a woman anyway. :-p

  13. I chuckle to myself endlessly thinking of the people who hate a blog so much that they have to do whatever they can to be able to get comments in after being banned. Gosh, harboring a secret need to be loved, are we?

  14. OK, so, I can see where “privilege” can be problematic. Which in my mind occurs when you aren’t aware of it.

    I can also see how the particular wording of the end of this post could be interpreted that way, though I think it may have come out differently than it was intended. Or at least I’m reading it that way.

    What I don’t get (and this is inspired by places independent of this particular post) is where the line suddenly seems to blur from helpful ally to a group and someone parading their “privilege” around. It seems any time anyone who isn’t a member of an oppressed group mentions the oppression against said group, they are accused of parading their privilege. It’s particularly bad if you try to note something that is a slight improvement over previous oppression.

    OK, I get it. I’m white and won’t personally have to deal with racism. I’m from an upper-middle-class upbringing, so I don’t fully understand going without. I’m abled, so I don’t personally experience ableism. I’m straight so I don’t meet the wrath of homophobes. And so on.

    Do people really think I don’t know all of this? Or that I can’t care about (and discuss) the above issues because I am not personally on the receiving end of oppression?

    It’s really annoying that you can’t voice concern about an issue without being accused of privilege. And it’s potentially alienating the groups or people doing the accusing from outside allies.

    I know I’ll probably get flamed for saying that. I’m sure someone will accuse me of being privileged. I don’t care.

  15. “It seems any time anyone who isn’t a member of an oppressed group mentions the oppression against said group, they are accused of parading their privilege.”

    uh, what? that isn’t the issue at all. also, no one would “accuse” you of being privileged, because it’s not an accusation, it’s a fact.

    it doesn’t sound to me like you really get it at all.

  16. Liza says: “OK, so, I can see where “privilege” can be problematic. Which in my mind occurs when you aren’t aware of it.”

    Maybe I’m not understanding your point, but I think it can be really problematic whether or not you’re aware of it.

  17. Liza,

    You and I are a lot alike.

    Sometimes, we have to be taught about the consequences of privilege through embarassment and a little pain. I’m talking about conflict.

    I think what I’m getting at here is that, yes, you can be aware of your privilege and still smack somebody upside the head with it. Privilege isn’t a fixed point. It’s a system. What do you do when you’ve fouled up? Atone? Be a little more watchful?

    I don’t know. What I’m trying to do is let people feel what they feel. If I piss them off, I own my actions and reach out to the person I hurt. I don’t expect them to act in a certain way, I just want them to know that I’m trying to live differently, and if they can stick with me and my boneheaded assumptions and behaviors.

    For what’s it’s worth, I find myself wondering if Kate’s conclusion was more inartful than ignorant.

    But I suppose I shouldn’t assign intentions where they mightn’t exist.

  18. LN – As I said, this wasn’t directly talking about this post, so yes, it is an issue. Maybe not the one from this exact page. So I guess you could say “not getting it” isn’t really the issue. And while being privileged can be taken as fact, parading it is an action that can be accused, sometimes falsely. Though the quoted sentence may have come out wrong.

    emilymorgan – By being unaware of it, I mean people who think something isn’t really going on or it isn’t really that bad because it isn’t happening to them or they don’t see it. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I guess it’s more being unaware and/or being aware but not giving a shit.

    Cindy – Yeah. Though I don’t know that it always has to be embarrassment or conflict. At least not our own. I think you can realize where your own privileges are by observing how you and others are treated. I go to a predominantly black school, and just hearing what people say in class has made me realize a lot. But I agree that something embarrassing can make you realize it really fast.

    If I say, hey, they put a gay (or ethnic minority, or disabled, or whatever) main character in X movie without making him buy into the normal stereotypes and I think that’s cool, there are actually some that would say I’m parading my straight (white, abled, etc) privilege around because, well, maybe it seems cool, but really I should be angry that it didn’t happen sooner. And yeah, I’ve heard people say shit like that.

    I mean, I can’t change the SES I grew up in, my skin color, my orientation, or my abilities. But I’m aware of how they may affect the way some people treat me, and I hope I never get any major preferential treatment for them (ex, I would never want to be hired over someone else because of my race).

    I guess mainly it’s a question/concern over where people sometimes draw the line between regular awareness of an issue and what they perceive as condescending or privileged. Sorry if I got ranty that wasn’t clear.

  19. I don’t think Dreamy said anything too off-base. He/she merely commented on the conclusion, thus pointing out something I honestly didn’t even notice.(Privilege at work, perhaps?)

    I think the more frustrating thing about the entire episode (at the bar) is the fact that people are so completely close-minded (regarding race, gender, economic status,etc) that they cannot understand how or why they are offending others. I have overheard many disturbing comments, and regardless of whether they affect me personally or not, I get pretty angry. The question is, do you say something or not? I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut. I got kicked out of an all-white party (and yes, I am white too) once because I yelled at people for using the N word. And no, I didn’t use “I have many friends that are black” as an argument. I instead told them the history of the word, and the power that words can have. Did I change their minds? No. But I didn’t want to hear that shit from their mouths, and I said so.

    Hmm..I seem to be rambling at this point, so I’ll cease and desist. I guess my point, after reading this post & all the comments is this: I believe in standing up to ignorant people, regardless of what vitriol is coming out of their mouth. Just be prepared for the consequences.

  20. Do people really think I don’t know all of this? Or that I can’t care about (and discuss) the above issues because I am not personally on the receiving end of oppression?

    Liza, I think where you’re getting hung up is on the difference between being aware that you have privilege and being conscious of all the subtle ways in which it works.

    I’m aware that I have privilege, and I was aware of it when I wrote this post. But part of privilege is the luxury of not seeing all the ways in which it benefits you. Have you read “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”? The list of daily effects of white privilege there was a huge eye-opener for me, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (If you have read it, sorry to repeat — but I’ve read it a gazillion times, and obviously, I still fuck up.)

    That’s what people are getting at when they talk about white privilege — the things we can’t see without really thinking about it, and often don’t see even if we do. There’s nothing wrong or inherently racist about not noticing those things — the entire culture is set up to make us not notice. But that’s why we need to listen and think about it when the effects of privilege are pointed out to us.

Comments are closed.