Last week I wrote a piece that I later, after a lot of deliberation, decided not to publish. It was based on an argument Seth and I got into last week over a news story about ESPN’s sports analyst Sam Ponder and ESPN’s new partner, Barstool Sports. For those who don’t know, Sam Ponder – up until this year – was the female sports analyst on College Gameday. This year, she’s moved up (?) to some NFL broadcast. I honestly don’t know what it’s called because nearly everything about the NFL bugs the shit out of me, mainly the fact that they allow their players to treat women like shit with little infractions. But that’s a rant for another day.
And for those of you who don’t know Barstool Sports, it’s a blog that has taken over the internet and has a large (and I’m guessing predominantly) male following. They discuss sports, current topics, typically hot girls and everything in between, including news. But let’s just let it be known, they are not journalists. I’m actually pretty sure Barstool is Seth’s sole source for news which leads me to believe it’s the sole source of news for thousands of other men, too. I don’t ever visit or read Barstool unless Seth sends me something, not to say there isn’t content on there I might enjoy but they have a way of objectifying women and talking like barbarians that just isn’t my ray of sunshine.
If you’re not familiar with Barstool, maybe you’ll remember the idiot who fat-shamed Rhianna earlier this year and asked the world, ‘Is Rihanna Going To Make Being Fat The Hot New Trend?’ Or maybe you’ll remember a handful of years back when that guy who worked at that blog said women who were a size six and wore skinny jeans were just asking to be raped. If so, yeah, both of those idiots worked for Barstool Sports – in fact, the guy who made the rape joke, because rape is somehow hilarious, is the President of the company.
Anyway, we got into an argument because Seth didn’t take it lightly when I called out his online buddies for sexual harassment. A thought that hadn’t even occurred to him. Unfortunately, it’s a thought and connection many men don’t make – as we’ve seen over the past few weeks with that douche fuck, Harvey Weinstein. But, somehow, Seth and I were trying to make different points; he admitted it was wrong but he also said she blamed the wrong guy and she waited too long. He pointed out she’d also said shitty things in her past and that her current employer (ESPN) wasn’t perfect when it came to the treatment of women either, ultimately proving his point that the Barstool guys who recently got their own ESPN show shouldn’t be held accountable for something the President of their company said. He fought to prove his point and admittedly, I didn’t listen. Because all of that was my exact point. When my irritation and refusal to “hear him” became too much, he told me he wasn’t in the mood to deal with my “feminist bullshit” anymore.
Feminist bullshit, you guys. Feminist fucking bullshit.
If only I had a dollar for every time a man tried to use the term “feminist” as an insult toward me when I refused to agree with his privileged opinions. If only I had a dollar for every time I engaged in an asinine conversation or debate or argument with a man who tried to belittle and dismiss me by coining me a “psycho feminist” or a “just another crazy girl”. If only I had a quarter for every time I’ve been sexually harassed – by men I knew, by men I didn’t know. If only I had a fucking nickel for every time I heard a man laugh as he watched one of his friends – or even a stranger – sexually harass or objectify a woman. At the bar, on the street, in the mall, on campus, in her apartment, in his apartment, in his buddy’s apartment, in the dorms, in school hallways, in the classroom, online. The list could go on. They do it as an attempt to bond with one another like girls gossip in hopes to find a friend to commiserate with. It makes them tough, it makes them funny, it makes them feel powerful.
It is infuriating that more men than I’d like to acknowledge walk around acting as if – and provoking this notion that – being a feminist is bad. Even a man I love, a man I chose to marry, a man I know is not a misogynist, uses it against me when he no longer has the patience for my “feminist bullshit”. He unknowingly uses it against other women, he says things in passing like “she’s one of those annoying feminists – like, not a feminist like you – but like, a psycho who would even annoy you” as if there are levels of feminism, ranging from slightly unattractive and crazy to full blown unattractive and crazy. I know he doesn’t see it like that but just like all of the privileged men before him and all of the men to come, I’m not fooled. We are not fooled.
And they’re wrong, we’re not varying levels of crazy or psycho, we are varying levels of fed up and desperate to be heard and broken. And if that makes us unattractive, so be it; contrary to popular privileged belief, our purpose extends far beyond being desirable to a man.
It is infuriating that we live in a society where men don’t have to know what constitutes as sexual harassment while women are raised to expect it, taught how to accept it and to act as though it doesn’t bother us. Because if it bothers us, we are not strong. Because if we speak up, we are an inconvenience and our actions could cause irreparable damage. Why is it women insist on playing the victim all of the time?? It’s infuriating that we live in a society where perfectly good guys are able to live such sheltered lives that they can find humor in joking about beating women, a society where perfectly “good guys” are are able to rape women behind trash cans because they can’t hold their liquor and then get off with a three-month sentence because they swim well, come from well-off families, have blonde hair and look like a fucking character out of Whoville. Three months for raping of an unconscious girl – in an alley – behind a dumpster. THAT IS LITERALLY HALF THE TIME I JUST SPENT BEING UNEMPLOYED. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?
It’s infuriating we live in a society where a man’s status and ability to charm protects him from the consequences of abusing his position to assault and rape women. A society where women are made to believe their only power is in numbers.
I’m infuriated we live in a society where men think they actually have the right to decide when and if a women should or can tell her stories, speak her truths and show her bravery. OH. I’m sorry is this an inconvenient time for me to tell you that your idol/best friend/little or older brother is a fucking creep? I’m infuriated because we live in a society where men think they get to call the shots on what we should or shouldn’t take offense to. I’m sick of men believing they get to determine how we are allowed to feel or react. And I’m sick of them treating us as though we’re less valuable if we don’t follow their delusional guidelines.
I’m irate because no conversation about sexual harassment should be about why a female analyst came out when she did or what she’s done in her past. It should have been about why some men, in this case Barstool Sports, think it’s okay to treat women as if they’re fucking objects, here solely for their viewing and touching pleasure. It should have been about why their response to being called out for acting like disgusting cavemen was to dig up her tweets from 2010 (two thousand and fucking ten) in an effort to prove she’s not perfect. Or why they think it’s acceptable to assume she’s only telling her story in an effort to get their little 1am van talk show cancelled. AND YOU KNOW WHAT?! MAYBE SHE DID. Kudos to her. KUDOS TO HER FOR CALLING YOU ON YOUR SHIT, Barstool. But it doesn’t matter because I’m sure 90% of their kool-aid drinking readers would have responded the exact same to my “feminist bullshit.” And I’m irate because 89% of those guys could say they don’t know any better and it would be fine, because they probably honestly fucking don’t. Because, again, they probably don’t even know what constitutes as sexual fucking harassment.
But mostly I’m fucking fuming because, quite honestly, this isn’t even about Barstool. All they did was figure out how to make big bucks off of the barbaric sheep-minded likeness of privileged boys across America, who get a chuckle out of ignorant men acting like small children, calling women sluts because they won’t shut up, who actually believe women are here to just look pretty – for them, who get offended when a woman puts on an few extra pounds and treats feminism as if it’s the enemy.
As a younger twenty-something I spent too much time trying to appease men by giggling at their terrible jokes, playfully pretending their naiveté wasn’t extremely offensive and acting as though their derogatory remarks didn’t bother me. As an older twenty-something I spent too much time wishing I could be more pleasant and lady like, wishing I knew how to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business when someone was being blatantly ignorant while cursing my lack of control when someone found my opinions, or more so my having of any opinions, offensive. And as a thirty-something I’ve spent too much time trying to avoid looking like “that crazy woman” or just another “psycho feminist” spewing “feminist bullshit” all over the place on the account that someone might love me less or think less of me.
I had a college professor once ask, on the first day of class, for everyone who considered themselves a feminist to raise their hand. Sitting in the front row and unable to see everyone behind me, I reluctantly raised my hand. As he looked around the room, I timidly turned to take a look of my own. Approximately a quarter of the my classmates’ hands were in the air. The professor stared for a good amount of time before saying in a defeated tone, everybody should be raising their hand right now. That moment has stuck with me and to this day, I’m still disappointed that I didn’t raise my hand with more gusto and more pride. But I’m more disappointed that even now, nearly fifteen years later, as a mom of two children and a wife, I’m still reminded all of the time why I didn’t.
I have two young men watching everything I do now. If I spend anymore time worrying about what I might look like or how I might come off, if I begin to sit down and shut up or if I start to turn my head and avoid these heated conversations – if I back down now, my boys might start to believe that’s how women are supposed to behave. Quiet, obedient, aloof, unaffected. No.
I want them to raise their hands proudly, I want them stand tall in defense of others and I want them to feel empowered to spew their feminist bullshit when the time is right. They might just be two little boys now but someday they’ll be two grown men with the ability to make all the difference. And I will not shut up or sit down until I know they will.