Pro-Choice Politics / Time-specific

Week 7 Follow-Up to Anti-Misogynist Action

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. But because of what happened last time it was raining, I decided well in advance that I am prepared to become completely soaked. Fortunately for me, much like like last week, the Universe was on my side again on this one (thanks, Universe!) Regardless, I came prepared to get dumped on by the rain, while still making myself vulnerable enough that I wouldn’t get dumped on by the local self-appointed body police. However, I am also navigating through some sort of upper airway infection (probably viral), and because of a current pertussis outbreak, I didn’t want to expose anyone else to whatever is in my system while my body is presently activating Very Big Sneeze Mode (which has been known to involve sudden evacuation of my entire nasal passages, or in layman’s terms, “Oh, fuck dude, that’s disgusting”). It could be just a common cold, or it could be pertussis. I’m hoping it’s just a rhinovirus.

Once the very light rain completely stopped and the bag got too hot to wear, I took it off. But then the very light rain started again about fourty-five minutes later, and the bag went back on.

Other Important Events Taking Place Today

Today was also the same day as East Side Pride, occurring simultaneously just up the street, and SlutWalk, occurring downtown and a couple of hours after I got started at this intersection (which meant another overlap, as I was holding that sign above my head for nearly three hours today). It was disappointing that I couldn’t attend both — or even either of them — but I had to choose between standing my ground on the issue of individual rights to bodily autonomy, regardless of race, gender, sex, social class, etc; or either walking under a banner that makes the public domain unsafe for women of colour (important but bad execution and misguided effort), or hanging out at an event that commemorates the anniversary of the Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall riots for gay and lesbian rights in San Francisco (important but sad, and making this sacrifice was kind of depressing). And I made my choice, because ultimately, I know that very few people are ever willing to make the sacrifice that I just did today. But happily, there were a few other people with me. I was joined by a few of my friends who have regularly attended these demonstrations now for weeks, and we were joined by a group of anarchist punks from out of town. And that’s just bloody awesome.

Ultimately, I would like to have walked in a grassroots effort to end rape culture and slut-shaming in my city. I missed it last year because I had to choose between it and taking my best friend to a once-in-a-lifetime metal concert. Since we are both living on a fixed income, neither of us would typically have such an opportunity present itself. And since living on a fixed income is pretty rough most of the time, I think it’s an act of self-care to jump on these opportunities when they come up, instead of punishing ourselves by taking away any sort of rewarding event in favour of really hard work that won’t suffer because of our absence as individuals. SlutWalk didn’t need me there today, or even last year. It would be a very different case if they had actually decided, based on community input, to change the name to create a safe and inclusive atmosphere that encourages participation by women of colour. And I hope that they do make that change for next year, because both women of colour and whites such as myself have been repeatedly explaining that the word slut is racialized — that calling an event SlutWalk makes it an unsafe space for women of colour, thus excluding them from participation in the event, which is of equal importance to them both individually and as a larger community. I encourage everyone to read more about the subject, as expressed by the voices of women of colour themselves.

The sentiments expressed by Black feminists in that open letter to SlutWalk organizers also apply in various ways to Aboriginal women (who are still reeling locally from a number of their community members being brutally murdered while our police force sat on its hands and acted like they are disposable), Asian and South Asian women (who are frequently treated like “exotic” commodities and are still struggling against a system of wage-slavery and sexism, both overseas and in Canada), and women from Middle Eastern countries (whose voices are considered irrelevant to their own experiences and choices, and who are almost categorically treated as unable to make choices of their own, as helpless victims in need of rescue, and as prisoners in their own homes and even in their own clothing). And ultimately, I’d have to have my head buried in a very deep sandbox to have not yet thought of how the construction of race impacts what I’m doing (and the safety racialized women could expect alongside me). More on that further down in this blog entry, though, because that very issue actually did come up today.

But first, about the commemoration of the riots at Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall: it really does get me down that I couldn’t get there today. Because the park where it was taking place is just a block from the street the bus goes down, I could actually see how well-attended and organized it was as it was launching (and as I was launching into my pro-choice and anti-body-policing demonstration just a few blocks away). For years, I didn’t participate in the LGBTQ+ Pride parade and related events because I was effectively just-barely-closeted and afraid of what my partner(s) would think of me if I participated freely. I only just found out about East Side Pride this year, and even that was a direct result of initiating a conversation about how unsatisfying it is to see corporations and corporate banks in the LGBTQ+ Pride parade, literally taking it over and appropriating the entire event as an opportunity for relatively low-cost advertising. And while some (generally white cisgendered gay men) don’t seem to have a problem with corporations stamping all their gay pride banners with their logos, I see their insincere involvement as an erasure of important LGBTQ+ history. Why else are we there at all, but to celebrate and commemorate previous generations of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, queers, and trans* people? People who would have been arrested for walking down that very street holding hands with each other, or abducted by police and raped in a remote location. I just can’t validate the presence of a cage-free chicken company or a corporate bank in the commemoration of advancing LGBTQ+ rights (which still have a long way to go, if you haven’t picked up a newspaper lately).

Shit People Say When I’m Topless

What amazes me is that when I’m wearing a bra, a lot of people notice, get a quick erection — I mean rise — out of it, smile, nod, and then go on about their day like it’s no big thing. But I can be wearing the exact same amount of clothing, minus a bra, and suddenly I’m obscene. Someone very early on shouted at me “Put some clothes on!” while zipping through the intersection. Of significance, they would have had the time to read the words “No one is the body police!” directly above my head, but instead, they decided to shout at me. And that’s just bullshit. Especially on the same day as SlutWalk (I sure hope they didn’t go downtown within two hours of shouting at me), and in a country that has federally protected public toplessness across the board. It doesn’t matter what’s in your pants. You can be topless anywhere anyone is allowed to be topless (i.e., public spaces). And I made a point of putting duct tape on that nearly takes up the same space on my bare chest as a bra would, just so I didn’t put too many knickers in a twist. But also so that I didn’t get remarks about how cold it is. Unfortunately, I still got those remarks, even when I was actually too warm.

The guy who stopped in front of me in the first week, who made exaggerated gestures of staring me up and down, returned today for Act II of his own personal gong show. Except this time, instead of honking a clown horn directly into his ear, I immediately moved my sign down in front of his face, and he responded by striking it (presumably with his hand, but what do I know?) And shortly thereafter, a man approached us to inform us that he thinks it’s wrong for a woman to kill a baby inside her body, and that it’s wrong that it’s not illegal to do so, because it’s illegal for him to kill any one of us. This very rapidly escalated to him telling one of the women accompanying my friends and I that she doesn’t deserve to be alive today before he crossed the street being followed by about three women and a man, who were all holding their signs above his head, holding up their middle fingers in his face, and using their squawkers to make him stop talking all together. When he was across the street and a few feet away, he suddenly started grabbing his genitals through his pants and shouting “Why don’t you just suck my cock?” at the women who had followed him across the street.

I responded by stepping into the crosswalk while I had the right of way, to give him my middle finger from several feet away. He repeatedly grabbed his genitals in a jerking motion and I shouted “Why don’t you chop it off first, and then I’ll suck on it, you asshole!” among other deliberately Freudian profanities. Because why should I just drop to my knees and start giving a strange man a blowjob? And what the fuck relevance does this imperative have to the abortion conversation in the first place (aside from being a clear exhibit of misogyny, which one might have already expected, given his stance on women’s bodily autonomy)? So I also started telling everyone I could what he had just repeatedly done. I was happy to see someone who told me he sounds like a total asshole, walk all the way over to that bus stop and strike up a conversation with him that was clearly turning into an argument — that they then carried onto a public transit vehicle where he was most certainly forced to immediately shut the fuck up. What this whole situation demonstrated to me is that when I speak up, other people are inspired to do the same. I’m grateful for the ways local community members are getting more directly involved (i.e., gratitude is certainly a wonderful form of support I very much appreciate, but direct action by those who can take it is also very important), and I hope to see more of that every week.

Shit People Say To Whiteys

Now, I didn’t hear the entire conversation because I wasn’t a part of it. But I’ve had this conversation so many times, that I didn’t need to hear the entire conversation. An elderly white woman walked up to a couple of my friends (who are both visibly identifiable as white, but who, for all I know, may be of mixed ethnicities), and when I heard one of them say “But it is racist for you to assume that all Chinese people are doing that,” that’s all I needed to hear. I quickly walked into the middle of the crosswalk and invited my visibly racialized friend to do the same. I know that this conversation I had just overheard was about sex-selective abortions, and it’s hard for me to not just go ape-shit on people who make claims like that. Such as the time I was working for an ethnically Chinese family doctor who had incorporated a series of odd quirks into her practice — such as refusing to speak her native tongue in the presence of her patients, even if it would make it easier to deal with her ethnically Chinese patients. Many family doctors’ and specialists’ offices have adopted this policy, simply because some or all of their staff are unable to speak the same language and the patient will stop bringing an interpreter with them if the doctor can speak it, thus generating problems when the patient needs to deal with the staff after the fact. Walk-in clinics have taken an opposite approach, however, deliberately hiring multi-lingual staff. And this doctor had one staff member: me. She could have just as easily hired someone who can speak her native language, but I digress.

One afternoon, the mail came, and an issue of Maclean’s magazine arrived with it, that boldly declared there’s a “women shortage” (spoiler alert: this article can suck my ovarian cysts, both for failing to address systemic gender inequality at all, and for assuming heterosexuality-or-non-existence). Having already studied this issue outside the scope of medicine, thanks to an article about how systemic sexism is responsible for maintaining a widespread social favour for male children in many Eastern countries (thus reproducing the very systemic sexism one is trying to avoid by trying to have male children), I found the front cover of this issue of Maclean’s to be particularly sensationalist and insensitive to Canadians whose ethnic background may include one of those countries. Such as the doctor to whom this magazine was mailed. So when I put her mail on top of the charts at the end of the day, I told her “You might not want to look at this Maclean’s magazine,” to which she said “Why?” Giving her the tl;dr version, I simply explained that the front cover was emblazoned with a sensationalist story about sex-selection in multiple countries. I was astounded when she came out of her office a few minutes later and declared that “If they would all just stop killing their female babies, they could advance as a society.”

So when I heard that “But it’s racist of you to assume” remark, I already knew what had been said. This ultimately bleeds back into the earlier discourse on the colonialist construction of racialized women’s sexualities, especially Asian and South Asian women, and how the idea of “taking back the word slut” isn’t exactly an attempt to appeal to them for their participation in feminist political activism. In fact, it’s quite literally excluding them from feminist politics and activism. And for the record, while I may not always agree with the principle on which individual women decide to abort, I do support their right to access those abortions in the first place. This counts for sex-selective abortions too. The way that putting women who have been raped, being put on trial with the default assumption that she was “asking for it” or “dressed to provoke” or “dressed like a slut”, is an institutionalized injustice against women, regardless of their race/ethnicity. I find it especially important to acknowledge at this point that redefining sexuality in terms of Yes Means Yes actually does effectively answer the problem of exclusion of Asian and South Asian women from these conversations and movements, since widespread social norms in a number of Asian countries and migrant communities, around limited expression of emotionality, can intersect with any other conception of sex in particularly dangerous ways for women of those communities. I already find it impossible to assert myself effectively towards men who read my body as female, and I am quite vocal about my boundaries (as the entire block at that intersection heard both this week and two weeks ago). But women who are raised to suppress emotionality in order to demonstrate maturity, will experience additional barriers when asserting the same boundaries towards men who already won’t take no for an answer. The last thing these communities need, is the assumption that all Asian and South Asian women think and act the same way, and therefore need their bodies policed by whites in the playing out of the same old stereotype. You know… The one as old as colonialism itself.

At The End Of The Day

I was outside for a total of three hours today. I observed a single pro-life demonstrator on that corner of the intersection yesterday morning when I happened to be passing through, and actually suspected the possibility that they might not show up today. But he did — alone. One of the people who demonstrated with me did this to the sidewalk in front of him (a fair summary of the pro-life position, in my humble opinion):

And he didn’t even move. He stayed in that same spot for the entire three hours.

5 thoughts on “Week 7 Follow-Up to Anti-Misogynist Action

  1. Pingback: Some comments on Sexism and Racism in Vancouver « BC Humanist Blog

  2. Pingback: Two-Month Summary: Action Against Misogyny « HaifischGeweint

  3. Pingback: Week 12 Follow-Up to Anti-Misogynist Action « HaifischGeweint

  4. Pingback: Three-Month Summary: Action Against Misogyny « HaifischGeweint

  5. Pingback: Jamie’s story: three months | Crommunist

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