This week’s highlights included two frequent pro-choice demonstrators being accosted by pro-lifers, and me limping around on second-degree burns on the soles of both my feet. Next week, I will be taking a one-week break to go camping near a lake, and after that I will have to start posting from public locations because my home internet services are being cut off. Just all around spectacular… Urgh.
Today, I woke up with a bone to pick. After a terrible night of sleep (following a very venomous burst of episodic compartmentalized anger, I got up feeling immediately insecure about my body and concerned about my safety. I had a nagging sensation that stepping into the streets in the very same thing I’ve been wearing for two months already was going to cause a problem today. I couldn’t figure out where this was coming from, even as I considered the risks, benefits, and alternatives to wearing another one of my only two remaining pairs of shorts. And because I found myself all alone out there last Friday, I anticipated with dread that I might be alone again. I’m not there for a party-party or for popularity points, but because I feel an obligation to seek social justice in my neighbourhood by seeing that group of slut-shaming Catholics just stay home. I finally just had to tell myself “Fuck it. I walked around in this last week with no problem. Just fuck what anyone else thinks.” And off I went.
Dear Translink: A Bra Is A Top, Kthxbai
I got out to the bus stop and a male bus driver waved his hands over his chest as soon as the door opened. I stepped aside to let an elderly woman get out of the bus, and I stepped into the doorway. He waved his hands over his chest again and said if I don’t cover up, I can’t ride the bus. I said “Are you fucking serious?” and he answered affirmatively. I told him I had already been taking the bus like this for two months and he told me “Then you’ll just have to wait for the next one.” I guess I know where that nagging sensation was coming from, because in that moment, I felt angry at the entire world. Like, literally, the whole thing. I spat “Fuck you” and “Fuck yourself” at him before walking six blocks on my second-degree burns (I got them from walking barefoot across a paved bus loop on Monday). There is no dress code requirement to board a public transit vehicle and mind one’s own business without doing anything obscene or even audible, but apparently no one told that to this sexist pig during his training. I fumed with every sting of semi-hardened skin on the soles of both feet, rubbing open a new blister with every second step, thinking about how obviously clean my body is, that it is legally covered (I wasn’t topless — but even that’s legal), and how bus drivers literally never stop someone from boarding who is clearly filthy (or men who aren’t wearing shirts). So what’s the deal? I’m some sort of diseased slut because I’m wearing a bra but not a shirt? I thought about how much money that dickshit is paid to police my breasts, and I thought if only I had taken my cell phone, I would have sent myself a text of the vehicle number so that I could accurately report that shit.
Neither the next bus driver nor the one who drove the bus back in the direction of my home made a scene about what I was (or was not) wearing. I thought about how short women’s skirts and shorts have become in the past few years as I sat down, remembering times I myself have worn bottoms that covered less of my ass than the underwear I put on this morning. I thought about the fact that I had no problems the previous week, when my underwear was marginally larger, and my socks came over my knees. I thought about how some restaurants and convenience stores put up signs that say “No shirt, no shoes, no service” and yet, there I was, wearing both shoes and a top that adequately covers my breasts. I thought about how I literally had the urge to walk topless down the street at least twice this week (we’re currently experiencing a heat wave, and I underestimated how hot certain t-shirts in my wardrobe are). I thought about the possibility that some other self-appointed body-police-person filed a complaint, but wondered why such a complaint would be taken seriously at all while drunken middle-class white assholes yell profanities and drink booze on the same bus a few hours later (in violation of the rules and regulations), and I can expect to see this repeated every weekend evening after dinner. I wondered what difference sleeves would make, if any. I wondered if my body would be arbitrarily chosen for policing if I was thinner. Passengers say nothing to me (unless they are asking to read my sign or asking me what it is about). Bus drivers don’t make a scene either. Of course, I already know the answer. It’s just that bus driver on the route 135. And how many others, I may never know (I don’t make a habit out of riding transit in my underwear).
Another Lesson Learned: Sidewalk Chalk Crossed The Line
I also learned today that when we sidewalk chalked half of the bank, we upset them a little. Our very nervous scribbles from a couple weeks ago were all gone when I got there today, and the (still very friendly) security guard was asked to tell us not to do that again (to the building anyway). We were significantly more anxious at the time that the police would show up and either issue warnings or arrests for vandalism or destruction of public property. And before you jump to saying “Well that’s just ludicrous!” you need to jump over to this news article and read a story about LA riot police repeatedly arresting dozens of people for the [sarcasm] obvious terrorist activity [/sarcasm] of using chalk to draw a hopscotch and messages of peace on downtown sidewalks. If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, here’s a picture of a TSA agent patting down a 3-year-old boy:
Violence (Again), Cops (Again)
One of the regular pro-choice demonstrators today quietly took a pamphlet out of the outstretched hands of a pro-life demonstrator, who then followed her and punched her in the kidney. This caused us some conflict, just like the sidewalk chalk had, because we were concerned about what the police would tell us if we reported it. But we did anyway, phoning it in to a non-emergency dispatch operator who was pleased to help (she asked if the person she was speaking to was pro-choice) — three male officers arrived at the scene. And while we were waiting for them to show up, I heard shouting from across the street, and when I made it over there on the next light, I learned that another pro-life demonstrator accosted another woman in our group. It’s not totally clear to me whether she was pushed, grabbed, or both, but I was told by a very upset demonstrator who stepped in between them that she was grabbed. Considering that the most confrontational we have gotten is standing in front of their sandwich boards, sticking up our middle fingers without touching them, or walking away when they don’t cease and desist after we tell them we aren’t interested in conversation (some of us are, many of us aren’t), we’re clearly talking about desperate people who have, by default, zero respect for personal space or basic boundaries. I know I’ve literally never touched them or their signs, and it’s taken a great deal of resistance for all of us to maintain a non-confrontational approach over this emotionally charged and deeply invasive issue.
So three male police officers arrived. Someone remarked to me that it is both interesting and disappointing that there was not at least one female officer present with them (we certainly can’t blame that issue on the sound of my voice — I wasn’t the one who made that call). One officer approached me, asked me how I’m doing, and I answered honestly: I’m fine, but no offence, it’s just that we were hesitant to call at all because of how people who have been marching in the Casseroles have been treated lately. He said he doesn’t know what I mean. I answered that people are getting arrested for nothing at all and getting beaten up by the police. He said he didn’t know anything about that, at which point he promptly turned away from me and went back to meddling and minimizing what happened so he and his colleagues could avoid doing any actual work. At least he didn’t try to tell me to put some clothes on, but he and his colleagues seriously could have taken this issue more seriously. From what I’ve been able to gather from the woman who was punched in the kidney for taking a pamphlet, the police treated the issue as though being elderly grants one the right to perpetrate assault on another human being without consequences.
That’s so nice of you, VPD. Really.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to state that the man who grabbed one of the women in our group also stepped into the intersection and blocked an oncoming ambulance with full sirens and lights going off from a block away. Score one for pro(tecting) life?
Today, I once again woke up with anticipation of some pretty serious problems. But I decided to repurpose a hideously tacky sling bag from a thrift store late last night — to make that loincloth I’ve been talking about for weeks.
Whatever concerns I had waking up began to drift away as I walked down to catch the bus and my spiffy new furry loincloth brushed on the inside of my thighs. When I arrived, an enormous group of supporters showed up too. Of note, a man approached me and showed me a picture of me on his phone from a couple of weeks back, next to a painting he did of me — that’s got to be the coolest thing anyone has ever done for me, evar. I’m not sure how to find him on Facebook, so I hope he’s reading this and can try to contact me somehow. I’d love to show the whole intertrons his lovely portrait. Many of us (myself included) were also asked to provide a brief run-down of the reasons why we were there, in a video-taped and audio-recorded interview with two individuals who I believe were from a local multi-cultural radio station, but I’m not sure where the video/audio is going or who they represented. One of these individuals identified herself as Christian, and was actually quite offended at what the pro-life demonstrators are doing there. I would be happy to share the interview as well if, in the extremely unlikely event either of them are reading this, they would care to try to contact me about it.
Sexism In The City
What is it about a heatwave that brings all the creeps out in full force? I’ve been on that corner for 9 consecutive weeks (often in less clothing), but this week, it’s as if a bunch of pigs suddenly just noticed for the first time. I received all sorts of revolting comments ranging from “Nice bum, where you from!” (at yelling volume from inside a passing car) to a man yelling “You are so hot!” at me when I was finally taking off for the bus. He had run up to me in the middle of the intersection and hugged my mid-section. At first I thought he was going to try and lift me right off the ground, but when he didn’t, I thought he was expressing support and gratitude. Way to ruin a beautiful moment, asshole. As for the one yelling at me from a passing car, what a fucking pick-up line — I’m not going to just jump into your car to give you a detailed answer while I tear off what little clothes I have on my body. I’m not standing around sweating from the neck down, holding a sign high above my head until my shoulders freeze in place and have to be rotated in and out to relieve all the tension, all for the express purpose of attracting a mate.
And then there are all the people who demanded I put on clothes — including another white male bus driver today, too, who insisted that there is a requirement of all passengers on public transit vehicles to be wearing a top. I said “In case you didn’t notice, this is a top.” But more than that. People were literally shouting “Put some clothes on!” at me as they drove through the intersection. This is what I don’t understand. For a brief moment in time, as the passenger of a speeding vehicle passes through a busy intersection where a lot of fully-clothed people are standing around holding up signs, they are momentarily exposed to a clown wig, tight and bright underwear, and some of my skin. And they have nothing better to do with their time than police my body in a completely excessive gesture of slut-shaming. Never mind that it’s a blisteringly hot day, and someone at a bikini car wash would be wearing markedly less clothing, but somehow that’s more respectable than using my body in a similar manner to participate in a public demonstration of democratic rights including freedom of speech.
If you’re reading this and you’re one of the people who would spit that kind of hatred into the streets, I have a message for you: It’s my body, not yours. I’m the one who has to live with it, you just have to get the fuck over it.