||[23 Nov 2010|10:37am]
Something that really bothers me is the constant, low-level sexism and objectification that goes on daily everywhere, and how since it's not like you can police people's thoughts, you are treated as if you're over-reacting if you find it offensive and upsetting.
Yesterday I was on a train home from work and as usual was sitting on the floor in the vestibule squished in with a load of other people (Oh, London Midland how shit you are.) There were two guys who looked to be in their twenties who spent the entirety of the journey until Leighton Buzzard (where I moved carriages to get away from them, I'm sure they carried on) being about the worst example of shallow, sex-obsessed, sexist men you could imagine.
They were on their way back to Birmingham from a company meeting in London, and were talking about all the "honeys" they had seen that day. Well, one was, the other was saying he was blind because there were only one or two fitties. They started out by talking about the blokes they had met that day, who were discussed using their names (you know, like actual PEOPLE) and things they had liked about them personality or characteristic wise. When it came onto the women, they didn't appear to have learned a single one of their names and they were described by what they were wearing, what colour their hair was or how big their tits were, or in the case of one woman, she was "the one who was doing the photocopying all sexily." Uh. Huh.
I should point out here, that these men were talking very loudly, I was hardly eavesdropping, they made no effort at all to have a quiet conversation. Anyway, if we return to sexy-photocopy lady, for lack of any actual interesting information on her, this sparked a good 10 minute long debate about her attractiveness where they embarked upon a pointless pissing contest to see who could be the most mysogynistic and objectionable. And they both won.
Let's call our men Red-Faced-Burger-Muncher (RFBM) and Shit-Pink-Shirt-Bad-Hair-Wanker (SPSBHW)
SPSBHW objected to the fact that RFBM thought she was sexy and I shall paraphrase a little here, but am in no way making anything up:
SPSBHW: You need glasses mate, she wasn't fit, what's wrong with you? She'd been at the pies, she was chubby!
RFBM: No she wasn't, there's nothing wrong with my eyes, I know they work because I spent ages staring at her because I thought she was gorgeous.
SPSBHW: You are just wrong mate. You need to get some standards.
TFBM: OK, Look. I think she's about the same size as my girlfriend, and I would never say my girlfriend is chubby. Here, have a look at a picture of my missus...*gets out phone and shows picture*
SPSBHW: No way man, your girlfriend is fine. She's fit. This girl was fat, your girlfriend is slim. She's normal.
Ah yes. Girls with a bit of a tummy aren't normal are they? They're some kind of FREAK OF NATURE. Women have a moral imperative to make sure they look absolutely perfect all the time, otherwise they don't get added to your "I'd fuck her" list (or possibly they'd be on the reserves, because hey, you are a GUY and GUYS have NEEDS yeah.) I don't think it's lowering myself to their level to point out that neither of them were exactly Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp.
After the above conversation they then went on to list basically about every woman they both knew and talk about whether or not they would do her. At this point I texted Robert to express my upset that I was overhearing this conversation, and my frustration that I was too much of a wuss to call them out on it and say something. His reply was (admittedly to try and make me feel better, but failing spectacularly) that this was just tedious guy banter, and it wasn't my problem.
See, that's where I think he is wrong, and where I hope you will agree that I am not over-reacting. If I had overheard this conversation in the pub, I would have rolled my eyes, I would have thought that these men were wankers and morons, but I wouldn't have been left feeling shaken and upset by the experience. It was 5.30pm on a commuter train and these men dehumanised a long list of women, talking about them as sex objects, often in insulting "I would, but only because she's got a nice face, her tits are too big" type concessions. They had absolutely no regard for the fact I and several other women were sitting right next to them, and perhaps they offended some of the men too, I don't know. They both had girlfriends (they compared pictures) and while I know "boys will be boys" I certainly would have a problem if I knew my boyfriend routinely spoke about other women in such a dehumanising way (and believe me, it's borderline at times.) These women were professionals, who they worked with, and all they could think of to talk about was how fit they were, the blokes they met got comments on their skills in the job, but the women were not taken seriously in this way at all.
And above anything else I felt disappointed with my response as a feminist, which was to sit quietly, blood boiling, because I didn't feel that it would achieve anything if I spoke up. After all, I'm just a woman. And I'm a woman with big tits and a bit of a tummy, so my opinion is probably worthless because I'm not "normal" apparently. And even if they had the good grace to shut up if I said anything, they probably would have laughed and picked over my physical features as soon as I was gone anyway. I doubt I'd have gone on their "I would" list eh?
Every retarded, Neanderthal thing they said, a brilliant witty retort popped into my head and I was left feeling ashamed of myself for not saying anything, while they were unconcerned with their behaviour. How is it I was the one left feeling like I'd somehow done something wrong for not sticking up to it? In my perfect little fantasy world, I would have lashed them with my bons mots, they would have looked shamefaced and half the carriage would have broken into applause for me having the courage to say what they'd all been thinking. But in reality, the men would probably have laughed, and the surrounding people would have looked awkwardly at their shoes and thought I was over-reacting.
In the grand scheme of feminist concerns, and life in general, some people might feel that this is a relatively small issue. But I think it's indicative of a lack of respect, and the attitude that in so many realms of life we have to let (and let me clear here, this is a certain type of guy, I'm not tarring you all with the same brush) "men be men" and it's our responsbility to just ignore it as meaningless. If we accept the smaller things like this, then it's easy to see how we live in a culture where it's acceptable to expect women to take responsibility for rape by dressing appropriately and always thinking five steps ahead for their safety; rather than expecting men to take responsibility for rape by NOT BEING RAPISTS.
Perhaps you think by having written a long post about this, that I am over-reacting about it and no one else would have been bothered. But there was one person on that train who found their conversation insulting and demeaning. I reckon their girlfriends might have thought so too.