Friday, January 22, 2016

Why I don't smile anymore

"...Thank God I'm pretty
Every skill I ever have will be in question
Every ill that I must suffer merely brought on by myself
Though the cops would come for someone else
I'm blessed
I'm truly privileged to look this good without clothes on
Which only means that when I sing you're jerking off
And when I'm gone you won't remember
Thank God I'm pretty" - Emilie Autumn, Thank God I'm Pretty, Opheliac
 


In response to two articles I have read over the past two weeks, I am giving my opinion on the matter of human rights and why I think this world still needs feminism/equal rights.

The first article was local and was about how a man would speak up to perverts on the Montreal public transit system. The second article is from the Scary Mommy website and is about how a clerk withheld her purchase from her because she refused to smile at him.  This is what was quoted from the article: “Thirty minutes ago, I stopped in a gas station for some Tylenol and gum. As soon as I walked in, the clerk said, “Hey sweetheart.” When I went to the counter to pay, he said, “You gotta give me a smile if you want this,” and hid my gum away in his hand. “No thanks,” I told him. “I’ll just have the gum.” He didn’t ring up my gum and instead grumbled under his breath and lectured me about having a bad attitude.”

I read some of the commentary on these two articles and like always, I regret doing so. My head hurts. It saddens me because so many people out there think that this kind of behavior is acceptable or even normal. Several people commented that the woman in the Scary Mommy article is overreacting and it would be easier if she just smiled! To some extent, I agree, there is nothing wrong with telling someone to smile or chin up.  Life is too short but in other ways, I think it is presumptuous. You don't know that person's story. They could have just received some bad news, lost their job, etc. Besides, it was unprofessional of the clerk. How hard is it to just ring up the purchase and keep your mouth shut? I work as a receptionist. When I see customers, I smile. Sometimes a smile returns a smile and if it doesn't, well so be it. I would never in a million years tell a customer to smile or refuse them service because they refused to do what I want.

Some people (mostly women) even commented on the article about public transit that they were afraid to speak up while in the middle of these situations (re: unwanted attention while out in public) in fear of retaliation.

Let me get this straight:

IT IS NOT OK TO INTIMIDATE OTHER PEOPLE!

- I understand this maybe a broad term here but let me clarify: If someone makes it clear that your advances are unwelcomed, DO NOT try to convince them otherwise. Politely wish the person a good day and move on. Simple! No one owes you anything. No one should have to do something, whether it is a kiss, a touch or a smile or anything with their bodies if they don't want to.

- Do not invade other people's personal space. On purpose and inappropriate rubbing up to/touching someone or undressing them with your eyes (yes, this does happen) is NOT acceptable.  I will give you an example: Several years ago, before I even purchased a car, I was taking public transit in order to get around the city. I was coming home from work. This was during rush hour and obviously the metro was crowded. Think of one of those clown cars or sardines in a can. I felt a hand on my rear end. I originally thought that it was an accident, after all, the metro is crowded. The hand lingers and then starts stroking my behind. Without turning around, I reach over and grabbed the man's arm. I keep a firm grip and in one swift movement, I raised his arm and shouted as loud as I could "hey everyone, look at the pig at the end of the arm! He was grabbing my behind!"

Last summer, a car slowed down next to me. I was scared because I expect the worse when these things happen. I also had my son with me. This jerk thinks it is ok to yell out (remember in front of my kid, no less) that I have "a nice ass and nice tits." Wow, isn't that classy?

We should not have to put up with someone or be nice to someone due to fear or hope they would go away. Why should you invest your time and energy to someone who clearly does not respect your boundaries?

What I would like to see in 2016 is that harassment (let's call a spade a spade here) is no longer the norm. Perhaps we could ALL  take the gentlemen's example here in Montreal. If we see inappropriate behavior, let's call it out. If we are too afraid of doing so in fear of retaliation, that is part of the problem. If I see a woman being harassed, I wouldn't leave her to her own devices but I would talk to her and try to divert the strangers attention away from her. If that doesn't work, I have a big mouth and can talk loud. I will use my voice to be heard. Strength in numbers. Just like what I did in the metro, I would announce to everyone in earshot and beyond just how much the guy is being an ass! In my opinion, ignoring the situation or turning a blind eye is just as bad as the person doing it.

Perhaps not really on the same subject of harassment here but I read another article today but relates to the topic on equal rights. The article is about how actress Gillian Anderson was originally offered half of David Duchovny's salary for the revivial of the X-files show.  I don't really recall much of the show and I never really watched it religiously but seen a couple of episodes. I always viewed Skully as Moulder's equal or partner but it turns out, the people running the show didn't see it as such: "The actress raised the issue when discussing the series’ early years, when studio heads considered her character Dana Scully as merely a sidekick to Fox Mulder." It really makes me angry that these things are STILL happening today.  Why can't men and women be equal? Why should one gender have more power or rights over the other?

So no, I don't smile much anymore unless I really want to. Why should I be obligated to please perfect strangers who do nothing but try to make me feel as it is some great privilege to be hit on by them?  I don't want to smile and I don't want to be hit on. I am most certainly not looking for any casual sexual encounters either. If I make that clear and trust me, I am not afraid in doing so,
then you should get the point and walk away. Do not try to make me feel bad for it. I am I not implying that women sleep with men to get them off their backs  I learned from reading the commentaries that we put up with rude remarks and try to politely brush off the other person in hopes that they would go away. We should not have to deal with that kind of bullshit. As women, we are often made to feel we need to be inviting and to be people pleasers or that we need to keep quiet. We don't. While I cannot speak for men, I can say that I want equal rights and do acknowledge that these sort of things happen to both genders. Unfortunately, I can only speak from my side! It is about time we speak out and fight against it.


15 comments:

  1. Fuck that clerk. Also, shame on the people who were belittling her. That guy wasn't being nice. She clearly stated that he withheld the gum from her and tried to lecture her like she's a little kid. Some people are idiots.

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  2. I read the Scary Mommy article recently and it made me so mad! What right do people have to demand a smile! you explain it so well, as did she, how do you know what is going on with someone's life. She had a headache, why is she supposed to smile (read flirt) with some guy to get by in life! It is just disgusting people think this is ok!

    I am trying not to always be polite to people, I am always friendly when strangers talk to me, even if they hit on me. I only ever occasionally snap when people are really rude to me! I would like to work out telling people to mind their own business but there's always that little voice of Miss Manners in my head!

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    1. Yeah its hard not to ignore that voice. I try to be polite but if any personal boundaries are crossed, I put people in their place. It all depends on the circumstance and situation.

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  3. If I start telling my thoughts on harrassers, blogger will have to remove my comment...I just can't express all my hatred!

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  4. What the hell is up with people...?! I get this quite often, though, that I should smile more and to be honest, it feels quite offensive even if they don't mean it that way. I'm always polite and I always look people in the eye, but I rarely smile at them, so they surely don't get the wrong idea and they leave me be without trying to chit chat...but some of them just don't seem to know boundaries...

    Btw, completely off - topic, but I like your traffic feed, it even got my city right. ^^

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    1. The ones that dont know boundaries are the most annoying. I got the counter idea from Nancy's page from Retro Electric. I ganked it! If you click on the traffic feed, you are sent to their website where you can add it too.

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  5. That Emilie Autumn sing has always been so poignant to me. At work ( even though I'm a generally smiley person) MALE customers will tell me if I look miserable and a smile wouldn't kill me. It makes me furious because female customers have never said such a thing (and I think never would) and if it were the bar keep telling a customer to cheer up said customer would probably be pissed about it.

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  6. This is a world wide problem most women and children encounter. I was yelled at at a club once, by a guy that told me I looked pretty. I actually felt very ugly that day, so I didnt react thinking he was joking. He yelled I should be pleased. Im not obliged to be pleased by a compliment, do I?

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    1. I know. Like when a guy checks me out (ie undressing me with his eyes) and he gets pissed off because I am not all honored and feel all priviledged over it.

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  7. I have to admit I am completely the opposite. I smile at everyone. I'll chat to anyone who looks lonely (usually older people), even if it's just a comment on that most British of institutions - the weather. I've never been harassed, never been abused, never taken offence. I travel regularly by public transport on my own - I am very good at filtering out the nutjobs with a book and headphones, but generally what I see are people like me who are tired, had a long day and could do with a bit of cheer in their lives. I supposed being very small and having dimples I look like the least threatening person ever which may help.

    We live in a very lonely world sometimes despite the electronic buzz and ping all around us. Sometimes it's nice just to smile and pass the time of day with a stranger, over the coffee machine in my local library. Somedays I may be the only person that they get to speak to. That actually matters to me.

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    Replies
    1. You are so lucky! I used to be a lot like you but I guess living in a relatively large city, it has made me cynical over the years. I think too I am just tired of hearing other people's problems and sorrows. I often get tons of people who immediately tell me their life stories and woes. It takes too much of the little energy I have left. Then again, after a real shitty day last summer this little old lady sat next to me on the metro (underground or tube as you guys call it) and she told me how beautiful I looked. She made me laugh because she said "Im an old woman now, I can get away with these things without looking too weird. You can just think I am a ctazy old lady!" Hahaha! Too cute

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  8. I am so impressed that you dared speak up on the metro! I really wished I was that brave sometimes. Luckily this is not a big problem here, and it has happened only 4-5 times to me in my life (but that is still 4-5 times to many!).

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