There’s been some buzz lately about the anti-feminist tumblr account, women against feminism. It’s already been well critiqued by a number of journalists and bloggers who have outlined the problems with the arguments for anti-feminism in ways more articulate, critical, and humorous than I would be able to. Instead of adding more reasons to the never-ending list of why anti-feminists have it all wrong (and yes, they most definitely do), I thought I’d just share one of my experiences to throw into the pile of why I (WE) still need feminism.
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS STORY IS PG-13 AND DEALS WITH UNWANTED ADVANCES
After my first semester back in Ontario for gradschool, I was able to come back to the Maritimes for a short visit between Christmas and New Year. I was so excited to reunite with my closest friends and roommates from undergrad. After living with them 24/7 for four straight years, that first semester apart had made my heart swell at the thought of getting to spend a handful of days together again. We had planned to revisit many of our old haunts, including a particularly seedy pub that had set the stage for many of our most ridiculous and fun memories. We were 22.
This pub, we’ll call it Chuck’s, was known for two things: $1 beers and it’s colourful clientele.
Chuck’s had a couple of pool tables and a small dance floor, which my friends and I often would overtake. We’d dance in a large circle for the fast songs and pair up (regardless of traditional gender roles) prom-style for the slow songs. All decorum would go out the window when Bohemian Rhapsody was played. It was always SO MUCH FUN.
On this particular visit, one of my pals had brought a guy along. We’ll call him Rover. Rover was conventionally attractive and well aware of it. He prided himself on his exceptional kissing skills. He liked to demonstrate his ability on any willing female. The problem was, I was unwilling.
My gal pals had already informed me that they’d all given him the chance to prove his prowess; all in good fun. He’d made the rounds at a party or two in weeks prior and they’d all confirmed: he was great. I love that they did that. I think it’s fun and funny. I love kissing too. I think I’ve kissed nearly all my good friends (and yes, a few strangers) in rounds of spin-the-bottle and whatnot. I’m definitely pro-smooching.
Maybe I was feeling contrary that night. Maybe I didn’t want Rover to be able to look around the table and say he’d kissed us all. Maybe I was just more interested in dancing. Maybe I was busy flirting with someone else. Maybe I just wanted to catch up with my besties. It doesn’t really matter why I didn’t want to let him kiss me but I didn’t. Still, he was persistent. He tried repeatedly; sidling up to me on the dancefloor, appearing next to me at the bar, grabbing a seat at my side. He put his arm around me. I dodged when he leaned in.
“I’m a really good person.” He assured me. “I’m really involved with my church. People trust me.”
He grabbed my ass and I playfully slapped him across the face. Yes, it wasn’t a hard slap. I was confused. He was friends with my friends. I didn’t want to be rude.
“Just let me prove how good of a kisser I am and then that’ll be it.” He promised.
After a nightful of rejections, Rover’s mood changed. He began shooting me glares. “You’re just a bitch.” He said. I ignored him.
Our group decided to head to a local diner for some late-night grub. “Does she have to come?” Rover loudly asked. “She’s such a bitch.”
I tried to stay caught up in other silliness with my friends. I wanted to avoid drama and just enjoy the rest of the night. As we collected ourselves outside the diner, Rover sat in a chair with a mutual girlfriend in his lap. He stared at me while he reiterated to her what a bitch I was. She giggled, too far-gone to coherently engage.
I went to the bathroom and cried a little. Another friend came in and told me not to let it ruin our night.
But it already had. I tried to brush it off but all I could do was order quietly, eat quietly, and avoid Rover’s menacing gaze.
Eventually, we finished our food and split up into multiple taxis to crash for the night. And that was it. No more real discussion about it. What could I say? I didn’t want to badmouth someone who I know was so close to my friends. I felt awkward complaining about it. “Rover just thinks too highly of himself,” they defended him, “don’t let him get to you.”
I think there are a number of points I’d like you to take from this story:
- This is not just my story. This has happened to many of us. I guarantee it.
- This is not my worst example of harassment. Sadly, I have others and some of them are much worse and could be much more explicit.
- I shared this one in particular because it’s relatively clean but I think it still demonstrates how we allow this behaviour to slide. Boys will be boys, right?
- I am a feminist. Most of my friends are feminists. We love and protect each other. We are smart and we can recognize inappropriate behaviour. By all rights, we should have the capacity to stop or prevent this kind of harassment from happening to ourselves and each other…and yet…it still does.
Fortunately, we recognize that it shouldn’t. That’s where feminism comes in.
So who still needs feminism? I do.