Saturday afternoon, Jessie, Peggy and I were walking through Isla Vista when our conversation turned to the familiar topic of the men around us. On our short walk from Java Jones to Del Playa Drive, we saw men on balconies cat-calling the women walking below. These same men then called the women bitches when they didn’t respond positively to these “advances.” A few houses down, the men didn’t even bother with the formalities of hooting and hollering. Instead, these men felt entitled to inform the women below how attractive they were or weren’t, as if their standards of beauty should determine who gets to remain visible and who should stay invisible – and inside. Toward the end of our walk, we saw two men checking out the “hot bikini-clad babes” while simultaneously lamenting the endangerment of feminism signaled by the disappearance of the one-piece bathing suit from women’s wardrobes. What we didn’t see were those individuals, or any other man for that matter, challenging the verbal harassment coming from the balcony dwelling douchebags and other shitheads roaming I.V.
Now, we know a lot of you men say it’s not your intention to offend us, but – surprisingly enough – you do anyway. So if you could take a moment to stop the incessant flow of self-righteousness spewing from your mouth, we would like to send some thoughts directly into your brains. This will require listening to what we “scantily-clad mademoiselles” have to say – so bear with us.
First: rap music. Let’s consider the fact that over 70 percent of mainstream hip-hop is consumed by white men. It would seem reasonable then, to suggest white men boycott rap music before advising “us ladies” that changing our listening habits will successfully overthrow the misogyny of the music industry. And while we’re on this topic, rap music is often subject to attacks as the sole producer of our society’s sexism and misogyny. These attacks ignore all other genres of music perpetuating the same ideas. While we appreciate your suggestion of “formal abstention,” we are a bit confused about how we should go about it: “Lady” earplugs at parties, maybe? Placing this responsibility on us as a source of our liberation is actually simplistic, unrealistic and allows men to escape accountability for their contribution to a sexist culture.
Second: wearing bikinis around town. Unlike many of you, Peggy, Jessie and I did not have to think real hard about this one because women should be able to wear whatever the fuck they want. In your questioning of social forces, it seems you have failed to interrogate your own socialization: You assume women only dress this way because we are brainwashed by society to “devalue” ourselves. You assume the only way to save ourselves from this self-hate is through modesty, implying the problem lies in our failure to conceal our bodies from men’s gazes. Again, you are placing the responsibility on women to restrict what they wear in exchange for respect. Instead, you should challenge men’s objectification of women, daughters and sisters as the single one-dimensional entity “babery.” We don’t think you’re being subversive of gender expectations, but hey – you decide.
Third: Be bold. So far the stance you embrace allows you to tell us what we’re doing wrong, tell us how to fix it and when we don’t adhere to your regulations, you get to tell us that we don’t respect ourselves. Nowhere in your ideology do you tell “us girls” what you are doing to break the “shackles of the anti-lady Western way.” Your world is a simple place – if only women boycotted expensive hairdos, spoke out against rap music and brought back the one-piece swimsuit, gender equality would be ours for the taking. We challenge you to join us in our world-reality. In reality, gender equality is not just a women’s issue and both the problems and the solutions are much more complex than you have dictated. If you want to be truly progressive, sit down, shut the fuck up and listen to us. We actually know what we’re talking about.