Monday, February 01, 2016


It's such an interesting time for all of us now.

All this lady stuff, all this admitting of being afraid of men, of trying to stand up to that fear, of wondering if any of that is going to change ever.

I've been holding off on a lot of this - I lived a long time thinking I was not afraid of men. My mother LOVED men, always, I was never taught to be afraid of men by my mother. I have 3 AMAZING older brothers who are kind, helpful, hilarious, artistic, gentle and have saved me from all kinds of doom.

I have men friends too. Many of them. SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE MEN.

And then when women really started speaking up about all this, I never denied those were their experiences with fear and harassment, but I didn't feel the same way. Sure, I *used to* get cat calls and such and it pissed me off, but come on, par for the course.

And then of course I started looking deeper, agreeing that we are taught from a young age to be afraid. Then came the Margaret Atwood quote:

Men are afraid that women are going to laugh at them, women are afraid men are going to kill them.

Damn, that totally rings true, really as anything Margaret Atwood says rings true.

And I started to be mindful and began to notice my fear of men, which is if of course, ingrained, deep and scary.

It's fast, first of all. The judgement, the sizing up and down, the decisions of whether a man is "dangerous" is so fucking fast. All humans size each other up, but women have this extra layer of judgement we have to administer quickly. Is he smiling at me because he's happy, sick, malicious, a rapist, a priest? And then in SECONDS we decide how to respond to this, look away, smirk, sneer, look down (the most popular and least offensive choice) or god forbid, smile back. 

The other day I was the only lady in a movie theater with a dude.  I clutched my keys in my hand for the whole movie - the only weapon I had on me - keys held just right in my fingers in case this guy decided to attack in the middle of the movie.

The one I caught yesterday, the one that led me to the writing of this post - I saw a big guy coming at me and my ingrained habit is to look around and see if I'm the only one on the street and make a split-second decision of whether I should cross the street, or stand up and stick my chest out, or do the opposite and play small. I saw some other dudes up the street emptying a car trunk and I thought "oh okay, I don't have to be afraid of this man, because there are other men over there" and the absurdity of being afraid of one man and feeling safe because of others was so strange and weird and amazing and sad that I realized...

I'm just like every other woman out there. Totally afraid.

There's a whole shakeup with women in comedy, specifically improv, in Chicago right now. It's an upturning for sure. So many women speaking out about being harassed and pressured. I don't remember being harassed on stage. I don't remember men making me prostitutes in scenes and then shooting me, I just don't remember it that way.

But I do remember (and still see it as truth in a really weird fucked up kinda way) that the men were certainly in charge. I remember wanting to be cute and sexy for them so they would think I was funny and cast me in stuff. I remember how we made fun of men who "boob hugged" (that means the dude comes in low for the hug and then moves up so he can get a boob-rub). I remember thinking that that stuff never bothered me because I knew how to play with the big boys and I definitely remember other women feeling less than.

I still believe it is in our genes and our DNA to be afraid of men, women have been afraid of men since caveman and beyond - it is nature. I believe that. I'm not sure what standing around and telling men how scared we are is going to help anything, maybe it will. Maybe it'll change the comedy theaters, maybe men will be more careful, maybe women will fight back more and maybe in my heart of hearts, that scares me almost more, because there is a part of me, I don't know if it's ingrained conditioning or what, but there's a part of me that believes all of this will have an effect on the work.

Sigh. I don't know. I don't know what I think.

I dunno. Hang tight ladies. I guess that's it. Hang tight.


Erica said...

God Damn.
All of this is so freaking true. Thanks for putting words to it.

I've been not knowing what to say about the shake-up in the comedy world, but I haven't denied that that is what has been happening. I think that you hit the nail on the head--it might not have been our experience, but yes to the fact that we knew who to avoid and who it was ok to hang with late at night. We knew how to hold our own, stand up for ourselves, and navigate the people and community. It was just how it was, so we didn't question it, rather we just adapted to it.

I think this younger generation has been taught a bit more to not put up with bullshit.

But yes, I am afraid when it's just me and a man. I was harassed pretty aggressively a few months ago and when I saw the perp again and crossed the street to avoid him, he also crossed over so he could keep harassing. It was really scary, and I get more scared the older I get. I don't like walking in my alleyway, I don't love being home alone.


So yes, thank you for this.

Hixx said...

Improv is such an interesting place for women. I understand the harassment or power off stage, and I understand lots of men do obnoxious things on stage, but I feel like the stage is where we're all equal, we can come back on that obnoxious guy really easily. I don't know.

Getting honestly harassed is completely frightening, it really is, it's not funny, it's not cute, honestly scary. I hate that we're afraid. I do.