The culture of womanhood and silence

I’ve been thinking a lot about rude assholes on the train.

Hear me out.

The other week I was riding home and the train was packed in that way that lets you know just how much junk is in the trunk of everyone around you. It was so packed I couldn’t even look at the book I was reading, so I gave up and stowed it for the 15 minute ride to work.

Next to me was an impossibly tiny woman. She had to way 100 pounds and she was shorter than me at 5’4″. Standing in front of her was a guy wearing an enormous backpack. The backpack was so big that she was physically bending her body backward to avoid being punched in the face with it.

After I stop or two I couldn’t stand it anymore. I tapped the guy on the shoulder.

“You’re punching her in the face.” I said.

“What?” he said, taking his headphones out.

“Your backpack, it’s punching her in the face. Could you take it off or something?”

He turned to look at the woman next to me. The words that came out of her mouth flabbargasted me.

“No no. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine.”

I gaped at her while she and the guy went back and forth for a second. He said something maybe taking the backpack off. She came back with more “don’t worry about it”s and “I’m fine, really”s. Until eventually he just turned away again and put his headphones on. She went back to doing backbends.

The whole time I just wanted to shout: “How is this FINE? It’s not fine. He’s ACTUALLY HITTING YOU IN THE FACE WITH HIS BACKPACK! He offered to take it off and you just polited him into continuing to PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE. Do you like doing backbends? Is this your fucking YOGA STUDIO in the morning? Jesus tapdancing Christ in a clowncar, what the actual Hell is going on here?”

Ahem.

But I didn’t say any of those things. Instead I nodded tersely, smiling like a cadaver when she thanked me for interceding. Fuming, I watched her limbo her face away from the looming black mass of his backpack for three or four more stops. When my stop arrived I stomped off the subway and stewed about the interaction for a good hour. Because I am the Empress of the Land of Not Letting Things Slide.

For those of you who don’t know me in person, who I am on the internet is much akin to who I am in “real life.” I’m loud. I’m direct as all hell. And I speak my mind pretty much unfiltered all the time. I get that from a combination of my mom and my dad. My mom is not a woman with whom to fuck. My dad’s contribution is mostly the swearing.*

So I’ve been stewing about this lady for about two weeks now (don’t judge me). Every once in a while the memory of her face, twisted away from the encroaching backpack, will rise up in my mind. And I keep wondering why it makes me so angry.

I think that women are generally socialized to be quiet and to adjust our behavior in accordance with the expectations and environment around us. I have seen so many women be silent rather than offend the people around them.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have seen so many men vomit words at me as if my ears and attention are things to which they are somehow entitled.  The good guys of the world seem to have some kind of filter (either in-born or trained) that keeps them from saying dumb things. Or they just genuinely do not have horrible thoughts to articulate. But in the case of the rest of the male population, they seem to believe that everything they have to say is important. That they must produce and enliven the space around them with the things inside their heads. Which is why manspreading is such a huge fucking deal. It’s also why I have so many conversations on a daily basis that involve men telling me shit I never needed to hear.

“I don’t like that lipstick you wore a week ago.”

“Women don’t really want to make money, that’s why the wage gap exists.”

“I’d like to fuck you blue.”

“You’re probably a dumb ass fucking whore anyway.”

The generally accepted socialized female response to the above comments is something along the lines of smiling, laughing, and letting it slide. We have all done it. It’s just easier, most of the time, to let that be what we do, rather than having a fight. Because when we do speak back, when we speak up, the general response is shock and anger.

And sometimes we do fight back. But sometimes it is easier, as a woman, to do what is expected. To shrink into the background. To let them have the space. Because sometimes you just want to make it through your day without having to justify your existence to some asshole strutting his stuff in a shitty suit.

The fact that the decision to be silent is the more convenient and safe option in a lot of cases depresses me. Here, have a poem about shrinking women and the impact of silence and smallness.


*I love it when my dad tries to call me out for cursing so much. He’s always like “Do you have fuckin’ curse so much?” And then I just give him the shade that is my “are you fucking kidding me?” face.

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Go home, Leviticus. You’re drunk.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Martin Luther King said that. It’s been getting a lot of play lately on TV and in articles and such. And it is definitely true. Because it has been a long road getting to a place where 19 states in this country acknowledge non-heterosexual marriage.

And it feels good. I have talked with a lot of my LGBTQ-etc friends in the last two days and we are universally thrilled to see this come to our home state. Some of us are even shocked that it made it this far, against so much opposition.

All in all, I’m thrilled. I’m nowhere near the place in my relationship where we’re picking out flower arrangements, but it’s good to know that, when I get there, I will be able to do everything a heterosexual couple does without any pushback from my state. Without special paperwork and legal documents and bureaucratic fidgy widgyness. It feels really, really good.

What’s interesting, too, is that I just read this article on Think Progress about how Rick Santorum really couldn’t be bothered to say anything about the rolling tide of same sex marriage across the country that culminated here in PA on Tuesday. It’s something I’ve long been aware of, but if the Republican party wants to, like, keep their jobs, they basically need to let go of things like gay marriage. Because a recent Gallup poll puts support for marriage equality at 55%.

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See those numbers, kids? The dark green line represents the right side of history.

 

So all those things are good. And seeing progress is good. And all good things are good.

Except.

A bunch of people have taken this as an opportunity to spill their homophobia out into the internet in a seemingly neverending stream.

Morgan Freeman didn't actually say this, but it's still as true as if he did.
Morgan Freeman didn’t actually say this, but it’s still as true as if he did.

What’s always bugged me about homophobia – aside from the obvious message above – has been how obviously hypocritical all of these people are. They cherry pick the things they want to believe and leave behind the things that would be super hard to do.

Leviticus is that book of the Bible that famously decries men lying with men. “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman,” the book says, “for that is an abomination.” (Lev 18:22)

Leviticus takes all of this stuff very seriously, by the way. If you take any of these laws and break them, the whole chapter is full of recommendations for punishment. Phrases like “and they shall be put to death” or “they shall be stoned by the people” abound. But, moreover, if I see you committing some of these crimes and I don’t stone you, I’m going to hell with you. That’s some heavy judgment “I AM” is handing down, right there. And you’re kinda already fucked if you live in a country that frowns on stoning. Like the U.S.

But anyway, aside from the compulsory stoning of one’s neighbors, if you want to tow the party line about homosexuality as laid down in Leviticus, that’s fine. But if you believe that, you have to believe all that other stuff that goes along with it. And, believe me, there are some gems up in that book. Here’s some of my favorites!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you like bacon? Well sucks to be you. Lev 3:17 forbids the eating of fat. So no bacon for you guys! Keep that in mind the next time you’re at the diner.

Lev 5:2 forbids the touching of an unclean animal. Do you have a cat? A dog? Have you patted a dog on the street? Touched a horse’s nose? Frolicked in a field with the myriad fauna that abound there, a-la Cinderella? Cause you are goin’ to hell if you have.

Lev 5:4 forbids “thoughtlessly taking an oath” for either good or bad. Have you ever said “I swear” before anything? Then you realized that swearing that the barista at the coffee shop will pay with her last breath the next time she makes you a latte three times because she’s no good at lattes and can’t get the foam right waaaaaaaaasn’t such a good idea? Too bad. Sin committed. Enjoy eternal damnation.

Lev 10:6 forbids the showing of grief by letting your hair become unkempt or tearing your clothes. The second thing should be pretty easy, but if your dad dies you had better keep that sick do going, or else what happens? You guessed it! Hellfire and damnation.

Lev 10:9 states that you cannot have a fermented beverage whenever you go into the “tent of meeting.” Now, properly this means whenever you go to church. Catholics, I’m looking at you. Of course, for most of us, “tent of meeting” translates to “bar,” which is also kind of a problem…

Lev 11:4-7 says that you cannot eat any animal that doesn’t both chew cud and have a divided hoof. That eliminates all KINDS of yummy foods. No seafood, for sure, cause those tasty bastards don’t even have feet.

Delicious. And, now, a thing of the past.
Delicious. And, now, a thing of the past.

You also can’t touch their dead bodies, according to Lev 11:8, which is really only a problem if you, like me, are morbidly fascinated with poking dead jellyfish or feeling up taxidermied anything. But if you play rugby or football, does the term pigskin ring a bell?

Basically, if you like taxidermy at all or are interested in moving roadkill from in front of your car or taking your kid’s dead lizard out to the trash, you are totally ruined by Lev 11:13-22 and Lev 11:29. Truly, the road to damnation is paved with dead animals.

Did you just kill that spider who has been stalking your bathroom? Better not pick it up. Ooh, you killed it with your hands? Truly, you are a champion hunter. Also, according to Lev 11:41-42, you are going to hell.

A very real fear for devout Leviticus followers...
A very real fear for devout Leviticus followers…

Remember when that bouncing ball of joy came into your life? How excited you were to have him or her baptized and show off your new squalling offspring to the members of your congregation? Well I hope you waited before you went, Lev 12:4-5 states the standard waiting period for a girl is 66 days, with 33 days being the standard wait for a boy. Better get all your sins handled before the little bastard crawls outta ya, because you have to be really good for the one or two months after it’s born.

Do you have your “red wings?” Because Lev 18:19 says you’re going to hell if you do.

Have you ever in your life purchased a crucifix or a little statue of St. Francis? Because idols are bad, says Lev 19:4.

You may think you're being a good Catholic, but this here is a one way ticket to Hell.
You may think you’re being a good Catholic, but this here is a one way ticket to Hell.

Remember all those little white lies? About Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and how many people you’ve really slept with? Well, the guy who wrote Lev 19:11 is watching you. And knows which circle of hell you’re going to end up spending eternity in.

Remember that swearing thing before? Well, have you ever said “I swear to God if you little bastards don’t get your shoes on and get in the car I will smack you so hard!” When they didn’t, did you smack them? Well, if you’re a good parent that doesn’t hit their kids, you just swore falsely on God’s name. And Lev 19:12 says that’s another no-no.

Here’s good news for everyone that hates waiting two weeks for a paycheck! Holding the wages of an employee overnight is a damnable sin! Don’t believe me, check out Lev 19:13. Are you an employer? You might want to go see a priest. Like, every day.

Pretty sure everyone in government is in violation of perverting justice by showing partiality to either the poor or the rich. Lev 19:15 takes a dim view of that kind of thing.

Remember that guy who cut you off two weeks ago? Or your ex wife? Still hate either of those people? Want revenge? Lev 19:18 specifically warns against seeking revenge or bearing grudges. Naughty, naughty!

To be fair, if she had given me that family of dead-eyed corn children, I'd cross her ass out, too.
To be fair, if she had given him that family of dead-eyed children of the corn, God would probably cross her ass out, too.

Turns out, God is, like, super against intermixing things. Lev 19:19 warns against three things:

  1. Cross-breeding animals. So if you love your purebread whateverthefuck dog, beware.
  2. Mixing fabric in clothing. Yea. Try to live in the modern world without mixing cotton and polyester. I dare you.
  3. Planting different seeds in the same field. Do window boxes count as “fields?” Because having a window box with just one kind of flower could be really, really boring.

This one really must stress out the true Bible adherents. Lev 19:23 forbids you from eating fruit from any tree that has been planted for less than four years. I can just see them, pulling out their hair out in the aisles of the Super Walmart.

Devout Walmart Shopper: Excuse me, how old was the tree these apples grew on?
Walmart Employee: … I don’t know.
Devout Walmart Shopper: Well, considering that my eternal souls’ well being is on the line, could you find out? I’m not interested in going to whatever circle of hell is reserved for eating the fruit of immature trees.
Walmart Employee: Right… I’ll get right on that. *goes to stock in another area*

Hey, are you a friend to facial hair in any way? Well if you are, you had better keep it long and sloppy, my friend, because Lev 19:27 specifically forbids trimming your beard. Also, in an act of serious micromanagement, the same verse prohibits you from cutting the sides of your hair.

All of those people with cross tattoos? Yea, I don’t care how much you love The Lord Your God, according to Lev 19:28, he hates tattoos.

Particularly, I would think, if you put it there...
Particularly, I would think, if you put it there…

Lev 19:32 says you had better give up that seat on the bus to the little old lady with her walker. No, we don’t care how much your feet hurt. Is your podiatric discomfort truly the reason you want to spend eternity rubbing shoulders with Beelzebub?

This is one of my favorites, because there are so many right wingers who are guilty of it all the time. Lev 19:33-34 states that “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.” So much for immigration law, folks! The world is just one big country, according to Leviticus. 

Have you ever muttered a swear at your parents under your breath? Cursing your mother and father is specifically addressed in Lev 20:9.

We all remember that rule about not working on the Sabbath? That’s Lev 23:3. That must be rough for Christians who work in restaurants. The Sabbath has some good money to be made. Too bad.

Blasphemy is another no-no, which I’m sure is no news to you. This is one of the sins that is outlined as specifically being punishable by stoning by Lev 24:14. I wonder if it’s blasphemy if you only take the Lord’s name in vain during sex? I would hope he would take that as a compliment.

Remember that “eye for an eye” rule? That’s Lev 24:17-22. I wonder how nitpicky that rule really is… like, if I give you a papercut, do you do it back?

This sort of insult would definitely have to be answered.
This sort of insult would definitely have to be answered.

And last, but certainly not least, did you know that you are not allowed to permanently sell off your land? Yea. Lev 25:23. The reasoning? Because all land belongs to God and you can’t sell his shit without permission. Which I guess makes sense. I would get seriously bent out of shape if someone sold my stuff when I wasn’t looking.

All in all, Leviticus as a book makes me think that we are all looking forward to this when we die:

Although, in fairness, I would welcome a Hell that had Rowan Atkinson playing the Devil.