Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Treat me like a lady, gosh darnit.

Lately I have been finding myself in some rather uncomfortable situations. I didn’t really think about it until I was reading an article in Glamour about how women of my generation tend to laugh off sexual harassment in the workplace rather than filing a formal complaint. Women gave reasons such as not wanting to cause a stir about something so minor in the office, or by finding other ways to retaliate against the offender by making an even raunchier joke. Other women just said they don’t really find it that offensive.

I found the article a little upsetting. I am happy that women of my generation have the freedom to have a relaxed attitude about sex, and in turn, sexual harassment. If we want to take a lover, or have a baby out of wedlock, no one is going to socially ostracize us or demand that we leave our job. That, whatever your morals, is progress towards women owning their own bodies to do what they please with them.

However, I do not think it’s ok that jokes that in previous years would have been completely unacceptable to utter in the presence of women, and would most definitely warrant a gasp and a cheek slap as a reprimand have become so common place that women feel ok about laughing them off as normal day-to-day behavior. Just boys being boys.

That is simply not true. I was discussing the matter with a close friend of mine, and she agreed. We think that women find it easier to diffuse and uncomfortable situation with laughter rather than getting deemed a bitch or uptight for scolding the offenders. I’m just not sure when it became ok to treat women as one of the guys rather than treating us like ladies as we deserve to be treated. And I’m not sure when women started accepting this behavior as typical and not maintaining that as ladies we deserve a higher standard of behavior that does not make us feel uncomfortable or objectified.

Now I know many people will disagree, and say that women have fought for equal rights, equality in everything, so why should we still want to be treated in an old fashioned way, where men treat women like delicate flowers, opening doors and paying for checks? Well if old-fashioned means treating women with a little common respect, and as something to be handled a little more gently than the boys, then bring it on. I do not need a man to support me, do things for me, or expect me to cook and clean for him. I do require that all men refrain from objectifying my body, and if that means throwing in a little chivalry while he’s at it, all the better.

I have a lot of guy friends. And as I result, I find myself hanging out with groups of men fairly frequently. I am no prude, but lately I have been finding myself getting offended about the things my guy friends feel comfortable talking about in front of me. This article made me stop and think. When did this start happening? Have they always done this? Why do I let them get away with it? Because, in truth, it does make me uncomfortable.

I used to think it just meant they felt so comfortable with me, that they thought it was ok to relax and talk about whatever in front of me. I don’t mind dirty jokes. I even like to tell them myself. Talking about sex, not a problem. It’s when it crosses the line into treating women like bodies, objects to be enjoyed that it bothers me. And it is not only the boys who are the offenders. A handful of women I am friends with joke around in the same manner. Regardless of the gender, when you start objectifying women publicly as if it is the natural thing to joke about (even if you are one) it gets on my nerves.

I’ll admit. I have been guilty of objectifying men, and talking about their fantastic abs or tight butt, but at least I don’t do it in front of other men. No, I prefer to discuss things like that in private, with a few select girlfriends where we can feel free to be as lewd as we like without risking offending anyone whose stance on the matter we do not know, or appearing to have loose morals to bystanders who don’t know the context. Even if I am not following the standards of the 1950’s housewives, I like to maintain a lady like public countenance.

So boys. Please stop talking about my boobs when I am in the room. And no, I do not want to hear about how you opted to make a reservation at the restaurant closer to your hotel so you can get your girlfriend back faster to hook up after your “romantic” dinner. I am fine with a crude joke here and there. But this is just entering the realm of TOO MUCH INFORMATION. I mean, come on. I have girl friends who don’t even go into that much detail about their sex lives with me, and it is much less offensive when they do.

AND, it just gives me pause. If these are the “nice guys” who care about women and treat them right talking like this, then what are the real creeps like behind closed doors? It’s a view into the male psyche that I would just rather not have. I expect you to be thinking about sex during a romantic dinner. I would just like to hold on to the notion that the dinner itself is also important to you, not just closing the deal afterwards. I prefer to believe that men actually enjoy romantic moments, rather than constantly hearing otherwise from bawdy tales to the boys. Spare me the details please, and the discomfort of having to listen to it.

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