My life experiences have given me the expectation that all men are capable of really awful behavior. A “guilty until proven innocent” mentality has routinely saved me from disappointment and, sometimes, physical harm. Despite my wariness, men are still in charge.
I was raised under the following pretense: if I’m not sexually attractive to men, I will not be successful and I will not be happy. Though my childhood and teen years were not remiss to the eminent danger of those with penises, either. While my parents always included the caveat that, “we know it sucks,” I also came to understand “that’s just the way it is.”
From this was born a painful and tiring balancing act that all women are forced to endure. I must please men. They must hire me, support me, and marry me. But I cannot offend them by being overt in that pleasure. I must be delicate, but not so much so I lose the competition with other delicate women. Sex is for them, and for me, a chore. And if I misstep and they mistreat me, boys will be boys.
I worked hard on my image, and where I could not achieve I adopted an “I’m not even trying” allure. My character was one who did not want them, but if they wanted me, I was there. Feminine, but ready to put down other girls at the boys’ behest. I’ve always been accepted, albeit tenuously.
It’s exhausting. My male comrades have made fun of my body behind my back and to my face. When I have failed to or gone too far entertaining them, I’ve been ridiculed. If I protest, do anything but laugh with them, I’m a crazy bitch. If I request more respect, it’s suggested I instead feel lucky for my inclusion.
As I enter the depths of my 20s, I realize the majority of my male interactions have been unwanted touching, private and public shaming, and hyper-analytical gossip. All the direct and indirect abuse of The Great Sexism Experience.
My mother’s deeply rooted distrust of men bled into my personality. While I cannot commiserate with acute male violence, it is disappointing to realize the antipathy she projected on me is not personal or specific. It is universal and it’s warranted.
As a young person, I am often hopeful that sexism will not cast as large a shadow on my generation as it did on my mother’s. The scandals of late are not surprising. Women see and understand the dynamics that keep them a secret every day.
Weinsteining pivots a flood light onto the brothel of the Boys’ Club, but it keeps no bro in the dark.