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Synthesis - Columns

From 2008 to 2015 I wrote a weekly column for Synthesis Weekly under the name Zooey Mae. What started as an outlet to review graphic novels and comic books evolved over the years to cover everything from pop culture to whatever menial event was happening in my life. Looking back, I think I spent much too much time regaling Chico with tales of my allergies. 

Overbearing Lady Bullies

Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: August 2014

This past week has been weird. First, everyone lost their minds when it rained. Children lamented the inevitable return of school while others started inexplicably craving pumpkin- flavored anything and desperately trying to untangle scarves from the depths of closets. Also, I learned that street harassment is a more polarizing topic than my usual focus of naps, whiskey, and my numerical rating of different words and phrases that I like/dislike. (For the record, “kismet” = 8, saying anything is “like crack” = 0).

Last week I put forth a lot of effort in trying to articulate in 500 words my feelings on street harassment and the frustrations I feel about the subject. The upside was that I was contacted by quite a large number of women who shared their stories of dealing with harassment, as well as verbal and physical assault. A very small pool of men apparently took to the Synthesissite to share their objections to my thoughts, but I don’t really look at that as a downside. When writing the column last week, it wasn’t with the intention of persuading anyone to share my point of view. I think that whenever you have someone speaking up for women’s rights, it’s inevitable that you will encounter a pool of men who feel the need to remind us overbearing lady- bullies that what we should really be focusing on is the men. I will pause here to allow time for a collective eye roll from most of you.

Anyway, when I wrote that, it wasn’t with the hope of changing the minds of the “but you guyyys, what about the MEN???!!!” group. I was thinking more about the women who might be feeling the way I was a few years ago; that street harassment of any shade is just part of being a female, something we have to accept and deal with by staying quiet and ignoring the behavior in question. I no longer feel that way.

In any case, I’d just like to say, I’m white. (Stay with me.) I am a white female who grew up in a middle class family in the United States, and as such I am unbelievably privileged in a lot of ways. And for the same reason that I would never attempt to wax lyrical about what it’s like to be African American, men should not be attempting to explain what it’s like to be a woman. Male privilege means that most men will never be street harassed. Yet I think you’d be hard pressed to find a woman who’d never experienced it. According to the CDC and NCADV, one in five African American women, one in five Caucasian women and one in seven Latina women will be raped in their lifetime. One in four women will be the victims of domestic abuse. The overwhelming majority (almost 100 percent), of these crimes are committed by men. (When the victim is a man, the perpetrator is usually also a man).

Sooo… yeah. Here’s the thing. When you talk about how men are just as discriminated against or harassed as women… no. Just no. You’re not wrong in a theoretical way, you are quite simply factually and empirically wrong. Cheers, ladies.

Arielle Mullen