If you want to read the article in French, go here.
Let me talk to you about something ridiculously insignificant that happened to me a few weeks ago. I was walking on the street, on my way to work, eating a banana. I love bananas, they are yellow, tasty and full of energy. Bananas are good, bananas are our friends and I’m not writing to criticise them. I would not.
The complication of this story, however, as some of you know, is the sudden intrusion of a stranger in my yellow-peaceful-morning world: the asshole. This may sound a little harsh, I’m sorry, maybe he’s a good guy, maybe he’s a good brother, a good father, a good son, a good friend, a good husband, I don’t know. All I know is that he is an asshole. How do I know that? He acted like an asshole. He stopped his car while I was walking, lowered the window of his car and asked with his asshole voice: “Hey, hey, do you swallow?”
Let’s not pretend we are naive and we don’t know what he is really talking about, this would be time-consuming and there is no point : we all know he was not enquiring about my health or my eating habit. This is not the first time someone I don’t know asks me unsolicited question about my sexuality in the street and to be frank I didn’t quite hear what he said the first time because I was listening to some music.
He repeated his question, louder: “Hey, hey, do you swallow?”
This time I heard it, I understood it and I could no longer ignore this asshole ruining my yellow-peaceful-morning bubble. He was grinning with his asshole smile, surely expecting something.
“Of course I do, but before, I bite and I chew !” I snapped with a dark look and a tone clearly meaning I didn’t enjoy the chat.
“I am not talking about this kind of banana” he said, pointing the fruit still in my hand.
“Me neither.” I replied. I would love to say that I looked at him right in the eye, took a bite of my banana and grinned sadistically but the truth is I didn’t. I managed to put my headphones back and I started walking again, tensed, hoping he would not try to talk to me again.
When his car disappeared at the end of the bridge, I allowed myself to raise a fierce finger and shout a few insults in French.
I told you that this story was ridiculously insignificant. It is not.
Yesterday, as I was hungry in the morning, I considered buying myself a little breakfast on my way just to ensure I wouldn’t collapse before reaching my office- and the toasts in my office. I instantly thought about a banana. And I instantly second thought about the asshole. Consciously or not, I decided that I could wait and that my rumbling stomach would not be too much of a noisy disturbance for my fellow bus-riders.
This is where the story becomes not insignificant. I agree that it is still ridiculous: just because a man I don’t know reminds me about how much eating a banana can somehow look like giving a blowjob, I find myself not wanting to eat a banana in public? As if eating a banana was not socially acceptable in a public place. As if it could be seen as an invitation for a sexual intercourse. As if eating a banana could be dangerous for me. As if men, seeing me eating a banana could not be able to restrain their desire of being given a blowjob. As if men were not able to make the difference between what they’d like to have and what they should be given. Ridiculous!!!
I don’t know how to break that to you but this is the way society sees victims and aggressors. This is the way society sees women and men*. Women as teasers who don’t know what is best for their own good, men as animals, totally unable to act rationally and to think that, maybe, there is a difference between whishing and having.
You want an example? Can I remind you that a lot of women do not wear the clothes they’d like to wear because it’s too tight, too short too low-necked? Can I remind you that one of the first questions we ask about a rape victim is “what was he/she wearing?” “Was he/she drunk?”? Why don’t we think that maybe it doesn’t matter and that what happened to them was horrible, whatever clothes they may have been wearing?
And this is something we have integrated. Not wearing short skirt is something mothers teach to daughters. Because they have to behave like a lady, because if they don’t, they will send signals. We are programmed to think that women want what men want and that what men want is what their dicks want because they have no brains. And when a behaviour does not match with what we learned, we really try to find a way to get it back in the box. This is not a rape, she was asking for it. She was sending signals. She was drunk (<- read this article). She was wearing a mini-skirt. She was laughing. She was eating a banana.
And you know what, women know their lesson so well than when they are harrassed, molested or raped they think this is their fault, that their behaviour was to blame. Maybe you think that if a victim feels guilt and shame it is because they know that they were not behaving correctly. Or maybe the only reason victims feel guilty and ashamed is because our modern way of thinking and judging holds victims responsible for their behaviour without even thinking that maybe instead of teaching our children how not to be victims, we should teach them about how not to be aggressors.
Am I overreacting? Maybe. Or maybe I’m fed up with being harassed in the street. Maybe what we should remember about this story is not that I am a crazy feminist but that a man I don’t know sexualised one of my everyday behaviour for no other reason than the pleasure of embarrassing me**. And that makes him an asshole.
My point here is that I want assholes to know when they are acting like assholes. And I want potential assholes to realise that being an asshole is not something fun without any consequence. And I want assholes’ friends to tell them that they are being assholes when that happens.
And, last but not least, what I want for assholes is that.
And I am not talking about this kind of sausages.
* I am talking about heterosexual women/victims and men/aggressors because this is what happened most of the times. But men can be victims and women aggressors, and of course, sadly, trans people or gay people are not to be omitted, we all agree to that. There is still a long way to go before it is socially accepted that men have feelings and that sometimes they are not as unbreakable and unyielding as we like to depict them. In a way it is harder for men to be victims because they are just not socially programmed to be one. Not that pain and distress can be rated.
**I have tried to find rational reasons for street harassment, I really can’t. If someone can explain me the interest of asking sexual favours to people in the street, knowing that they will not say yes, I would be glad. Is that for the pleasure of insulting them when they decline? Is that because it is fun to be rejected? Is that for the shot of adrenaline it gives to annoy people? Honestly, if you do/did/know someone who does/did that, tell me.