[we’re getting through these old blog posts one at a time!]
(You’ll understand that thing in parenthesis a little into this story…)
I always got a sense a *little* bit off from sexual assault guy that he didn’t totally respect women, but he spoke some of the right words, including what at the time seemed like this one kind of defining moment.
I literally don’t even remember the offending thing a stranger did. I think a guy yelled out “nice butt!” or some other thing that’s generally pretty tame based on the what women usually deal with all the time.
And while we were alone talking about it in his room, sexual assault guy was making this *huge* deal to me about how that’s SO unfair that women deal with all these micro-aggressions and street harassment etc.
And I was more like, “yeah, it sucks, but getting yelled at on the street is like one of the least of our worries.”
And he was all, “no, no, no. It’s all inappropriate.”
And then he tried to explain the struggle of women to me – which was a little bit of a mild red flag to me. He would sometimes practically beg me to talk about all this type of stuff – women’s treatment in America – and when I would, he would dominate the conversation to tell me all about what it’s like for women.
But I just shrugged it off because while he’s not a women, he’s met many women. It’s possible he’s heard a bunch of stories, or maybe read a lot of articles.
I don’t think we’re incapable of learning about other experiences that aren’t ours. So, maybe he has things to add to the conversation. But the fact that sometimes he’d kind of argue with me about my own personal experiences or opinions about being a women, it felt off. But I always let it go… Anyway.
As he was explaining to me how angry I should be (which again, I chalked up to him caring and feeling anger on my behalf, not trying to dictate my emotions), I said something along the lines of, “In my experience, as a woman, it’s all kind of white noise…. If a man is literally just yelling something semi-innocuous from across the street like ‘nice tits’ or whatever, it’s not great. But for me, if he’s not encroaching my space, or making me feel threatened, or continually yelling – if he just does a one and done tell, there are a lot of times I’ll hardly notice, or at least choose not to care… Becuase even if it’s not right, and it’s unfair, it feels like the currency of living as a woman in America right now. It really is just basically white noise to me.”
And he leaned in closely and he got really serious. And he was like, “but *I* don’t hear the white noise… it’s not a part of my day to day to life. I want to hear it! I want to understand! That’s why I’m always trying to ask my female friends to help me learn, since because of my life experience, I’m not hearing the white noise.”
Whoa. So woke, right? This man being so so serious, looking me dead in the eyes, just dying to hear the “white noise,” to understand the plight of women, right? What a total dreamboat, huh?
…Of course, I didn’t take into account how he expertly pivoted this later to be more about how “men have people making them feel uncomfortable sometimes too!”
Is that true? Yeah. Should we worry about men? Yeah. Do conversations sometimes naturally move? Sure.
But if a white person sits down and makes a giant speech to a black person about how they have to learn what it’s like to be a black person pulled over by the police, and then 20 minutes later, said white person is talking about how “you know actually white people suffer from this [thing we don’t suffer from in *nearly* as high of rates]… Like, was that person ever really listening to them?
But that’s not even the main issue! Forget the pivoting if you want.
It’s about so many little future conversations…
When I got my promotion at The Nightly Show, his *first* reaction was not some version of “congratulations!” Or “oh my gosh! How do you feel?” Or “tell me everything, how did it go down?”
It was “please don’t tell me how much money you make. It’ll make me uncomfortable to know you make more money than me.”
And at the time, I explained that away. I mean, maaaaaybe that’s not a misogynistic thing. Maybe he just doesn’t like talking about salaries – even though I *know* that to not be true because he is the one who asked me what my salary was when I was an assistant. And even then he was like, “Whoa. I didn’t know assistant editors make that much. That’s almost as much as I make at my job!” I mean, he was floored (not because I made ridiculous money – though it was good – but because I think he didn’t take my career or me seriously, and I think he’s used to being the “breadwinner” or whatever around girls)…
And there was the time he was made me feel guilty for ordering at a breakfast place. He didn’t consult me when we were looking at the menus, asking if I’d want to share something. He just told me after the waiter left, “oh, I was gonna order this and this for both of us to share… But then you ordered chocolate chip pancakes.” And he did it with this sense of making me feel guilty and I was all, “oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. Why didn’t you say anything?” To which he replied something like, “well, it seemed you wanted them so much, I thought I’d just let you order that…”
Like it’s assumed he’s gonna order for both of us, but if I’m excited enough about the food I want, he’ll do me the favor of granting me the ability to order my own food? Oh goodness *fans self* thank you kindly, sexual assault man. How very nice of you to make the concession to let me have pancakes.
And I know I’m being sarcastic now, but at the time, he seemed a little upset about it and I felt guilty, and apologized. I have never in my life say with any man (friend, relative, date, stranger, whoever) at a restaurant, who actually respects women, who has ever made me feel bad that I didn’t defer to him for our food or expect him to order. Like, how was I to know?
Also, once we were talking about how I hadn’t been paid for my last 3 1/2 or so weeks of work on this reality show I worked on.
And different crew members were going about that in different ways (small claims court, etc.)
I filed a claim with the California Department of Labor, and it takes a loooooong time to go through that process – to the point where I’d moved to NY before it was over. And I was talking about how I was gonna have to go back during a hiatus to have yet another appointment about it. (I eventually let it go, because it was just too hard to chase the money and I was obviously moving on and doing okay. It sucks, but it is what it is.)
Anyway, sexual assault guy *basically* said, “You know so much about law for a woman.”
Of course he didn’t quite say that, becuase that I would’ve called out right away. But he said something that was linguistic gymnastics enough to make me question whether he was saying I happened to “know law” better than an girl he’d been with, or better than any girl in general….
There was *just* enough space to question it. (Knowing him, he met the latter.) But I explained it away. “Weeeeeell, my dad’s job for many years has been to supervise lawyers on big case. On take your daughter to work day, as a child, I did stand up and pound my fist on the table in a meeting and say something like ‘They take $80,000, or we’re taking it to court!'” (Of course, while I love that story of little precocious me, sexual assault guy didn’t know that! I don’t even think he had any idea what industry my dad works in. He doesn’t know if I know about law or not.
He’s saying he can’t believe a girl can figure out how to file a claim with the Department of Labor.
And I let him.
And there are a ton of other little slights he’d say about women – every once *just* small enough to be explained away.
I’ll give one more example: When I got a meeting with my favorite composer, he said “I wish I were a young cute girl so I could also get a meeting.”
Huh. Is he just complimenting how young and cute and charming I am? 😉 Or is he telling me he’s disadvantaged and that I’m getting meetings not because I’m talented or have potential but because I’m cute?
(People have made jokes like this before and they usually just roll off my back. Who doesn’t wanna be pretty? And I know my worth in the industry…. But when someone who’s been putting you (and other women in general… and also specific other women for kinda sexist reasons) down over and over again, these things start to sting more and they feel less innocuous than if your good friend says something kind of in jest.
And yes, sexual assault guy was tooootally someone who loved to use the “your not like other girls” line.
Oh my goodness gracious. We could be here all day with examples. The point is, I questioned every one. I explained away every one. “I must’ve heard that incorrectly.” “He must not have meant that.” “Oh come on. He’s a feminist, I’m sure… I think. I mean, He said so…. Don’t you remember how intense he was about the ‘white noise’?”
But one giant speech doesn’t mean something that a million tiny remarks negate…. And yet, I fell for it.