Yo, but like… FUCK JAPAN

…and everything that rode in with it. (Okay, not the food.)

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Japanese food

I would never be so arrogant as to say “Fuck [blank]” about any country that was not my own. Luckily my Japanese heritage allows me the opportunity to say: fuck Japan, fuck its culture, fuck its values, fuck most everything about its society… because it needs to be said. Now if I am speaking honestly, of course I realize that each culture has its good and bad, has something unique to offer and can be valued for some — many — reasons or others. Japan is not an anomaly in that sense; there are many wonderful parts of Japanese culture and I am very happy to be Japanese (in no small part due to the food). As we can all learn from other cultures, I think Japan can offer the rest of us some insight into cooperation, striving for excellence, humility, and pride.

But this is not what this post is about. Today I choose to write about a part of Japan that is often absent to the rest of us, that we do not think about before, during, or after we have traveled there, and maybe only passingly when consuming Japanese pop culture. This is not to say that there is not Western analyses of Japanese culture. Only yesterday did I hear on BBC radio a discussion of the population crisis and the potential reasons behind it. There are many feminist analyses that point to sexism in Japanese anime, manga, and gaming culture as well (otaku culture to those interested in learning more about it). But what really makes me express myself so strongly against Japan is not situated in statistics or political understandings of the mechanisms of our society; rather, the day-to-day reality of what it means to be Japanese living in Japan.

Kyoto is a good starting point. Kyoto is the city that I am from. It is known for being the old capital, for having the best cherry blossoms, and for its historical preservation of old temples, shrines, and the like.

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Kyoto

Amongst the beauty of Kyoto (my favorite spot being Kamogawa river), you may also notice the beauty of its women — beauty, not subjectively but objectively — the young women of Kyoto are dressed immaculately; hair coiffed, nails trimmed, not a pleat out of place. Like our stereotype of Parisians, it can seem very appealing in a high-fashion, snooty type of way. Japanese women (/people) present themselves very well, and it can be quite a delight to those of us who don’t understand the mechanisms working behind it. There is a reason why it is difficult to spot a unkempt individual in Kyoto, let alone in most metropolitan areas of Japan (except maybe Osaka*); the word is だらしない [da-ra-shi-na-i], and we just don’t do it.

See, “darashinai” (to be sloppy) is something we just don’t do because other people don’t do it. Japan is a society that operates on the basis of shame, and othering. It is quite easy to be an “other” in Japan: not shaving your facial hair, drawing (any) attention towards yourself, being loud, or “dark,” or having any sort of assertive self-expression whatsoever. Social shame is the linchpin of Japanese culture. Being shamed by others around you, in the Japanese collective imagination, is possibly the worst thing that can happen to you. There is a reason why so many people choose suicide as an alternative to ousting themselves as someone who may not be leading a humble and productive life as is expected, or more accurately, proscribed in greater Japanese society.

The shame mechanism works like this: we teach children at a criminally young age that they are to police themselves and each other. For those who exhibit “bad” social behavior, we teach judgement and ostracization — quickly. Japanese television largely comprises of shows that focus solely on laughing at others who do not adhere to social standards and norms — and yes, while it can be highly entertaining to watch (some) people deliberately make a fool out of themselves for the greater humouristic cause, on a slightly deeper level, it can be quite cruel.

The language of Japan itself is laden with ways to distance yourself from others by identifying their appearance or behavior as undesirable. It would be very difficult to explain the nuances of Japanese language here in English, but what I can say is that we learn to communicate with one another through policing, judgemental language. Children as young as 4, 5, in schools can be heard talking to their peers in a very paternalistic and disciplining manner. It is very peculiar to hear a young child say to another something like: “you know people who don’t wash their hands can’t make any friends, right?” (It is kind of a shit example, but it is really, really difficult to translate this particular nuance into the English language). This is not about children mimicking the language they hear from their parents and other adults around them. It is about children learning at such a young age that their behavior is always to be on watch, and in turn that others’ behavior also must be looked upon down the bridge of one’s nose.

The shame element becomes even more insidious when you add in factors such as gender and power. Not unlike many other cultures in the world, women are taught to feel ashamed for… just about anything that has to do with being a woman. We are taught to be ashamed about the shape and size and color of our bodies, about our sexuality (take a look at Japanese porn if you really want to know what we think of women), about our individual thoughts and values. In such an extremely male-oriented society such as Japan, women are very literally meant to be seen and not heard — to the point where a woman being assaulted on a train will not cry out for years and years of socialization not to draw attention to herself or cause “disturbance” to others.

Here is an even better example of how the extremely male-angled framework of society and the imperative upon women to not speak out work together: I was sitting in front of a class of 5-yr-olds once when one of the young male students attempts to lift my dress and touch the inside of my thighs. Despite witnessing the entire incident, the female teachers did not say one. word. to this young boy chastising his behavior, because this is the kind of thing that is too shameful to be addressed, especially by women. The awkward and apologetic laugh/bow was instead employed here, and I had to take it upon myself to tell the boy that it was not appropriate to touch others’ bodies without their permission.

Because women are not meant to speak out about things like this. And women are not meant to do this, or that… we aren’t even meant to enjoy sex even within the most acceptable conditions. Women are meant to be beautiful, and then to be mothers. Women are so socialized in Japan to present themselves in a certain way that their physical compositions are altered. Ever see a bow-legged Japanese woman? That shit is intentional, and unhealthy as fuck.

http://www.iromegane.com/japan/culture/the-secret-of-japanese-girls%C2%B4-bowlegs/
Because its cuter that way.

Dinner conversations can go something like this:

“I saw a woman at the train station today who was so fat! She had to wait in line for the next train because she couldn’t fit. What a burden she is causing to the rest of us.”

While watching TV:

“Oh she is so pretty because she is white (in skin complexion) and has a small face.”

On speaking about co-workers:

“What a stupid burikko bitch. She is so stupid and annoying. I can’t stand her.”

Let me not even get started on what burikko actually entails — to give a general gist let me just say: women are thought to be most attractive when they are “kawaii” (cute); the best way to be kawaii is to act as much as possible like a little girl. What are character traits of little girls? Cute, yes, and naive, innocent, easily manipulated, eager, and dumb (at least in the burikko imagination). Japan’s ideal woman is trapped in a cell padded with schoolgirl uniforms and oversized stuffed rabbits. Sounding rape-y yet? (Good. Because it is.)

I cannot be bothered here to go into full scope of the state of women in Japan, because what can be said can produce volumes. What I can say is that not even in our language do we have words that point to empowerment, self-assuredness, to self-assertiveness. It is not enough to analyze the awkward pedophilic tones in manga or question the existence of games like Rapelay.**

The day-to-day lives of women in Japan are almost entirely constructed, leaving little to no room of dreaming of different possibilities for oneself and one’s future.

The women who are born in, live in, and die in Japan are subject to a reality of living as an animated puppet. I think of my grandmother, and what kinds of dreams and aspirations she must have had as a little girl. At one point they faded away, and she is a now a woman who plans and prepares meals for her husband on a daily basis, despite not liking cooking at all. What about the young women who are at the prime of their potential, who instead of wondering: “What do I want to do? How do I want to live?” are caught trimming themselves at the edges, trimming trimming trimming trimming so they can be “kawaii” and appropriate, just like everybody else? There is not even ONE mainstream, visible form of resistance to the dictates of Japanese society — because of course, any sort of resistance is met with social shame, and collectively, we just don’t “do” that in Japan.

The level of suppression (oppression) in Japan is one of deep, deep concern. And yet because of our success within capitalism it often is not thought of as “too bad.” But it is. I can’t even say that the women in Japan are suffering because to suffer is to feel something that has not been deemed acceptable by the larger society. It is possible, I think, to teach suppression of the soul so much as to make suffering unrecognizable. It is possible to distort humanity to the point where puppetry is the only viable alternative. Japan needs help. And it needs to help itself find some sort of authentic humanity before as Japanese we are sterilized out of any true and meaningful existence. Fuck Japan, yo. Fuck Japan. Fuck Japan. Fuck Japan.

BOOOOOOO!!!

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Two thumbs, waaay down.

*Osaka is somewhat of an anomaly in Japan. For whatever reason the attitudes are much more lax, people are much more expressive and direct. Because of the unbridled honesty of Osaka culture, people there are often regarded as the niggers of Japan, if we want to make an appropriate Western comparison. (Whaddup mah niggaaaas!! Hahahaha)

**I advise caution when seeking information about this game.

where are all the men?

But for real though, like, where are y’all?

Straight men suck. That’s already been established, and its also (just) my opinion. (My established opinion). They suck in the same way that white people suck though, and I’ve met a few white people who are least *trying* not to suck so bad. (Most of them are women..). These are the people who, along with other areas of our social lives that they see to be unjust, unfair, stupid, fucked up, like whaa-, are doing their best to somehow someway counteract some of the negativity that comes with being part of a (socially constructed) race of individuals who are given ridiculous amounts of privilege over people of other races just because, I don’t know, yolo? People who may or may not identify as anti-racist, people who spend part of their self-expression (in whatever way) advocating for others who they have no readily apparent reason to advocate for. People who -dare I say? – may even feel the pain that comes along racism and oppression, even when on the “right” side of it; people who cry with us (dare I be so hopeful).

A lot of these white people that I know are women, but some are men. Correction. One is male (and I appreciate you, homeboy!). Obviously I don’t know enough people. Still, what I’m wondering about today are not the white people who are out there getting involved with BLM, what I’m wondering about are the men who we as women can look to to be by our sides when shit (inevitably) goes unfairly for us, or even just annoying. Where are all the men who are like, unafraid? I have yet to ever be in a situation where a man has said something on behalf of gender equality unprompted. (Okay there was that one time my homeboy from above spoke out against domestic violence at our student senate meeting: props, nigga). But I can’t recall a situation, for example, where a joke was made or a judgment was made or a show was watched, all in the same thread of you-know-it-when-you-see/hear/experience-it straight up bullshit sexism, and a man said something, or did anything. I would remember something like that. I want to remember something like that!

There’s lots of men out there who actually probably have considered this stuff, even more who feel that it is unfair. But where are the ones who are pushed by their own sense of self-ascendancy to be unpopular and say things that they are not supposed to say (in the presence of other men might I add)? I see bravery all of the time in individuals who say fuck it and do their own thing, and so often this courage comes packaged in the bodies of those who are already thrown aside in some aspect or another. Oppression breeds courage in those that resist it, but that is a different post for a different day. I am trying to find what breeds courage in those that don’t need to be courageous because the whole arsenal of weapons is on their side. Like didn’t you guys all watch Star Wars? (The Force Awakens) What bred courage in stormtrooper homie Finn to say fuck this shit and gtfo out of the First Order? Whatever it was, I’m trying to hand this shit out in spades to all the male-identified individuals out there (shoutout to my queer boys though, because y’all be holding it down for a sista sometimes) so they may feel the courage to maybe say a fucking sentence next time some other stormtrooper dude is fucking shit up for the rest of us (read: women).

Star Wars analogies aside, really men should not be doing this for us (women) or for any primped up notion of their “future daughter” or whatever. Men should be doing it because it’s better. Take that how you choose, but white people who get over the whole “white” thing learn that this side, while we may be so much more oppressed (in the context of race), is a lot more fun. Upholding oppression requires denying humanity, and humanity, in all its tragedy and wonder, is actually a lot more fun than contrived connections with other humans based on some dumbass framework we are all supposed to follow (it is a lot more realistically terrible too).

Men should want to not fuck with sexism because it frees them. Love frees you, and how can love exist in the context of domination? Why settle for the bullshit that sexism has to offer you when you can experience your own humanity so much deeper than that – yeah you may not enjoy the “benefits” as much anymore (like you can’t abhor sexism and still consume female bodies in the same male-gaze-y way), but instead you can find true connection, true communion with another human being who is so different than you as to offer you a whole other way of understanding the world. Creativity is borne of communion between (within) oneself and others, and men are missing out on a whole world of potential within themselves and in the world when they only think the things, only agree with the things when they are said, only feel “bad” when something happens that isn’t right or fair. Be braver than that gentlemen! (Aren’t y’all supposed to be the brave ones anyway..) You are suffering differently from this system that sells you short by telling you that ownership and dominance are what are worth your humanity – there is so, so much more out there, but we need y’all to be brave.

Be a badass in a different way. Sure, its cool to be the strongest and the most clever and the one with all the bitches, but that shit ain’t revolutionary. Revolutionaries are the true cool people of the universe, and everybody knows that.

How to love your body in a culture of sexism

I’ll preface this post by saying that if you came here to find a literal answer that corresponds to my title, I got nothing. I have no idea how to overcome the overwhelmingly enormous mountain that is sexism + body image that stands before us women and the valley of true self-love. All I know is that: somehow we must carve a path to self-love or we will keep encountering the pain and confusion that come every time we encounter this barrier; with every calorie we count, every selfie we see, every commercial telling us that the only thing we need for happiness is to “buy this new face cream!” (anti-aging, y’all.)

What I can say in this post is that we must stop treating negative body image in women as a personal issue, or as an issue that is somehow strangely disconnected from all of the other structures in our society that are causing us great harm. It is not just that “sexism in advertising contributes to poor body image.” It is not enough that female celebrities that fit into the canon of desirable female attractiveness are “speaking candidly about sexism.” Sexism is the focus on the body as the center of our worth and value as individuals; it is not as if body image was just a thing and then sexism came in to distort it – we don’t talk about how we should learn to “love our minds” in the same way we talk about learning to love our bodies (or at the same rate), and when we speak about self-love, we are always talking about loving our bodies as well.

As a woman I will say: this is a problem I never asked for, and a burden that do not wish to carry. No matter how “feminist” my views are, no matter how radically I try to unravel the poison in my brain that has eroded aspects of my humanity, this is a hurdle that continues to present itself, reinforced everywhere I fucking look – li.ter.a.lly everywhere. See I am trying to come to terms with the second-class citizenship that I never asked for, and this is an especially insidious distortion of my humanity that I am hard-pressed to find relief from anywhere. As a black person, as a person of color, while the trauma of racism and the invasion of whiteness upon my psyche follows me everywhere I go, I can find respite and healing when I am among others who are hurting from the same things I am hurting from. The strength that I find in community when it comes to that pain is available in abundance. We are aware of what is happening to us, of the war that has been declared upon our souls and we find solidarity in our resistance to it (it is not always this beautiful, but it often can be).

As a woman I feel I am still searching for this community, and it is difficult to admit, but it is because we, collectively, are still invested in the structures that are destroying us; one foot in, one foot out (or both feet, which can seem like an easier resignation). I can say this because I am struggling with this myself. I am really trying to be on some radical-type shit, some “I-don’t-care-about-anything-but-love-that-resists-oppression” type shit, but I still look at my body every day, and I still make those seamlessly “natural” decisions about how I want to eat today or how much physical activity I want to engage in on any given day (and no y’all, I’m a lazy-ass bitch, if it were not for the fucked-up ideals of “womanhood” then my ass would never put on a pair of running shoes EVER). This is not about being a fitness-head. This is about survival, and relevance. Men have body image issues too, yes, but men are relevant by virtue of their gender (if we are only looking at this in a vacuum); women are already devalued, and our one way to salvation is apparently having men want to fuck us?

Because no matter how successful we are in the realm of capitalism, no matter how loving we are in the realm of spirituality, no matter how strong we are in terms of resilience, larger society deems us valuable based on our sexual appeal towards the heteronormative male eye, and this in and of itself is one of the most harmful if not the greatest tool that sexism has to offer. It does not matter that there are endless campaigns to appreciate beauty that does not fit into the heteronormative ideal (yes it matters a lot actually, but not for what I am speaking about) – these campaigns are still centering the body of a woman as the locus of our value and worth. The solution – if there ever was one or ever can be one that isn’t a complete overhaul of everything ever – is not to say that “every woman is beautiful,” because you know what, yes, we as women are beautiful and should believe that about ourselves (as should all of us weak-ass humans), but also – who the fuck cares??? Who the fuck cares if I am beautiful or not? I am a human being; we are all just weak-ass, sorry-ass human beings, and by virtue of that we are all worthy and our lives entirely valuable. Why do I have to be beautiful? It pisses me off, and honestly like, I ain’t even trying to be beautiful no more – then what? If shit hits the fan is you still a fan?

It is hard to even start with any productive or linear “logic” when it comes to this topic because it is already so illogical to begin with that we, as a culture, as a collective, as a society, are all more or less invested in the ideas that women’s value lies within the shape and size and appeal of our bodies. Even when we do not actually believe this in our core, how many of us are brave enough to shed ourselves fully of the bullshit, to take the risk of social irrelevance or social death to be more full within ourselves and more rooted in our humanity? I am not brave enough. Yet. I am saying this even (and even more so) as someone who has massive amounts of unearned “beauty privilege” because of the exotification of my racial ambiguity, and the close proximity of my features to features that are considered “top” (more or less so depending on the factors). It hurts me that I have this privilege that I never asked for. It hurts me that I can incite insecurity in other women depending on our socially-perceived value in any given situation. It hurts me that I feel insecure when assessing my own socially-perceived value in any given situation against that of another woman.

I can sit here and lie and pretend like these things don’t affect me. I can give in whole-heartedly and dive deeper into the self-objectification train that we don’t even realize we are on. I don’t want to do any of those things. Honesty is the only thing that has granted me the space to be better and to slowly push towards my own mental emancipation from the slavery that is oppression; and honestly, I know our worth as human beings (it ain’t nothing sacred or special, it can be, it doesn’t have to be, but it is there). I know our value as individuals, but I still engage in self/other/perception. I know that this is all bullshit straight up, but I am still scared to completely let go, to be sustained purely by my own love-of-self and convictions in what I know as truth.

I want to reach out to my sisters and tell them: we don’t have to be beautiful. Girl, it’s okay. But for now the most I can do is set my relationship status with my body and my mind as: It’s Complicated.

The Problem with Sexism

It is quite redundant to think about the problem with sexism, considering that sexism itself is a problem, and a seriously fucked up one at that. But I am going to humor myself for a moment and delve a little deeper into my thoughts on it, because I have come to believe that there is a problem with sexism, and that problem is love (and to a lesser extent, sex). See, love makes us act in crazy ways, or at least that is what we have been told, and when it comes to sexism, love can foster denial of self and what we may know is right, and that is downright crazy. Sexism is unique as a form of oppression in the sense that unlike other oppressions, there exists between the “oppressed” (women) and the “oppressors” (men) a common incentive, and that is the desire to engage with one another. A more evo-psych perspective would argue that we are biologically “wired” to be drawn to one another for sake of procreation. At the very base of it this is true, although I shy away from thinking too much about biology and evolutionary impulses when thinking about the dynamics of inequality. Females and males will forever have the desire to interact as long as we are human, which is not true in the same way for say racism or heterosexism. There are plenty of conversations to be had about the nature of and desire for interaction among dominant and subordinate groups within all systems of oppression, but the reality is that only between males and females is there the “biological” urge to engage, whereas a black person and a white person do not necessarily have this, nor a poor person and a rich.

So for lack of a less evo-psych way of putting it, we as women and men are “biologically” drawn to one another, and there is nothing we can do about it. (Disclaimer: I am aware of the fact that there are many gender and sexual differences among individuals that are not in alignment with my statements, and speak only in general terms for sake of argument). This inevitable attraction that we have for one another is the problem with sexism; love, and sex, make it so that sexism remains one of the major cornerstones of oppression, and insidious to the point where it is extremely difficult to see.

I first thought about this while overhearing conversations of women whom I worked among in strip clubs. A strip-club dressing room is the feminine equivalent of a male athletic locker room in the sense that the interactions that occur within it are very gendered and harbor more “in-group honesty” because there is only the one gender participating. So as a glimpse into a locker room for male athletes may give a clue into the private world of masculinity, the conversations that occur in a strip club dressing room tell of the daily concerns of these women’s lives. What is unique about this setting and what leads me to believe that love and sex are problems of sexism, more specifically problems to overcoming sexism, is the nature of the work that is being done outside of the dressing room, which is situated explicitly within the context of patriarchy.

It is arguable that similarly to how professional sports (especially in the United States) represent an apex of masculine expression, the strip club does so as well: although it is women who are the primary actors within a strip club, the space is wholly dedicated to masculinity. Strippers represent the ultimate patriarchal fantasy, which is why there are always less women who attend strip clubs (regardless of their sexual preference) and always less male strippers. Stripping is about masculinity, making a man feel like a man, and is much less so about celebration of women’s sexuality. Given this and given the overall context within which these spaces exist, the strip club offers us women who work there a rare window into patriarchal masculinity – it is like being able to secretly hear how men talk about us as women when we are not around. As strippers we encounter men’s attitudes about women in a very different and intimate way than perhaps we would had we not been strippers, in the sense that because we are already posited as sexual objects who solely serve the purposes of men, men do not necessarily feel the need to act among us as if we are real people. We are merely strippers, so while a man may put on a façade of interest to a woman at a bar, he does not have to do so in a strip club. What I mean to say is that as strippers we get to see what men really think of us as women. And yes, there are many caveats to my previous statement, such as the fact that men who have gone and go to strip clubs are in the minority, or that the environment lends itself to especially lewd behavior. However as some have said that we can judge a country’s values by looking at its prisons, I do believe that we can judge a patriarchy’s values by looking at its strip clubs.

So this brings me to the real point of my musings, which is that that there exists a disparity between what we see and experience from men as women working in this environment and what we express about them in the dressing rooms of this environment, and I believe that love is what creates this disparity. To put it simply, men in strip clubs are pigs who treat us like shit. The level of disrespect and disregard for our humanity is so low that I can do without political correctness: fuck men and all the horses that they rode in on. It is important that I point out that I am not making a statement about all men ever, rather the nature of their perception of us as women when we are situated in the awkward position of being at once extremely desirable and extremely disposable. There is much to be said about strip club dynamics, but the focus here is the fact that although this treatment is more or less a reality for us, we still speak about men, the men in our lives that we love and care for, in ways which are cognitively dissonant from this experience. (The fact that we women in general even spend so much time speaking about men really boggles the mind anyway, but I suppose it makes sense in the context of oppression.) Even as women who see the what the “true” nature of men can be in regards to how they perceive us, we still manage to devote a large amount of our time and energy thinking and musing about the men in our lives, and I believe that the love we have for these men acts as a barrier to our making the final leap into accepting the fact that we are seriously, seriously oppressed as a gender.

I remember a woman in the dressing room once who was being consoled by two others, upset about a man, expressing feelings of self-insecurity and doubt. It is quite interesting to think that only by walking out into the club could she be regarded as highly desirable by men, yet within her own life still feel insecure about a particular man. It is just as interesting to think that she could walk out into the club and simultaneously be treated inferior, yet within her own life desire and crave the love of a particular man. So many of us women who work in the club are “over” the behavior of men, yet it is love that is blocking us from contextualizing our own lives within the same structure that creates the space of the strip club. How is it that men can both worship me in the club and treat me as less than, and still in my own life I can both feel unworthy, and also expect that men will see me as equal? How is it that I, we, can believe that men can truly love us as women?

As long as we are taught and internalize the idea that a man’s love and attention is what validates our lives as women, there will exist a great hurdle to the recognition that we are oppressed as fuck as a class of human beings. Oppression relies on separation to maintain itself, and we will never be in solidarity with one another as women if we are still held back by the desire and need that is constructed upon us to be loved by a man, to be claimed and have our lives be validated by them. As bell hooks argues, “as females in a patriarchal culture, we [are] not slaves to love, most of us are slaves of longing – yearning for a master who will set us free and claim us because we cannot claim ourselves (hooks, Communion xvi).” Of course this is highly theoretical and I am not speaking here of the lives of individual women, but pointing to the fact that both our biological drive to interact with men and constructed need for their attention and validation work together to create a matrix within which it is even more difficult to move – and that this is a serious hurdle to women coming together in solidarity and essentially saying, fuck men and sexist oppression. Solidarity creates resistance, but putting into question our relationships with the men in our lives that we love and care for to really stand against sexist oppression is a monumental challenge. What the question comes down to is: Is it possible to truly love within the context of domination? Perhaps we do not want to know the answer.

male privilege is a bitch

I realized recently that hanging out with a bunch of men is like hanging out with a bunch of white people – there is a limited level of tolerance that once surpassed, ain’t no body got time for it. My boyfriend said to me recently that while he realizes that power dynamics work on a grand scale (impressive) – for example, that men have privilege and power over women within a structure of systematic, sexist oppression – he doesn’t see how oppression works on an individual level and within interpersonal interactions (typical). It is a valid question to have, and one that is difficult to answer and explain, especially to members of the class of people who generally are the ones making you feel shitty about your gender, race, sexuality, [insert oppression here] by their behavior during these interpersonal interactions.

This weekend brought up for me a great example of the way power dynamics work on an individual level, as I found myself surrounded by men (straight men, ew)  for the majority of the weekend, and this is including Friday. As you can imagine, I was over it real, real quick. Any woman who is paying a lick of attention can relate to the experience of being the only woman in a group of men, saying something at the same time as a man, and having what she said be disregarded in favor of what the man has said. I would argue that this is as common an experience for women as being hit on, and it’s bullshit! Men are so used to privileging their voices over the voices of women that when it happens it is barely noticeable by either gender – it is just the order of the day, once a-fucking-gain, men unapologetically taking up space while we women wait, hope, and fight to be recognized and acknowledged within that space.

Interactions do not have to be directly sexist from one person to another for the dynamics of sexism to work themselves in. None of the men I was surrounded by this past weekend have any reason to feel anything but benevolence towards me – I am their friend’s girlfriend so my existence is minimally relevant them, just someone to be nice to while they hang out with my boyfriend. Regardless, because oppression has made it so that public space is still the domain of men, their voices are automatically privileged because space belongs to them. Obviously I don’t actually have to be “in public” for male privilege to kill my fucking vibe everywhere I go – three’s a crowd so as long as there are three or more people conversing, the space becomes “public” if there is at least one male in the group. Like in the French language. In French, you can refer to groups of people (“they”) as either “ils” or elles,” the former being masculine and the latter feminine. The only time you would actually use “elles” is if the group of people you are referring to only has women in it – one man and you automatically refer to the group as a group of “he’s:” “ils,” even if there is only one motherfucker in it and throngs of women.

And actually I take that back – you don’t need to have one male in the group for the dynamics of sexism to work themselves in neatly. Yes, in terms of privileging voice in a conversation, a male voice is required for this direct interaction to take place, but this does not mean that the insidious and slimy nature of sexism doesn’t work its way into our conversations as women with women as well. In fact, it would be silly of me to assume that we as women could ever really escape the privileging of a male voice, a perspective, a framework… after all, isn’t that world in which we live? More than twice this weekend did I want to break into James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World” as these fools were talking and completely missing the fact that I had uttered sounds, words, interesting and relevant commentary on what was being spoken about at any given time. It’s not that we are being ignored as women. (Some of) what we say eventually is heard and is responded to, but it takes an assertion on our part for our voices to have equal paring with the voices of men, and this is very literal and very figurative.

Not only did the privileging-of-male-voices turn me off this weekend but in general the ubiquitous male gaze. The male gaze is something I have said hi to, told to fuck off, and struggled to escape from, and for the most part (I think but probably not) I feel I have gained enough awareness of it at least to try to resist it in a constructive and safe way. This weekend, however, as I spent copious amounts of time in the presence of heterosexual men as the only female, I also found myself reverting to more patriarchal and sexist ways of thinking. Freud (fuck Freud) calls this the defense mechanism of regression, where one regresses into “earlier stages of [psychological] development” when faced with a stressful or threatening event. I wasn’t stressed or threatened by any of the events that happened this weekend, but I am in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar practices, dynamics, and expectations than I am used to, so I found myself regressing. At one point during the weekend, while the boys were cleaning (one advantage of loving to cook is having people offer to clean up the mess afterwards!) I sat in the dining room of this beautiful, grand flat I am staying in in Paris, smoking a joint while overlooking the sun-soaked apartment tops of the neighborhood through giant windows, listening to music, generally just chilling the fuck out. When I listen to music I close my eyes and bob my head to the beat and try to enjoy the sensual experience of being spoken to through the medium of a musical rhythm… so the boys come into the room to eat and I continue to do my own thing, but now because they are in the room I was conscious of myself, of how I looked, how I moved, how I sat; just really mundane shit that no one should ever really give a fuck about ever.

It was strange for me to experience such sudden and familiar self-consciousness, and essentially, as I have identified it, be susceptible to the subtle and gripping power of the male gaze. I know myself enough to know that this is what I was responding to, but I didn’t understand why. When thinking about regression as a defense mechanism, perhaps I was regressing into a more sexist and patriarchal way of thinking because I was already especially sensitive to the gender dynamics of the weekend, starting with being over the male-voice-privileging. I am in a country unfamiliar to me, with people who understand things differently than I (culturally), with the hurdle of language to overcome when trying to communicate. I am also in a very unfamiliar environment in the sense that I am living with my boyfriend for a short time, and this is after coming from living alone in my own apartment, in my own city, lit as fuck with all black errythang. How did I go from being a lit-ass bitch paying all her bills to a (still) lit-ass bitch who is (still) paying all her own bills – lol – but worried about what some fucking guys (white guys at that) think of me??? It’s regression! Thank you Freud… for that ONE thing, I guess.

It is quite an adjustment to be living like a wifey (temporarily) when I am generally anti-wifey, to live within a culture that is much different (but in many ways the same) from the culture that I come from, and I am changing and growing and learning everyday. Sexism, however, is sexism wherever you are, and male privilege stanks just as much abroad.