Interrupted while reading

This is a fairly normal occurrence – I’m reading a book while eating my lunch. People (usually guys) think that they have to comment on it. It happened last Friday, when an older lady felt it necessary to then tell me that she only reads the Bible and Christian fiction. (I was reading a science-fiction book, which usually makes people like her twitch) Instead of letting her “witness” to me (because I’ve seen this play out before that way), I turned it around and said that I can find goodness in everything I read, because God is everywhere. That kind of short-circuited her head.

She has no idea who I am, that I have written several non-fiction Christ-based books. This kind of blind “witnessing” is something that Jesus never did.

In general, the guys use this as an opportunity to hit on me. The ladies use it as an opportunity to “witness”. Both don’t get that I’m not buying what they are selling – for the first, I’m married. For the second, I’m already a member of the club.

But either way, it is rude, on many levels. It just isn’t a good way to start a conversation or a relationship.

I’m thinking of coming up with a script like “Yeah, isn’t it strange that total strangers think it is OK to interrupt someone who is minding her own business, reading a book?”

Is reading in public such an anomaly that it requires comment?

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Street Walker

Let’s discuss something called “Street Harassment”. Perhaps you have seen the video calling attention to this. A woman walks around New York City for 10 hours, silently, wearing a crew cut t-shirt and jeans. She receives a lot of unwanted attention from men.

Consider if the roles were reversed. Men can walk anywhere they want and not be verbally harassed by women. Women do not call out to them about how attractive they are, or give them their number, or ask for dates. What we are seeking here is equality. Women want to be treated with the same respect and courtesy that men expect.

Just because a woman is walking on the street, it doesn’t mean that she is a street walker. She is a pedestrian, not a prostitute.

It doesn’t matter how attractive the woman is. She still doesn’t want to be treated like a piece of meat. A woman should be able to walk anywhere she wants without being accosted verbally. It is not okay for a man to call out to woman and say “Hey beautiful!” or “Damn, you look fine!” We don’t like it, and we don’t want it. Really.

The woman is not being rude for ignoring the man’s attentions. He’s being rude for invading her space. She is just walking to the doctor’s office or her school or work. She should not have to dress in a bulky jacket in order to avoid unwanted comments.

Women dress the way they do because that is the way they dress. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they want male attention. Just walking within male eyesight does not mean that they want them to talk to them and tell them how hot they are.

There are a lot of unwanted interactions between women and men. This is just one of them, and the least violent.

Women as appliances – the source of gender violence

I was walking outside at lunch last week, and a guy drove by in a car and yelled at me. It took me a bit to process it. I couldn’t believe that someone was yelling at me. What he yelled was “Your skirt is too f—–g long, b—h!”

Except he filled in the blanks. He threw his words, like trash, out of the car, and at me.

I was shocked. I felt attacked. And I was confused. My skirt is too long? That is a problem? Oh, so I should hem up all of my skirts so they show off my legs so he can see them. I get it.

Like that kind of person deserves to see any part of me.

I’m married, after all. I’m not on the market. But even before I was married I dressed modestly. It just isn’t other people’s right to treat me as an object, a thing, a body. I am a person first. By hiding my body I make people look at me instead of my body.

I’ve written quite a bit about how men objectify women who wear clothing that is revealing. I’ve written that women should think about what they wear so that they do not get unwanted attention.

But now I’m rethinking that. I was wearing an ankle-length skirt, and I got unwanted attention.

And then I remember that at work, wearing very modest clothing, I get unwanted attention. Guys hit on me and they know nothing about me. They don’t know my name other than what is on my nametag. They don’t notice that I wear a wedding band. They don’t know what I read or what my hobbies are. They know nothing about me other than I am female and they are male. They think that should be enough to ask me out.

Perhaps I’ve been going at this wrong all along. Perhaps the boy who killed women simply because (other) women wouldn’t date him is part of this problem. Perhaps all gender violence and miscommunication stems from this same root.

Some guys don’t know that women are people and not objects.

Some guys don’t know that they need to make friends with women first – and as real friends, not just as an attempt to get to date them. And by “date”, I don’t mean “have sex with”. A lot of guys get that confused.

Yes, we women have been sold the idea that our looks are more important than anything. We’ve been sexualized and objectified by the media. We’ve been sold this idea that we have to have a man if we are to be anything. But men have been sold the same message along with us. It isn’t just women who have been short-changed by this message. It is men who are missing out on knowing women as individuals, as people.

For many men, women are a means to an end. Women are girlfriends and then wives and then the mothers of their children and homemakers. Women are yet another thing they have to have in their lives.

They are appliances.

They are washing machines and stoves.

You have to have a washing machine to get your clothes clean. Sure, you could wash your clothes in the sink and hang them to dry. Or you could take them to the Laundromat if you don’t have a washing machine in your house. Or you could take them to the dry-cleaners if you don’t know how to use a washing machine.

Or you could get married and let your wife do it.

The same with food. Everybody needs to eat. You can cook for yourself, or you can eat out. When you eat out, you can eat fast food or you can eat at a fancy restaurant.

Or you can get married and let your wife do it.

Men have been short-changed by our society. We have told them that women are the ones who cook and clean. Women are the ones who hold the keys to these basic needs. So they have to have a woman to fulfill these basic needs.

Sex is extra.

You have to have clean clothes and you have to eat.

If we teach men how to take care of themselves, then women won’t be a means to an end.

It is all making sense now.

If a man cannot take care of himself – cannot clean his clothes, clean his house, feed himself – he will have to have someone else do this for him. This is embarrassing, and it is a slight against his manhood. Sometimes that someone else is a stranger – the dry cleaners, the fast food worker. The prostitute.

Sometimes that someone else is his wife.

One of the most powerful things you can do is to give control back to people. It is essential to teach people how to help themselves. It is vital for their souls. We must, as a society, start teaching all people how to do all the things that they need to take care of themselves. We have to cross-train everybody.

Men must learn how to cook and clean. Women must learn how to repair cars, plumbing, electricity. We both must learn each other’s tasks, and our own. No more gender division. No more “women’s work” and “men’s work”.

For our own sanity, survival, and strength, we must do this. If we all can stand on our own, imagine how much stronger we will be together? People will marry out of strength instead of weakness.

And men won’t “have” to have a woman. They won’t see women as objects but as people. They won’t see women as appliances – washers, dryers, stoves. They will be able to take care of their own human needs, so they won’t feel the sense of empty desperation that comes from feeling helpless.