RSS Feed

men on the street

Posted on

So, last night i was walking home after a great evening. I’d done a bit of stand-up comedy for the first time in, like, a year, and it went really well. A bunch of my friends came, people from all areas of my life–a few radical feminists, some of my school friends, some of the beautiful people from that little twelve-step road i travel–like that. And they all laughed, and so did the other people in the club, i had such a great time. i was totally nervous, but i’d’ve been even MORE nervous had I NOT been nervous. you know?

Then my buddy H. and i went out for something to eat. Carbs. I had mac ‘n’ cheese at ten at night. with bacon. She had a chicken sandwich. we shared her fries. we talked about politics and comedy and women and our pornified culture– lots of the comics added some porn talk to their sets, and it wasn’t too awful, but it was significant enough to be quite distressing. Where have we gone? Why are we referencing porn as if it’s a cool thing? One guy tried to critique it, sort of, but mostly people just talked about it as if it was just commonplace and not problematic. It is commonplace, but it’s really problematic. everyone in it is reduced to bits. organs, holes, fluid. the pain and fear women experience is ‘disappeared’ or made to seem like desire and excitement. People (men and women both) last night made fun of their own or their sons use of pornography, but they didn’t make it the subject of their jokes, just the context, kind of, as if it’s just a regular thing that everyone does and likes. I made eye contact with a woman at another table when one of the comics was doing some porny thing, and we agreed that this wasn’t funny. This was indicative of some serious backlash.

anyhow, so H and i talked a little of that, and a little bit about our friendship and how much we like it, we’ve known each other for a few years now, but are just ramping up the intimacy now. Not sexual intimacy, either, we’re gonna be the kind of friends, as she says, who “could be lovers at any time, but never will be”. I like that in a buddy. Anyhow, I walked her home, then I walked home.

Along the way, I passed a couple of men. Now, usually, when i’m walking along and I pass men, they will look at me as if they are making eye contact, and then as we are passing each other, i notice that his eyes are either looking right through me, or past me. I’m an obvious lesbian in my forties, it makes me invisible to men. it’s like shopping at IKEA, kind of. You know, you can do ANYTHING in IKEA . No one sees anyone else, we’re all looking at the furniture with names that have umlauts over the vowels, and measuring the shelving units and picking up a gazillion tealights and ice cube trays shaped like hearts and shit like that. You could run through the store naked singing Janis Joplin songs and no one would pay you any attention. That’s what it’s like being a middle-aged lesbian among men.

But last night, the guys I passed made eye contact! and acknowledged my existence! weird. The first one nodded, and I nodded back. The second one nodded and smiled, and I said “g’d evenin'” and he looked startled and turned to look at me again and said, “I thought you were a guy!.”

He sounded angry. or at least annoyed

I replied, “happens a lot”, and walked on. then i realized that all those men, the ones who nodded and smiled at me, they thought i was a guy, too.

It has been happening more. Even at the womens worlds conference last week, at a presentation, I asked a question and the moderator pointed to me and said, “We’ll hear from this gentleman” and I looked around and said, “i’m not a gentleman” — in a gentle way. I knew she’d be embarrassed, and I didn’t want her to be.  She was kind of mortified, and apologized a couple of times. I do not look like a man, by the way, and i’m not particularly butch. But I don’t make any effort to look like a woman, either. no makeup, and usually I wear boxy t-shirts and kind of baggy jeans.  I look like a lesbian. Or a rural woman (who are often heterosexual, but have short hair and wear no make up and like that–and there are the urban dykes who iron their hair and wear makeup and stuff–i’m often flirting with totally the wrong people–it’s embarrassing).

anyhow. this guy, last night, he sounded annoyed. why was he annoyed? did he think i was trying to fool him? did he think i wanted to BE a man? Was he mad because he’d acknowledged someone as an equal and i was only a woman after all? Buddy was black, too, and I am white, was he mad because a man with white-skin privilege acknowledged him as a peer and she turned out to be a mere woman after all? Am I reading too much into this encounter? was he only surprised and not mad at all?  and what did that mean about the other guys i met along my way last night? every man I met nodded and said hello in some fashion or other. Every one. Today as I was out running, every man I met (‘cept the guy who lives in my building who i met outside) glanced at me and slid his gaze away before I could make eye contact. Every one.

i gotta go now, but i’ll tell you another time bout this guy i met in a few years ago at the steam room at the community centre .  tonight i’m going to a radical feminist party. lucky me! i’m gonna wear the same clothes i had on last night, pretty much, and all those people are gonna know i am a woman.  it’s good to belong.

About easilyriled

My mom was Edith, my dad was John. I have a brother, who is Shawn. I have many friends and allies and mentors in my life. I'm white, over-educated, working in a field for which I am not yet trained, messy, funny, smart, lesbian, feminist "Not the fun kind", as Andrea Dworkin said. But I, like the feminists I hang with, ARE fun. Radical feminism will be the roots of our shared liberation. Rejection of sex-stereotypes (gender) and male domination will give us wings.

11 responses »

  1. Great post!

    I’ve gotten mistaken for a man from time to time, too. It puzzles me. Physically, I don’t look much like the culture’s idea of “masculine” at all. I have obvious breasts and hips. I am on the tall side. Outside work hours, I mostly wear non-sexy jeans, cargo pants, plain cotton t-shirts, flannel shirts, denim shirts, etc. I like well made clothing. I generally buy “unisex” looking shoes, sometimes in the men’s dept because they are comfortable and better made. I don’t wear cosmetics. My hair is short. I dress this way because it is comfortable and practical. (And not expensive, most clothes come from thrift shops). I do see country women who look this way, too.

    I don’t make an effort to look “feminine” and haven’t for many decades. “Feminine” clothes are uncomfortable, go out of style quickly, poorly made, and I think most of it looks kind of odd. I think that, if you don’t dress or have mannerisms according to that stereotype, you get read as “male.” It’s because androgynous=male. It’s the default choice if you don’t look “feminine.”

  2. Thanks, Katie. I agree, most ‘feminine’ clothing looks kind ofweird to me, too. I feel all awkward and exposed in it, cause most of it, these days anyhow, accentuates hips and cleavage–it’s made for men. maybe i’m just over sensitive. I do have some pants that are cut for a woman’s body, and they’re nice. but mostly i’m like you, sartorial-wise. odd, eh? people don’t know what to do with us. Is it more now than it was, say, twenty years ago, do you think?

  3. I’ve gotten older in the past 20 years, so that has changed :D. I was your age around 20 years ago. As women age, they fit the feminie stereotype even less. That’s why it used to be said that you called younger women “pretty” and older women “handsome.” I do think that the culture has sexualized women way, way more over the past 20 years, though. I’m wondering if people are scanning more for “performances of feminity” and looking less at the actual person than they used to? It seems like that to me, to some extent.

    Yes, I agree, clothes that accentual hips and cleavage have never appealed to me, even when I did wear more feminine clothing. I already hated being stared at all the time by men (especially cleavage staring), so why would I want these clothes?

    Some clothes also seem designed to make women look silly, like ruffles–I’ve never liked ruffles, including in home furnishing, like curtains and bedspreads. Other clothes, as noted, call attention to women as sex objects. But also, some of it is just strange, the cut of the clothing, the fact that it looks poorly made. It is all insulting, even if in slightly different ways.

  4. Also, I wanted to say that I loved your description of your relationship with H. A lot of emphasis is put on sexually intimate relationships. I think we need to be looking for wonderful, loving, solid friends.

  5. oh yes, about the friends–I look around me and i see all of these beautiful friends and we’ve stuck with each other for DECADES. It takes a lot of work, but it’s also kind of magic to have friends–as you say, wonderful, loving, solid friends.


    I hope you have that, too.

  6. Having moved around too much, an economic necessity, my decades-long friends are far-flung, so I miss the community part of having a community of friends for decades. I do treasure the friends for decades, part and now I plan to stay put and have that wonderful community, too. It looks promising. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

  7. “I’m an obvious lesbian in my forties, it makes me invisible to men. it’s like shopping at IKEA, kind of. You know, you can do ANYTHING in IKEA.”

    This. Is. Brilliant. And so true. Also, I wish I had a dollar for every straight Iowa woman I’ve given my number to by mistake… 🙂

    • heh. thanks.also, i love your latest. I’m older than you, so i ‘came out’ in the context of a still-vibrant women’s liberation movement. Judy Grahn’s work was still in print, Olivia Records was still Olivia Records, not Cruises–
      i love that you walk beside these older women, and with such respect and love. yea. me too.

  8. I love your blog, easilyriled! I have so much I could say in response to this post.

    But I wanted to say along with phonaesthetica I have absolutely no dyke-dar. Yikes!

    There is a section at the beginning of a book about a woman who spends some time posing as a man (a book whose title I cannot recall and which I DO NOT recommend, btw) in which she discusses how men look her in the eye, as a peer when they take her to be male. Before she was scared to walk past them because of their comments and the way they looked at her body. I found (and find) this REALLY infuriating.

  9. I’d imagine they were a bit upset to be fooled on two levels. One they were annoyed that they were “duped” by a woman, and two that they had considered you equal. On an optimistic note, you may have changed their whole philosophy about whether men and women really are that different.

    On a side note, your writing is wonderful to read, you’re a great storyteller.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: