Creepy Guy Part II: A Progressive Female Feminist Perspective

I would like to depart from the normal expression of my thoughts and hand the blog over to my oldest daughter, Rosie, a resident of London and passionate civil rights advocate. Rosie kindly gave me permission to post her impassioned private response to my latest blog entry concerning creepy guys. I received A LOT of feedback from this blog in many forms –conversations, emails, formal written responses, yet, in all, I believe her response strikes to the core of the issue that must be shared.

First, a few things to give some context:

  • In spite of the fact the primary intent of the blog was either poorly communicated or misunderstood, with said intent being the use of all generalized terms that tend to classify large groups of people in general, unproductive and stereotypical fashion, she does strike at the more troubling deeper societal concern: Patriarchal power and practice that many believe necessitates the need to identify the “creepy guy;” which, upon reflection, is a gravely more important issue than the stance one takes on the use of the word creep.
  • Secondly, it is important to note the “conversation” she refers to me having -it never happened -it was a facebook post, stating the creepiness of all older men, which was mistaken for a conversation. In reality, I never responded to the “facebooker” at all; yet Rosie’s points are still very well taken and appreciated.
  • Lastly, if you want to hear an EXCELLENT podcast from an expert on fear, Gavin de Becker, and in particular the fear women experience on a daily basis, this is a must listen. Quite frankly, as I come to a better understanding of this fear and educate myself, it simultaneously makes me both very sad and very angry. I so appreciate those like Rosie who can assertively state their point of view and better inform the rest of us all the while not taking shit from anyone. I wish we had more like her.

So sit back and allow my girl to unpack on her pops…

I just want to unpack my thoughts after I read your blog, so I’m not directly attacking your post or you as a writer at all, but it was a trigger for me, and these are the thoughts that I want to express after reading it. 

A woman told you about her experiences of unwanted sexual attention from men and you centered it on you. With privilege, sometimes what we need to do is listen.

As women, from the time we are sexualized in the eyes of society we experience ‘creepy’ men daily in the form of microaggressions. We are primed from our early teens to behave in ways that make us innately respond with non-aggression (out of fear) and de-escalate. This is basically instinct for most women.

This is from a well written piece on de-escalation, and how men can struggle to understand it: “Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore. We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation.”

But it doesn’t have to be as explicit as a threat. It can be a look, a comment, a smirk. The microaggressions women experience on a daily basis contribute to the institutionalised construct of patriarchy. Without the sexualization of women on the very micro of levels, the patriarchy wouldn’t exist. Think of sexism like building blocks, the first block is the ‘creepy’ look a man gives you that makes you feel unsafe, the next block is the slap on the ass, the next the threat when you rejected his date invitation, the next is the missed promotion and wage gap, so on and so forth until you have every element that contributes to the marginalization of women. When we are addressing institutions like sexism, every block must crumble, including the smallest of microaggressions, and women need to platform their voice and not de-escalate. We must feel safe to voice when we are receiving unwanted sexual attention from men, because this is beneficial for the macro. However, the trigger for most men is Not me! I’m not creepy! I’m not the problem!

Women do not owe you anything. Women are entitled to think someone is creepy. I know you would have not viewed this conversation as a big deal, but when a woman is telling you of her experiences of unwanted sexual attention, instead of victimizing yourself and tone-policing her (or language-policing in this instance), listen. It’s not about you – and the usage of the word creepy is not on our radar. We have other things to worry about (like smashing the patriarchy!)

Being ‘politically correct’ (or the preferred word, intersectional) is hard, and it’s not easy. The past year especially I’ve spent unpacking my privilege, my whiteness, and how that has affected my perceptions and experiences in every single aspect of my life. When a person of color says something that I view as attacking, and my first instinct is to defend myself (I’m not racist! I’m not the problem here! Not all white people! White people have struggles too you know!) and center it on myself because as white people that is what is taught and what is accepted our entire lives – that our experiences are more important and worthy of a voice (thus it’s an easy mode to default back on – and because you know how stubborn I am anyway). When in fact, the most valuable thing we can learn is “I hear you.” We need to start breaking those building blocks and learn to be an ally with even the most mundane of conversations. But it’s not easy because it’s so damn uncomfortable and tempting to go back to our default response – especially as we get older and think our worldviews are correct and solidified and that we have the right to shout the loudest. 

Sexism and racism are societal constructs. None of us want to consider that we might be sexist or racists on an individual level, but we must accept we have been brought up in a white supremacist patriarchy and we have innate privilege (white women do not hold male privilege as we don’t stand to benefit from the institution of patriarchy, but we hold white privilege, and this dynamic of power is strong). White people have always had a platform for their voices to be heard, white males particularly. I really love your writing, but I think it can be a little toxic when you are using your platform in a way that’s projecting males as ‘victims.’ There are other posts (on police and people of color) that were also difficult for me to read. We must always be unpacking our worldviews and how they are evolving and changing within the scope of intersectionality and feminism, in a personal and a communications context. I learned about privilege and intersectionality in my Intercultural Coms class – I’m really grateful my professor introduced that curriculum as it started to emerge academically, but I have so much more learning to do. We are all learning and we are all trying to do better; we all CAN do better and it starts with listening and with conversations and blog posts and so on.  

Here’s a really great article on being a ‘responsible’ devil’s advocate, I really recommend it: https://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2013/08/10/how-to-be-a-responsible-devils-advocate/

And here’s the de-escalation article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-kelly/the-thing-all-women-do-you-dont-know-about_b_8630416.html

Anyway, that has OBVIOUSLY digressed away from your blog post, which I am not attacking, but stuff I have wanted to share for a while, that you don’t have to take on board (and it’s fine if you don’t want to) but I wanted to unpack with you. 

I’m honored. Thank you.

Things That Go Bump In The Night. Oh. That Was My Head.

Life. FCBEdamned life. Perhaps Forrest Gump’s mom was right, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I was scheduled to leave Europe on Monday and head back to Los Angeles after several months abroad. Bittersweet? For sure. As much as I love the conveniences of home and the safety of routine, traveling is a drug and I am an addict (please read my next still unpublished blog…written but not yet posted, coming soon).  Alas, it is a Tuesday evening and I am still here in London.

Missed my flight and all.

On Sunday evening, the evening before my flight home, I went to bed and woke up in a UK Hospital Emergency Room.  I do not remember most of it. The story goes that I woke in the middle of the night, fell right over a coffee table and face planted right eye first into the corner of either the coffee table or radiator (blood spatters are currently being investigated by Dexter). I was staying with my daughter Rosie and her man Nathan when they heard a thud. Thinking I was just getting ready for my early morning flight in a loud (and rude) manner, they thought nothing of it until they looked at the clock and saw it was 2am…4 hours before I was to get up.

They jumped out of bed and saw me leaning against the radiator with blood everywhere, while kneeling in a pool of it. I was out of it…as if I was the recipient of a circa 1995 Mike Tyson blow to the face. I do not remember the paramedics arriving, nor the ambulance ride, nor the emergency doctors examining me. My first recollection was when I felt a needle go through my skin over my right eye, 17 or so stitches to close up a bleeding and gaping wound.

I lay in a hospital room as I begin to come to consciousness.  I recollect the man across from me was screaming in pain. Dejected, sick and hurting people were all around me.  As the morning progressed, I began to make sense of things. As my eyes first opened I saw my daughter Rosie and her man Nathan, gently touching me and loving me, the look of concern on their faces. I looked them squarely in the eye and told them both how much I love them

What you must know is it is not necessary for Rosie and Nathan to see Rosie’s dad in a puddle of blood to come to life and nurture and assist. Since my September 5 arrival in London, they both have been here to serve, assist, love on and just hang out with me. The fact that they were both there for me in my hour (minute?) of need is only symbolic of who they are as people.

Do things happen for a reason? NO ONE can know the answer to that question though I tend to be on the “no” side of that equation.  However, if events do have purpose (after all I have been known to be wrong from time to time) I have a pretty good idea of why this happened -please indulge me on this one.  The last few months are a time in my life when I have come to the stark realization that I am in a major life transition.

I blogged about these things before, yet this week’s events confirm all I have said.

Life is coming full circle. It seems the first third of our lives -or so- we are dependent on others for nearly everything. Of course that changes greatly from the first part of our first third to the last part of our first third….but I think you get the point.  Our second life third is the time when everyone is dependent upon us: Partners, children, aging parents, etc…yet the final third of our life we begin the reverse process: We begin to become reliant on others once again. Like returning from whence we came.

Now, to be fair, I am not quite in the process of my final third -at least I hope not- and many still do depend on me, yet that corner is turning and I see it as clear as day.  On the final night of my 3 month journey of discovery and change while teaching and traveling throughout Europe, I made myself completely vulnerable…literally bleeding out to death…with the only hope of salvation becoming completely dependent on the actions of others.  My blood representing spilled life -my life energy gushing from body- with only the hope of others. When the others are your offspring and her partner, you realize the wagons have turned and here you are.

I hear the inner voice, “Get used to it buddy. And thank FCBE you have the good fortune to have the others in your life.

I now look in the mirror and see a broken -literally- man with a black and red eye, a swollen forehead and a look of defeat -at least physically. Yet if you look deeper you see a man who is changing, knows the change, feels the change, and, yes, even welcomes the change.  I welcome the beauty of a new season and the challenges it shall bring.

Oh, and did I mention I am deeply in love with my daughter and her man? Deeply, and man I mean freaking deeply.

I read a meme on Facebook today that said, “Crying is not a sign of weakness, it is sign that you have been strong far too long.

The last 24 hours I have lived that meme. I have cried. Not due to any physical pain but due to the realization that my love for some people in my life runs deeper than I could ever have known.  Or imagined. Or realized. Wow do I love Rosie and Nathan. Wow do I love my family. Wow do I love my life partner. Perhaps crying is perceived strength leaving the body while the tears make room for the real strength of love and humility.

Sure in life we never know what we’re gonna get, yet I know what I got in my family. And, at this vulnerable moment in my life, nothing else really matters.

I am still in the UK attempting to get clearance from the medical authorities stating it is ok for me to fly.

So I wait…at Rosie and Nathan’s London flat of course. Feeling overwhelmed, in some physical pain, but full of love and gratitude.

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(Afterward: I am now back at home in Santa Clarita both waiting to have my stitches removed and for Rene’ to get back from the UK as she came out to check on me. I look forward to her return on Tuesday. Damn life. You just never know what you’re gonna get. And maybe that is why I love it so much.)