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Love Is All Around

By Scott Puckett

A red Honda Civic. Looks like a frat boy car, all No Fear and Stussy stickers. One more on the back - "Hug me if you're a fine chick." Another date rapist in training.

It's late at night. You're alone, walking down a deserted street and you hear footsteps behind you. Or maybe you're in a crowded elevator, going to work, and you feel someone's hand touching you. Maybe you're walking down a street and a construction crew 10 stories up starts whistling and catcalling. Maybe you're in a bar and someone with slicked back greasy hair comes up to you and says something like "If I were your man, I wouldn't leave a pretty little lady like you alone for a second, so your boyfriend can't be any good. Want to try me on for size?"

It doesn't matter what is, because it's intrusive and annoying at best, threatening and possibly deadly at worst. "But it's just boys being boys," they say after a group of teenagers gang rapes a woman, provided they're white and at least middle class. "It was just a misunderstanding," they say if the rapist was the scion of a wealthy family. Or they hire a lawyer to argue that the woman is lying, trying to blackmail them or simply deranged, sometimes all of the above.

There are times I'm glad I don't live in Palm Beach, that I don't live in a city where juries acquit rapists because their victim dressed in such a fashion as to "ask for it." There are times I'm glad I live in San Diego. Then I turn on the news and realize it's no different.

I walk around my college and hear guys say things like, "Man, I can't fucking believe it. I took her to dinner and she wouldn't have sex with me afterwards," or "Look at that! Hooters and asses and faces everywhere!" A few years ago, I heard a DJ call blonde women California's chief export. Objectification? Not so you'd notice. Not if you're a man.

I wander around town and see people playing - guys pretending to fight with their girlfriends, picking them up and throwing them over one shoulder, probably reverting to their most fundamental instinct - Neanderthalism. When in doubt, grunt.

Mind you, this is what male society considers equal. Never mind the glass ceiling, the so-called Mommy Track in corporate offices, the way movies and television shows portray women. This is equality, and it's what women asked for, right? Congress didn't pass the ERA, but that doesn't mean women aren't equal, right? Yeah, right. Tell it to Mitsubishi.

I'm sick to death of this. I'm so sick at what I see that I can barely articulate what I think and how I feel about it. I simply vent. I see men gawking at women, ogling them and leering at them in bars, trying to get them drunker and drunker so they might actually consent before the guys try to fuck them.

There's something wrong here. There is something desperately, fundamentally wrong and it's simple - men just don't respect women. Germaine Greer wrote in "The Female Eunuch" that "A full bosom is actually a millstone around a woman's neck: it endears her to the men who want to make their mammet of her, but she is never allowed to think that their popping eyes actually see her. Her breasts are only to be admired for as long as they show no signs of their function: once darkened, stretched or withered, they are objects of revulsion. They are not parts of a person but lures slung around her neck, to be kneaded and twisted like magic putty, or mumbled and mouthed like lolly ices."

She penned those words 26 years ago. Today, people visit plastic surgery clinics and modify their bodies to conform more closely to whatever ideal of beauty may exist at any given moment. Feel like your breasts are too small? Get implants. Feel like they're too big? Undergo reduction surgery. Too fat? Have your stomach liposucked, then tummy tucked. Have your body carved and cut to meet invisible standards which are impossible to live up to. Then deal with the after effects, the knowledge that you're still not happy with your body, even after the painkillers wear off and that dull, post-surgery ache sets in. Am I the only person who finds this innately offensive?

Apparently not. Writers like Curtis Sittenfeld challenge the rigidly defined gender categories in essays like "Your Life As a Girl," people like Nomi Lamm and Abra Fortune Chernik share their experiences with diets, eating disorders and the like in painfully revealing writing which analyzes why they became obsessed with their weight (all contained in "Listen Up: Voices From the Next Feminist Generation," edited by Barbara Findlen). Elizabeth Grosz's "Volatile Bodies" and Arthur and Marilouise Kroker's "The Last Sex" reexamine bodies, sex, sexuality and gender, while Carol Brooks Gardner explores catcalls and the like in "Passing By: Gender and Public Harassment." Writers like Deborah Cameron, Deborah Tannen and Robin Lakoff dissect language to find out how it excludes and alienates women, and how to make English more inclusive. And Germaine Greer looked at all of this and more.

Being sick is simply an indicator that something is wrong with the body (whether it's the body politic or not is entirely another matter). It serves as a warning, a signal that something is awry and must be fixed and thus is useful. Think of it as Nature's way of forcing people to take a break for much needed rest and rehabilitation.

However, sickness does no good at all unless the person recovers from it. Sickness does no good at all unless the person is fully healed and whole at the conclusion of the illness. Right now, we all have cancer, whether perceptive, linguistic or socialized. We're all sick, but only a few people have bothered to take notice and tried to identify the symptoms of our collective sickness. Most of us don't even pay attention. And so it goes.

Guys rape women, whether as a means of oppression/domination or to satisfy some urge is best left to qualified mental health professionals to argue. Guys harass women and consider it complimenting them (as if any woman appreciates being told what a phenomenal ass she has by a construction crew). Guys pick women up and throw them over their shoulders as a joke, to be playful, but instead only asserting their power in the relationship by a show of force.

But don't you know darlin'? Love is all around you. Can't you feel it? Come on, loosen up. Relax. I'm not going to hurt you. This will all be over soon. You're gonna make it after all.

This is no longer about getting guys to like you. This is now about survival and the ways women destroy themselves to fit male standards of beauty. This is about women practically vivisecting themselves to get male attention, that oh-so-precious indicator of reproductive success, fleeting though it may be. This is about women allowing men to fit nooses around their necks and bind their hands and feet. For every woman who fights back against harassment, gender expectations and the like, how many are there who quietly submit? Even one is too many for my liking.

I'm sick of this, I'm sick to death of it. Stop letting guys pick you up and throw you over their shoulder like a bag of potatoes! If they try, hook a leg behind their knee, punch them in the solar plexus or kick them in the testicles. If someone tries to rape you, claw at their eyes, their face, clap your hands over their ears, squeeze their testes into jelly with your fist. And if someone jeers at you on the street or makes loathsome, crude comments about your body, confront them with logic and harsh words. Embarrass them. Send a clear message that you do not appreciate this sort of attention, nor do you want it. Demand respect. It's long past time to fight back.

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008