MY COSTUME IS NOT AN INVITATION

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Ever since I was in eighth grade, I told myself that during my freshmen year of college I would finally wear the costume of my dreams. I was an emo kid back in the day, and fell in love with the band Blink-182. Had all their albums, saw them live, had signed merch, and even met one of the band members. I’d always wanted to dress up as the girl on one of their hit albums, Enema of the State. But the model was a literal porn star, and the cheap nurse costume she wore wasn’t exactly age appropriate, so I promised myself that freshman year of college I’d let myself go for it.

And now I’m finally in college, and it’s Halloween season. The time finally came, and all month I’ve been prepping for this costume: looking for the perfect nurse outfit, getting the makeup look down, even hand-making the patch on her dress. I was pumped. Then the Friday before Halloween I put it all on and did my makeup and hair just right, which took a total of over two hours. I looked perfect, just like the album cover. After a quick photoshoot, I posted my look on twitter next to the picture of the album cover, and Blink-182 immediately retweeted it, and the post blew up. Suddenly I had hundreds of retweets and thousands of favorites. I went out to the club feeling confident and proud.

Little did I know wearing a sexually liberating costume would somehow be seen as an invitation for everyone to just complete disrespect everything about me, from my body to my sexuality to my taste.

Of course on my way to the club guys were just completely taken aback by my chest. One pedicab driver asked if I needed a ride, then ogled at my tits and said “Uhhh… and you’re really pretty… by the way,” but I thought all of that was just kind of funny and expected. I got a kick out of it. I’m a hot chick in a ridiculous costume that barely even counts as clothes at this point.

Then I looked back on my twitter. I guess when something on the internet gets popular, people expect their offensive comments go unnoticed. To my surprise, all of my haters were women, which made me really sad. They were slut-shaming me, telling me I looked like a drug addict or a cheap knock-off. Of course being the confident feminist I am, I replied with witty remarks saying I’m so sorry they’re jealous I’m hot and confident. But it makes me really frustrated that people assume because someone is on the internet, they can bully that person. And the fact that it was all women just made me sad that there are so many people who hold such internalized misogyny.

But it wasn’t just people online who thought my costume was an open invitation to disrespect me. One guy outside the club asked if I REALLY, ACTUALLY listened to Blink-182, or if I was just wearing the costume for attention. Yes, random stranger, I spent years preparing this costume, spending plenty of time and money, just to suck some emo dick. You’re a genius. Just because a woman is wearing a revealing costume, does not mean she is looking for attention from men, believe it or not.

Then I get into the club–keep in mind it’s a gay bar–so I’m clearly not trying to get with any guys here. I’m dancing, having a good time with some friends, and suddenly there’s someone on my ass. I can’t even see his face, but he’s big and towering over me. He’s grabbing my neck and panting in my ear. I don’t even know his name, or what he looks like. But I let it happen for a bit, just dance a bit. Then he turns me around and tries to make out with me. I say no, shake my head, so he turns me around again. He’s grabbing not only my ass, but my crotch at this point. My dress has rode up past my butt. I’m clearly uncomfortable. He turns me around again to try and make out and I tell him to stop. He’s mad and starts to try and argue with me. I tell him no and begin to leave the dance floor. But this guy clearly doesn’t have any respect for me or my body, so he grabs my asscheeks as I’m walking away, after I made it very clear I don’t want him touching me.

It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing. It doesn’t matter if I’m a “slut” who has tons of sex or not. It doesn’t matter the holiday. It doesn’t matter my age. It doesn’t matter. MY BODY IS NOT AN INVITATION. MY OUTFIT IS NOT AN INVITATION. MY COSTUME IS NOT AN INVITATION. You are not allowed to be a jerk to me online because of my appearance. You are not allowed to accuse me of being a fake because of my appearance. You are not allowed to grope me and objectify me because of my appearance.

Have a fun Halloween weekend, and remember, no matter what you wear, you deserve to feel safe, have fun, and get respect.


Ariel Hope

University of Michigan

LSA Residential College

“As a Father”: Empathy and the Trump Tape

As if you haven’t already heard, a video of real actual Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump bragging to TV host Billy Bush about his actual and failed sexual conquests was recently released to an immediate storm of responses.

Trump’s comments are pressingly, viscerally disgusting: the phrase “grab them by the pussy” has earned much airtime, but several other proclamations are equally hard to forget, especially: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” Let’s be clear: beyond just objectifying and demeaning women, Trump is boasting about serial sexual assault.

I, in all my power and influence, condemn Trump for these sentiments as a human. As a visibly female human in specific, I have been groped by men with a Trumpian mindset. I have wondered, for good reason, whether conversations like this one precede me into or follow me out of all-male rooms. My experiences as a woman may lend this incident extra, horrible weight. But I don’t get my opposition to talk like Trump’s from being a woman. No, I felt ill listening to Trump bloviate and cringed watching Bush tell actress Arianne Zucker to hug him immediately after his rapey comments because I am a person with a basic moral compass.

It’s partly for this reason that I’m concerned by a very common reaction to this video release.

The most popular Tweet format among Republican politicians (Mike Pence, Jeb Bush) and many other public figures seems to have been, “As a husband and father of [x] daughters, I find Trump’s comments unacceptable.”

First concern: why is this the tipping point for so many? Just before the video broke, Trump repeated his call for the execution of the Central Park Five, a group of black men who were accused of raping a white woman and have since been proven innocent. His first campaign ad literally included a call to “ban Muslims.” He and his supporters have taken care to affirm and re-affirm his racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, and, of course, virulent sexism since the beginning of primary season. As vile as these comments were, Trump’s bigotry should not be a revelation to anyone right now.

Second concern: if this is indeed the line, why is it that powerful, mostly white men feel they have to cite mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters in order to disapprove? Is it that hard to recognize unwanted pussy-grabbing and talking about women like blow-up dolls as bad things? It seems that, to these men, violating a daughter’s purity is wrong in a way that violating any old woman’s body, autonomy, and privacy is not. When men condemn offenses like Trump’s only in reference to women in their own lives, they center themselves. They portray sexual assault as a concern of property damage rather than the breaching of a human’s rights.

I am not the first to notice or interpret this “as a father of daughters” phenomenon (for some comic relief, check out Mallory Ellis’ great article for The Toast). Women have asked time and time again to be empathized with for ourselves rather than for our fathers. Yet these nearly identical tweets and statements are released in droves every time some anti-woman action goes public (that is, all the time).

By Marie Shear’s famous definition, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” We need feminism because of Donald Trump, because conversations like the one taped do happen in and outside of locker rooms. But we also need feminism until we empathize with women as women rather than daughters of men.


Molly Munsell

Campus Coordinator, What the F Magazine

The Double W “Issue”

Image result for hillary clinton and elizabeth warren

As conversations about politics always go, I can never remember how they start rolling. But, somehow, on a peaceful Saturday afternoon, my dad and I started talking about politics—specifically, women in politics. It was the weekend after Hillary Clinton had chosen Tim Kaine as her vice presidential candidate. I was eating my noodles in silence, when my dad asked me out of nowhere:

“What do you think of Hillary Clinton’s vice president pick?”

I told him I thought it was strategic for her to pick Tim Kaine. For one, he’s a Senator from Virginia, and that might appeal to more Southern voters (who tend to be more conservative). He’s also very religious, and that may help to bring Hillary more votes from Catholics. He can also speak Spanish, which gives Clinton’s campaign a huge (YUGE–sorry) advantage over Trump’s in appealing to Hispanic voters. I suppose Kaine being able to play the harmonica doesn’t hurt either.  Besides that, though, I said that a fair amount of Democrats—myself included—really wanted Elizabeth Warren as Clinton’s VP pick. She’s one of the most beloved progressives, and she would have really helped the campaign to appeal to the more progressive Democrats (especially young voters, where Clinton is noticeably lacking). She has continually fought important issues regarding education, equality among minorities, and the top 1%. Most recently, she has strongly called for Wells Fargo’s CEO to resign (read: in total BAMF fashion, kicked his sorry ass) after its fraud cases were released.

But I digress; back to the conversation with my dad.

My dad replied to me, “But I think Tim Kaine was a good pick because it was strategic and also because it makes it more diverse.”

I remember wanting to laugh out loud. What in the world was he talking about? MORE diverse? In my head I was shouting at him, IF YOU WANT “MORE DIVERSITY” HOW ABOUT HAVING MORE WOMEN IN CONGRESS? OR PEOPLE OF COLOR? QUEER PEOPLE? ANYONE WHO ISN’T A PRIVILEGED WHITE MALE?

But that’s not what I said to him.

Instead I replied, “I can’t believe you just said that. I can’t have this conversation anymore.” And then proceeded to eat the rest of my noodles in silence.

Okay, so not the best response. Family tensions about politics aside, this begs the question: why are people so against a female president-female vice president ticket, or the Double W ticket, as I like to call it? It’s not just my dad, but even the media asking ridiculous questions like, “Is America ready for a potential female president and vice president?”

For a lot of people, clearly fucking not.

It seems evident that a lot of Americans are very uncomfortable with seeing two women in the White House. Why?

Perhaps it is just that these people are not used to seeing women in positions of power, and feel uncomfortable with it. Perhaps they believe that women are weak, unfit for the stressful occupation of Commander-in-Chief and Vice President. Perhaps they are afraid that with two women as the President and Vice President, this will encourage more women to strive for government jobs, leaving less room for men to have these positions.

But these opinions are rooted entirely in sexism. The women running for positions in Congress have just as much educational qualifications as their male counterparts, they can handle stress just as well as men can. In fact, with women constantly facing sexism and being put in difficult situations, with more barriers to overcome to get where they are today, I wouldn’t be surprised if they handled stress better than they men could. Multiple studies have also proven that more women, and in general more diversity, in the workplace increases productivity*.

This raises another question: why is it so easy for people to accept a male president and vice president ticket? Why not a female-female one as well? Women in politics are just as qualified as men in politics; our gender does not make us any less competent.

There is no question that voters hold female candidates to higher standards than male candidates. The Boston Globe stated, “They [voters] afford them [women candidates] a ‘virtue advantage’ — the expectation is that women are inherently more honest and ethical — but quickly knock them off that pedestal if they slip up. And when it comes to mistakes, women have little room to make them*.”

Cue banging head against wall.

As Election Day is coming around the corner (*heavy breathing*), I’m still thinking about this conversation with my dad. Because if America can’t come to terms with the idea of a Double W ticket (or for some, even the idea of a female president) in 2016, when will America start turning the conversation from one solely focused on gender to one centered on the legitimate qualifications of the nominees and their campaign platforms?

_________________________________________________________________

Monica Kim

University of Michigan, Class of 2020

LSA Honors

 

*For an example, see: Peter Dizikes, Study: Workplace diversity can help the bottom line, MIT News, October 7, 2014, http://news.mit.edu/2014/workplace-diversity-can-help-bottom-line-1007

*Barbara Lee, The real reasons we’ve never had a woman president, The Boston Globe, October 20, 2015, https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/10/20/the-real-reasons-never-had-woman-president/fAHLOzDXYD8Fp7GEn38wkO/story.html

*image credit: Andrew Harnik  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-hillary-clinton-elizabeth-warren-ohio-20160627-story.html