Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hunh? (Faculty Edition)

I have had these conversations about my appearance this week:

Faculty Person 1: "That's a nice dress.  In fact, that color actually looks GOOD on you!"

Me (in tasteful --- albeit very green --- dress): "Thank you."

I am pretty sure that this person was trying to compliment me, but the shock and awe in the tone of voice undermined that intention a bit.

Faculty Person 2: "Even in the twenty-first century, a young female theologian should look non-threatening... and be wearing rather less lipstick than your good self!"

Me (in black turtleneck and grey slacks, with a swipe of a color called "pure red" on the lips): "Well, fortunately I'm not a theologian!"

And I am pretty sure that this person has, as my father would say, all the social skills of a charging water buffalo.  But really?  Really, folks, is this the best we can do?


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What a small town

I'm sitting in the common area of our library, waiting for a student, and up walks a librarian I know a little bit from my teaching.  He's a nice guy: in the two conversations we've had, he's been friendly and helpful. 

So I say hello, he sits down, we're chatting about my class, and then he says, "I was looking up your class, and I saw your photo on the department website, and I realized why you looked familiar.  You were one of my matches on [online dating site] about three years ago!"

I restrain myself from going into hysterics, but only barely.  "Wow!" I gasp.  "What a small town!" 

And then I ask him if we corresponded through said dating site.  "Well, I wrote you," he says, "but I don't think you ever wrote me back." 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Responding to Street Harassment

I was in a railway station in a major urban center tonight.  I was thinking about the lecture I'd just heard and walking quickly so I'd have time to dart into one of the shops and buy a bottle of water before getting on the train.  A guy comes up to me.  He falls into step beside me and gets very close to my face.  I take about five more steps, long enough to hear some commentary about what I'm wearing, and interupt him by saying coolly, "do I know you?" His answer does not bear repeating -- although it was a decided no -- and I did something I have never done before.  I raised my voice and said loudly, "Leave me alone!"

This did not work, so I yelled:


Now, I am a singer with a reasonable lung capacity and no fear of volume.  I was in a crowded and particularly acoustically-lively railway station.  

It worked the second time. 

In the past, I've responded to street harassment with a jolt of shock and surprise and then have continued on my way, trying to cool my burning cheeks and ignore whatever had just happened.  Today was not the day for that.  I've felt badly bullied this week, and he picked the wrong girl on the wrong day, and I was not about to take any nonsense from anybody.  The whole thing was an odd mix of completely terrifying and a little satisfying.  But I did learn a few good lessons.

1. It's ok to make a fuss.  Women are so strongly socialized not to do this.  Be polite, take it as a compliment, blah blah blah bullshit.  Make a fuss.  Draw attention to inappropriate behavior.  Alert strangers that you may need help. 

2. But be smart about where you do it.  In the nanosecond before I yelled, I had this flash of adrenaline-driven clarity.  I knew exactly what I was going to say, I knew exactly where I was going to walk as soon as I said it so I could see if he was following me, I saw that there were a lot of people (including several women) standing around who would notice.  Public well-lit place with lots of people? Go for it.  Dark isolated place?  Just keep walking. (This, by the way, is why you should not wear shoes you cannot walk in unaided.) 

3. Be clear and unequivocal in what you say.  No conversation, no deflection, no chitchat, no explaining.  It is not your responsibility to teach him manners or to protect his feelings.  No name-calling or profanity either.  "Leave me alone" worked well for me, and I will try to remember it in the future. 

Any other favorite responses?  Do share.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

One thing to tell your single friend

Not sure I'm totally persuaded, but it's interesting, at least: 

"If you have a friend who is single and is motivated not to be, there is one thing to tell them that is actually helpful and it is this: 'I am going to work hard to try and find someone for you.' Dolling out insight is easy, taking action is hard." 

Read it all.