‘Damn it’s hot in here. I’m sweating like a whore in church!’
That’s what the bartender said to the two men sitting in front of him. All three of them chuckled.
I was sitting several bar stools down, writing. It was summertime and we were sitting in a brick building; a virtual oven, but it wasn’t the heat that made me hot. I am sick to death of women being the brunt of every joke and slur and insult I hear. And I’m sick of the double fucking standard that still permeates our culture, as well as the judgements and condemnations casually tossed about—by both men and women.
My misogyny breaking point is anything above nil. After a lifetime of warding off the advances of lecherous men in the bars and clubs I worked in or frequented; all the leers and pinches and whistles and winks and the inane sexist jokes (leaving money on the floor, then shouting out, ‘Hey look! This one will go down for a buck!’); all the times I had to defend myself against unwanted sexual assaults by bosses or coworkers, or even at family gatherings—to this day I find their feeble attempts neither flattering nor funny.
I was yelled at just a couple of months ago in Hillman City. A man driving by in a mustang yelled at, at 3pm, with kids coming home from school,
‘I’m going to tap that pussy!’
I’m fifty-fucking-five years old, and I still have to be subjected to that shit. I stood in the middle of Rainier Avenue, flipped off the *^#!* with both hands, screaming, ‘FUCK YOOUUUUU!’ Embarrassing, but true. I still go off sometimes. And,
dynamite comes in small packages.
I grew up with Playboy and Penthouse and Hustler being part of our home library, albeit the “off limits” section of our library, aka the family rec-room closet, up above the stereo equipment and LPs. I clearly remember all those cartoons featuring loose, barely clad women. “Whore,” is one of the terms used in those rags, it seems to me. I think that’s where I learned it.
How do you separate the women in those magazines from women in real life? Was I the girl in the centerfold? Is that what my boyfriends thought of me? Is that all my own father thought of me? I never got married and was obviously having sex with the men I was living with, and in my father’s mind, that made me a slut. Since those were my father’s magazines, that is how he had to have seen me.
Hence, mom saw me that way, too, since she agreed with everything he said or did.
And he was the biggest “off-color” joke teller of them all. My dad told the bluest jokes on the planet at every cocktail party and gathering they had, while I listened from my tiny bedroom just meters away.
And he told me once that of course men will talk to me the way they do (when I mentioned a man asked me, ‘How much?’) because after all, I work in bars.
‘What the hell do you expect?’ he asked me once.
I expect to be treated with respect and I should have told him so. Instead, I just sulked away, like I usually did when our “conversations” didn’t escalate to all-out war.
In Manhattan, when I was eighteen years old, I kissed a lot of the guys I knew, but I never even came close to having sex with any of them. One guy, a guy I had really liked and had known for months, after a date at a nightclub, got a bit of a feel, but not a stitch of clothing ever came off. The rest of them never even touched skin. But, I was still stamped with the label: SLUT. I’ll never forget when one of my real male friends told me that’s what I was known as in the neighborhood. I went home and wept myself to sleep—after about a dozen gin and tonics.
No, I’ve heard enough thoughtless anti-female bullshit to last me two lifetimes. And “whore” and “slut” are interchangeable, so I took offense, being a “slut” myself. I decided I had to say something. Because the sentiment of woman-hating is alive and well and I am determined to flush it out—at least within my immediate vicinity.
‘I think that saying needs to be updated,’ I finally said.
‘What?’ the bartender asked, already having forgotten what he had just said moments ago.
‘Oh, I just think that that saying needs to be updated. I think we should say, “I’m sweating like a priest in church.”’ I smiled and waited for a response.
The three men didn’t know what to do with that. One of them got up and walked away. The other two cleared their throats and went back to gazing into their phones.
Maybe one day, when they are watching their daughters cry about their “ruined reputations,” or hear about yet another man who went through hell as a boy, they’ll understand what I meant.
But I kinda doubt it.