Disclaimer: This post is not about music. It's about attitude. Which is arguably as big of a deal in the journey up Rock 'n' Roll Mountain as fashion or whiskey. It's also about feminism. Because, hi, have you met me?
Re: Fashion. Courtney Love at a Press Conference in 1998. Skip to 4:26. You won't regret it. Best 30 seconds you'll spend today if you're already spending time reading this.
I've spent a large chunk of my life crafting the perfect bitch face to protect me when I'm walking in public alone. How do you let someone know in a split second that you are not in the mood to talk to them?
Work on your bitch face and your bitch walk:
The eyebrows narrow, the teeth clench, the shoulders hunch up. Ideally I'm wearing a hat and have dark eyeliner under my eyes. I'm wearing cut off gloves, LARGE CANNED headphones, and I walk with the strut of a gorilla that communicates to all passersby that 'I am my own self sufficient entity, DO NOT MESS WITH ME'. My gaze is straight ahead even though I am very aware of my peripherals just in case I am attacked by that kid and his mom or that guy playing the saxophone, HA I'd like to see him TRY to outrun me. I walk like I just lit a cigarette and I breathe like smoke comes out of my nostrils. NO, the air coming out of my mouth is ACTUALLY FIRE and I cannot be stopped. I will walk at this pace consistently, I will not speed up or slow down or stop for ANY MAN because that shows weakness and doubt about where I'm going and how fast I need to get there.
My thoughts are as carefully constructed:
"I am a woman on the street and if you DARE talk to me I will IGNORE you with the gumption of 10,000 dictators! You will be shamed in front of motor vehicles and food stands! If you keep attempting to engage with my superior intellect, humor, and good looks in ANY fashion, I do NOT care if I have toilet paper on my shoe or if my backpack is open, I will continue to ignore you until you are captured by hounds or I use my tactical evasive maneuvers to weave between a crowd, cars, fire hydrants, statues, cows, buskers, anything I can find to gain a step or two of leeway so you are made a FOOL by your advances. I AM A FORCE OF NATURE and I will fuck you up so bad and I'm THIS CLOSE to hurling you against a wall."
Kristen Stewart. Our Patron Saint of Bitch Face.
This is literally how I think when I walk alone.
This attitude has helped me most of my life, but at The Fireball this past winter (late January), I let it go a little too far. [Hmmm I wonder if a poor temperament and "the middle of winter" have any corelation...moving on] A nice man outside of an event at the Majestic asked me and my friends what show we went to see. I was wearing something pretty revealing and was all dolled up, and in my drunken state, I put on my bitch face and my bitch walk, but instead of ignoring him, I was filled with the bitch spirit and yelled at him "NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS!" and I think some other nasty things of which I can't remember and then I cackled like a witch. He was quite taken aback, and my friends were embarassed for me. I think the right word to explain my actions is pride, which is *super* fitting because the Fireball's theme this year was Deadly Sins. There's a good way to harness pride, but this wasn't the good way. At least, I don't think.
My reaction toward this man asking a simple question is more complicated than it seems. Let's break it down.
1. This stranger was a man, talking to me, a woman, without any shared experience besides being outside at the same time.
2. I was dressed up.
3. I was drunk.
4. I did not want to talk with a stranger.
I would have been justified to ignore this man, or to politely answer his question and disengage from there.
Pride is one of those things that is normally a virtue, except when taken too far it becomes a vice. In my own path toward confidence, I've taken it a little too far a few times. It's this whole idea of being invincible, unstoppable, a force to be reckoned with, you will know by the trail of dead in my wake not to mess with me. It usually ends with me in a state of tears confiding in my significant other how badly I behaved and "am I a bad person?!" with a tone that if you were watching me in a movie, you'd think I did it.
I'm not a bad person. Like, trust me on this one bro *wink* *snort* no but, like, furreal...I know people can relate to this feeling. We're not bad people. We just let our pride get the best of us when our intention was simply to protect ourselves. Of course, if you don't realize it and you keep doing it, you might be bad people. Or at least someone that I don't want to hang around with very often.
It all connects back to the idea of politeness. I'm going to make this a gender thing to make a point - it's not polite for men who are strangers to randomly try to talk to me in a solicitous way. It's not polite of me to lash out at a man for simply asking a human-to-human question. This golden rule of politeness should drive all of my behavior but because of society and the expectations that I have on the "man who is a stranger trying to talk to me on the street" situation, my go-to was a defense mechanism. I'm justified in this reaction, but it doesn't mean that was the best choice.
Caitlin Moran, author of the very funny and poignant feminist book/manifesto 'How To Be A Woman'. There are more photo-quotes of hers below because I love her.
And I was justified. That's a tricky word, isn't it? Justified means Justin Timberlake's greatest contribution to society AND 'a good reason'. Guys, just because you don't *know* something is offensive or impolite or would make a woman mad, doesn't mean we aren't justified in getting upset about it. It's part of your cross to bear in this whole mess of inequality - dealing with people getting upset at you for not understanding what it's like to not have your privilege.
Again, not the best choice I could have made. Especially the cackling. But there was a reason why and it's not because I'm an evil witch. But part of not being an evil witch, is realizing this stuff and striving to be more conscious and polite.
Slightly related: I think sometimes my feminist sisters get a little impolite using the written word in the internet space hole continuum. A lot of times there are men who are clearly trying to understand and trying to put their best feminist foot forward, and because we've been conditioned to think "he just doesn't get it" or that a man is thinking in a hostile or defensive or <insert negative intention here> way doesn't mean that he is, and it doesn't mean that he doesn't deserve a polite response, even one that corrects an ignorant statement. It's the same thing as my story henceforth known as "The Unfortunate Incident of The Curious Man in The Nighttime", but backwards. How much awesome it would have been if Mr. Man said in response to my barking, "Whoa, hey, I'm sorry I probably made you feel threatened. I really just was curious about the show that you saw and I can tell you don't want to talk to me. I apologize."
Especially on the internet, we have the luxury of thinking before we speak. Too many hide behind the screen and use the internet to be nasty. Again, it's understandable for the dienfranchised to be angry. But is it constructive? I don't know. Patterns tell me no. But then again, most of the thought-provoking game-changing conversations I've had are IRL.
Perhaps we can learn something from this angry chicken.
In closing, as fun and as necessary as my Don't Mess With Me attitude is, it's not always the best thing, and I'm gonna try just a little bit harder in hopes that what goes around comes around. Being polite doesn't make us any less brave, or bad ass, or any less militantly feminist. It might just make us more effective.
We can be both aggressive and polite. Bad ass and courteous. Strong and caring. #twosoups
P.S. It is OKAY when we can't be both because humans (unless you take something too far and really hurt someone, etc. you will then suffer consequences; the beat goes on). It's also okay and RIGHT for anyone to get angry and stand up and fight back to defend themselves in a truly oppressive situation. But that's getting beyond my scope in this post and a whole 'nother conversation all together that is most *polite* to engage with IRL.