When it comes to patriarchal bullshit, I'm not one to shy away from confrontation. Some might call it aggressive, but sometimes people need a good slap in the face (figuratively… for the most part). A couple weekends ago, I had a run-in with a few such chumps and I’d like to exorcise my anger.
I was at The Rambler on Mississippi, lounging in the vaulted-ceiling upstairs, drinking amber ale and excited to be across the table from a total babe on our second date. We had been nursing our pints for at least an hour, talking intently, and never once did we make a break for the pool table. So when a couple of dudes start asking us whether we want to play, our lack of interest was obvious, but we shook our heads politely anyway. After the third inquiry, however, I began to get the vibe that this wasn’t a well-intentioned, "Hey, we've been hogging this all night, would you like the table?" but more of a, "Hey, you're two hot girls not paying attention to us and I want to get in your space." Finally, I looked him in the eye and gave a sharp, "No." Well, this “no” was so sharp, in fact, that he stormed away, seething. I wish I could say that the slur slipped out under his breath, but even from my distant corner, I hear distinctly— “Dumb bitch.” I exploded out of my chair, “What did you just call me?”
Bitch is a tough word for me. Though it’s inherently sexist for its gender affiliations, I use it from time to time and question instances in which men use it. For example, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” is perfect, what other word could possibly go there? This is not one of those situations.
I was standing there infuriated, and instead of mumbling some weak apology, he said, “Sit your ass back down.” Just like that, I transformed from feminist killjoy to raging feminazi and marched over to the pool table hissing, with claws extended. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much of what happened next because of the adrenaline rush. But I know that his defense was that he was trying to offer us the table and hadn’t heard us say no. Words escaped me in the moment, but somehow I found the lucidity to demand an apology, and explained that “bitch” is a gendered term. Weirdly enough, this changed the entire mood, his anger dissipated, and he recognized familiar territory: “I call everyone a bitch, this guy, that guy, it doesn’t have anything to do with ‘gender.’” He apologized for all that had transpired and we shook hands. After my date and I returned to our table to process our incredulity, he came back a few minutes later for another round of apology handshakes. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the gesture, but something made me doubt his sincerity; it was still in line with his original intent to get in our space and talk to us.
Though I’m proud of my actions, I regret not being able to verbalize the extent to which he represented the many facets of patriarchy so succinctly in that situation: demanding to be heard, cutting in on our conversation and space, calling me a diminutive term, barking orders, then undermining my argument, and thus invalidating my hurt.
And to add insult to injury, as we were leaving the bar, one dude called out to his friend, “Hey look, they’re your type! This guy is single, ladies.” I was so emotionally exhausted at this point that I flipped them off with both hands and yelled, “We don't exist in relation to you.”
I might act like I’m real tough but I balled my eyes out the whole bike ride home. It was nice to sob to empty, dark streets but I certainly felt silly and fragile. It’s so emotionally draining to correct problematic behavior and yet, those at fault think that they deserve your time and energy. But then again, sometimes it’s worth it.