Once upon a time, there was a little lesbian named Kiki. I subscribed to all the stereotypes: the short hair, combat boots, flannel shirts, beanies, etc. I didn’t care- I liked my style. Anyone who didn’t wasn’t my problem. Now, I’d been catcalled before, and I’d had homophobic slurs thrown at me before, but never by the same person at the same time. It seemed like men either wanted to hit on me or insult me, but never both.
One day, or rather, night, lil’ ole me was crossing a parking lot to join some friends waiting on the other side. I can’t say I was dressed particularly special; in fact, I’d say I looked quite average on this particular night. However, that didn’t stop some guy from slurring a slimy sounding “hey girl” out the window as he drove slowly behind me.
As I said, I’d been catcalled before, so this wasn’t especially troubling to me. Catcalling is nothing new, and my story is one that’s all but routine for many women. In fact, 65% of all women and 25% of men experience catcalling at some point in their lives. The first time I was catcalled was on my own street back in my hometown, before I even turned 18. I went home furious, and only got angrier when my parents told me to calm down. This is the clearest cut symptom of rape culture and its inherent misogyny; in catcalling we see large number of (mostly) men feeling entitled to women’s bodies, and behaving as though women exist in the world solely for their pleasure. More disturbingly, catcalling men don’t see a problem with or understand the damaging effects of their behavior. They see catcalling as compliments, and fail to comprehend why women get upset about it. These men seem incapable of empathizing with women, and understanding how it feels to be viewed as an object for use and consumption, like a mannequin or a sandwich. These men don’t realize the fear that trembles the heart of every woman they whistle at or leer at or shout “hey girl” at because oh god what if they follow me I better smile and keep walking so they don’t get angry.
I, however, have no such instinct for self-preserving politeness. So without thinking about it, or even turning around, I flipped this guy off and kept on walking. His eloquent reply? “Fuckin’ bitch ass dyke.” (Pardon my language, but I’m going for total accuracy here.) By the time I had turned around, to see if he’d actually face me and stand by what he’d said, he’d put the pedal to the metal and gunned it away. Figures, I thought. Cowards like that will never stick around to defend their words.
Again, as I said, I’ve have homophobic slurs thrown at me on the street before, for the first time before I even came out. But to have one thrown at me by a man who not a moment ago was hitting on me was jarring and disturbing, to say the least. I flipped him off, yes, so maybe that does make me a “fuckin’ bitch”. If that’s the case, then I’m more than happy to be one. Of course, the fact that he chose to insult me following my rejection of him evidences the ever-troubling entitlement that some men feel to women’s bodies, and their inability to face rejection, which in some cases has been so severe that women have been attacked or even killed.
But he called me a dyke, which means one of three things. Either he assumed I was gay from the start, and decided to hit on me anyway, which doesn’t make any sense to me. Or it’s possible that his ego was so large that the only way he could understand my refusal of his advances was to assume that I was a homosexual. Lastly, perhaps he made no assumptions about my sexuality and chose to call me a dyke to insult me. Each of these possibilities has their own disturbing implications.
If he thought I was gay from the start, and hit on me anyway, he represents the very toxic belief of certain men that lesbians are “broken” or “haven’t met the right man” or simply “hate men”. (Fair warning: that hyperlink leads to the alt-right, hyper-masculine and extremely misogynistic website Return of Kings, and unless you just ate something that you desperately need to puke up immediately I do not suggest clicking that link. This particular article, in fact, outlines how straight men can seduce lesbians. Apparently they don’t fully grasp the concept of lesbians.) These beliefs are foul, unfounded, and have resulted in the practice of “corrective rape” which is exactly what it sounds like, and exactly as horrible as it sounds. Lesbians and gay men have been raped as a method of “curing” them, because obviously being gay is an illness in need of curing. This is homophobia, but it is a cloaked version of it. Men with these beliefs don’t see themselves as homophobic, since they don’t stand on the picket lines with the Westboro Baptist Church chanting “fags burn in hell”. But it’s no less homophobic to believe that lesbians are lesbians for any other reason than the fact that they like women, and that there’s any penis in the world that can change that fact.
Alternatively, this man’s ego may have been so large that the only way he could justify my reaction to himself was to assume that I was gay. This represents another foul facet of hyper-masculinity, in which (some) men go about their lives believing that women exist for them, and only for them, and if a woman refuses their advances well they must be a lesbian because why else would they not want to have sex with me? Of course, as all women know, we were not placed on this planet so that we could mold our lives around the pleasure of men. As shocking as these kinds of men may find it, women actually have lives of their own. The root of this mindset is male entitlement, which begins in early childhood. Boys aren’t reprimanded for hitting girls because “boys will be boys” and such. No, boys will not by boys, boys will be held accountable for their actions just like the rest of us. When boys aren’t taught this from an early age, they grow up believing that the world and the people in it are theirs to do with what they will. And all too often, women bear the brunt of this attitude in the most violent and horrible ways. Case in point, the infamous Stanford rape case, and frat chants like “no means yes, yes means anal”.
Lastly, and most simply, he may have just wanted to insult me, and fancied that calling me a dyke was the best way to do it. This one is cut and dry homophobia; he thinks gay is bad, so calling me gay is insulting. Joke’s on him though- he’s just stating a fact.
All these things ran through my head, and this man only said six little words to me. And you know what else? He probably thought nothing of it. He probably doesn’t even remember me. Because for him, this was probably an average Saturday night. I can only hope that he never took his attitudes towards women beyond words. Tragically, though, many men do take these attitudes to violent action, and thus we have rape culture. Not just as a city, or a nation, but throughout this world where women live in perpetual persecution and fear. And lesbians deal with it all two fold. (I’m not even going to start with what women of color have to deal with.)
I didn’t discover anything new following this experience. But in these six words I did have all the attitudes and ideas that I had read so much about on the internet laid bare before me. In the glare of the street lamps I saw before me the physical embodiment of The ProblemTM, driving away in that crappy silver car of his. But what is The SolutionTM? Simple! A complete and total overhaul of our culture and they way we perceive gender, obviously. Okay, so not so simple. But not impossible, either.
It has to start with the men. Women know that there is a problem, and many men do too, but the ones that believe that all I’ve written is naught but liberal-lesbian-feminazi propaganda need to learn, somehow, that catcalling is not complimenting, that women do not exist for the viewing pleasure of men, that lesbians cannot be cured, and that sometimes women just do not want to be hit on, and you’ve got to respect that. If we can’t change the perceptions of adults, then parents need to start teaching their sons to respect women. While we’re at it, perhaps parents shouldn’t tell their daughters that little Jimmy hit her because he likes her. Little Jimmy hit you because he’s a jerk, and you don’t have to take that crap from anybody. That way, little girls can learn from a young age that it’s not okay for men to disrespect them. So if our sons are taught to respect women, and our daughters are taught not to accept disrespect, what are we left with? A society of gender equality, that’s what. A society where I, as a lesbian and a woman, don’t have to be scared in dark parking lots. That’s all I’m asking for, really. I just don’t want to be scared at night, and I don’t want others to feel scared at night. I’d pray for it if I were religious, but since I’m not, I’ll ask for it, and I’ll fight for it until the day I die.
By: Kiki Moussetis