Yesterday, I read this piece on the viral video, “Shit Girls Say.” It reminded me of this article I read a couple of weeks ago on the ways that women are constantly subjected to socialization that tells them they are crazy, so much so that women make these allegations towards themselves.
In both articles, the point is that women’s actions are constantly under watch. Women are constantly scrutenized for our actions – from what we’re wearing when we’re assaulted or raped to how political the music we make is and a million things in between.
Two personal experiences in the past week hit the daily reality of this scrutiny home.
Last week, I got on a metro train in Montreal on my way to a friend’s house for the night. I sat down and pulled out a knitting project I’ve been working on. Immediately, a man in his late twenties or early thirties said to me, “You’d be a good one to marry.”
This isn’t the first time someone (usually an older woman), has made this kind of statement to me in public. Usually, though, they express interest in what I am doing, say hi, ask me how my day is going, before making a statement about how my aptitude in needlecraft makes me good wife material. Usually it offends me. I’m not a fan of the institute of marriage. I don’t take lightly to being presumed straight and looking for a husband by my choice of passtime.
But last week on the subway, there was no greeting, no inquiries into how I was, or any interest in exactly what I was doing. Simply, my knitting, makes me a good spousal candidate, and that is the only information that is necessary. I was tired and alone and in a city that isn’t my home, so I just looked at the floor, not making eye contact or responding to the comment. When the man got off he told me to have a good night.
Then yesterday, I went to see Fucked Up, one of my favourite bands, play at a benefit for the COUNTERfit Harm Reduction Program, and the Barriere Lake Legal Defense Fund. I was tired after having dinner and drinks with a friend earlier in the night.
I yawned and the next thing I know, some guy comes up to me to say that I “need to stop yawning because yawning is really contagious, and we all have to work in the morning.” He then apologized (not), by saying, “I’m sorry to have to call you out on that, but I’m trying to keep the atmosphere going, you know.”
To set the stage, we’re at a show, watching a hardcore band with hundreds of other people, and this guy is telling me I shouldn’t yawn because it will ruin the atmosphere. I wish I was making this up.
Again, because I was tired and kind of shocked, I didn’t say anything. But all I could think of was what if I was a young mom who was up all day running around with my kids or if I was caring after an ailing parent or if I was working two jobs and going to school or a number of other realities young women like me take on all the time and now some shit was telling me not to yawn.
Both of these experiences, though, were reminders about how perfect strangers feel like it is totally ok to not only judge and scrutinize the most banal of women’s actions, but also comment on them. These are some of the everyday ways that women’s behaviour is judged and regulated in our society.
I wish in both cases I’d shot back with some witty statement, but I stayed quiet. I’m going to try to get better at that.
But for dudes, specifically, if your friends pull this kind of shit, call them on it. Ask them who they think they are to assume that girls want to get married, or that telling someone not to yawn is a jerk move. And if you find yourself feeling the need to scrutenize or comment on the behaviour of perfect strangers, maybe just consider keeping your mouth shut.