To the Men Taking Up Space They Don’t Deserve

guy throwing up hands

Last Saturday I went to see The Revenant at a local theater. I went with three houseguests visiting from Arizona, my husband, and a girl friend. Overall, I loved the cinematography. I really liked Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy’s performances, but I hated the one-dimensional depiction of Natives, the lack of women, and the rape scene, but this post isn’t about The Revenant. This post is about the way privileged white men take up too much damn space, all of the damn time.

During our group movie date there was an older man, I’d guess around forty-five to fifty, sitting with a female mate. The guy, who I’m gonna call Ken, decided it was appropriate to talk throughout the entire movie. Every five to ten minutes, everyone within earshot got to hear what Ken thought about the movie.

At around two hours in, I’d had enough, and I turned in my seat and said, “Will you please stop talking? I’d really appreciate it.” Ken’s response was a bewildered, deer-in-the-headlights, frantic stare. His beady little eyes tripled in size as if to say, “How fucking dare you ask me to stop giving commentary?! I should be able to talk to my companion without even so much as turning my head to whisper.” Real-talk, dude was talking to the movie screen. At least whisper it in your friend’s ear, man!

Ken blatantly ignored my polite request and talked a bunch more throughout the rest of the movie. I worried about what was going to happen when the credits rolled and the lights went up, but I could not have predicted his audacity. Ken walked up to me while I was seated, stooped down and asked, “Is it okay if I talk now?” I explained that it was fine to talk after, BECAUSE THE MOVIE WAS OVER AND WE HAVE A SOCIAL CONTRACT WHERE WE DON’T TALK DURING MOVIES.

“Thanks for letting me know when I can talk,” is all he could say as he chuckled and walked away.

I walked out with my friends, and we chatted, all of us completely dumbfounded by this stranger’s inability to understand basic movie etiquette. We joked about Ken’s seriously shitty luck, because he just picked a fight with six people who practice BJJ and Muay Thai (although none of us would’ve actually tried to fight Ken, because we’re athletes, not ingrates). We went home and that was that. But it’s a couple days later, and I’m still irritated.

I’m not irritated because The Revenant was ruined for me, I’m irritated because I’m so goddamn sick of men who command space they don’t deserve.

Women, especially women of color and LGBTQ women, can’t walk down the street, sit on a bus, or enjoy a movie without constant reminders that we are not entitled to safety or comfort. While this may seem like a “first-world” feminist problem, it’s more than that, because microaggressions lead to large-scale aggression. Talking over a woman in the movies leads to talking over women in courtrooms. It leads to women not having a voice in politics, the workplace, and interpersonal relationships. Catcalling quickly escalates to physical violence if the victim doesn’t respond according to the perpetrator’s expectations, and on, and on.

I paid $20 for a movie to enjoy a piece of pop culture. I didn’t pay for Ken’s commentary. I mean, really, man?! All the screen time, in all of filmdom, isn’t enough for you white guys? You need to talk DURING the movie as an audience-member too?!) I politely “confronted” him, but not before I asked myself, “Does he have a gun? Is he going to try to hurt me and my loved ones?” The truth is, I sat for a solid two hours and didn’t say anything because I was scared shitless that the situation would escalate. In the end, I said something. I said something because I’m sick, and I am fucking tired. I am tired of being followed into bars by men who can’t take “no” for an answer. I’m sick of being talked down to by men who haven’t earned their position of authority. And I am overwhelmingly exhausted by assholes who can’t bear the thought  that maybe, for just a moment, it’s not their turn to talk.

This Year, Resolve to Love Yourself

new year's resolution

It’s January 15th, so this probably seems a little late in the game for a New Year’s post, but I’m coming at you regardless. We’re two weeks into the year, and a lot of folks are still leaning-in hard on new lifestyle changes, or limping along at half-speed because they decided to simultaneously give up sugar, spending, and breathing (which isn’t healthy, but what do I know?). Anyway, this is just a friendly reminder, after what might’ve been a fortnight of negative self-talk, that there’s a big difference between setting goals and setting yourself up to fail based on the arbitrary expectations of others. Others being capitalism and a white-hetero-sexist-patriarchy.

You don’t need to diet, but it’s okay to want to eat healthier food.

You don’t have to read fifty-two books in 2016, but it’s awesome if you want to make time for yourself to read.

You don’t have to stop spending all of your money, but maybe be a tad more conscious.

You don’t have to do anything to make yourself more worthy of love, because you already deserve it.

Companies are trying to sell you shit you don’t need, and the most powerful way they can do it is to tell you that you’re not good enough. Every year billions of dollars go to makeup, facial elixirs with no efficacy, and cleanses that make us dizzy (and inevitably heavier)–all in the name of chasing an unattainable beauty standard that some mythical-thin-white-airbrushed-cis-woman embodies. Take a look at your resolutions. Are your resolutions to chase that ideal? If so, please stop if you can. I just want to remind you, and myself, that you are enough. You were fabulous in 2015, and 2016 is probably just more of the same.

Do you have self-loving resolutions you’re keeping this year? Share in the comments below!

4 Ways to Support Women at Work

Women-friendly workplaces
Look around your workplace. How many women are there? How many women of color? Chances are, your workplace could benefit from diversity. But what about the women who are already there? Here are a few tips on how to create a better work environment for everyone, but especially women.

1) Allow flex time and working from home

In the age of the Internet, telecommuting is easier than ever before. You can Slack, Gchat, Skype, and iMessage to name a few. Gone are the days when being out of the office meant total silence, so try to implement flexible scheduling policies to accommodate folks who are most often caretakers. And it’s not just kids that require flex time these days–aging parents who require care are increasingly common. “There is a gender bias in terms of who cares for an aging parent,” says Lisa Hollis-Sawyer, PhD, coordinator of the Gerontology Program at Northeastern Illinois University. “It’s fairly universal that we think of women as a caregiver, so their role in helping an elderly parent is not uncommon.” Allowing flex time and working from home doesn’t mean that employees don’t ever have to show up, you can create some parameters if you’re concerned, but honestly, aren’t you hiring people you trust from the beginning? If you can’t trust someone to work when no one is watching, why are they in your organization?

2) Create “informal” gatherings with women in the office

In every company there are two organizations, the formal and the informal. The informal organization is the “good ol’ boys club,” the one where boys go out for whiskey after work, golf lunches, and even just conversations in the hall. Meanwhile, where are the ladies? They’re typically not sipping whiskey with the execs after hours. Perhaps the answer is to start your own “good ol’ girls club?” Start inviting ladies in the office out for drinks, strike up conversations in the hall, and really build a better informal network for you and the other women in the office. After you’ve gone to drinks a few times, start inviting the men in the office. Blending these informal groups is crucial, because the informal organization often determines who gets access to exciting projects, and at its very worst, who gets promoted or terminated.

3) Start viewing leadership differently

Certain characteristics, like aggression and individualism, are praised as emblematic of leadership, and both of those qualities are typically groomed among men. But traits like empathy and a collaborative focus are treated as silly because they’re commonly associated with the feminine. Keep the disparate treatment of leadership qualities in mind the next time you’re evaluating for a promotion. Maybe your organization will actually fare better if you have an empathetic boss who’s willing to listen to other ideas? Maybe if we start to view leadership differently we’ll see more women at the top.

4) Talk openly about compensation

The wage gap is very, very real, and it’s most stark for women of color compared to their white male counterparts, but even white women miss out on serious wages as a result of their sex. So how do we stop the wage gap? There’s no simple answer, but one easy step is to start talking wages, because wage discrimination flourishes in secrecy. Talking about pay could help you make up for some of the difference in salary—Tom is making $35,000 a year, but Shanice is making $27,000 for the same job? Armed with that info you might have a good case to take to HR. Keep in mind though that there aren’t always protections if you do start talking openly about wages, so tread lightly if your livelihood is at stake, and if you’re able, find an attorney to help you navigate the bureaucracy.
Hiring, retaining, and promoting women, especially women of color, is crucial to the success of companies. More diversity leads to innovation, and it’s just the right ting to do. How can you make your workplace more women-friendly?

What are some of the ways you make your workplace more inclusive for women?

Weekly Feminist Happenings January 5th-11th

this changes everything

The holidays are over and your schedule has probably opened up–support activists and entrepreneurs in your city! 

Tuesday, January 5th

Elect Her: Weber State University’s Women’s Center will host Elect Her, practice campaign skills and hear from speakers including Utah State senator Luz Robles-Escamilla. Details: The event is January 21st, but registration is required before January 12th. Call 801-626-6090 for information.

Screening of This Changes Everything: The documentary This Changes Everything, in which narrator Naomi Klein looks at communities on the front lines in the battle over climate change, as Klein argues that the crisis is a chance to transform the world’s economic system into something radically better. Presented by the Utah Film Center. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City).

Thursday, January 7th

SLC Pacific Island Business Alliance: SLC Pacific Island Business Alliance January Breakfast Meeting with guest Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General. Details: Starts at 8 a.m. at Shriners Hospitals for Children—Salt Lake City (1275 E Fairfax Rd, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103).

Our Melting Ice: Climate Disruption and Energy Choice: Join us for a climate change speaker panel and screening on Thursday, January 7th. University of Utah Professor Summer Rupper will share experiences from traveling and researching remote, melting parts of our planet. Professor Rupper will be joined by a local organizer from Sierra Club, Lindsay Beebe, who will talk about energy choices in Utah and their connection to public health and climate change. We’ll start the evening with a 60-minute screening of Episode 4 of the Emmy-award winning series Years of Living Dangerously. This will be followed by a 30-minute panel with our local experts. Episode 4 of the series focuses on Arctic ice melt, energy choice and the faith-climate change nexus. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City).

Saturday, January 9th

Creators of “Invisible Thread:” Invisible Thread, the tale of triumph and tragedy set in Uganda combines Afro-pop music and heart-wrenching narratives as it tackles the question: Is changing the world even possible? The powerful evening with the award-winning co-creators, Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews, is part concert, part storytelling, part call to action. Details: From 7-10 p.m. at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts (1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City). Tickets are available here.

American Association Of University Women Legislative Forum: This Legislative Forum will give the public an opportunity to question a panel of legislators about issues important to our citizens and specific issues of the forthcoming legislative session. Legislators on the panel include House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, Democrat from House District 28 (Salt Lake and Summit Counties); Rep. Sophia DiCaro, (Republican from House District 31 (West Valley); Senator Jani Iwamoto, Democrat from Senate District 4 (Salt Lake County); and Senator Brian Shiozawa, Republican from Senate District 8 (Salt Lake County). The panel moderator is Janice Gygi of the Salt Lake League of Women Voters. This is an opportune time to discuss your questions on critical issues prior to consideration of bills that will have significant impact on the lives of Utah’s citizens. Details: The meeting is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served at 9:30 a.m., followed by the panel discussion, 10 a.m. to noon at the Girl Scouts Utah Headquarters (4500 S. 445 East #125, Salt Lake City).

Screening of Trumbo: The biographical drama “Trumbo,” starring Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, the successful screenwriter whose life was upended when he was blacklisted for his left-wing sympathies. Details: Starts at 8 p.m. at the Park City Library Center (1255 Park Ave., Park City).

Share your event for next week’s Weekly Feminist Happenings by submitting a form on our contact page! 

How to Alienate Potential Allies & Why You Should Stop

Two people arguing.

A few weeks ago I attended the 7th annual Genderevolution Conference–overall it was an amazingly positive experience. I learned so much and met some really great people, but this post isn’t to talk about the great things I learned. I want to talk about how we eat our own in social movements. Like any other social setting, activism can have a nasty little undercurrent of in-fighting and pettiness, but it’s particularly troubling in spaces that we continually call “brave” or “safe.” Something happened at the conference that has been weighing on my mind, and I think it’s worth sharing.

I attended several workshops at the conference, but one of particular interest to me was on enthusiastic consent at the intersection of gender and sexual orientation identities. I teach enthusiastic consent in guest lectures, write about it on SLC Feminist, and evangelize about it nonstop in my personal life. I was ready to walk into the space and learn a new perspective, participate in new exercises, and hear about new research. I did learn some of those things, but I also experienced a moment of what I’m going to call nastiness (for lack of a better word). Asher, the workshop host, posed a question to the group, “What are some socially accepted acts that require consent?” [I’m paraphrasing here.]

I responded, “I like to use the example of moving from vaginal to anal sex. Most people agree that you shouldn’t move from one to the other without asking. I think all sex acts deserve the same treatment.” Asher was gracious, and thanked me for my response.

Apparently the person to my left didn’t agree and said to their seatmate, “How about an example that isn’t so heteronormative?”

First off, if you think vaginal and anal sex only happen in hetero relationships, you need to expand your mind a bit. But that’s not the point. The point is that I felt needlessly embarrassed. I didn’t want to speak up again. I was completely shut down in a “brave” space. I’m assuming the participant read me as straight and made a snap judgment thereafter. It happens. I moved on.

But it has grated on me. It’s a tiny example, but it’s a striking one for me personally. I was in a learning space. A space to workshop ideas, express identities, and share opinions. And I didn’t feel like I could do any of that. I left the space feeling hurt and nervous to participate. For the record, it’s never my job, your job, or anyone else’s to teach someone. The oppressor can’t ask the oppressed for history lessons at every turn. It’s derailing and abusive. Let’s just get that out there.

However, in my personal approach to activism this moment of derision served as a poignant, albeit cliché reminder, “You catch more flies with honey.” I can’t expect someone to stand up as my ally, or navigate their privilege when they feel overwhelmed by fear or shame. I can’t belittle someone one minute then ask them to listen to me the next. Well, I guess I can, but I have a feeling I know how it ends.

I’ve seen it time and time again in social justice movements. Someone isn’t radical enough. Someone is too radical. They accidentally used an outdated term, they unintentionally broke a ground rule. They just don’t agree with a point someone made, and the result is public shaming, piling on, or belittling. I don’t know how to stop this phenomenon, and there isn’t always right or wrong approach, but I feel it in my bones that it the answer sure as hell isn’t to make someone feel stupid. If I’m not in the space to correct, coddle, or teach, I don’t have to, and that’s okay, but if I ever want to engender someone to the cause, maybe it’s worth a different approach.

I guess the moral of the story is, if we keep eating our own there will be nothing left. And then what do we do?