Burned Out

Brighton Fowler

So I have this feminist dilemma. Well, I have many feminist dilemmas (it’s the nature of the beast), but this one has become increasingly pertinent since I became of age … to drink, that is.OK, so before you can understand the full force of my problem, I have to set the scene for intelligibility. I’m out at the bar casually hanging out, sipping my drink of choice (a Shirley Temple with extra cherries) chatting up the cute bartender (who also happen to be my best friend and my roommate) and I see out of the corner of my eye a creepy old man from the greater Appleton area giving me “the stare.”

Yes, you know “the stare” I am referring to; it’s the look where you can actually feel the laser-like intensity of someone’s scan-tron irises burning the clothes right off your body.

This look absolutely disgusts me and has in the past lead to some very unwelcome situations. Take for example a trip to Mexico when I was 14 and got pinched in the butt by an old Man at Señor Tequilas.

So herein lies my dilemma; how, as a self-declared feminist of this university, do I respond to such visual assaults as these on my home turf in a way that is both safe and acceptable?

Usually the first thing that pops into my mind is a sort of “Kill Bill” inspired reaction such as this: I jump off my bar stool, fly through the air and karate kick this creep in the groin. Then, after I give him a few seconds to recover, explain nicely that I am in fact a strong, independent, intelligent woman who is probably young enough to be his daughter, so he should try checking out someone his own age, preferably his wife.

And then close with a clincher, a well-composed line that I am not atall turned on by “dirty old men” nor am I in any way shape or form, consciously or unconsciously, entertaining any sort of Electra-complex fantasy, so he should keep his x-ray vision to himself, thank you very much.

Don’t worry, this scenario only resides in the realm of fantasy, and in reality I take the D.A.R.E. approach to violence — “Just say no.” I am well aware that I have no legal justification for this type of reaction; I’m not by any official standard being sexually harassed per se, but I am also not OK with being looked at his way. What is it that I should or even could do? Do I passively look the other way, pretending it never happened? Do I smile coyly and than silently mouth the words “F*@^ off”? Do I actually take a stand?

I have to admit, I usually turn a blind eye, pretend the creep doesn’t exist, and push those feelings of hate way down deep inside (like I do with most of my unacceptable passion), but I’ve got to tell you, I just don’t feel like a very good feminist when I do. I’m not anti-masculine, I’m anti-establishment, and my stereotypically feminine response to this seemingly innocent advance disturbs me. But on the other hand, so does making a scene or resorting to violence.

I suppose I’m willingly submitting myself other people’s vision whenever I leave the confines of my dorm, and sometimes entice it on purpose, but my level of comfort with it completely depends on the person and the situation. That said, it does not mean that I in am OK with being stared at like my entire worth as a human being resides in the sex of my body, especially by someone old enough to be my dad.

I suppose there are no “right” answers, but the feminist in me cries out to do something that relates, pure as glass, that “the stare,” however innocent or unproblematic one might claim it to be, is just not f-ing okay with me.