Sometimes I really do feel bad for my friends, family, and coworkers.
I talk about feminism, sexism, and rape A LOT. These are topics that are extremely important to me, and topics that most people would prefer to avoid at all costs. I wish I could abide that, but alas, sometimes I cannot. For instance, Jon and I went out to a bar with a bunch of friends the other night. There were two young women in exceptionally short skirts and extremely high heels. They looked phenomenal, and made me miss my 22-year-old body a little bit. A while later, we were outside smoking a cigarette, and I said, “It makes me really sad to know that if something happened to either of those girls tonight, many people would blame them because of how they are dressed.” My husband wanted to go to the bar, get a bit shitty, and have a good time with his friends; his wife drug him back to reality with a disheartened comment on rape culture.
A little bit later in the night, I was reminded why I play the buzzkill on occasion. I was sitting at a booth with a female and male friend, and the woman started going on about how the aforementioned ladies, “May have nice legs, but they have totally manly faces.” Really? My female friend is beautiful, has an amazing body, and adorable style. And yet, she needed to find some reason to knock these girls down to make herself feel better, maybe because they were younger, maybe because they were thinner, maybe because it is just habit for people to do this to each other. No. Not people. Women. There, I said it. Women do this to each other. Not all women, but I can’t remember a time when I heard two guys discussing negative aspects of another good-looking guy’s appearance at a bar. Women are socialized to do this, to bring other women down, to find flaws when there are none. Girl on girl crime, if you will.
I wouldn’t engage her. Our guy friend was clearly uncomfortable with the conversation, and he was fumbling around for something to say. I replied, “Really? I think she has a pretty face, especially her eyes.” Later, when I was telling Jon about it, he gave me a comeback that I am thinking of using in these instances going forward, but I’d like to crowd source it among the smartest group of peeps around (you all, obviously).
Here’s the line: “Nope, don’t agree. I’d fuck her.” * Is it crude? Yes. Is it contributing to a social standard of viewing women solely based on how fuck-able they are? There is definitely an argument to be made that it does. But what it also does is completely shut down the original inane bullshit, so I feel it needs to be weighed accordingly. Had I had that little nugget ready to pull out, the conversation would have ended there. It wouldn’t have gotten awkward and uncomfortable, which it did because I don’t know the lady friend that well. If it had been a close girlfriend or one of my sisters, I would have shut that shit down immediately, but when you are around people you aren’t close to, how strong do you come down on them?
I am a good arguer. I use a substantial amount of “I Statements,” which, cheesy as they may sound, really do work. I also understand that putting people on the defensive by attacking them is the best way to stop any chance you have of them listening to you or hearing your side in a discussion. I wanted to yell at her a little bit and make her realize how petty and insecure her comments made her sound, but knew that wasn’t going to be the response that yielded the best results. I don’t think my actual response was that great, but it at least made her as uncomfortable as she made me. Will she remember that the next time she finds it necessary to make shitty comments about another woman? Hopefully, but probably not. What if I had used the, “I’d fuck her” line? I think that one had more power in a few short words, and I do think she would have remembered.
I am no angel when it comes to poking fun at people, but I do draw a line. I can be a mean spirited little shit on occasion, but not about things people can’t change, such as their “manly faces,” and not about bodies. There were ways to make comments about their outfits that didn’t play into the tired trope of body snarking. Something along the lines of, “That looks like a lot of work and effort. I just don’t have it in me anymore.” I will totally make fun of clothing, I admit. The Fug Girls and Tom and Lorenzo make hilarious websites devoted to clothing mockery, and they are witty, hilarious, and rarely, if ever, resort to fat-shaming, slut-shaming, or any other -shaming besides stylist-shaming. I also have no problem mocking the willfully ignorant, or people who are jerks. But the default, especially with women, is to make fun of their bodies. If a lady pisses off another lady, the easiest, and usually most hurtful, insult is about their body. I encourage the people in my life to get more creative than that, because honestly, that’s just some lazy insulting. If someone is mean, there are plenty of parts to mock; our bodies shouldn’t be the go-to. I want to see more work put into my slights.
So what’s the verdict, folks? If the above line is too crass, what are some other suggestions? Do you have a great comeback for when you find yourself in these situations? Let em’ rip in the comments.
*Please note that my husband is not the type of man who does this, honestly. The comeback was suggested for my use in these situations with other women only. He really is a love bug, I swear.