Most girls are relentlessly told that we will be treated how we demand to be treated. If we want respect, we must respect ourselves.
This does three things. Firstly, it gets men off the hook for being held accountable for how they treat women. And secondly, it makes women feel that the mistreatment and sometimes outright violence they face due to their gender is primarily their fault. And thirdly, it positions women to be unable to speak out against sexism because we are made to believe any sexism we experience would not have happened if we had done something differently.
I cannot demand a man to respect me. No more than I can demand that anybody do anything. I can ask men to be nice to me. But chances are if I even have to ask he does not care to be nice. I can express displeasure when I’m not being respected. But that doesn’t solve the issue that I was disrespected in the first place.
I can choose to not deal with a man once he proves to be disrespectful and/or sexist. But even that does not solve the initial problem of the fact that I had to experience being disrespected in the first place.
As a young girl, I wish that instead of being told that I needed to demand respect from men that I had been told that when I am not respected by men that it’s his fault and not mine. But that would require that we quit having numerous arbitrary standards for what it means to be a “respectable” woman. It would mean that I am not judged as deserving violence based on how I speak, what I wear, what I do, and who I am.
The concern for overly exposed young bodies may be well-intentioned. With society fetishizing girls at younger and younger ages, girls are instructed to self-objectify and see themselves as sexual objects, something to be looked at. A laundry list of problems can come from obsessing over one’s appearance: eating disorders, depression, low self-worth. Who wouldn’t want to spare her daughter from these struggles?
But these dress codes fall short of being legitimately helpful. What we fail to consider when enforcing restrictions on skirt-length and the tightness of pants is the girls themselves—not just their clothes, but their thoughts, emotions, budding sexuality and self-image.
Instead, these restrictions are executed with distracted boys in mind, casting girls as inherent sexual threats needing to be tamed. Dress restrictions in schools contribute to the very problem they aim to solve: the objectification of young girls. When you tell a girl what to wear (or force her to cover up with an oversized T-shirt), you control her body. When you control a girl’s body—even if it is ostensibly for her “own good”—you take away her agency. You tell her that her body is not her own.
When you deem a girl’s dress “inappropriate,” you’re also telling her, “Because your body may distract boys, your body is inappropriate. Cover it up.” You recontextualize her body; she now exists through the male gaze.
An open letter to the ‘nice guy’ who tried to hit me because I stopped him from taking home a drunk girl who was begging him to leave her alone (or: why you should never ask a poet if she’s really an ugly cocksucker or if that’s just her day job):
The thing is, everyone assumes that by taking away our rights, you make us weak.
In reality, just the opposite occurs. We are used to the sling of insults - there is nothing you can say that hasn’t already been said to me. We are used constantly being on the outlook for our aggressor - so yes, I can spot an asshole from across the room and it’s because I often have to.
The thing is: you are making our skins thicker and our spines stronger than anyone who doesn’t have to put up with the shit that we do. We are the same generation that can wear pretty dresses and cut up your corpse in the same moment: because trust me, we know how to get blood out of our clothing.
You think women are little helpless flowers but I know at least a quarter of my lady friends with self-defense classes under their belts, at least half who can fight their way out of a chokehold with nothing but their carkeys like daggers in their fists, at least three-fourths who are so used to any kind of slur you can throw at them that they have four witty comebacks just resting on their backburners, and all of them - all of them - are baptized in the fire of another person’s violation, whether verbal or otherwise. You are not making the submissive housewives or the shy secretaries of your wet dreams. You have made dragons.
You have made mothers with sharp teeth who can balance eight different tasks and still remember your favorite dinner. You have made CEOs who do better work because they’re used to being told they’re sub-par. You are making artists and poets and musicians who’ve seen the dark in the world. You are making social justice warriors - I use this not as a defamation but as a banner, as the way they brand themselves because it is a battle, isn’t it, and nobody’s come out without their share of scars - you are making a generation of caustically beautiful ladies who have seen more shit by six a.m. than you have all your life and they still walk better in heels than you do in your boat shoes.
We do not invite your ‘nice guy’ into our beds, you’re right, because the nice guys of our lives have been our fathers asking us if we ‘are really going out in that,’ have been our best friend telling us that his girlfriend should give up sex because he’s paid for dinner, have been our uncles and brothers and the great gentlemen who hang out of their cars and laugh when the thirteen-year-old they just honked at jumps and looks terrified (but should totally accept the compliment as if it was a gift instead of the moment she recognizes she’s never going to be safe) -
you wanna know why we don’t let nice men into our beds? Because we rarely find them.
They’re out there, I know it, but they’re not the ones wetting themselves when a woman asks ‘why do you think that?’ instead of sitting back and letting him laugh with his buddies about femi-nazis. They’re out there and they’re probably as pissed as we are that at least one third of their population has openly admitted there are times when they think it’s okay to force their significant other to have sex: they’re out there, and the sad thing is, if you’re a male, you’re statistically not one of them. As far as we know, you don’t exist. You are a white knight only you believe in.
Here’s the thing about forcing people down: eventually they’re going to get strong enough to push right on back, and when you’ve spent the whole time sitting on your ass sinking your teeth into your healthy wage gap, you’re not going to be ready for it.
You’ve hurt us, over and over. When the time comes for us to hurt back, do you know how many of us are going to ask ‘Where was the mercy when I was begging like he is now? Where was that mercy when I got pregnant? Where was that mercy when I was called selfish for being a single parent? Where was that mercy when he forced himself on me? Where was that mercy, in anything?’
The thing about oppression is that it can only last for so long. You are not making yourself dominant, you’re making yourself weak. I’ve seen men crumble because they feel uncomfortable when they get hit on by other men as if the stench of their own mistakes is strangling them. I’ve seen them get impassioned because a teacher preferred females and I’ve laughed because I had eight other classes where it was reversed and in all of those eight, it went uncontested. I have legitimately punched a boy who said that a show for girls was shameful because it tries to teach lessons instead of catering to his desire for sex - as if just by liking something, he owns it. I’ve seen boys growl about women’s history month and had to wonder if they’ve ever held a textbook where the only names of girls are tiny footnotes. I’ve seen fathers ask why the curriculum I use for my six-year-olds is carefully gender neutral, why I let his son play at cooking or his daughter be a doctor.
I have never heard a mother complain except to beg me to get her little girl to talk more, to do more, to succeed - do you see? Do you see?
Here’s the thing about stepping on us: we have learned to stop licking your boots
and now we want to ruin you.
Ambition is demanded of us because we know mediocrity is not an option. When society tells women that if we are just averagely good-looking, or averagely smart, or reasonably high-achieving, we will never be loved and safe, perfectionism is an adaptive strategy. We learn that if we want love and security, we have to be perfect, and if it doesn’t work out, well, that means we just weren’t good enough. And we know it probably won’t work out well. Girls aren’t fools. They know what is being done to them. They know what means for their futures in terms of money and power.
Girls get it. An under-reported, crucial facet of the study is the extent and cynicism of girls’ concerns about economic equality and unpaid work. A full 65% of girls aged 11-21 are worried about the cost of childcare, and while 58% say they “would like to become a leader in their chosen profession, 46% of them worry that having children will negatively affect their career.
Girls know perfectly well that structural sexism means they can’t have everything they’re being told they must have. They are striving to have it all everyway, striving to have everything and be everything like good girls are supposed to, and it hasn’t broken them yet, for good or ill. That’s is one reason young women still do so well in school and at college despite our good grades not translating to real-world success. It’s one reason we’re so good at getting those entry-level service jobs: we are not burdened by the excess of ego, the desire to be treated like a human being first, that prevents many young men from engaging proactively with an economy that just wants self-effacing drones trained to smile till it hurts.
The press just loves to act concerned about half-naked young ladies, preferably with illustrations to facilitate the concern. Somehow nothing changes. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe part of the function of the constant stream of news about young girls hurting and hating themselves isn’t to raise awareness. Maybe part of it is designed to be reassuring.
It must be comforting, if you’re invested in the status quo, to hear that young women are punished and made miserable when they misbehave.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: for all those knuckle-clutching articles about how girls everywhere are about to pirouette into twerking, puking, self-hating whorishness, we do not actually care about young women - not, that is, about female people who happen to be young. Instead, we care about Young Women (TM), fantasy Young Women as a semiotic skip for all our cultural anxieties. We value girls as commodities without paying them the respect that both their youth and their personhood deserves. Being fifteen is fucked up enough already without having the expectations, moral neuroses and guilty lusts of an entire culture projected onto this perfect empty shell you’re somehow supposed to be. Hollow yourself out and starve yourself down until you can swallow the shame of the world.
We care about young women as symbols, not as people.
"perfectionism is an adaptive strategy"
Recently, an older piece of ours on “female” ejaculation, which opens with an advice question specifically asking about women who ejaculate, was shared here by a volunteer. There were a few — very validly — critical comments about that piece being cissexist. It is one of our older pieces overdue for an update, including making it more inclusive. (And, for now, while we do that update, I have taken it down, both from tumblr and the site, because I agree with those critiques. Until we can make it more inclusive, it is best it simply not be live. We are not okay with cissexism, either.)
That is pretty easy in context: what is less easy is finding a short term for ejaculation specific to those with vulvas, not penises, one that users internationally, and whose life experience and education around gender inclusivity may not be current, can identify so they can easily find the piece for that information.
I tend to be pretty good about coming up with alternative terms for things that work, but this is one where I — and we as a team — have felt a bit stuck. Having asked around other places, people seem equally stuck. So, we’re asking our tumblr followers: does anyone have an alternate term or terms for this that is not linked to gender, but only to physiology, that they like and feel is clear? If so, we’d really appreciate it if you shared that with us so we can move this forward. Thanks so much! - HC
Addendum: so, risu-of-anterra very helpfully offered up vulval ejaculation. The thing with that is that the vulva is the external genitals, and this is something that comes from the inside, and works its way out. Agree, that makes a HUGE diff with inclusivity, and is certainly no more inaccurate than “female,” but we are hoping for something — dreaming, maybe, I know — more inclusive but also more accurate. Of course, some of the sticky wicket there is that doctors and sexologists are still arguing about whether this kind of ejaculation comes from the urethra, clitoral sponge, or somewhere else. :(
One option, btw, is to always just simply talk about ejaculation, and the different ways people or body parts ejaculate, rather than differentiating at all in the most general way, and only doping so when we or others want to get specific.
Addendum Two: We really need a clinical, or semi-clinical term for this, not just a colloquial one like squirting. Especially since it seems like squirting, the colloquial one we have, generally seems to sit well with everybody.
Addendum Three (there may wind up being a lot of these!): How do we feel about “Skene’s ejaculation,” suggested here: http://paralian-blue.tumblr.com/post/71346550497/alternative-terms-you-like-for-female-ejaculation I think the notes paralian-blue added to this are sound, per any of us being unable at this time to pin down any one anatomical part with this kind of ejaculation, since we just do not yet have the science to do so 100%.
Yep, more: Also, this suggestion from thambos: http://thambos.tumblr.com/post/71346880837/alternative-terms-you-like-for-female-ejaculation which also seems sound. Only issue here is how many readers, especially those outside North America, will have no idea what FAAB means. And of course, our potentially vain hope that gender assignments at birth will just stop outright, so the term would not stay relevant. But then, this language is always changing, and we are always having to go back and update things regardless, so that matters less than finding something better than female ejaculation for now.
Last update! Thank you so much to all of you for shuffling this around and pitching in, including any of you making the initial critiques. Critique always helps us grow and also helps us help others grow, too. The conversations we have had and watched here and on Facebook have really helped us toss out some ideas, consider others and — ultimately — decide on one of our initial thoughts, a sentiment also shared by a few folks in these conversations, that we move to just using ejaculation, period. We can learn, as we all have before, how to incorporate that approach well when we do use specifics, like talking about how ejaculation is different with different body parts.
When we think of exclusivity, we also have to think about not just gender, but about socioeconomics and levels of education, about the large part of our userbase which is not Western, and, most of all, because we are a sex education service which aims to be as effective as possible when it comes to people learning, about accessibility in terms of approaches that allow our users to be less confused when they read our information, rather than more confused. Even when our information is many pages, that clarity is always in front as we are creating or editing content.
We also think this approach offers some extra bonuses, like helping to normalize ejaculation that isn’t about a penis (someone commented wondering why there is a lack of study or facts on this at this point, btw and it’s clear sexism and phallocentrism have certainly played a part), queer some of this up, and also to help detach orgasm from ejaculation, as it is a common and problematic perception that the two are one and the same, happen at the same time, or are always related or entwined.
Again, thanks so much everyone. You improve us! :)