Tag Archives: harassment

Men Making Women’s Decisions: In Person, In Sport, In Politics


Laurie and Debbie say:

We started with a story we found on Twitter. Here’s Meg Elison, author of (among other books), the highly-recommended The Book of the Unnamed Midwife:

Motherfucker comes to my table, unbidden. I assume he’s a waiter; he’s not. I’m having a drink and a snack. I look up and he’s got Fake Concern Face on. Without preamble he says, “If you took better care of yourself, you’d find somebody to love you.”

She shows off her wedding ring, gives him the finger and tells him to Leave Her Alone. But he can’t.

“I didn’t mean anything offensive by it. I just think we have these moments of clarity–“

I tell him if he needs to make a fat girl cry so he can have something to jack off to, then he better pay by the minute for it because there are professionals who provide that service. I am not one of them, and this is not an appropriate place to solicit me.

We’ve heard, and made, some pretty tough comebacks in our time, but this is one of the truest ones ever.

He still can’t leave, but she finishes him off:

He has the NERVE to “Namaste” me as he slinks out of this place where I was having a peaceful moment by myself. Friends, I yelled GO FUCK YOURSELF at his cringing back.

She also makes it completely clear that she was shaking and rattled, because she was verbally assaulted with no provocation. And you just know that guy went home and felt sorry for … himself. The best part is that he may never do that to anyone again.

He’s a small-time, basically trivial, example of a man thinking he both knows what’s best for a woman he doesn’t know, and that he has the right to interrupt her life to give her the benefit of his wisdom.

He matters for two reasons: first, because there are millions of him all over the country and the world, trying to make fat girls cry. Second, because he’s an individual example of wielding toxic societal power.


Who do you think made the decision to turn down Castor Semenya’s appeal regarding women and testosterone in Olympic sports? The Court of Arbitration for Sport, which (if you can tell by names) is definitely majority male. They made this decision even though they know it’s difficult, if not impossible to implement. They also ruled that athletes who wish to compete in women’s events, but whose testosterone is over an arbitrary level, will have to take drugs to reduce those levels. The World Medical Association has urged its members in 114 countries not to cooperate with this:

We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations. They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community. They are also contrary to a number of key WMA ethical statements and declarations, and as such we are calling for their immediate withdrawal.

But again, men not only feel they can make decisions on women’s bodies, they are formally authorized to make those decisions, and they don’t have to respond to, for example, doctors who think their decisions are unsafe and unethical.

For some history on this controversy, read this post from about a year ago. We hoped things would get better after that.


Ohio state representative John Becker, however, has managed to outdo both random San Francisco harassers and Court of Arbitration biased judges with his proposed “anti-abortion” bill. Ohio already has one of the most restrictive laws in the country (miserably superseded in the last week or so by Georgia’s indefensible law), but it isn’t enough for Mr. Becker, who wants to eliminate rape and incest exceptions, and also (while claiming this isn’t what he means) ban most forms of birth control. But then he completely loses touch with any reality:

The bill excludes treatments for ectopic pregnancies from the insurance coverage ban, which seems like a good thing—we should try to treat ectopic pregnancies!—until you realize that Becker’s notion of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is fucking nonsense: “Part of that treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and then reinserting it in the uterus so that’s defined as not an abortion under this bill,” Becker said.

The bill says the term “nontherapeutic abortion” does not include a “procedure for an ectopic pregnancy, that is intended to re-implant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.” Presumably, Becker envisions a world where doctors are trying to “fix” ectopic pregnancies by reinserting wayward embryos into the pregnant person’s uterus.

Except that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.

“That doesn’t exist in the realm of treatment for ectopic pregnancy. You can’t just re-implant. It’s not a medical thing,” said Miracle.

Mr. Becker doesn’t, it would seem, know what a woman’s anatomy looks like, let alone what can and can’t be done medically, surgically, or even magically. All he knows is that “he’s no expert” but he is willing to try to convince his fellow legislators (most of whom are almost certainly men) that they all know what’s “right” and what’s “wrong,” and are more than proud of themselves for exercising their power on the living bodies of the women they feel compelled to control.


Men aren’t going to stop tormenting women in restaurants, telling women whether or not we are women, or telling women what we can, or can’t, do with our own bodies, any time soon. So let’s all take up Meg Elison’s rallying cry and stand up against them.


Sex in the Workplace: Just Enough, but Not too Much

Laurie and Debbie say:

Conventionally attractive women get hired more frequently than conventionally unattractive women. Women in the beauty culture, on diets, getting plastic or weight-loss surgery and other beauty treatments, aren’t just looking for men, or self-esteem … they’re also looking for good jobs.

For Debrahlee Lorenzana, however, it seems to have backfired in a big way.

Lorenzana at work in a black dress and heels

This is the way Debbie Lorenzana tells it: Her bosses told her they couldn’t concentrate on their work because her appearance was too distracting. They ordered her to stop wearing turtlenecks. She was also forbidden to wear pencil skirts, three-inch heels, or fitted business suits. Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mom, pointed out female colleagues whose clothing was far more revealing than hers: “They said their body shapes were different from mine, and I drew too much attention,” she says.

As Lorenzana’s lawsuit puts it, her bosses told her that “as a result of the shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly ‘too distracting’ for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear.”

This kind of theory is not new. This is one explanation for Islamic women are told to wear modest dress and why Orthodox Jewish women shave their heads, because men who are not their husbands may look upon their beauty and be unable to control themselves. It’s been the responsibility of women to manage men’s sexual responses for (literally) millennia.

Outside of religious constraints on dress, in our times in the U.S. we most often see it as the time-honored excuse for rape: “Dressed like that, she deserved it.”

Now, however, at least according to Lorenzana, it’s a firing offense.

“Men are kind of drawn to her,” says Tanisha Ritter, a friend and former colleague who also works as a banker and praises Lorenzana’s work habits. “I’ve seen men turn into complete idiots around her. But it’s not her fault that they act this way, and it shouldn’t be her problem.”

She is suing Citigroup for being fired, and the lawsuit may get her fired from her new employer, Chase, where “They said I was damaging the reputation of the entire industry,” Lorenzana said.

So, what has Lorenzana done wrong?

First, she’s done what women have always done: looked wrong. Didn’t look the way the men around her wanted her to look. Didn’t fit whatever mold they invented this week. She says she changed her hairdo and her make-up and they weren’t satisfied. This can only happen because men (and women who actively participate in the power structure) get to decide how women should look.

Second, she’s “mouthy.” She’ll talk about how she’s been treated. She’ll complain. She’ll file lawsuits. She’ll pose for all kinds of pictures, sexy and businesslike. She doesn’t seem to be embarrassed either about how she looks or, much worse, about who she is. And that’s unforgivable.

Up until somewhere in the late 1970s or early 1980s, you could fire a woman for being too hot (or more often, for being too hot and not putting out after work). You could fire a woman for being too mouthy. You couldn’t quite directly call it that, but “everybody knew” that men decided which women to work with, and any powerful man’s reason was reason enough. Now we’re in a period where you are expected to take women’s work at face value, women in the workplace and even in management and leadership are much more common, and there is a basic social awareness that how a woman looks should be decouple from how she does her job, even if it is often ignored or misused. This particular story sounds like a blast from the past–a return to fifty or sixty years ago, which is one reason why it’s so upsetting.

One thing that makes this story different than it would have been in the 1950s is the 20-preteens and everything is sexualized. Talking about sex is much more acceptable than it used to be, and every advertisement and media message encourages us to sexualize each other all the time. So of course it’s more acceptable for men to say, “I can’t work when you’re around; you’re too sexy.” This pervasive attitude gives men permission to indulge themselves in “learned helplessness.”

Sorry, honey. Not sexy enough, too sexy, puts out too much, doesn’t put out enough, wrong size, wrong shape, wrong anything. But they’re not calling the shots the way they used to. This can only be major news because it isn’t normal any more.