Monthly Archives: October 2016

Like Real People Do


As anyone who is the parent of multiple children can tell you, the issues you face with one child will never be the same as the issues you face with another. This is even true of identical twins. (There is no copy/paste option when it comes to parenting.) This, for the most part, is a good thing. And then, sometimes, it is just depressing—depressing, because even though you know that there are certain issues some of your children will be exempted from, the reasons behind those exemptions are almost as soul-crushing as the issue itself. I am speaking, of course, of “pussygate”, or, as the conversation has been trending amongst adult women everywhere, “the first time some random dude grabbed me.”

Me, I was twelve, and it was at the State Fair. He was pretty old (so old in fact that his hand shook with a sort of a palsy while he did it), and so I never felt physically threatened. What I did feel, however, was shock. Shock, because, up until that very moment, I had believed that I was real.

We had been speaking, this old man and I, about something trivial and innocuous, the sort of conversations you are taught to endure with boring old people from the moment you can talk. And I thought that was all this was. Right up until the moment when he reached out and Trump grabbed me, and I suddenly realized that the entire boring conversation had just been a pretext to sidle closer and make a grab for the part of the thing that had really interested him. As opposed to the part of the thing that had been talking.

Because that’s how it felt: it felt as if, in this man’s eyes, I was just a livelier, cheaper version of a blow-up doll. There’s a reason it’s called objectification.

I’m almost positive that my son, Clyde, will never have to experience this. Jut as I am equally positive that my daughter, Clementine, will. (And if I am wrong, and the reverse is true, this will not be progress, in the same way it is not progress to make the life spans of 1st and 3rd world countries more evenly matched by lowering those of the people in the former.)

It is hard to explain exactly what it feels like when you first come to the realization that to some people you are not quite as “real” as they are. The closest I can get is to tell you to go watch the scene in “Blade Runner” where Rachael first realizes she is a replicant, and then watch it again and again and again.

But even so, movies just mirror the feelings we experience in real life; there is no substitute for actually living it. And half of the world’s population has already lived it anyway. But here’s the thing: even though half of the world’s population has almost certainly been on the “grabbed” side of the equation, the reverse is not also true. The other half of the world hasn’t been the ones doing the grabbing. In fact, I think the numbers are probably pretty low: another case of us against the 1%.

So what do we do? Do we have sit-ins? Occupy men’s restrooms the way we once occupied Wall Street? Well, maybe (but I hope not). Or maybe we just make sure the 99% of us who are not doing the grabbing call out the ones who do, or the ones who brag about it. Call them out and then publicly shun them—on the street and in the locker room.

And most certainly in the voting booth. Until, eventually, they, too will know what it’s like to suddenly find out that, to some people, you just aren’t quite real.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive

Dress Code–Again


This is a column I thought I would never have to write again.

Frankly, with my daughter now being off to college, and my son being, well, a boy, I thought that my days of writing about school dress codes were over. And technically, they should be: the chances of my daughter getting dress-coded at an all girls school, or my son getting dress-coded anywhere are practically nil. However, one of the first things I realized when I had children was that somehow, once you have that baby in your arms, the world is full of children. They’re everywhere: trying to dart out into traffic, attempting to pull hot pots of off stoves, doing their best to climb too high up into the trees at the park. Whereas before I had children I probably could have strolled past a building with children dangling from the rooftops and have been blissfully unaware, once I had children of my own everyone else’s children became that much more real.

And so, even though in all likelihood my children will never be dress-coded again, the fact that there are children out there still going though it means that it is still very much on my radar. And still just as infuriating.

To understand why school dress codes are so infuriating it is helpful, I think, to look at the reasons why my own children will never be dress-coded again.

First there is my daughter, Clementine. As a college student she is considered by most people (other than bouncers) to be old enough to dress herself. But even if she weren’t—even if she were twelve years old—she probably still wouldn’t ever be dress-coded for the simple fact that she goes to an all girls’ school.

One of the favorite arguments of the dress-code crowd is that, at an age when students are absolutely flooded with hormones, girls wearing revealing clothing is just “too distracting” for the boys. But, in news that is apparently still news to some, some girls don’t like boys; they like girls. And yet, somehow, despite having the same flood of hormones that teenage boys have, and despite having the same eye for an appealing figure, the girls in this situation manage to keep themselves from being “distracted “ by collar bones and knees (two of the most titillating parts of a girl’s body, at least if most dress codes are to be believed.)

Then, of course, there is my son, Clyde. This is a boy who has never once been dress-coded, despite having shown up to school wearing bootie shorts and a middy shirt. (Granted, this was not done out of any desire to garner attention, but rather out of his failure to understand that it is, in fact, possible to outgrow your favorite clothes. Anyone who doubts whether or not someone can legitimately not notice that the clothes they are wearing are way too small can just witness him at the shoe store pulling his feet out of shoes that are two sizes too small. It’s like watching a clown family emerge from a VW Bug.)

In some countries they acknowledge their bias openly, and admit that the reason they prioritize a boy’s right to an education over that of a girl’s is because, with limited funding, it is more “important” that boys receive an education. Here, we do it the old-fashioned way, and hide our bias behind a cover of morals and decency. And yet the result is the same. Girls are told (either overtly or in code) that they are entitled to fill their plate at the table of education only after all of the boys have had their share.

To argue otherwise—to argue that somehow a girl’s shoulder is more exciting than a boy’s, or that a girl’s “natural docility” keeps her from acting on her attraction more so than a boy’s “natural aggressiveness” is to be either willfully ignorant or disingenuous.

In other words: it is just plain wrong.


Filed under Articles Archive