I was eleven years old the first time I was called a bitch. I was walking into Hebrew School class and I noticed one of the older boys snacking on McDonald’s fries:
Me: Hey, can I have a fry?
Boy with fries: No, bitch!
Me: Don’t call me a bitch! (slight shove)
Boy with fries: (Punches me in the face)
Our fight was broken up by the student Rabbi, and no one got in any real trouble — besides of course, being forced by our parents to go to Hebrew School in the first place. I remember that we were both told that violence wasn’t appropriate, and I remember my parents taking me home. I don’t remember an apology.
We readily condone physical violence, even if provoked. If Ted Yoho’s “fucking bitch!”, his verbal assault on Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had escalated to a physical one, would he have actually apologized? Probably. Would he have mean’t it? Probably not. Thankfully, Yoho’s disgust with AOC doing her job and being a woman with a strong voice, was not as extreme as my Hebrew School classmate’s disgust with my request for a french fry. But verbal assault is nonetheless, assault, and should be treated as such.
I didn’t think much of it at the time or for 15 years after. It was funny I thought, that I got in a fight over a french fry — that a Rabbi had to separate two small Jewish kids in the temple hallway. But five years ago I went on a tour of the Kink.com studios at the San Francisco Armory. I wasn’t then nor am I now a fan of porn, and my friends — shocked by my lack of familiarity with pornhub, suggested I spend some time with the cute, approachable, almost nerdy-looking-Jewish porn star James Deen. “You’ll love him” they said, “totally your type.”
The next morning, hungover and curious, I googled James Deen and found myself staring at the face of the 12 year old boy from Hebrew School that gave me my first black eye.
That he grew up to be a porn star that has been accused of rape and sexual misconduct by multiple woman is — not surprising. That I’ve been called a bitch or similarly disparaged countless times by boys/men/bosses/readers of my writing since for actions about as “bitchy” as asking for a french fry — well that’s even less surprising.
When I listened to AOC stand on the house floor and call out, no drag Yoho for his non-apology on Thursday, I cried. I cried because I didn’t think it was possible for someone to so eloquently describe the level of abuse and disrespect that all women have felt while remaining so incredible strong. I cried because even though her speech has gone viral, I fear that those that really need to hear it still aren’t listening. I cried because that is the kind of leadership and representation this country needs while the Yoho’s and Trump’s of the world are still in charge, still sexist, still racist, and still face zero consequences for their actions.
Please explain to me how verbally abusing your coworker is not grounds for termination?
The term itself, well Emma Gray described it best in her piece for HuffPost:
Regardless of context, the words indicate that a woman has taken up space the speaker would prefer she did not. He alone is entitled to opinions, to power, to the eyes and ears of those whom he has decided matter. She’s just a “fucking bitch.”
Fucking bitch, out of line, emotional, inappropriate, misbehaved. While the former is the most offensive and abusive, they are all variations of the same thing — a way for a man to tell a woman that she is not acting the way he believes a woman should act.
A few years ago, I spoke to an HR rep at my former employer about the unprofessional and negligent behavior of my male manager. A few days later, my VP called me into his office to tell me that even though I was being assigned a new manager, “It was important for me to understand that this is not how we behave”. (No actions were taken to investigate the manager’s performance and he remained at the company long after I left). later that year, that same VP tried to bypass my annual raise while automatically granting one to a female colleague that never went to HR, but once met him in his hotel room for a glass of wine during a team offsite.
He has a wife and three daughters.
I write about my life (dating and sex included) on the internet and post about it on social media. I’ve been told that these actions are inappropriate, that it’s not a good look to talk about handjobs or being rejected by men. I’ve been told it will be difficult for me to get a job now that my articles are widely searchable. I tried to explain to one of these male critics that suggesting I censor myself on Instagram was sexist.
He replied — “I have three sisters, I’m not sexist”.
Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
There are too many women that have experienced this same sexism. Too many women that have suffered abuse much, much worse than me — some by the same hand that gave me a black eye when I was child. There are too many women that were brought to tears by AOC’s speech because they so deeply FELT her words. There are too many Ted Yolo’s and too many non-apologies and too little consequences.
I look forward to the day that I can use my voice without being judged, punished, or degraded by a man or potential employer. I look forward to the day that women aren’t used as weapons in the fight against other women. I look forward to the day that James Deen, Ted Yolo, and all other men — especially those with power, are at the very least, expected to be decent.
I hope that AOC’s strength and leadership forces that day to come sooner, and I look forward to the day that she turns 35.