Friday, August 01, 2014, Buttes-Chaumont Parc, Paris, France.
Why do I need feminism? We all have our reasons. We all have our stories. Let me tell you about my day:
I was sitting on a hill in the grass at Buttes-Chaumont park, a lovely historical area in Paris. I wanted to be relatively by myself so I could write in peace and smoke without drawing attention to myself. I’m sitting, book in my lap, a pen and cig between my fingers, when I am approached by a man. My main concern was determining whether or not he was the po-lice, but he had no characteristics of cops. He appeared emotionally stable and had good hygiene so I wasn’t too uncertain, (isn’t it kind of bad how we judge people on that stuff?), still, I wondered what he wanted, dreading having to talk to someone when I was merely trying to write in peace. I figured he was going to ask me for something to smoke.
He didn’t. Instead, he asked if he could sit by me. I look around and scan all the other vacant spaces he could sit instead, making it obvious that there was plenty of room to sit instead of right the **** next to me. It’s a pretty big park. “Si ca ta derange pas?” I wasn’t planning on staying long anyway, but I knew he wouldn’t be dangerous as there were many families and couples and runners and walkers, old friends and young kids playing. I felt safe enough, and he seemed harmless. I figured if anything, I could practice my French, which was always nice.
I said okay. He sat, and for a moment we sat in silence. I made myself a sandwich with baguette and cheese and offered him some. He politely declined. We started talking.
I asked if he was Parisian, and he told me he lived there for a while but was from Afrique. I didn’t catch which country, but I don’t think he specified which region. He asked about me, and I told him I was American, born in DC, but I came to France every so often and it was my first language. We talked about travel. We talked about the chaos in the Middle East, and how it was prophesized in scripture. He told me he was Muslim. I told him I wasn’t religious.
I told him I acknowledged the importance of texts, but I believe our ability to think has evolved in 2000 years and we have more information now than we did then. I told him there was too much life and I could not fit it all into one magic being which sprinkled glitter and said “Let there be” and we were created. I told him I really liked the Asian philosophies of Buddhism and Daoism. We talked about peace. We talked about Human Rights and the beauty of diversity, and how marvelous it was people could live among another in peace.
I said it was cool, and I even said it was cool that even as a black man in Europe and an Arab-American woman, we could talk freely without hostility and social division. We talked about closed-mindedness and Conservativism. I explained cognitive dissonance contributing to conflict, generated by opposing views and resistance/reluctance to consider new ideas. We talked about Psychology. I told him I was a writer and I told him about Cabaret Populaire in Belleville and the poetry community in Paris. I told him I love Paris. We talked again about travel.
He told me he was in Germany last weekend, and I told him I was in Langen Tuesday night. He told me he always wanted to go to the U.S.A. We talked about immigration. We talked about the American Dream. We talked about money. I told him I was proposed to the last time I was in Lebanon. We talked about reasons people marry. I reminded him today was the first of August, which meant I’d been with my boyfriend for two months. We talked about love. We talked about monogamy, polyamory and infidelity. We talked about Islam. We talked about racism.
We were sitting there talking for an hour or so, which I was especially grateful for, because besides having an interesting conversation I was able to speak in French for all of it, as he did not speak English (apparently he spoke German, though). I stood up to leave and told him “Enchanté,” but before I started walking off he motioned for me to look at his phone. I was wondering if he was trying to add me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram or something, but I am instead confronted by a picture on his screen of him laying on his back on a bed, with an ***** ***** as the focal point.
Furious, I asked him “Pourquoi tu ma montre ca?! J’ai pas demande a voir ca!”
The stupid smile on his face disappeared and was replaced by a look of slight hurt, confusion, and surprise.
“Bordelle! C’est dommage—mais c’est ca—des hommes et femmes ne peuvent pas parler normalment, vraiment!”
And for the vile words I wanted to spout, I scoffed instead, too much of a lady to shout or get emotional, but I made sure to call him out and stand my ground, exuding negative energy and making it clear with my few words that that was not okay.
I gave no impression of interest in seeing his ****, so why did he do that? Even if he thought I might want to (hell never) he should have heard me ask or vocally say “yes, you can do that.” However, I did not ask; there were no prompts, hints, innuendos or even suggestive, flirty phrasing that would serve as an indication of ****** interest on my behalf.
I don’t want to be cynical and assume all guys are perverts and avoid any conversation because I’m not a rude person (generally). I’m not sexist. I value conversations and friendships with people without emphasis of gender importance. I try not to assume that everyone is sketchy or has ****** up motives. Some people just want to talk.
I wasn’t going to blatantly ignore or dismiss him because he was a man, nor because he was black, foreign, or Muslim. But where the hell is he from that he was socialized and thought that was appropriate or wanted?
I did not ask. The worst part is that he seemed like a genuinely alright person, but then he had to ruin it by whipping out a **** pic. Gross. What’s even more gross is the sense of entitlement he had, thinking it was acceptable to do that. You are a stranger. And I don’t want to see your ******, you disgusting *******.
I really don’t like assuming **** about people or making generalizations. I’m not going to assimilate one ****** with every group they are assigned to and stereotype against every person of that respective group. But fuckkkk. It’s annoying and disappointing that what I thought was a pleasant talk and exchange of ideas with a friendly stranger was actually a plot to show me his ****. ****.
The moral of this story is to say why feminism is needed, because this happens to people every day. If you still need further assistance understanding, please allow me to elaborate:
1) I need feminism because it allows me to stand up for myself and feel confident about stating that I’m uncomfortable with unwanted behaviors and I’m not going to tolerate them.
These behaviors include, but are not limited to:
1) Showing me **** pics
2) Assuming it’s okay to show a girl you met not even an hour ago a **** pic (Do not even say it’s because of a culture difference, because I know of Frenchies who don’t do that)
3) Approaching me because I’m sitting alone (I accepted that because I assumed he wasn’t going to violate my mind like that (good thing I don’t have photographic memory) but I didn’t wave over and say “Hey, you look friendly! Come over and talk to me!”)
4) Asking me how serious things are with my boyfriend
5) Asking me about my bisexuality—only to invalidate it
6) Assigning me behavior expectations because of my gender
7) Trying to control the way I do or do not reproduce
8) Expecting me to behave a certain way because of my sexuality
9) Judging me based on my sexuality
10) Openly discriminating against people and expecting me to be okay with prejudice
11) Using racist terms… because you’re a racist
12) Dehumanizing the oppressed
Because I don’t know what you studied about it (wait—most people who disagree with feminism haven’t and are completely misinformed) but:
Feminism is about equality, and it doesn’t feel very equal when I show someone respect but I get no respect in return. And if you associate feminism with fauxminism and misandry, please educate yourself. (If I had Tumblr still, you better believe I would’ve already posted this). To quote the great words of Jay in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: "Remember, don’t whip your **** out unless she asks."