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This has nothing to do with travel or writing, but everything to do with a bubbling rage, a widespread disgust felt by anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes reading about “Hollywood mogul” Harvey Weinstein’s thirty years of sexual harassment and assault against women.
This afternoon and last night, a best friend and I stoked the fires of rage across countless furiously-typed text messages, exchanging our disgust at how women could be so mistreated, not just by a wretched man but by a system meant to silence them. Before long we were asking ourselves where Hollywood ends and society begins, and the line is unfortunately far too blurred to make any sort of clear distinction.
It comes down to that “chicken and egg” thing; which came first? Do we diminish and intimidate women because of their diminished roles on screen, powered by a Hollywood machine led by men who made it happen? A machine that gives the majority of significant speaking roles in films to men? Or demands that most films need a sexy girlfriend but not the other way around? Or dictates that Tom Cruise’s female lead in a movie will be 25 years his junior because that’s totally normal? Or creates countless movies about a male loser’s “coming of age,” where he “finds himself” and becomes a better man thanks to the “quirky magical girl with the cool personality,” who somehow had no needs of her own, but only existed to “show him the way?” (I am so sick of those movies I will stab my eyes out if I have to see another one)
Or…did the Hollywood machine create all of this because we wanted it? Are we being too hard on the (mostly) men who run Hollywood–excluding Harvey Weinstein who is clearly an evil asshole–because they’re simply responding to demand with an adequate supply?
I started thinking about this and I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, at least not one that I’d be able to fit onto Twitter. I’m not even sure if the unlimited character-count of a blog will help me formulate an answer, but I find myself asking: how did we get here?
When I break it all down and try my best to organize everything I’ve read, observed, and experienced first-hand, the one common thing at the root of it all seems to be that women are interpreted as objects for male pleasure. This may not be a “100% all the time” thing that overwhelms my sense of self all day long, but in some form or another, isn’t it here, there and everywhere? If you’re squinting your eyes and struggling to find this problem, let’s not forget that Hugh Hefner built an entire industry on this very concept. He LITERALLY had a mansion full of ADULT WOMEN called “bunnies,” whose ONLY role was to be fully available as pleasure objects. And let’s not pretend he was some rogue eccentric, like “oh Hef, that ONE crazy guy who views women this way…” Yeah right. In fact, mainstream celebrities and wannabes would trample over each other to get invites into those Playboy mansion pool parties, and all the while middle-class “normals” would happily envision the fantasy.
Beyond the universe of the late and gross Hugh Hefner, we live in a society where so much comes back to the orbit of male pleasure (see: Viagra and lack of surefire women’s equivalent). If you’re unconvinced, think about one of the first things anyone says when a women is harassed on the street, or assaulted, or faces unwanted advances on the subway, or in an elevator, or at a bar, or in the office, or in a cave (please insert any location in life). The first and most common question is “what was she wearing?”
Seriously, how many bajillion times is this stupid question asked?
The only way to explain this question is that society orbits around male pleasure, a.k.a the uncontrollable, inevitable, probability that a dude will get a boner.
“If you didn’t want to cause “street boners,” you shouldn’t have worn that.”
“If you’re showing cleavage at the office, don’t be surprised when you turn around and find a “corporate boner.””
Obviously the wording in dress code policies or rape case courtroom trials is different, but the thinly-veiled implication is always there. It’s never about a man somehow figuring out a way to NOT harass a woman, or to NOT have a boner, but instead it’s always about what a WOMAN can do to limit the number of boners she’s responsible for, like maybe if she didn’t go out so late at night, she would reduce the risk of triggering spontaneous boner syndrome. I mean…what?
I don’t have a direct solution to this problem, and I do acknowledge that a lot of men are respectful, cool, and trusted allies (and I’m happy to know a few of them!). There are however far too many men who live in a bubble of entitlement; entitled to the Victoria’s Secret models as seen on TV, despite having nothing to offer in return, entitled to hooking up with a girl just because he bought her one drink, or entitled to a conversation on the subway, just because he graced some unsuspecting woman with his leering smile.
To these wretched, wayward entitled fools, I offer you a check-list, because after the scandalizing demise of Harvey Weinstein, a (tiny) optimistic part of me believes that your horrible behaviour won’t fly anymore, so here is some advice to improve yourselves:
Checklist for treating women like human beings with the most basic level of respect:
It was a Friday night like any other, spent alone at my local zoo, scratching the chin of my favourite caged chimp Bobo. He stretched out one of his telescopic fingers to caress my cheek. Wrinkly to the touch and smelling of yesterday’s sewage (as opposed to the aromatic fresh stuff), I felt innocent love in his caress. But like any good moment of pleasure, I ruined it with uninvited brain waves.
I wondered how affectionate Bobo would be, if he wasn’t inside that cage. I wondered if Bobo knew that once upon a time, humans were chimp-like too. I wondered if Bobo realized that by a random act of Darwinism a long time ago, humans became all sexy and took over the earth, while he and his homies turned out gross and live in cages, just for our human amusement.
And then the most troubling thought: what if Bobo knows all of this? And what if he’s plotting his revenge?
I don’t know about you, but I like the view from up top. Evolution was amazing. It helped us grow out of our ape-face and shaggy-ape hair. And my god, just look at our cheekbones and bodacious bodies!
If the hotness progression wasn’t enough, we became really smart and assumed full control of the earth (then ruined it for the most part, but let’s not split hairs).
So we’re livin’ and lovin’ and destroyin’, but what if Bobo spills the beans to his simian peers?
They’re not that smart, but they ARE smart enough to band together. I’m sure one of them could steal the zookeeper’s keys, and if word spreads fast enough (even a monkey can figure out an iPhone), it could happen in every zoo around the world.
And then we’re finished.
Fugitive chimps burning houses, punching mailboxes, and tossing feces, until eventually WE’RE all locked in iron cages, with only last month’s issue of People magazine and a Mars bar. Meanwhile the chimps drive our cars and bed our women (I have a feeling the chimps would bed our women and enjoy it…we have a history together after all).
And you know what would happen with unfortunate chimp-to-human breeding?
The fall of the human race, and the Museum of Natural History come to life (minus the now insufferable Ben Stiller, who will never repeat his incredible performance in “Zoolander”).
I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to give up the keys, so as long as we still have ‘em…let’s enjoy!
Enjoy sexy, enjoy evolved, enjoy human.
Dear New York City,
Thanks for letting me inside your pleasure center, for a fabulous four-day jaunt. Some crazy things happened, which as you know is the juiciest dinner for my readers. It’s like when pigs in a farm get that extra-special feed, the kind that makes them grow three times as large (probably because the grains are packed with steroids). That way the pigs can produce a lot more ham and bacon for the world’s enjoyment. I too want my blog to grow large like a piggy’s round bottom, to be devoured by my readers worldwide. So…if you’ll be so gracious New York, allow me to publish this romance letter that I wrote…
…I loved Giovanni or whatever his name was. He worked at the hotel and told us if we waited two hours to check in, he would offer up a corner room with a view of Central Park. I was so enthused that in exchange I offered to be his best friend forever. He accepted the terms with glee, but after that I never went back to find him. I hope he wasn’t too upset. Maybe he quit his job and is busily building a “Romi shrine”, hoping I will one day return. Or maybe he hates me for dangling the fake friendship. In that case, maybe he made a voodoo doll of me that he will stab. I don’t look forward to that.
I also loved my best friend (read: Internet BFF who I randomly decided to meet in a big scary city), and we christened our new affection with a tour of NBC studios. We quickly became the most awesome people on the tour, which wasn’t hard to do, since the rest of the people were old and boring. We soon went from being awesome to being scorned by the NBC Pages. This happened when we cheered in delight as they described Sinead O’Connor’s bad-ass desecration of the Pope, during a Saturday Night Live performance from many years ago. I think we are now banned from NBC studios (just like Sinead is banned for life, true story).
Feeling energized by our misbehaviour, we went out later that night, for five-dollar cokes with no alcohol (ahem). There we met some cool cats working for MTV. They claimed to be producers but were probably only interns. If they were interns then I really feel sorry for them, because the leader of their pack ended up buying us two whole rounds, without ever telling his friends. Then he skipped the bill, leaving his friends kind of drunkenly scratching their head. I loved that. I also loved that one of the dudes thought his cell phone was SO damn cool, that he proceeded to play with it all night long. Did I mention it was a flip phone from 2002? I don’t think he scored any ass that night. The evening ended without any sickly incident, and that is all I will say on the record.
What I loved about Day Two was going to FAO Schwarz and visiting the Muppet Workshop. I actually got to stick my hand up a sexy male muppet, which was as close to any action I would get on the entire trip. I will always remember it. I also loved a second day of lunch with my other awesome Internet bestest friend (who I also met for the first time in a scary big city), and from her I made ANOTHER new friend who works with her, which I assumed was assurance that he isn’t a serial killer. These new special friends were starting to pile up, right around the time I remembered I hadn’t given anyone at home my contact info…
The day turned into night and after a wonderful dinner in the East Village, my original bestie and I went to Webster Hall. Though renowned for youngsters and unsavoury clientele, there was a one-dollar cover charge that night, plus a very cool DJ set to play. And what I loved about that? Staying sober, watching the trashy individuals try to score with each other, and making fun of them at every turn. I talked for three straight hours and lost my voice. I loved that too, because the dudes seemed to like my raspy tone of talk.
The next day I met ANOTHER new Internet friend for the very first time (inside YOU, New York, you loveable scary city!). He I’d known for two years via email, and he was my second Internet BFF’s husband (another form of assurance that there wasn’t a serial killer in my midst). We all banded together and headed for Central Park. What I loved about that (aside from the beautiful day), was the delightful assortment of freaks:
-A couple making out, but not moving their faces at all (leading us to believe they were either the worst kissers on earth…or the best)
-This rollerblading lady who skated around like a pro, sat down on the bench for a rest, then exclaimed “Fuck yeah!“, when a big beefcake dude in a tank top walked by. I lost track of her after that, but I assume she hid behind a tree to pleasure herself
-Some three-year-old girl strutting around all arrogant, thinking she was hotter than me (umm, I don’t think so)
-A girl in a white face mask, but the mask didn’t have a face. She was moving around in a shaky fashion and some dudes were recording it all. I’m pretty sure it was a third installment of THE RING, and it freaked me the hell out. But I didn’t have any nightmares, and I loved that
After we strolled out of Central Park, I noticed a dirty Persian cat, sitting underneath a homeless man and woman’s shopping cart. I love cats, so I naturally exclaimed “Aww…poor homeless cat!” The homeless woman must’ve misheard what I said for “Eww, dirty homeless people!“, because she started to chase me down 6th Avenue. Then she said the following and I quote: “You think I’m homeless? I have a big house in Jersey! And who are you? Just some bitch on vacation with no money?!” The only thing I loved during this was that even though she was carrying a giant wooden stick, she opted NOT to beat me with it. Crisis averted.
The evening turned into an amazing boat cruise, which traveled past all the New York City landmarks. The stellar cruise was followed by a night on my new friend’s (read: NOT serial killer) rooftop, with a spectacular view plus oodles of ice cream and booze…what’s not to love? I am trying to remember if there were any freaks that night, but mostly it was Internet friends plus new friends turned into amazing friends…all turned into people that I now really love. People who made me feel like…whatever I already am, is actually more than enough. I haven’t felt that way in a long time, and it’s because of you, New York. You put all these freaks in one place just for me, and I was crazy enough to go meet them on a whim. So YAY for you, New York, you sexy bitch!
At the risk of sounding cheesy, which is the same as throwing piles of New York garbage on this so NOT cheesy blog, I’ll quickly switch topics to the last day in the city. We went to Brooklyn for brunch, and I loved this because I had two whole meals at once (because I ordered two, and I ordered two because I said so). I also got to almost step in a pile of dog shit (but I didn’t, and I loved that).
I did NOT love heading back to the airport to leave Manhattan behind. Nor did I love the brat sitting behind me on the plane, who kicked my seat as a professional sport.
But everything else? It all makes me want to sloppily make out with you, New York.
So pop in a breath-mint, won’t you? I’ll be back…
“But whatever do you mean, dear Romi? Chocolate is the most heavenly food on earth!”
First of all, thank you for referring to me as “Dear Romi”, that’s how I’d like to be addressed in all conversations henceforth.
And I know, I know, everyone loves chocolate…mixed with EVERYTHING.
Well that’s what pisses me off. Chocolate can do no wrong (except when it’s in a Big Turk—what sicko came up with that one?), especially when it’s getting bedazzled with other ingredients.
In chocolate bars for example, interaction with peanuts, caramel, wafers, and nougat is heavily encouraged (many times all at once). Add that to your “chocolate bar versions” of cakes, cheesecakes, and ice cream flavours, and it’s clear that in the realm of chocolate, “more is sexy-ass more.”
But if chocolate gets to be the most with the most, why can’t women do it too?
(you knew this post was going somewhere very important…well here we are.)
I’m talking about makeup, hairstyles and accessories. One of the truths about becoming an older woman (did I just say that out loud?), is that you start to discover how you can’t “get away with” everything. Even when you’re younger, being a beautiful girl has a lot to do with “less is more.” The cosmetic industry itself makes its efforts to adapt, with “natural-looking” mascara, earth-tone eye shadows, and nude-coloured lip-gloss (which by the way, seems sluttier to me. Like hello, you’re walking around town with natural-coloured but super-shiny lippies. How did they even get so shiny? Like what have you been up to today?…). As far as hairstyles and jewelry goes, the craziest options are always available, but society calmly advises you not to mix ‘n mingle.
For example: big-hoop earrings? Fine. But maybe you should go easy on the volumized hair. Luscious red lips? Okay. But only if you skip on the dollops of silver eyeshadow, ’cause mama didn’t raise no whore.
And there it is. The line you can’t cross, for fear of being labeled a lady of the night. I don’t understand this. I mean if I can find an amazing mascara that can make all my lashes look bangable (who says you can’t bang an eyelash? Maybe you just need to be more creative), a lip-gloss that provides a fierce amount of colour, eyeshadow that sparkles all night long, and hairspray that provides enough volume to touch the ceiling…isn’t that a win-win-win-win?
No, you tart, it’s a four-way loss and a one-way ticket to Tramp-Town.
I suppose if I got naked and lathered myself in nougat, peanuts and wafers I’d be the toast of the town. But then again my name isn’t ‘Ho Henry…or Tit Kat.
By the way, has anyone ever given chocolate an A.I.D.S. test? I’m just saying, it gets around…
[Another entry from my work-in-progress book (see here for previous), on 100 dudes I missed out on dating. Sigh.]
Being a new kid sucks. It’s not as bad when you’re only nine, and therefore safe from the added stress of being ugly and dateless (just wait a few more years), but who likes having no friends? It’s even more disturbing when the previous new kid in the class is still a loser. Even with six long months to assimilate, this “veteran” new kid was despondent, sickly and skinnier than most. Is that what happened to the new kids here? Beaten down ‘till they developed “new kid malaria”?
I promised myself I’d turn out better, but instead of buying friendships with cookies, my behaviour veered off track towards a secret passion. This hidden lust could only be fed after rainy school-day mornings, with the pavement full of puddles and worms. On those magical mornings I’d retreat from the laughter of innocent babes, to my own dark corner for my own special deed.
I wasn’t anything crazy like a murderer, but…I liked cutting worms in half.
I don’t know where or when I tried it first, but once I discovered the uniqueness of worms I was hooked.
The mind-boggling process went like this: I would cut a worm in half with a sharpened twig, and some orange stuff would spill from inside (like the fake cheese in Kraft Dinner). Then, in a miraculous act of science, the two worm halves would continue on their way. I interpreted this as creating new life, so I interpreted myself as a God. I also deduced that because I was cutting one worm into two shiny new ones, I was helping the worm population stay strong.
And wasn’t I also creating worm friends? Maybe the worm had been a loser-worm. Maybe no one would’ve played with that worm, but after cutting it in half, I’d supplied it with a loyal worm playmate!
I won’t pretend I didn’t think about cutting myself in half, so the two of us could be best friends, but that would require more than just a little sharpened twig.
A few weeks later on another rainy morning, I noticed the veteran new kid following close behind. We exchanged a few awkward looks, until he finally uttered a “Hi.”
I nodded and he asked where I was going, a cautious smile slowly spreading on his face. My face turned sunshine bright. A friend! And maybe even…a soul-mate?
“Let me show you.” First I led him to the trees to find the perfect twig. I sharpened it against the bark as he looked on.
We then returned to the pavement. I spotted a worm. And finally, I made the epic slice.
His eyes grew wide. “No matter, new friend,” I thought, “Have a little faith and I’ll explain.” I let him know that I’d created a brand new worm, that the worm population would grow, and that I’d given the original worm a new friend. Awesome times three? Why yes.
His response was a surprising one: “What’s wrong with you?! Psycho…”
I was more like a visionary, and maybe his “new kid malaria” was blinding him to that. All I knew was that a soul-mate in worm-cutting life was not to be.
I never cut again.
This story is one I’ve wondered about for years, and in a way it’s a metaphor for modern dating. How free can we really be with our crazy little quirks? How many future boyfriends have I lost from never filtering my madness? And come on, worm-cutting isn’t as bad as being a serial killer then storing all the fingernails as trophies (though being a serial killer on its own is bad enough). I literally thought I was creating more friendship and fun for all those worms. So where was my reward?
No reward for being a freak, I’m afraid.
And so, single friends, if we aim to be successful in dating, we’ll need to hide our love for trashy television, our occasionally disgusting eating habits, and our obsession with “ass-fetish” porn.
In closing, please remember this advice:
-Put on the mask and you shall find a mate. Forget the mask at home…and you’ll regret the hundred guys you never dated.