Through a constant stream of social media, a never ending source of news constantly being thrown at you from the world wide web, and behind-the-screen interactions with people you’ve both encountered face to face or through the vast pages of the internet- it’s become more and more shockingly obvious that there are some seriously misguided people (on my side, generally older men) and basically disgusting creeps in this world.
Of course some of us get used to bits of it: the whistling and catcalls on the street (I’m wearing jeans and a cardigan- really that sexy?), the random Facebook message asking to meet up- and in the wise words of Cher in Clueless, “As if!”– or telling you how amazing you look to strike up casual conversation (nope nope nope- do not want), inappropriate comments or remarks about how you look/how you make them feel, or the LinkedIn invite that feels more like a sleazy hook-up app than a business connection. Then there are the horrific events that simply reading makes my skin crawl that no one should ever get used to. The sickening rapes ranging from every age and gender that sprawl across the globe, the shared revenge porn photo that was never meant for the public eye, the men who cheat on their wives with prostitutes at the girly bars leaving their families at home wondering where they are, the pedophilia rings uncovered, the suicides committed because of the aforementioned things taking over lives and enveloping them in darkness.
Even this last week when a few friends visiting from Singapore attending a business networking event were approached by a doctor who is apparently quite well known for his inclination towards very young boys, and being clearly addressed as a “pedophile” but a number of people, giving the newcomers a tasty little tip that you can “live two lives” in Phnom Penh: that he has a wife and children and home then continued to scroll through his phone to show them images of all the young males he had on hand for his pleasure. The friends from Singapore, rightly so, were disgusted and got away as quickly as possible leaving his badly dyed hair and smarmy presence in their wake. (Update 8/4/2014: I’ve received more than a dozen messages from friends, peers, and complete strangers letting me know they know who this is. Guess it’s no secret this guy likes playing doctor with more than his actual patients. New expats? Do your research before visiting your local physician.)
The terrifying thing is that these people, both men and women, aren’t always lurking around us in dark bars in the middle of the night waiting for easy prey or crouching behind street corners waiting to attack- they’re right there sitting across from you at the board meeting. They’re the ones you ask to host your events. They’re the ones handing you drinks at the housewarming party your friend is hosting. They’re the ones handing you their business cards and shaking your hand over canapés and raffle prizes. They’re the ones you have dinner with or share drinks on a Saturday night. They’re sometimes your friends, the people you trust. Maybe they’re even your family.
Even something as small as a Facebook comment that goes a bit far and can definitely be considered “creepy” makes me want to click the “unfriend” button quicker than you can say “get the fuck away from me” but the headlines, and even more devastating, the acts that never make headlines, are the things that enrage me to the point of feeling like going into vigilante mode and cleaning the streets of the real trash that walks it: not the down on her luck woman trying to make her way in the world by selling her body, but the depraved who take advantage of her and will force themselves on her over and over because they paid for it, they think they own her.
I wonder what my daughter will face when she enters this world. Will the culture of making women constantly feel like they’re playthings still be so rife with misogynist expectations and disrespect? Will men still think that if a woman dresses a “certain” way then they have the right to say whatever they feel like- or even worse, do what they feel like without consent? Will she have to constantly deflect idiots and their absolute lack of understanding of what is socially acceptable? Will she create a shell around herself as protection from each and every person around her, just in case they want to take advantage of her? Will she have to carry a switchblade, Mace, and take intensive self defense courses just to make sure she can walk home safely? Will I worry every time she calls late at night when out with friends, waiting to hear the worst?
I deeply hope not. I am all for feeling beautiful. I am all for doing what makes you feel sexy and wonderful and happy for YOURSELF. I am all for being a woman and highlighting the attractiveness that we possess in all shapes and forms. I am all for a curve hugging dress or a stunning bikini or a pair of shorts that show your rockin’ legs or a top that accentuates a gorgeous neck. I am all for letting women dress and act how they want without the repercussions of slut shaming or judgment from others. I want my daughter to wear a camisole and leather paneled leggings without feeling like she’s under the microscope of a slimy doctor or the gaze of a gawking frat boy. I want her to be able to feel comfortable in her body, to show it, and not be afraid to be a woman and to have an opinion and to shut anyone down who thinks otherwise. More than that, I want her inner beauty and striking intellect to outshine whatever it is that sets her apart aesthetically. But I am afraid that these things can’t happen- just as they haven’t for me or my peers in so many ways.
And as I read the news this morning, as I open my Facebook inbox and click the notifications, as I look at the comments under the most recent rape case at a prestigious university- my fears aren’t managed. I don’t see a bright future until people stop thinking women can be owned, that they can be spoken to however they want, and that telling them they’re pretty is the best you can do. It’s not. Contribute more than that.
Update (8/4/2014): Oh, and for all you Phnom Penhers that like a little taste of Brooklyn? Take a walk back to Italy because your food is handled by a pedophile. Check this article for more information- in a small town word gets around. Thanks to an acquaintance for sharing- let’s not keep this to ourselves and let’s for sure not support a sex offender.