The popular western-style bars in my city in Korea happen to be sports bars; I visit them at least once a week, so I know all the barflies. I was sitting in one of these bars last week, talking with a sports-loving acquaintance, and Lorde came up in conversation. He started talking about how he finds her unattractive (he said it in MUCH harsher words), and I went off on him about how talented she is and how he shouldn’t give a fuck how she looks because it’s not important — and besides, she’s super beautiful! I then laughed at myself and said, “I’m feministing you.” “I realize that,” he replied. Then he continued: “But you objectify women at least as much as I do, Jo.” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said. He laughed because he thought I was kidding, but in my head, I was thinking Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck. Is he right? DO I objectify women as much as this guy? He constantly talks about women’s appearances, and when he asks me questions about whether or not I’d have sex with any given woman in the bar, I actually answer him. It was one of those instances where you realize you’ve done something wrong, feel horrified, feel ashamed, and then want to deny it but can’t.
I had complained to his girlfriend recently about how he talks about women and asked her how she could be with a guy who seems to respect the individual but not the gender. I told her that he has said some really fucked up shit to me about women, and he has — but what I didn’t say is that when he was saying those fucked up things, I said nothing. I did nothing. And in my silence, I was complicit in his words and behavior. She mentioned to him that maybe I don’t want to be treated as one of the guys, and he said to her, “What are you talking about? Jo loves being one of the boys! She takes it as a compliment!” And the thing is — he’s right. I’ve always taken it as a compliment when my male friends tell me that “I’m just one of the guys.”
But I’m starting to think that the price of being in the boy’s club is too high. Thanks to conversations happening on the internet around consent, toxic masculinity, and entitlement, I’ve been reflecting a lot about how we propagate misogyny in some really subtle and insidious ways that we might not even recognize because we’re not talking about them. I don’t want to be a part of reinforcing the negative ways that men talk about women’s bodies… but right now, I am. Ideally, I’d like to be a part of changing gender narratives. This means two things: One, I have a lot of uncomfortable conversations coming my way. Two, I get away with saying a LOT of inappropriate things to women I don’t know (“Hey — you have fabulous cleavage!”) just because I’m a woman, and I need to make a conscious effort to stop making those comments.
I cherish my friendships with the men in my life, and I’m friends with some really great feminist men. I’m also friends with some pretty misogynistic guys, and I don’t want to be one of them. Before I can have a conversation with them about the way they see women, though, I think I have some internal work to do regarding how I think and talk about women.