If There’s Any Lesson to Be Drawn from This, I Guess It’s that You Don’t Stand Between a Man’s Wife and His Biscuit

I have to call time-out on my boycott of all things WKRN, because I think it’s very important that we talk about the implications of this story.

In case you’re also boycotting WKRN, let me sum it up for you: They’re doing a story about the day laborers who stand outside the Jack in the Box on Murfreesboro Road in the morning and, in all fairness, trying to cover way too many complex issues in the little space they have.

I think that it’s clear that Jack in the Box has a right to have no loitering at their restaurant, if that’s what they’d like, so I’m not bothered that they would take steps to rid their front lawn of day laborers.  I am bothered by the assumption that those day laborers are all illegal immigrants and that the presence of undocumented people who are trying to work has somehow a correlation with the high crime in that part of town.

I mean, I know the stereotype of Mexicans is that they work hard, but I refuse to believe that anyone is so ambitious that he’s working all day for the Man and then turning around committing crimes all night.  When are these folks supposed to sleep?

But this is not actually a post about immigration.  It’s a post about this little telling snippet.

Would you want your wife or daughter to walk through this gauntlet of a dozen or more men to get a breakfast biscuit?, they ask me.

Because the answer to this question is often NO, many patrons bypass this restaurant for a morning biscuit. When you bypass this Jack in the Box because you might not feel comfortable, that means the business is losing money.

Let’s look at the instant replay:

Would you want your wife or daughter to walk through this gauntlet of a dozen or more men to get a breakfast biscuit?, they [the police] ask me.

A lot of times when feminists complain about how language is used–like in this instance where the assumption is that women belong to someone, “your wife,” “your daughter,” and that the problem isn’t how the women feel about having to navigate through a bunch of men to get to the Jack in the Box, but how the man feels about his women having to walk by those men–we’re dismissed, told that we’re reading too much into things.

But think with me about this.  None of these men standing outside the Jack in the Box has assaulted a woman while she was trying to get in the Jack in the Box.

I want you to make this distinction with me.  It’s fine for Jack in the Box to ask the police to help them deal with loitering because it reduces business.  It is not fine for the police to want to reduce the number of men outside the Jack in the Box because it’s uncomfortable for other men to have those men looking at “their” women.

You may think that it doesn’t matter why the police remove the men; the end result is the same.

But step back with me and let’s look at the larger picture.  The police are repeatedly removing men from in front of the Jack in the Box in order to make women feel more comfortable (or, by their words, in order to make men feel more comfortable about letting their women go to Jack in the Box).  No one has ever been assaulted by those men while they’re in front of the Jack in the Box.  And yet, we spend our taxpayer money on giving folks the illusion that women are now safe from ogling brown men.

But we still can’t get the police to patrol a part of town where a woman was raped for over two hours, a part of town that folks need to be able to walk through with relative safety.  (See S-town Mike’s continuing coverage of the state and local continuing “Oh, tough shit for you guys” response to this situation.)

Do you see how screwed up that is?  The police will dog on a location where women are perceived to be in danger and disregard calls for them to be in locations where women actually are in danger.

And why is that?

Again, I go back to that wording–“Would you want your wife or daughter to walk through this gauntlet of a dozen or more men”–and what it implies about how the police view their role, in this case, not just as enforcers of the law, but enforcers of proper gender norms.

Men have women–wives and daughters and, I assume, mothers–and it is their job to protect them and to control who has sexual access to them (even as far as who is allowed to look at them salaciously).  If a man cannot protect his women and control who has sexual access to them, it becomes the job of the police.  But these women, who are just trying to buy some breakfast are “good girls” and, according to our cultural narrative, men protect good girls.

A woman on her own, however, walking back from a night of drinking, through the park alone WITHOUT A MAN TO PROTECT HER is, almost by definition, a bad girl.  If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t have been downtown, she wouldn’t have been smoking, she wouldn’t have walked through the park alone.

And, again, according to our cultural narrative, no one has to protect bad girls.

I sincerely hope that this is not the underlying motivation for the continued ignoring of Bicentennial Park by the police–this unspoken belief that the kinds of women who are in the park alone at night don’t really need the same kind of protection as other women–but the fact that we talk about our allocation of time and energy in terms of needing to make women at Jack in the Box feel safer, with no thought given to how to keep women in near North Nashville actually safer really makes me wonder.

A Race to See if NM or Mack Will Know the Answers to These Two Things First

1.  How do you spell that giant Spanish rice dish?  Pallilla?  Paiyeayah?  And can one make it without a three-foot wide pan?

2.  I want to make a chocolate cake with the following characteristics.  I want it to have a hint of cinnamon, followed by the taste of chocolate, and an aftertaste of hot chilis.  Is there such a recipe?

An Open Letter to SuperMousey

Dear SuperMousey,

I read this story last night about a girl not much older than you who got royally screwed with by grown-ups on the internet and all night I’ve been thinking about you.  I thought about emailing you about it, but I don’t have kids and sometimes it’s hard for me to judge what’s appropriate for you and what’s not and, since I know you’re not allowed to read Tiny Cat Pants without parental supervision, I decided to write you here so that, if your folks think you should read it, you can.

This is what I want to say to you.  It’s got two parts. 

First, you are embarking on what can be the most difficult time in your life.  It won’t necessarily be.  I don’t want to freak you out unnecessarily.  But you’re so smart and 13-18 seems pretty much designed to make smart, confident, outgoing kids’ lives into weird hells.  Part of this is just life.  Part of it is that, for the first time, you’ll be facing incredibly important challenges and you won’t have anything to judge it against.  Believe me.  Your whole life, you will find you have put your faith in the wrong people.  The first time it happens, it sucks so bad you almost can’t believe a person can go through it and live.  But after a few times, you start to recognize the people that are no good for you long before it gets to the point where they can hurt you.

Do you see what I’m saying?  You’re going to go through a lot of hard, complicated stuff for the first time and it is going to suck.

This time in your life is hard enough when all you have to worry about is keeping up with your school work, keeping your parents off your back, and the other kids at school.

But, and here’s the second thing I wanted to say to you, you also have to deal with the internet.  I know your parents have already probably told you these things, but I just want to share them with you again.

1.  Assume that everyone you encounter online is lying.  The fourteen year old boy you meet on the boards could really be a 40 year old man or the mom of one of your classmates or whoever.  You don’t know and you really have no way of knowing who the people you meet online are.

2.  Don’t do anything to anyone online that you would not want done to yourself.  In the story I linked to up above, the mom originally justified pretending to be a teenage boy in order to learn if the girl who died had been talking bad about the mom’s daughter.  On the surface, that seems almost reasonable, almost harmless, and yet, look how quickly that went wrong and turned into something very evil.

3.  You never know what other people are going through.  No matter how close you are to someone, there’s always going to be stuff going on with them you don’t know about.  So, if you are faced with a choice between being kind to someone and teaching them a lesson, think carefully about whether you can live with the repercussions.  It’s so tempting to teach the people that bug you a lesson about bugging you, but, like I said, you never know what other people are going through.  You have a right to demand that people not treat you like crap; don’t get me wrong.

But there’s a line between standing up for yourself & demanding to be treated in the way you deserve to be treated and teaching the people who don’t treat you right a lesson.

4.  Someday someone you care about is going to screw you over as hard as she can, and, if you’re really unlucky, she’ll use the internet to do it.  It doesn’t matter why.  Like I said, everyone’s got their own stuff going on that you don’t know about and sometimes, in order to feel better about themselves, they will do everything in their power to make you feel small.

There are things you can do to deal with that, but the most important thing you can do is to know for yourself in your own heart who you are and that you are an important and integral part of the world, even if you don’t yet know how.

The world needs you in it or you would not be here.

It’s easy to forget that when you’re going through the ordinary nonsense that people face every day.  It’s even easier to forget that when you find that someone you care about has let you down, deliberately or not.

But it’s the truth.

I know this is on the internet and I know I said that you have to just assume that everyone on the internet is lying.

But believe me in this one case.  You deserve to be here.  Just as you are, right now–you are amazing and you deserve to be here and to have the best life you can make for yourself.

You’re going to face a lot of messages otherwise–that you have to be prettier, thinner, more appealing to boys, less appealing to boys, more of a good girl, smarter, less aggressive, stupider, weak, strong–a lot of contradictory messages that boil down to the same thing, that you have to be very different than you are in order to be good enough to be here.

It’s hard not to believe that there must be some truth to that, but I’m begging you, please believe, right now, that you, just as you are, deserve to be here.  And keep that in your heart so that when the hard stuff comes up and the people you love let you down, you’ll see that it’s no reflection on your worth as a person.  It’s just some difficult stuff you’ve got to get through.

Anyway, I’ve gone on long enough.

Be safe out there.


Aunt B.