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.