If I ever need a reminder about why feminism is necessary I just need to go dancing. In my personal experience there are few other places where it is so clear that women are not considered equals and that their bodies and feelings are not valued by men.
I go dancing because I like to dance. Personally, I have rarely ever gone out dancing looking to dance with anyone but the people I came with. I have almost never gone out dancing looking to hook up. My personal dancing style is very solitary. I do not grind, with anyone. I rarely ever even dance close to people. When I do it’s with my significant other, a close female or gay male friend, or because there is no more space in the club. I would much rather have a small space of clear floor to really bust a move and feel my own style. Unfortunately, my space is never respected.
Since the first time I went out dancing, the audacity of males in the club has amazed me. I cannot count the number of times that I have been dancing by myself, having a great time and I suddenly feel hands on my hips, or hips pressed against me, or the worst: a hand grabbing my ass. These physical assaults come without warning. It doesn’t even cross the minds of these men to ask me whether or not I want to be touched; they simply touch. They grab and fondle and molest as if I didn’t have a say in the matter, and the truth is, in their minds I don’t have a say. They want, so they obtain.
I used to be polite when I was touched at the club without my consent. I would move away, face the man, smile, and shake my head or mouth “no thanks”. Soon, I learned that this tactic is not sufficient. “Why?” you might ask. “You’ve made it clear they don’t have permission to touch you, isn’t that enough?” Unfortunately the answer is a resounding “no”. After the polite refusal comes the negotiation from the man. “Come on baby, I’m just trying to have a little fun.” Or perhaps they don’t even try to negotiate; they just grab me again. I try to move away from them and I am followed. Sometimes halfway across the club. The denial of my consent has been made repeatedly clear, but that is not enough. On multiple occasions I’ve had guys follow me across the club for the entire night and try multiple times to engage with me. They just don’t take no for an answer, which makes me wonder how dangerous they are at home, after the club.
After multiple refusals, when the guy finally gets that I am unwilling to relent, comes the anger. “You don’t have to be such a bitch”, and they sulk away to find another target. It’s not their fault that they have spent the entire night trying to force themselves on me, it’s my fault for being a bitch. This mindset implies a deeper belief that men have a right to women and their bodies that women should not be allowed to refuse. It also implies that women should simply accept however they are being treated by men without protest. This mindset basically says that women and their bodies are still men’s property to do with as they will.
This is never clearer than when I am out with a group of male friends. The scenario described above changes drastically when there are other males involved. Though it is nothing for a guy at the club to disrespect a woman, he is cautious about disrespecting other men. Now the scene plays out like this: I’m dancing alone, but surrounded by male and female friends that I am clearly “out with”. A guy notices me and starts approaching. He notices that the group is mixed and acknowledges that I may be “with” one of the guys in the group. Instead of asking me if I would like to dance or if I am single, the guy catches the attention of one of my male friends. He motions to me then back to my friend. My friend shakes his head “no”. The guy then motions to me and the other guys in our group. Again my male friend shakes his head “no”. After all that, the guy walks directly to me and starts dancing with me.
An entire “conversation” about me and my “status” within the group has occurred between the two guys. Essentially, the stranger asks “Is she yours?” When my friend indicates no, the stranger asks “Is she one of theirs?” referring to my other friends. When my friend again indicates no the stranger assumes that it is okay to engage me because he does not risk pissing off any males. The fact that he never asked me if I was single or wanted to dance is irrelevant because he has gotten “permission” from the other guys in the situation. By the way, I’m not creating a scenario to illustrate my point. This exact scenario has happened to me multiple times. The fact that the only thing that keeps women safe from being assaulted by men at the club is by belonging to one proves that men still believe that women are property to be owned and passed around.
Another common situation at the club is the “watcher guy”. I’ll be doing my own thing, feeling the rhythm and I’ll notice that there’s a guy standing in the corner watching me. I don’t think that much about it until a half hour or so later when I notice he is still in the same spot, watching me, like I was a stripper doing a private dance. Now for complete transparency I will admit that sometimes I love this. On days when I am feeling down about myself and not that attractive I get a major ego boost from the “watcher guy” even though I know it’s super creepy. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the honest truth and this blog is about my struggles with finding my place in feminism so I have to be honest about when I’m not so feminist. Other times I get so angry that “watcher guy” is creeping on me. I want him to know that I am not there for his amusement. I am not dancing for him. I dance for me and me alone. I am not an actress in his fantasy, I am a real person. Sometimes the “watcher guy” is worse than the handsy guy because at least the handsy guy is making it clear that he wants my body. The “watcher guy” just silently does whatever he wants to my body in his head and that’s more creepy than being touched.
Guys at the club are why I need feminism. Women are clearly not equals in this world when men believe they have every right to touch women without their consent. Women’s feelings and bodies are not valued by men who believe that they don’t need to ask before they touch, and most men still believe this. Women are not considered beings with their own agency in a world where men will ask each other consent to touch before or instead of asking women. And in a world where men assume that women’s bodies are there for their own entertainment and benefit, women are not humans; they are just bodies. Anyone who claims they don’t need feminism should put on a tight black dress, go to their local club, and tell me how respected they feel.