While overall I’m having a smashing time at Capclave this weekend, there was one encounter last night that I could have very much done without. My personal space was invaded, and someone made a remarkably inappropriate comment about what I was wearing. Why why why are these still situations that we have to deal with?
Well into Saturday evening I made my way to the elevator lobby with my friend Sherman to go do something that I can’t remember. After waiting a few minutes, an elevator arrived and several fans spilled out. Most took a right turn down towards the parties but one walked right up to me. He bent 45º so that his face was only about an inch from my chest and said “Your shirt is ripped, I think you need a new one!” He then laughed, stood back up and starting making his way to the right down the hall to the parties.
What do you even say to something like that?
It should hopefully be understood that that was a hypothetical question. I know what you say to something like that. “Fuck off.” “Get out of my personal space.” “Please don’t say that to me.” “Don’t ever say that to me, it’s in appropriate.” “I don’t know you, please leave me alone.” But I couldn’t say any of those things. I was so stunned by the encounter that my mouth refused to form the words. Instead I laughed nervously, mumbled something about liking the shirt that I was wearing as is and scurried onto the elevator with my friend.
This situation makes much more sense once you know that I was wearing, am while I’m going to show you, I’m loathe to do so. Because no matter what I was wearing, this behavior was absolutely inappropriate. At no point did I say to this guy, “Yes, you can bring your face an inch away from chest and talk to them like they are sentient.” At no point did I say that to anyone this weekend, because that would be fucking weird. My shirt did not say anything on it other than ‘DC17’ and I can think of no language in which that phrase is an invitation.
This is a picture of the shirt that I was wearing that I sent to my husband earlier in the night.
I feel like I should explain why the shirt looks like that, but I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have the urge to explain what I was wearing, because it shouldn’t fucking matter. But I will, and I will be disappointed in myself and the world that I live in while I do.
One of my good friends Sydnie had the fabulous idea to DIY customize her DC17 bid shirt a while back to make them reflect a little better how much fun she is, and how much fun she’s having working on DC17. Let’s face it, a black t-shirt doesn’t always scream ‘AWESOME FUN TIME WITH AWESOME FUN PEOPLE!’ I saw her wear her versions of the shirt at Loncon and at Fencon. She did a few of them with a couple different designs, and I thought that it was a great idea that I was going to attempt myself. It didn’t go quite as I expected. It showed more skin than I was planning on, but I decided to wear it after all.
I almost didn’t. I was hesitant. I asked for opinions from several of my female friends and my husband. Was it too low-cut? Did it show off too much? Did it give people the wrong impression? I have a large chest, and so frequently something that looks flirty on someone with a smaller chest, looks provocative on me. This is true from everything to formal gowns, to cut out t-shirts, to thick strapped tank tops. This is part of what it means to have a large chest. This is my reality. At a certain point you either decide that you will wear seven layers of tops even in the dead heat of summer to keep yourself looking ‘modest enough’ for everyone else, or that you just don’t give a fuck and you wear whatever the hell you want.
For the last year or so, I’ve been in the first camp. I’ve covered up. I didn’t want to be pre-judged by my breasts. This changed mid summer when I was visiting my friend in San Francisco in the middle of July and she said essentially “Woman, it’s the middle of July. Take the cardigan off and just wear the damn tank top.” Last night another step in the right direction of me feeling better about my body and deciding to wear what I wanted to wear regardless of what somebody else thought. But this isn’t about what somebody else thought anymore, it’s about what somebody else did. What they did to me.
Throughout the evening I found myself getting more and more upset about the entire situation. I was mad at this man who I don’t know. I’m mad that he decided that it was okay for him to invade my personal space. I’m mad that he decided to say something so inappropriate to me. I’m mad that he said it with that damn look in his eyes and with a waggle of the eyebrow. I’m mad that he thought it was okay. I’m mad that we live in a society that allows him to think that his behavior was acceptable. I’m mad at myself.
I’m mad that I was momentarily stunned and that I didn’t tell him then and there just how wrong what he said was. I’m mad that I was frozen by fear about what he might do to me next. I’m mad that I didn’t get the guy’s name to tell to the con chair when I sat down and talked to him about it. I’m mad that I had to talk to the con chair about this. I’m mad that I couldn’t find the guy for the rest of the evening to correct his assumptions about appropriate behavior. I’m mad that I’m going to be more cautious about the shirts that I wear. I’m mad that I will most likely put on conservative outfits instead of the fun outfits that I want to wear.
Like I said, I don’t know this guy. I don’t know his name. I only know that he was wearing a grey button down and that I could recognize him on site if he wandered into my line of sight again. I wish I did. I wish I could pound on his hotel room door right now and tell him that he can’t say shit like that ever again. So, grey button down shirt dude, if you happen to find yourself reading this, know that what you did to me was not okay. Know that it wasn’t alright to get so close to me, to stick your face in my chest or to say those words to me. You were wrong. Don’t do that again. Don’t do it to anyone in the first place.
I’m just so fucking mad. And I think I’m going to stay mad for a while.