Last month, I introduced you to my 2015 Resolution, which is all about reclaiming dignity. Truth be told, while I'm expecting to learn a whole lot of things, I also thought it would be more difficult: I anticipated it being more intimidating, confronting the boors and the bullies who have a vested interest in mocking women.
I mean, people tend to look at you like you have two heads if you protest rough or demeaning treatment, because this culture has zero tolerance for women who know their worth.
But I had some interesting experiences in January, enough that it was difficult to pick the incident to share with you for February's column. I whittled the list down to two, and finally flipped a coin last night (for real). The winner is... The Foul-Mouthed BullyBoy (and his fans).
He was standing with his arms folded, grinning, watching and listening as the store clerk - a fiftyish woman with way too much to do, and all of it hard work - tried to explain to an irate customer why his credit card wasn't working.
As the clerk wrapped it up with her rude, nasty customer, BullyBoy - a physically imposing male, maybe forty years old - decided that it would be entertaining to start taunting the female clerk. I won't go into the degrading details, but he was about fifty shades of inappropriate, and she was blushing beet-red. She attempted to laugh it off, trying to be congenial while she glanced helplessly at the two other males who were close by.
They appeared to be enjoying the show.
Again, minimal detail here, because I actually don't recommend rebuking someone who is unstable enough to bully anyone - let alone a complete stranger, and especially a woman. That said, he was taunting her with total impunity, and I was angry enough to tell him that he needed to stop, and why.
His reactions were fascinating: He was immediately defensive, demanding to know what my problem was, calling me a choice name or two, and then complaining that it was all a joke and that the woman was laughing with him.
I said, "She has to, buddy. And you know that. She works here."
He stopped, and then he stormed out, highly offended.
Think about that. He was offended.
The woman thanked me. And I gave BullyBoy's audience - the two other males - my best scathing glare, and then I left, as well.
One of them followed me out the door. "I was about to say something to him," he said.
I ignored him. He had done nothing, said nothing in the woman's defense, because he simply felt no need to do so.
I thought I should feel pretty good; but as I drove away, I was just depressed. BullyBoy is so common that his behavior is to be expected, as is the silence of those who stand witness - living vicariously through him and enjoying his abusiveness. That's the culture we live in. Or try to, anyway.
But a few things really started eating at me. First is the fact that in so many stores, restaurants, laundries - pretty much everywhere that the hours are long, the work is hard, and the wages are minimal - you'll find a disproportionate number of older women. Especially from my generation, the Boomers. Lots of us are divorced, have no desire to remarry; as a result, we're on our own in a world which assigns no value to us.
Second, the reactions of the males who stood in silent witness to BullyBoy's abuse - they were pathetic. They went from enjoyment to embarrassment to shame, then straight into defensiveness. Which means they likely won't change. No big surprise there.
But the thing that's really going to stay with me, something I never realized before, was the deeper meaning of BullyBoy's outrage as he stomped out. Of course, we've all see that kind of thing happen; but personally, it never hit me like it did on that day - that the real offense in this situation was a woman having the temerity to... What? Tell a bullying male to shut up?
Apparently, this culture has devolved to the point where women are not worth defending; but more than that, we aren't even supposed to defend ourselves. Let's get real about why that is: In a culture that adores its sacred institutions of porn, abortion, men's rights, and the oxymoronic notion of "No-Fault" divorce - and has devised ways to blame women for all of that - women are not supposed to expect to be treated well. It's all our fault, after all.
Is it really? I don't think so. I don't think that's true at all.
Another lesson learned. I was right when I told you that this year would be anything but boring.
See you in March.
Jenna Brooks is a Mothers Rights advocate, a consultant, a coach, and is the award-winning author of the critically-acclaimed October Snow
series. Find her website here: Jenna Brooks Online