This is an issue that I've talked about before. It's one of those common slights, an everyday insult - so pervasive that it starts to blend into the background and gets lost inside the constant noise of life.
So I was at the grocery store, in a hurry, standing in line at the register and tapping my foot. The woman in front of me had a thing about trying to use expired coupons. Lots of them. She asked for a manager.
Now normally, I try to avert my eyes from the magazine racks at the checkout, 'cause they just make me mad. The ones that aren't overtly insipid are usually soft-core porn - and when I see them, I invariably wind up waiting ten minutes for a manager so I can complain. That is, unless I've complained at him/her before, in which case they seem to simply tolerate me until I finish venting.
My eyes wandered to the magazine covers, and there they were: Images of pouting, posing, technically-not-naked females. I noticed a boy, maybe ten years old, staring dumbly at them while his mother thumbed through a gossip magazine.
Since the assistant manager was on his way over anyway, and he seemed to be new, I thought I'd introduce myself. I grabbed one of the more offensive magazines from the rack and waited while he dealt with the coupon lady. Then I waved him over.
We exchanged a few niceties, then I showed him the cover of the magazine.
I said, "You do realize that I can't pay for my purchases without having to pass by this kind of thing, right?"
He nodded, grinning self-consciously as he tried to avoid looking at the picture. For someone who appeared to be on the downhill side of fifty, he seemed awfully fourteen at that moment.
He mumbled, "That's where the vendors put them. Nothing we can do about it."
Not true, and my standard response would have been to argue the facts; but this time, I was in a hurry. Besides, I was ticked. That boy behind me had just gotten a full-on misogynistic message burned into his brain.
I handed the magazine to the manager and said, "Here. Hang it in your office."
No kidding, he looked like he suddenly didn't understand English. He finally stammered something that sounded like, "I can't do that," but I was talking over him at that point.
"Your employees would hit you with a sexual harassment suit," I said. "But me? I can't avoid this stuff if I'm going to pay for what I buy here, yet that isn't harassment. So let's boil it down: I'm not afforded the same protections that your employees are."
At this point, I wanted to ask him if English was his primary language. He was just mute. The woman behind me mumbled "Amen," and started turning the nastier magazines around so the back covers were facing out.
He finally said something about discussing it with the GM and calling Corporate, and I decided to let him off the hook. I have to tell you, though - if I worked in that place, I'd be asking a few lawyers a few questions. Maybe I will anyway.
See, some of us know all too well that porn leads to bad situations for women and children. There's research being done into the fact that pornography usage alters the male brain in ways that desensitize it, even erode it. But beyond that, it's an assault on women and children, on human dignity overall: An overt invitation for males to compare real-life women to the countless fantasy images they encounter every day - and no real woman is going to win a competition with imagination. She'll never live up to the airbrushed standard of perfection that we see all around us.
Consider the implications of that within a family. While it's degrading (and can turn dangerous) for a woman to be constantly compared to Miss March, God help the children who live in a house where Dad just doesn't seem to like anything about Mom.
All I wanted to do was to pick up a few groceries and go home. In the twenty minutes that I was out and about, I was confronted by no less than a dozen reminders that this culture has gone insane. Honestly, is there any place left where we can escape this stuff?
So I call it when I see it. I know that other women do, as well - just not in enough numbers. And since men aren't complaining much, it seems that the bad guys are winning this one. Pornography is all over every media source, it's a staple in music and literature. You can't even participate in the marketplace without being sexually harassed, unless you're an employee... Makes you wonder whatever happened to the Fourteenth Amendment, doesn't it?
Makes me wonder if there's a savvy attorney out there who wants to get noticed.
See you next month.