I sporadically reflect on everyday interactions, some times (and some interactions) more than others. Recently I witnessed—perhaps voyeured is a more apt term here—contrasting actions that highlight some of the serious issues we as a society still face. I was provided a very striking example of how prominent, normative, performative and ubiquitous patriarchy is, in perhaps one of its most extreme forms.
How this came about is not suprising—I was at a bar. What may be surprising is that I have some optimism situated alongside my pessimism (rooted in a nuanced awareness of injustice — related to class, gender, sexuality, species).
To set the scene, the bar was relatively under-patroned for one if the busiest days of the year. The potential for rain was high and very visible. There were a some periods (a few minutes) of light rain. During many of these many people stayed outside, seeking shelter under trees. Eventually a longer and heavier began.
Some people got wet, others decided it was the time of year to celebrate, let their hair down and relax (it was pretty warm out). At the time, I appreciated people openly embracing the elements in that this is so far removed from their everyday governmental and manufactured cubicle (or similar) existence. All stresses and pressures were set aside, and there seemed to be pure enjoyment in these however fleeting moments.
There were men and women in the rain on the back deck, with numbers eventually reaching around a dozen. Not unusual, the first to venture out into the rain was a women followed by a couple of her friends. A couple opportunistic men followed. Whilst opportunistic, the actions of the men mostly still fit with my perceptions of enjoying the moment for what it was, and transcending everyday expectations.
There were likely many moments of (sexist, heterosexist) commodification. These appeared to be overshadowed by the enjoyment being expressed, to use a cliché in people letting their hair down.
At this time I was inside, watching and enjoying the events as they transpired—as a spectator with a sociological gaze. Being inside afforded me an (in)opportune moment that very quickly reminded me of how the extremes of patriarchy.
One of the women, noting that most people were dressed in some of their finest given the time of year—whether they were out to meet people, pick-up or enjoy wearing what they were, became the focus of intention. Whether she wanted to be or not is a nonissue. It was the type of attention which is at issue.
A gym-buffed twenty something male in a fresh, crisp and (overly?) tight white shirt caught a glimpse of her dancing in the rain, and literally charged closer to the window dislodging anyone in his path. His gaze and his words were equally appalling.
He was literally salivating at the sight of this women enjoying herself. She was essentially a disembodied peace of meat, of whom he had no concern beyond his own gratification.
Whereas I cannot recall his words, he had rape in his eyes.
His tone of voice and how he communicated his thoughts with the friend he pulled across with him were no less objectionable, if more subdued lest someone might hear. Thankfully, his actions did not move beyond his lecherousness from behind glass.
If I am to draw a positive, he was the only person in the bar I noticed who (so obviously) acted in such a way. This is not to say that many others were not ogling any of the women enjoying themselves, rather they were not as comfortable with the overt display of Mr rape eyes. The optimist in me wants to read this as a governmental outcome of actions continuing to expose and challenge patriarchy and all of its implications.
I was also surprised by the level of disgust this mans’ actions drew out. A positive in itself. Perhaps there is hope for us after all…