I live just a couple of blocks from the Detroit city limit, and spend a lot of time there. Earlier this evening, my friend Molly and I decided to meet up at a diner in Greektown to catch up on things.
While we were eating, we overheard some sexist douchebag tell a woman he was with to “keep her damn legs closed.” Ardent feminists that we are, Molly and I both stopped talking, exchanged incredulous looks, and focused our energy on eavesdropping on the rest of their conversation.
I don’t know what sparked the “debate,” but this guy spouted off, and then demanded that the woman he was with “defend herself.” Except he never gave her a chance to talk. He’d just cut her off and keep spewing hate everywhere. So. Much. Sexism.
Molly and I shifted uncomfortably and whispered to each other. We didn’t exactly want to confront the guy, but we did at least want to find a way to tell the girl he was with that we were on her side.
After a while, it seemed as though they’d changed the subject. So Molly and I tuned out. But a few minutes later, he was back at it again. And after a particularly impassioned rant, he declared, “You know what? One of these days, I’m gonna run for president.”
“Please don’t,” Molly said. She told me later that she hadn’t meant to say it out loud. But since she’d put it out there, she went on to defend the woman that this guy was with. Encouraged by what she’d started, I jumped into it, too.
Anyone who has ever argued with an adamant anti-choicer knows that it’s pretty much pointless. He used all the typical rhetoric: “You believe in murder; sluts should be ‘punished,'” etc. So I wasn’t exactly expecting to accomplish anything. But it felt good to speak up (I only wish I’d been brave enough to do so first; high five, Molly– you’re the best). And we made that girl’s day, too. After the guy she was with walked out of the diner, she hung back for a moment. Grinning at us, she said something cool about a woman’s right to choose, and then walked out with a lot more confidence than she’d had when she walked in. (I don’t know what her relationship to that guy is, but if they’re dating, I sure as hell hope that she breaks up with him. What a dick.)
The best part though, came once everyone but us had left. Our server, who had been working both our table and theirs, came up and thanked us for telling that guy off, adding that she’d had an abortion a few months ago. We talked to her for a while, and learned that she already has a six-year-old daughter to support, and the guy who got her pregnant is in prison. “I don’t get all this talk about how abortion is selfish,” she said. “I didn’t do this for me. I did this for my daughter– so that I can afford to give her what she needs.”
Molly and I were both so happy that she shared her experience with us. And frankly, I think that her speaking up (though only to Molly and me, who had established ourselves as vocally pro-choice) was as brave a move as Molly’s initial comments to that guy.
For as “RAR RAR FEMINIST” as I am, saying what I think is something that’s still really hard for me (as illustrated by the fact that Molly’s the one who finally spoke up). In this particular situation, I justified keeping my mouth shut by telling myself that it wouldn’t make a difference anyway– the guy was obviously impossible to reason with.
But it’s not about people like him. It’s about that girl he was with. And it’s about our server, who had an abortion. She wouldn’t have told us about that had Molly not called that guy out on his bullshit. And the stigma that goes along with abortion would have been enforced. As if we need more of that.