When the allegations of sexual harassment against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner came out, I was code-red, Donna Frye-level enraged. I was so angry that I created a Spotify playlist titled "UUGGHHHH" and filled it with pissed-off lady anthems by the likes of PJ Harvey, Sleater Kinney and that "Blurred Lines" song by Robin Thicke. Wait. How'd that get in there?
Getting me especially heated were comments I saw online questioning the accusers' clothing or how they behaved around Filner—classic "was she asking for it?"-type insinuations. Sigh . We're still doing this, guys? Really?
As much as I feel it shouldn't have to be said, let me state the obvious: A woman who's wearing shorts in the summer, or giving a man a ride home, or has the audacity to own a pair of luscious, squeezable boobies, is not begging for a fondling—especially if the (alleged) fondler is a 70-year-old man who resembles a goblin teller at Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
Seriously, City Hall isn't Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and shouldn't emulate its lax attitude toward women's personal space. As many have reiterated, it's 2013. Women shouldn't feel threatened at their workplace by a handsy old fart on an ego trip, especially if they work in city government. And when they come forward, as seven have, let's not discuss their wardrobe. Their clothing isn't the problem here.
A few years ago, I was enjoying a delicious plate of Buffalo wings at Hooters when I saw a server being harassed by a large group of men. Shortly after, her manager came to the table and asked the disrespectful men to leave because the waitress felt extremely uncomfortable.
The men / douchenozzles proceeded to scream obscenities at the manager, one of them going so far as to slap him in the face. The server was repeatedly called a "slut" during the exchange. It was a pretty disgusting display of male, heterosexual shithead behavior. I felt obligated to throw beer at the group as they exited; I told one mouthy imbecile wobbling on crutches to "crutch his ass out of here."
I'll give those assholes one thing, though: When they were asked to leave, they left.
Later, when I recounted the story, people would say things like, "Well, she works at Hooters. What does she expect?" It doesn't matter where a woman earns her paycheck or whether her work attire calls for orange booty shorts or an Ann Taylor pantsuit. No woman is asking for it unless she is actually asking for it.
Sometimes, when getting dressed, I worry that my outfit will bite me in the ass if, God forbid, I'm attacked. I wear a lot of leopard-print clothes, you guys. However, I refuse to let fear dictate something as trivial as clothing, and I truly believe a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants without it meaning she's begging to be sexually harassed.
So imagine how conflicted I felt at the Under the Influence of Music festival, which featured a line-up of rappers—including A$AP Rocky, Trinidad James and Wiz Khalifa—who turn chronic pot smoking and objectification of women into club bangers so catchy that a feminist can't help but twerk that ass. I make no excuses—I shake it while being repeatedly called a "bitch" by a rapper.
The air was thick with weed smoke, even in the outdoor amphitheater where the concert was held. A$AP lit up a blunt on stage and confided in the crowd that he's "never been this high on stage before. I swear to God, I'm higher than a motherfucker." Multiple people, both male and female, had to be carried out by paramedics. A 19-year-old named Clayton, who was dancing non-stop, told me he was high on mollies and crystals (both forms of MDMA) and asked if I was "from the '70s." It was a night dedicated to celebrating insobriety. I can't be too critical. I was pretty drunk.
The rampant drug-use was no surprise. However, my friend Michelle and I were appalled by the outfits baby-faced teenage girls wore to the concert. Young women filed into the venue wearing shorts so teeny that I winced in anticipation of possible labial exposure. I saw so much underage ass cheek that I felt compelled to register as a sex offender. Teenage girls, please put on some damn clothes!
Apparently, that old rule dictating that you should only show cleavage, legs or back no longer exists, at least with teenage girls. Ninety percent of them were in booty shorts and cleavage-baring crop tops. And just like every person who's reached the point of being a lame adult, I asked, "How the hell did they get past their parents dressed like that?" And, of course, every dude there rubbernecked like a cartoon wolf. Some took it a step further, grabbing girls' butts or grinding them from behind.
It bummed me out. It wasn't too long ago that I was a teenager. The slut-shaming and bullying that goes down in high school is brutal, and, sadly, we can't warn these girls that it gets better for women. It doesn't. This Filner scandal is proof of that.
So what do we tell them? Don't dress like baby streetwalkers because it might send the message that you're open to being groped? How can we impart that advice when professional women in blazers and slacks have received horrifying, demeaning treatment at their workplace? It doesn't matter what we wear, because, apparently, we're all asking for it, whether it's at a rap concert or City Hall. When can we tell young women to hold themselves with dignity so that they're treated with respect and have it be true?