Boobs, I have ’em.
Normally, this isn’t a problem, but sometimes, sometimes, it is. Like at Jitsu for example.
Most of the time the guys can forget I’m female and will train with me as they would if I were a guy. Groundwork/grappling is sometimes awkward but only for the first time they train with me. Usually they’re afraid of squashing me, but sometimes it’s ‘Umm, is this appropriate?’ as they go to practise a hold-down that involves leaning their weight onto my chest. I suppose it’s nice that they ask, it is polite after all, however, I’ve been learning Jiu Jitsu for a year and a half now and I’m under no delusions as to what it entails. Also, if every guy with at least twenty kilos on me refused to train with me I would be stuck with the same three lads, and that would make it much harder to progress. I’m here to train, just as they are, and I want to be accepted as their equal, as in fact I am.
The problem comes in when I’m so much accepted as ‘one of the lads’ that they forget that the stuff they wouldn’t normally say in front of women is still not okay. Worse, when they say ‘oh, apart from you’. They expect me to be fine with it because I’m ‘one of them’ and so I should be in on the joke. It’s often a thing where a group of guys will be trash-talking some woman or commenting on her sexiness when she’s not there and they forget that I’m sitting there, still being female. If it’s okay to talk about another woman in that fashion, does that mean they talk about me in the same way when I’m not present? That worry fills me with doubt and makes it almost impossible to trust them. Unfortunately I have encountered this all over the place, including at Uni with the group of guys, both PhDs and Post-Docs, in my lab group. I just don’t know how to balance the tension inherent in being part of a group where casual sexism is a-okay, when fundamentally that shit is Officially Not Cool. I also don’t know how to change that situation without loosing my precarious place in the group, or being classed as a Humourless Feminist TM.
The next problem comes from the socialising we do outside of training. The down-the-pub post-training side is fine, it’s the meals out and the clubbing that are awkward. Now, I’m not particularly ‘girlie’ in the standard always-perfect hair, make-up, nails and skirt sense. I went through some seriously tomboy phases growing up and a lot of my hobbies have an outdoorsy, muddy aspect, but, and this is a big but, I do actually enjoy dressing up for special occasions. Thing is, I often feel like I risk jeopardising my place as one of the lads if I do dress up because it might remind them that I’m actually female.
Regardless of this worry, I dressed up for the post-grading meal the other week. A light floaty black minidress with a square-cut neckline, with fishnets and black patent court shoes, to be precise. I looked in the mirror before I left and thought, yeah, that looks nice. I got to the meal and whoa, my dress was a lot shorter than what the other women were wearing and gave a more impressive cleavage. Not that the others didn’t show any, I’m just particularly well endowed and the right bra does amazing things. Anyway, the meal was delicious and our table had a long conversion regaling each other with horror stories of sporting accidents to the male genitalia, and I pretty much managed to forget that I felt significantly over-dressed.
The pub after was different however. The joys of the Weatherspoons chain lead to the incident I discussed in Internalised Sexism – a story the other day. We eventually made it to the table where everyone else and were having fun talking about whatever it is you talk about whilst slightly tipsy. Cameras and phones came out, and cool apps were being played with, when Lulu took a photo of my cleavage. Cue sniggers from the guys sat either side of her. I realised what she was doing and rescued the camera to delete the offending photo, when Bert exclaimed “well we were all looking at them anyway!”
Do you have any idea how self-conscious that made me feel? Mortified doesn’t even begin to cover it. I don’t think it showed too much on my face and the conversation moved on to other things but that comment stayed with me.
The consequence of that off-hand, semi-jokey comment? I spent the next week stressing about my boobs, and wondering the entire time if everyone else was looking at them on the sly. Yes, they’re nice boobs and yes, I like looking at them, but just because I wear vest tops that on me look low cut doesn’t mean they’re public property and that any old Joe can comment on them! It’s not my fault that I have boobs, I didn’t ask for them, and it’s not my fault that the fashion industry doesn’t have the first clue how to cut clothes that fit large-breasted women well.
It ate away at me so much that when my partner and I got home after a gig I ended up crying angry, frustrated, hurt tears onto his shoulder, trying to explain why that comment was so hurtful, even if it wasn’t meant to be. Bert should have known better, and this culture needs to hurry up and change and accept the fact that women’s bodies are NOT public property, ever. I should not have to put up with being made to feel self-conscious about my boobs and no woman should ever be under pressure to dress a certain way in order to avoid douchbaggery from men, end of.