Men sometimes think it is acceptable to demean, dehumanize, and devalue the women they know, because it's all in fun, and because the women they know accept it as humor. But I want to know: How can men actually endure the dynamic of watching a woman who they (presumably) know, value, and care about smilingly agree to her own dehumanization?
(I don't really need to ask, sadly. The question is really more rhetorical.)
Last night, riding in a car with a mixed-gender group at college, I had the following conversation:
Dude (shouting out window at three women): Hey sluts!
Me: (blinking in shock)
Dude: Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to be -- I know those girls. I'd never yell that out the window at someone I didn't know!
Me: I'm sure.
Dude: No seriously, I know them, it's ok.
Me: I have no doubt that you know them.
Dude: (continues awkwardly justifying himself/apologizing, eventually leaves car to go meet a "booty call")
Afterward, I felt guilty that perhaps I had been rude. Then I realized *headdesk* that's exactly what the Patriarchy would want me to believe. If anything, I'd merely refused to absolve him from his guilt by my deadpan, blank-stare response. But of course that's not enough! Women owe Dudes forgiveness and absolution or even apologies when we cause Dudes some kind of pain or embarrassment by pointing out their misogyny!!
But in the final analysis what struck me about this incident is that the Dude realized that it would be rude to dehumanize a woman he didn't know -- or at least it would make her think less of him, since the woman he didn't know wouldn't understand the sophisticated humor in his use of the epithet. Hence, he refrains from heckling women he doesn't know, because that would result in them regarding him as an a$$hole. But a woman he does know, with whom he interacts on a regular basis, and who he presumably thinks he respects, she's fair game. Because she's proven to him over and over her conformity to the Patriarchy, and he knows he won't get any crap from her about his abuse. In fact, he assumes that she will recognize that because he's Such a Great Guy, the epithet isn't even an epithet. It's a mark of his notice, a sign that he has magnanimously granted her some of his precious male attention.
What a world. Again, I don't blame the women for laughing it off; it's what they've been trained to do and it's usually the best option available. IBTP.