An open letter to the men of Boston

Dear Men of Boston –
For the most part, I don’ t have a problem with you. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life we pass by each other on the streets, smile, nod our heads in acknowledgment and move on.

That isn’t the case for everyone. I’m lucky. This is my only interaction on the streets. For my female friends, this isn’t the case at all.

At least once a week, a female friend of mine takes to Facebook with a similar situation – being cat called, gawked and/or physically touched by random men on the streets.

Let me run down a list of things to never do when you see a woman walking down the street –

  1. Call her Baby, Sweetie or Doll.
  2. Talk about her body.
  3. Stare at her body.
  4. Call her body hot or phat or anything, actually.
  5. Touch her, grab her or put your arm around her.
  6. Whistle at her.
  7. Mention her clothing.
  8. Ask her where she’s going.
  9. Ask her her name.

It doesn’t matter what they’re wearing, how they’re smiling or how attractive you think they are. It doesn’t matter if you’re drunk or sober, just joking or being serious. There is no look, no expression, no eye contact, no mini-skirt from anyone that warrants you harassing them.

If you are so unlucky to be near me when you do this to another person, you can expect all 6’3 of my awkward self is going to come down on you like a ton of awkward, angry bricks. I may not be physically imposing, but you can bet I’m going to be in your face like a ridiculous and angry honey badger.

It’s time we start calling this behavior out. Let men know it’s not okay to demean and harrass women. Tell perpetrators it’s wrong and why it’s wrong.

And if you don’t think this is a problem in our city, I suggest asking your female friends, co-workers and family members if they’ve ever felt victimized while walking down city streets. The stories of street harassment are as disgusting as they are eye-opening.

If you want to know how you can help, I suggest visiting Hollaback!, an organization devoted to stopping street harassment. And when you’re done doing that, I suggest you saying something when you see and hear it on the street.

It’s time to be an active voice. I hope you join me.
Jason

 

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An open letter to the men of Boston

With inclusivity, it’s the little things

Sometimes it’s the littlest gestures that mean the most.

I’m proud to work at one of the most LGBT-friendly colleges in the country. Because of this, colleagues frequently ask what we do to be so inclusive. It’s the little things.

Today, during an Orientation workshop, I was reminded of one of the little things we do so well. In meeting students at Orientation, we use the following dialogue:

“Hi, my name is Jason. I’m one of the Orientation advisors and I use he, him, his gender pronouns.”

We don’t do it once. We do it all of the time.

We don’t do it with just new students. We do it with all students.

This isn’t an introduction but a continued dialogue.

Let your students share their chosen name and prefered gender pronouns. Don’t make it a big deal. Just make it a normalized behavior.

Sure, it might feel funny to you to say something that might be obvious if you’re a cis-gendered individual… but for those who identify as trans, gender queer or non-gender normative, it gives them an opportunity to proclaim who they are in a safe and non-threatening way.

Besides, knowing someone’s prefered gender pronoun is far more helpful to know than what their favorite ice cream is or their favorite Disney movie or their spirit animal.

With inclusivity, it’s the little things

Unravelling the Tank Top Convention

Last night, I was lucky enough to spend time with friends and colleagues. We gathered together at a nearby restaurant and took our spot on the 2nd floor lounge. That’s where we first saw them.

It started with one guy, wearing shorts and a tank top. Not unusual on a hot day, but odd considering the venue. Further perplexing was his demeanor – he walked around the lounge as if he was an employee, but an emmployee who is clearly not adhering to dress code.

Tank Top Guy disappeared for a bit… repearing wearing a different tank top, continuing on his weird trek around the lounge. His friends would disappear and reappear, also having changed into different tank tops.

After a bit, Original Tank Top Guy disappeared and reappeared wearing what can be best described as a tank top, skinny shiny black pants, dress socks and sandals. It made no sense.

These guys walked around a restaurant, occassionally looked in a giant box full of tank tops, changed clothes, put on bedazzled high top sneakers and then all abruptly left. They left before anyone of us could find out what was happening. They left before we had an answer to our greatest question – “Are you a part of a Tank Top Convention?”

Is this important? No, not at all. But it does illustrate a point.

We all have Tank Top Conventions in our life. There are all things that happen that we don’t understand and we’ll never have answers to.

We can make up our own answers: they were back up dancers for a drag queen OR they were on vacation from the Netherlands and having a fashion show OR they were trying on outfits for a Lady Gaga concert OR they were practicing for their vacation to the Jersey Shore.

We live in a world where we expect answers. Sometimes we don’t get them. We’ll never get them. We’ll never know why certain things happen (ie. the entire run of the show Lost).

I’ll never know why dude was wearing a tank top, dress socks and sandals… but I have to be okay with that.

It’s time to learn it’s okay to have unanswered questions. 

 

Unravelling the Tank Top Convention