6. Male misogynists. A misogynist is “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” Misogyny during a bare-chested walk can be blatant (“Titties!”) or subtle (walking around the corner and calling 911). The subtleties have been fascinating to expose. Walking bare-chested in crowded public places forces people to encounter my femaleness unexpectedly. Their first reactions are telling. Some people smile, giggle uncomfortably, look away like they’ve walked in on me in a bathroom (one woman actually said, “Oops!”). That’s all part of the learning curve. But there are some who show me, in that first moment, why it is important for women to do this. There is a particular look I see occasionally that is a combination of judgment (silly girl), calculation (this feels dangerous on a deep level, power shift threat) and hate. The existence of this attitude is no great discovery. Seeing it in the faces of fathers, husbands, police officers, businessmen, that has been eye-opening. Powerful men can say they support gender equality all they want. Their first reaction betrays their true feelings.
7. Female misogynists. Male misogynists are hard for me to take, I admit, but I manage. Female misogynists exhaust me to the core. Women who hate women (including their own femaleness), who fight against equality, who fear the responsibilities of equality, who bully or demean other women for being women, etc, really disturb me deeply. This is a danger spot for me because bullies enrage me. Seeing someone who has clearly been the victim of bullying turn into a bully herself as a protective mechanism can incite my own mid-brain response. I have to be careful and regulate my energy when confronted with this particular fearful and angry personality. These women, when unexpectedly confronted with my bare breasts, often spike straight to a panic, my boldness being nothing but an anxiety trigger from worlds that predate my arrival. The panic reaction is frustrating, but if it stopped there I could deal. It’s the words that come out of their mouths that really wear on me, when they say things that imply women should be ashamed of themselves as a matter of being, that we should be modest, silent, meek, submissive. (“Nobody wants to see that mess!”) I have worked on my reaction to their reaction to me because it is vitally important that I navigate these situations with firm but quiet grace. Women could go so far if we could just get out of our own ways. How have we not elected a female president yet? There are more women then men. And many men would vote for a capable woman. Their is still something deep within us that tells us we are not the equals of men. Male misogynists, I believe, are acutely in-tune, at a mid-brain level, to women who have liberated themselves from that belief. Misogynists are bullies. Bullies are afraid of losing power and control. Imagine what happens if women in large numbers come to understand we are truly powerful, not just in words but in actions.
8. Children. One of the main objections to public bare-chestedness is that children can see. Children, of course, couldn’t care less if they see bare breasts. It is their adult care-takers reactions that have the potential to upset them.
9. Cameras. You’re going to have your picture taken. And it will be posted somewhere, you have to at least accept that possibility. If you don’t want your mother or employer to see you, try a hat and sunglasses.
10. Traffic slowing down. I haven’t caused an accident yet.
11. Ridicule. Some people don’t know what to do except be negative and mean. If it’s not this it would be that. Be prepared. They will pick something about your body or demeanor and make fun of it. This is rare but it has happened. Like all bully behavior it emboldens me. If they see they have hurt you, they will continue to hurt you. But with that said, like Eminem in the last scene of Eight Mile, it is a beautiful feeling to meet a bully with acceptance and impassivity and self-love. You can’t get to me. I’ve done my work.
12. Demeaning comments. Sometimes I hear people mutter, “Why?” I don’t answer. That is for them to answer according to their own code. The fact that they have asked the question is a monumental victory for me.
13. Neutrality. A lot of people won’t look up from their phones. Many will show no reaction to you. Isn’t that the point?
14. Cat-calls. Rare, actually. I ignore them. This week I had a man leaning out of a car trying to take my picture from behind. To get me to turn around he whistled at me like a dog. I walked on. I’m doing my work to change the world. I don’t need him to have my photograph.
15. Questions, questions, questions. People are really curious about what this all means. I answer their questions. I have also prepared answers to the most common questions, know the law and prepare myself to answer the same questions many times. I don’t want anyone to see impatience in my eyes. I’m glad they stopped me to talk to me. This is how it happens.