Are you married? and other loaded questions

I bus tables at a restaurant and a coworker today asked me if I was married. He’s older, in his thirties or forties and though I knew he wasn’t asking me out, I was deeply uncomfortable.

I told him no, I’m not married and he proceeds to tell me that he’s surprised because with my sweet personality he’s sure some nice guy will snatch me up soon. Bull shit.  He thinks this a compliment but I went from being uncomfortable to being offended. I don’t want to be snatched up! I’m not some dessert made for someone’s pleasure. Who I am cannot be broken down into ‘sweet’ and if I am sweet it is not for the benefit of anyone else, regardless of sex or gender.

The worst part was he was trying to be nice! But questions like this are heteronormative. He assumed I was straight, assumed I wanted (and needed) a man in my life and assumed that I had the privilege of being able to get married if I so choose. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong again. I have ace friend who worked at a restaurant and she pretended to be a lesbian because it was more convenient for her than having to explain being ace. I don’t want to pretend to be anything. I am asexual and I don’t want to hide this fact, but I don’t know how to bring it up. It’s not my place to explain my sexuality to my coworker and I am not comfortable having that conversation at work, especially with an older man I barely know.

I feel gross and objectified. I’m not a person in his eyes because all I am is a sweet girl ripe for marriage. Is it so much to ask to be treated as a human being?

I pulled him aside and told him his comment made me uncomfortable. He asked why and I said because it was a personal question. This is true; it is a personal question. But more than that, it’s a loaded question. Even with the best intentions, asking someone questions about romantic or sexual relationships can make the other person feel threatened. I am immediately on edge if someone asks me if I have a boyfriend. Even the non gender specific question of “Are you dating anyone?” holds assumptions about my sexuality and I will inevitably disappoint with my answer.

Does anyone have advice on answering or diverting loaded questions? Any advice on how to watch your language so you don’t make someone else feel unsafe? I would appreciate the feedback. Thank you.

Asexual Flag. Proud to be ace.

Asexual Flag. Proud to be ace.

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Dear Men: A list of what I do not owe you

In a hypothetical situation that very closely (some might even go so far as to say exactly) mirrors reality, I am walking down the street in Istanbul trying to find my way to the shuttle that will take me to the airport. A shoe-shine man drops one of his brushes. I pick it up and hand it back to him.

Dear Shoe-Shine Man:

I do not owe you

  1. where I am from
  2. my name
  3. my age
  4. my marital status
  5. my time

I helped you, but that does not mean you delay me by insisting you shine my shoes and asking me personal questions. My life is my own. My time is my own. I do not not owe you my time. Just because I am a woman walking down the street without a man does not mean I am available.

Do not take my help as flirting. I did nothing to invite your attention and I do not want your attention. Please, shoe-shine man, get a grip on your ego and do not assume that I am straight or that I am automatically interested in you.

Thank you and please be a decent human being.

Another hypothetical situation:

I am walking by myself in Izmir killing some time and decide to get a cup of tea. After passing by  multiple places I deem to be a bit too sketchy, I pick a restaurant, sit down and order.

Dear Waiter,

I do not owe you:

  1. my name
  2. my age
  3. my facebook information
  4. my phone number

I am buying a cup of tea. A woman by herself should not be a walking anomaly. I might give you my name to be polite, but you do not need to know my age. Especially when you tell me you think I’m 15. When I correct you and say that I am twenty, it is poor manners to say “Me too!” and ask if I’m on facebook then hand over your phone for my number. We do not know each other. I have given no indication that I am interested in you in a romantic fashion. Being alone and being American does not make me more available or more flirtatious. It means I’m alone and I’m American.

In the future, please check your ego before you speak to your female customers.

Thank you. Have a nice day.

People have told me the above scenarios are a cultural issue, not a sexist issue. They tell me it is to be expected if I am traveling alone. I tell them that it should never be expected for a woman to receive harassment because that is condoning oppressive treatment.

In addition there is nothing cultural about men believing they have the right to pick up women wherever they are. The same attitude from men exists in America. The pervasive attitude is that all women exist to serve men and that if a man gives you a compliment or asks for your phone number you should be elated. A man showed interest in you! That’s one step closer to the womanly ideal of marriage and a family! And while those ideals are fine for some women as long as it’s what they want, they are not fine for all women. They are certainly not fine for me.

It’s difficult to tell men “no” because of how much we’ve been conditioned to acquiesce to the “more dominant sex.” But as women we need to realize the power in saying “no”. And understanding that we don’t owe men our time simply because we are women.

“No, I’m not gay”…I’m just not straight

My mother is a wonderful person who cares deeply about the rights of every human being. Although she initially told me being asexual was a phase I would grow out of, she is now my staunchest supporter. She wants to ensure that I feel comfortable with my sexuality and am treated with respect. She works that this same respect is given to everyone as a matter of course. I am grateful beyond words.

But I spent time visiting my grandfather who believes gay people shouldn’t get married and says he believes so because that’s how he was brought up. I don’t think he understands that being queer is not a choice. And, even more unfortunate, he doesn’t think to question why he holds the beliefs he does. Like my brother, he believes that because he has a right to his own opinions, this right extends to saying whatever he wants. He has no understanding of his privilege as a straight, white cisgender man. And I knew my grandfather was conservative (he watches Fox News religiously), but when I told him his comments were hurtful he did not understand.

“How am I being hurtful?” he asked.

“I have a lot of gay friends and they do not have the same rights that you do–”

He interrupted and turned to me. “Where did you meet these people?”

“At my college. I have a lot of gay friends and they deserve to be married and have lives for themselves. They’re great people.”

We went on for a bit, back and forth and getting nowhere. He assured me that if he were to meet any of my gay friends (as if being gay is always as visible as a birthmark or a scar) he would still treat them with courtesy. I wonder if this is worse: closeted homophobia. It certainly feels worse to be on the receiving end.

For years now, I was certain my grandfather has been waiting for me to come out as a lesbian. I have never dated and never showed any interest in boys so therefore the only option for me was lesbianism, in his view. And after all these years he finally asked me the big question:

“Tell me, then are you gay?”

And I stared at him and kept my face blank. “No. No, I am not.” I came so close to following my statement and revealing the truth that No, I’m not gay, but I’m not straight either. 

I’m queer. I’m asexual. I won’t bring home a woman on my arm anymore than I will bring home a man. But I didn’t say any of this and, though I know how lucky I am to have my mother on my side, I felt shoved into the closet. My grandfather and my aunt are my only immediate family I have not yet come out to. I am fortunate that I can easily pass as being straight.

Still, I don’t think my grandfather believed me when I told him I’m not gay. He asked me later that day about when I would want to get married and I told him that I don’t want to get married. He didn’t press the issue then and told me it is my decision–though he would have been able to hold a lovely wedding reception. I was not surprised when he brought up the issue of my refusal to marry to my mother. Again, I see how damaging closeted homophobia is. I fear my grandfather will never see me the same way and, even worse, he will never tell me so and our anger and misunderstanding will simmer away under the surface.

I know I am not the only one to feel closeted and to be concerned about coming out. I know I am incredibly lucky to have my mother as my support network. I know I care about queer issues beyond my own sphere and this conversation with my grandfather really brought homophobia home for me. I am even more dedicated to advocating for queer rights because no one deserves to suffer under homophobia or any other type of bigotry.

A few months ago I spoke on a “Queer + [Blank]” panel  where everyone who spoke came from a place of intersectionality. I have a shirt from the event that proudly displays “Queer + [Blank]” and I have yet to fill in my intersectionality because I am afraid to wear this short outside of my campus environment. When the panel was first being publicized I did not yet know that I was speaking and I talked with a queer friend of mine about the design for the shirts. She is very open about being a lesbian, but she said she had to ask herself whether or not she would want to walk down the street and have everyone know that she is queer. I agreed, but I felt I needed to do buy this shirt because I needed to embrace being queer as an essential part of my identity.

I do not know if I will come out to my grandfather anytime soon, but I will not get married–even if it means I stop entirely passing as straight.

 

Chi-Chi and Dragon Ball Z

*NOTE*This is the first detailed installment of a series on the female characters of Dragon Ball Z. For the overview of sexism in the series click here. My analysis will be based off the manga not the original anime.

Although Bulma is the primary female character for most of the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, Chi-Chi is the character who is solely played for laughs, where Bulma is at least acknowledged as being a genius.

Chi-Chi is introduced as a fighter (as you can tell by her ‘warrior outfit‘) though despite her bikini armor she has very few action scenes. All she does is throw the spike on her helmet to kill a dinosaur and then shoot a laser from her helmet to disintegrate the body. This could potentially be a great display of ingenuity and skill, but when she fights a dessert bandit named Yamcha she is taken out with one hit. In this way she is dismissed as a competent fighter and is shown to have no skills on her own.

Although Dragon Ball itself is not meant to be taken seriously (especially in the earlier volumes) Chi-Chi is given dialogue like “Oo, this is ‘jes’ too dang freaky” and “Waah!! That was SCAAARY!!”. She is laughably stupid even compared to a character like Goku, who has no education and is typical of the  idiot hero trope. Chi-Chi’s ignorance is not cute or lovable, she is written off as a hick.

At the beginning of every volume of the manga there’s a page of main characters that gives a brief description of each in addition to catching the reader up on the plot. The description of Chi-Chi is as follows:

“A strange girl who Yamcah…ran into. She has a tendency to overreact.”

This is Akira Toriyama’s fall back for Chi-Chi: it will be funny if she’s the hysterical woman. And Chi-Chi is constantly ‘overreacting’ though in reality most of it is for her own safety. Goku, having lived in the woods all twelve years of his life does not know how to tell the difference between boys and girls except by patting their gentitals. When Goku does such, Chi-Chi responds:

“Get your hands off me!!!!”

and proceeds to push Goku off the flying cloud they’re traveling on and screams just before she crashes the cloud into a boulder. Once the two are traveling again, Chi-Chi’s dialogue shows that she is still upset, explaining that “[he] did plenty!!!” to deserve being pushed off the cloud, but the next panel of the manga she is blushing. Her inner thoughts read as such:

“But, thought the maiden, having been touched ‘there’ what else could it mean but that she would become this youth’s wife?”

Granted, Goku was not trying to molest her or make her uncomfortable, but it is wrong of Akira Toriyama to brush aside this complete disrespect of Chi-Chi as a female. Goku did not know what he was doing, but Akira Toriyama did. Akira Toriyama was well aware of how he treated Chi-Chi and was equally aware that Chi-Chi is a Japanese word for breasts. Because the author does not treat her with respect none of his characters do either. Not even her own father. Without her being present her father offers her in marriage to Goku. This is never addressed as being a sexist issue and toward the end of the Dragon Ball series, Chi-Chi comes back into the story after having spent the past six years of her life waiting for Goku to come back to her and claim her hand.

She is written as fully accepting of her weaker status as a woman, both as a fighter-who can never even come close to matching her male counterparts- and as a person-who revolves her life around a young boy who she barely knows. Goku and Chi-Chi do get married at the very end of Dragon Ball though it is seen as more obligatory on Goku’s part who, when he and Chi-Chi part ways,agrees that

“whatever [Chi-Chi’s father] wants to give me I’ll be sure to come an’ get! Count on it!”

Chi-Chi is referring to marriage, but Goku does not know what marriage is. He finds out six years later, when Chi-Chi demands he keep his promise and he agrees. To Akira Toriyama, marriage is something imposed upon men and is another example of the woman overreacting over nothing.

Throughout Dragon Ball Z, Chi-Chi becomes even more of a sexist character. Her role is diminished to being a constant worrying mother over her son Gohan. Her ‘overreacting’ as her emotions are played, are in fact quite reasonable. She does not want her 4 year old son being turned into a warrior or traveling the galaxy or being put into life or death situations with his father. Her concern is understandable, but it played as the hysterics of a ranting woman who cannot keep herself under control. As a woman she does not see the big picture that her son is needed to save the world. As a woman she cannot have the same scope of vision as a man.

Akira Toriyama does all that he can to discredit her opinions, demean her actions, and keep her uneducated and in her place as a side character written solely for laughs. This is unfortunate because Goku, Chi-Chi, and Gohan have the best chance in the series of establishing a stable family relationship where there can be a break from the constant fight scenes. If these rare family moments were taken seriously, a loving equal relationship between husband wife could have possible to portray. Chi-Chi was never taken seriously.