Hiding behind men
Jessica at feministing posted on this article about women who wear fake engagement rings in order to fend off unwanted advances. I had a friend who actually did this in college, which seemed a little excessive to me, but then again, I know she had to deal with lots of unwanted advances and trying to patiently explain over and over again why you don't want to talk to a guy gets very tiring. It just strikes me as an elaboration on telling a guy that you already have a boyfriend, whether it's true or not. I didn't think about the article too much, until I read this comment by Kathy:
I feel sorry for women that have to hide behind a fake ring and the fake man that it's supposedly connected to in order to respond to unwanted come-ons. Poor things, can't actually respond for themselves, haven't learned how to fend off the lechers in the world, to say "I'm not interested". And waving a ring at a construction worker makes them feel powerful? Huh. The inherent "no thanks I already have a man" message they need to handle the world of men is demeaning and disempowering. But they probably won't ever figure that out. Grrrr.
And I thought to myself, "Well it's not that women are necessarily unable to say no, it's just that some men aren't capable of taking no for an answer." I was fixing to put that thought into the comments when it occurred to me that such guys can take no for an answer, they just won't hear it from a woman. When you invoke a boyfriend, real or not, to ward off a man who won't take a simple "no" for an answer, you are putting on the mantle of male authority. It's not you who's saying no, oh no, it's your man and he has to respect that.
Is it disempowering? Yeah, no one likes to have to put her words into the mouth of a man in order to get respect for those words. But a sneaky side of me has to respect the cleverness of the technique, because it is, in a sense, turning the offensive person's own sexism against him. But mostly I don't want to judge women who do it, because sometimes it's the only choice you have when dealing with an obnoxious advance. It's not really a bold feminist statement to have to endure an asshole who won't leave you alone in order to prove that you don't need a man to protect you. When someone is mistreating you like this, just getting out of the situation quickly is feminist enough for me.
It occurs to me that putting words in a man's mouth to get respect for those words is a technique women use all the time. I can think, right off the top of my head, of a number of times when I've invoked a man's agreement with me in order to get more respect from men I'm talking to, though usually I've only done this when talking about musical tastes. I've done it unconsciously most of the time, and as there's no reason (like trying to extract myself from a bad situation) to do it, I hope that I can refrain in the future.
I can think of tons of other examples of women invoking men to give authority to their assertions. "Just wait until your father gets home!" "My boyfriend/husband says...." "Well, I learned that from (fill in male authority)." And so on and so forth.