Walk of Shame
Women flip the script on men and their sexist taunts
October 21, 2007 8:10 AM
DAMN, let me bend you over!” The voice is arrogant, bold and nonchalant. The voice’s body has its weight leaned to one side and half a grin on its face. It may have been a typical swagger, but this voice, this body and this swagger belongs to a woman, Antwoinette Baker. The recipient of these disrespectful words and equally disrespectful manner is a man, Gregg Taylor. The women he walks in front of are cold, hard and unmoved. He can’t even look at them; he continues walking down the line.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, stupid?” Anger.
“Stupid ass bitch, suck my dick.” Hostility.
“God damn, look at them titties.” Hatred.
“I’ll slap the fucking taste out yo’ mouth bitch, talking to me like that.” Aggression.
“You ain’t shit.” Love?
One after the other, Taylor and other male volunteers walk on a stage in front of a line of five women who hiss cat calls and other degrading, sexist and hurtful remarks that they’ve heard repeatedly all throughout their lives. This “Walk Through” activity devised by Dereca Blackmon, executive director of Oakland-based Leadership Excellence, precedes an emotional and intense hour-long discussion between the men and women—both participants and onlookers during the Phi Sigma Beta and Zeta Phi Beta “Who you Callin’ a Bitch?” forum at SF State. The “walk” is aimed to give men a taste of what it feels like to be on the other side of sexually offensive name-calling and make them think about how damaging words can be.
“I think pain is an understatement of what I felt,” says Fred Roots after his 15-second “gender walk” across the stage. Roots admits to having used the b-word on occasion, but he says he isn’t out in public disrespecting women on such an outlandish level. “To get confronted with it in this way really makes me sad and embarrassed, too, as a black man. My deepest apologies, if it means anything to you women,” he says to the crowd and the women onstage.
Blackmon, the guest speaker, opens the forum with a dissection of sexism in hip hop, explaining how commercial hip hop can be disrespectful toward women and introduces the gender walk activity. She marches up to a table where a young female is sitting, leans across it, and confronts her face to face. “Wait ‘til you see my dick bitch,” she shouts, quoting the Ying Yang Twins 2005 summer hit. She doesn’t flinch. The woman and the audience are silent. “Ain’t nobody in here confused right?” asks Blackmon. “If we was on the street and there wasn’t no beat behind it…you clear, I’m outta pocket. And I need to be checked,” she adds.
Blackmon believes that women don’t acknowledge the behavior as disrespectful because it is in a video.
In his song, “Chillin’ with my Bitch,” T.I. talks about taking the whole day off from work. He is not hanging out with his boys, but wants to spend time with his woman.
“But this ‘bitch’ is what he called her. This ain’t about a personality type. This is now becoming a synonym for woman,” explains Blackmon.
Hip hop has only been around for 30 years and can’t be blamed for a sexist society, which goes way back. In the United States, women were the last to receive the vote. African American men were voting before white women and they were only considered 3/5 human. When women were finally allowed a higher education, the colleges offered classes such as “how to throw a dinner party.”
After Baker spewed out sexist taunts during the gender walk, she felt different. She used to call her friends “bitches” but now she says she realizes the hypocrisy of speaking in that degrading language towards other females and has eliminated it from her vocabulary.
“If women stop calling each other bitches and hos and stand up to men, then it will change,” says Baker. She believes that men will stop using the “well-you-do-it-too” argument once women quit the name calling too.
“I have done it 10 to 15 times myself, but what you need to understand is that it never stops hurting,” says Blackmon. “The thing that hurts the most is when you stand in this line and you hear how much commonality there is in our experience.”
Standing outside the Cesar Chavez building, the audience and volunteers linger late into the night and mingle underneath the clear night sky. Some are loud as they discuss their strong opinions about the comments voiced earlier during the walk, but most throw their heads back and laugh with relief. After so many years of gender suppression, from when these women were just little girls, finally these women voice their concerns to these men without any drama and the men listen without feeling attacked.
“If we eliminate the [sexist] language, the relationship between men and women will be more positive. They need to know how we feel,” says Baker. “I don’t want to be addressed as that.”
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