Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Stopped Counting

While I'm on the subject of women and sex, there's something else I'd like to discuss.

Partner counting, or "The List."

Some time ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I just got out of the habit of counting my partners. Then the subject of our "numbers" came up with a friend, and I realized that I honestly didn't know what mine was. I panicked. I mean, only total trashbag whores don't know how many people they've fucked, right? (This was during my "blend in with the other girls" phase last year, when I was all concerned about what people thought of me.) A little while after that, I decided to sit down and try to write out my "list." Doing that raised some concerns that I pushed to the back of my mind at the time, but recently took out for closer examination.

As a bisexual woman, how do I accurately decide exactly who I've had sex with? Only counting penis-in-vagina, hetero intercourse discounts the value of the female partners I've had, not to mention supports the patriarchal heteronormative ideal that I dislike so much. Given that, what standard do I use to decide what women to include on my list? "Easy," said my patriarchy-managed brain; "fingering or oral, giving or receiving, constitutes fucking a woman."

But then what about the men I've engaged in manual or oral play with, but not intercourse? Do I put them on my list too? And if not, why? Why does it "count" if a girl fingers me, but not a guy? That's not equitable or logical.

Then there's the fact that I've been raped more than once. Do I count those, because from a purely medical/scientific standpoint they could potentially matter, or do I ignore them because it was rape, not sex?

"Your logic hurts me," replied patriarchy brain. "Shut up and look pretty."

And so I did, for a while. But now I think patriarchy brain is kind of...well, naive, at the very least. So, I abandoned the "list" idea and decided to just accept the fact that I've had lots of sex with a variety of partners, some good, some bad, some non consensual...and all of it is a part of my history. If I don't care about the numbers, and in fact went at least a couple of years without even thinking about that issue, why should anyone else care? Now my stock answers to the "what's your number" question run the gamut from "none of your fucking business" to "um....lots" to a straight-up "I honestly don't keep count."

That's why I stopped counting-what about the reasons I think other people- especially heterosexual people with "normal," non-controversial sexual histories-should give up their "lists?" The question is, really, why should you keep track? If it's for medical purposes, all I can say is that yes, it's a nice idea to try to remember who you've slept with since your last STD check. That way, if anything comes up, you can either contact people yourself or give their names to the nice folks at Public Health. But that's not always feasible-people have one-night stands, former partners move away or change their numbers, people forget names...shit happens. Even in the STD test example, why does the number matter? The tests should really be done without that question, then if anything comes back questions can be asked about who needs to be contacted.

Let's face it-partner counting exists as another slut shaming mechanism. Remember American Pie 2, with the "rule of 3?"

"If a guy tells you how many girls he's hooked up with, it's not even close to that. You take that number and divide it by three, then you get the real total."

"When a girl tells you how many guys she's slept with, multiply it by three and that's the real number. Didn't you fuckers learn anything in college?"

Seriously, who the fuck cares how many people you've slept with? What matters is how you feel about your sexuality and your history. Be safe, have fun, and be true to yourself-sex isn't about numbers.

"She's Not Like That"-Slut Shaming and Taking Credit for Your Sexual Choices

I was talking to an old friend and ex-lover (let's just call him S) on MSN last night, and in the interest of catching up on each other's lives, I teasingly asked him if he was still a "slut." (It should be noted here that I wasn't using the word in a negative context-I teasingly and lovingly call myself and my friends "slut" from time to time, but if anyone expresses discomfort with the word I don't use it to describe them anymore. It's a reclamation thing for me.) While I was humming "Otherside" in my head, he replied that no, he wasn't a slut anymore. He said that he's looking for a serious relationship and ready to settle down. We chatted a little about the whys and wherefores of his thoughts and moved on. Later in the conversation, something came up about this girl he's "sort of seeing." Now, when I say I'm "sort of seeing" someone, it's usually a euphemism. So, I (again, somewhat teasingly) asked, "So you're sleeping with her?" He replied, "No, she's not like that. That's why I like her so much. She doesn't sleep with guys she's not dating."

I was definitely bothered by that statement, but I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly why it was so wrong. I mean, it offended me personally, in the sense that this guy obviously knows that I'm "like that," or at least was before I got all monogamous and shit. But a voice at the back of my brain was telling me that it was wrong on a larger scale. I just wasn't listening closely enough to hear exactly why. So I settled for pointing out that I was annoyed, to which he replied, "Oh, that was years ago." I didn't feel like getting into it any deeper than that, so we changed the subject and moved on.

This morning, it hit me. S was putting all the responsibility for sexual morality on the woman.

Now, I'm not trying to convert people to promiscuity here-if you don't believe in sleeping with someone until the relationship has reached such and such a stage (exclusive dating, marriage, whatever) that's your business, and I applaud your conviction. If S has decided that he's not into casual sex anymore, that's totally rad for him. But saying "she's not like that" makes no mention of his decision to wait, instead dumping the burden of purity, virtue and self-control squarely on the shoulders of the woman.

Also, the very phrasing of the sentence implies defensiveness. What if he had said "I'm not like that"? Such a turn of phrase would imply that he was scandalized, or at the very least somehow offended, by my assumption that he would be open to the idea of casual sex-it implies that willingness to engage in sexual activity outside the confines of a specific relationship structure is somehow a negative trait. Therefore, using this wording on the behalf of the woman, coupled with "that's why I like her," implies that any woman who is "like that," any woman who has sex when she's not "supposed to," is somehow unworthy of his affection. It also implies that her relative "purity" (in the sense of any sex she has being "appropriate" and therefore somehow less "dirty") is the primary reason for his attraction to her. The suggestion is that her "virtue" is prized over any other positive personality traits.

Now, S isn't a bad guy. Quite the contrary, actually. I don't really believe that he would intentionally convey the messages that I outlined above. This is just an example of how the prevailing patriarchal value system has completely taken over speech patterns and thought processes.

"Oh, Rebecca," I hear you saying, "stop being such a paranoid feminist. You know the poor guy didn't mean anything by it. Don't be so sensitive."

The problem is that when such oppressive language is acceptable, women suffer. Maybe S wasn't trying to be a slut shamer, but his choice of words accomplished that regardless of his intention. As for being oversensitive, I believe that the cultural mandate to not take offense to anything, regardless of how it is phrased, contributes hugely to the culture of victim-blaming that I see so much today. It is not your responsibility to not be offended by me, it is my responsibility to not offend you. I don't have to be less sensitive to your hurtful speech, however inadvertent it may be-you have to be more aware of what you are saying and to whom you are saying it.

So, here's a little fantasy script detailing what I think (I hope) S actually meant, in language that more clearly expresses a healthy attitude towards women and sex, while taking personal responsibility.

Me: So are you sleeping with her?
S: No, I don't sleep with people I'm not dating anymore. She feels the same way. I like that about her.

See what I did there? I phrased it so that he takes personal responsibility for his sexual choice and acknowledges that she has the same value system and that he appreciates that, without making her sexual morality into the sole factor for his attraction to her.

I realize that this level of consciousness in everyday speech is difficult. I slip up sometimes too. And I'd like to reiterate that I'm not trying to frame S as some sort of horrible misogynistic douchenozzle. I'm using his statement as an example of how prevalent anti-woman language is in our everyday lives. Most people probably wouldn't think twice about saying exactly what he did, or about having it said to them. But the fact that such things pass so many lips and ears without comment is both a symptom of and a contributor to the shaming of women who dare to make personal decisions about their own bodies and sexuality, the idea that women must bear the burden of "purity," and that if they don't there's something wrong with them. These ideas and language patterns must be noted and corrected whenever possible if we ever hope to live in a truly equitable society.

Yes, the world in my head is a fantasy utopia of social awareness. Also, there are unicorns. It's quite nice, really.

Diva Cup FTW.

Once again, here is some vagina talk that is pretty much TMI even by my usual standards. I'll give you a minute to navigate away from the page if you don't want to read it.

Still here? Freaks. :P Don't say I didn't warn you.

So it turns out the Diva Cup is pretty much the greatest thing ever. I'm about 4 days into my period, and it's the most comfortable one I've ever had. When I was considering the switch and researching it, I couldn't actually find a lot of detailed user reviews-there was a lot of general "I like it" type stuff, but nothing actually addressing specific things I wanted to know. So, here is everything you never wanted to know about my bloody cunt and would therefore not ask.

My first impression of the cup was "OMG it's huge and will be horribly uncomfortable." Turns out I was almost right. It is a little bigger than I expected, but I am also using the bigger of the two available sizes. Not because I have a gaping, cavernous vagina (I don't, in case you're curious) but because I have spawned. Size 1 is for women under 30 who have not had children, size 2 is for women over 30, or of any age who have had children either vaginally or by c-section. So I'm not sure if size 1 is less intimidatingly large. Anyway, back to my story.

Insertion is not an issue, because you fold it up to put it in. Once it's in properly, you really don't notice it's there. Removal, however...the first couple of times were awful. But, as with so many other things that involve vagina, it's all about relaxing and finding the right angle. Once you get that sorted out, it's easy.

Using the Diva Cup forces you to reach a whole new level of being comfortable fishing around in your vag. There's no handy little string to pull on. There is a stem on it, but you don't want to leave it outside while wearing the cup or it pokes you in the labia. Not so much fun. So, you have to actually stick your fingers in there to take the cup out. Insertion and removal do take a little practice to get the hang of, especially insertion. But you can actually practice while you're not bleeding if that will help you...get used to the action without all the bloody pressure. The last thing you want is to be in the bathroom on your heaviest day, all emotional with blood on your hands going OMG WHY CAN'T I GET IT IN? Trust me. o_O

On the subject of not bleeding all over the place...OMG SRSLY AWESOME. I slept in the other day and ended up having the cup in for about 12 hours. First, you don't risk TSS with the Diva Cup, unlike tampons. That part is awesome. Second...okay, so it was kind of overflowing when I got up. But after 12 hours, there was just a tiny bit of spotting on the toilet paper when I wiped the area before reaching down there to take out the cup. I'll take that over my usual crime-scene mattress any day.

I'll admit, there is a bit of an ick factor. I mean, it's menstrual fluid in a cup. I'm all for accepting my cycle as a natural part of womanhood and all that happy hippie stuff, but it's menstrual fluid in a cup. Luckily, I'm fairly quick to overcome ookiness where these things are concerned. And if you're really interested in the intimate workings of your girl parts, there are little measurement lines on the cup so you can see exactly how much you've bled. (Bear in mind that the fluid is not all blood, so don't get all OMG I NEED A TRANSFUSION if you decide to follow that information.)

So, that's the Diva Cup. It rules all. I think I covered everything...

Coming soon, a blog post that is not about my period.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Serious overshare alert.

Yeah, I'm not kidding. I'm about to talk about my vagina, and not in a fun, sexytime kind of way. So, stop reading if you don't want to hear it.

Okay, if you're still here, don't say I didn't warn you.

I have always had extremely heavy periods. Like, for serious. As an example, one month when I was about 13, I knew I was bleeding super heavily and was about to go hang out with this guy I was seeing (translation: our families were friends and we used to make out while the adults weren't looking) and I didn't want to be an icky, period-stained blob. Which was something that was, unfortunately, often unavoidable for mom did a lot of things wrong, but one of the few things she got right was usually calling me in sick on days 2 through 5 or so of my period, because there was just no way for those days to go well for me. Anyway, back to my gross story about the cute boy... right before I left for his house, approximately a five-minute drive, I put in a tampon AND stuck on an overnight pad. After my stepdad dropped me off and the boy and I went through the requisite pleasantries with his parents, we wandered off to "get slurpees and go to the park." (You know, walk through some back alleys to a park on the opposite side of the neighborhood and make out under the slide. Don't get all judgey, you all did it too.) Anyhoo, by the time we got to the park and settled in for some kissing, I had been wearing my tampon and pad for about an hour and a half. I ended up on his lap. We were there for...probably about 20 minutes? I'm not completely sure, but it couldn't have been long. Anyway, when we stood up, I had bled through a tampon and heavy flow pad, through my pants and onto his jeans. That's roughly two hours time, soaking through what should be a minimum four hours of protection. And this kind of flow was a monthly occurrence for me for a few years. Yay for my woman parts, seriously. *headdesk*

After I had Ronin, my periods actually got somewhat normal, in the sense that I usually didn't lose so much blood that I fainted every month. Still, though, I was a gusher in the most disgusting sense of the word. The only time I've had periods that didn't leave my crotch looking like something out of a horror movie is when I've been on hormonal birth control.

The problem is, right now I'm at this place where I'm not comfortable with the potential risks of HBC for myself, given the other health issues I'm dealing with, so I just stay away from it. It tends to change my natural responses to insulin in particular, and I've found that teh diabeetus is easier to control when I'm not otherwise screwing with my endocrine system, so...yeah. Yay, barrier methods. The downside of this, though, is that I'm back to my vagina (and my underwear, and my bedsheets, and sometimes my pants if I'm not RIDICULOUSLY vigilant) looking like a crime scene. No level of menstrual protection does me any damn good at all. Thankfully, I've gotten to the point where a super-flow tampon AND a backup pad will usually protect my clothes in the event that I have to go more than three hours without changing my protection, but it's still pretty damn ridiculous. (And no doctor has been able to make it stop. Apparently, I'm just one of those women who bleed a lot.)

So, I have decided to try the Diva Cup. From what I've heard, it's a much better way to protect during heavy flow than tampons, and you can still use pads as backup if you want to. I'm hoping it will work. For the first time in pretty much forever, I'm actually looking forward to my's gonna be like a science experiment! Watch this space for updates, since I like to talk about my cunt every chance I get. :P Also, let me know if you've tried the Diva Cup, and what kind of experiences you've had with it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

For the Saskatonians...

There's a kiosk in Midtown right now, called "[Can't remember the name]'s Natural Beauty" or something to that effect. It's on the second floor, outside that Capz store that's in the sort of middle area. Know the kind of region I'm talking about? (Sorry I can't be more specific, but I hope that's descriptive enough.)


I'm serious. I was walking around the mall today, trying to get ideas for the last couple of gifts I have to buy. I approached this kiosk, wondering what they were selling. Almost immediately, one of the staff members grabbed my hand, saying, "I want to show you something." I was kind of in shock and didn't immediately jerk away.

Now, it should be noted that my hands aren't "pretty." I do manual labour, for one thing, and even if I wanted to have my hands look a certain way, I just don't have time for that. When I do put on nail polish or something, it usually ends up chipping off fairly quickly. I have callouses and dry skin and cuts on my hands from newspapers, plastic, and occasional accidents with a utility knife. But you know what? I love my hands. They're functional and strong and accomplish amazing things, and while they may not be conventionally pretty, I think they're fucking beautiful.

Anyway, this guy proceeds to take the nail polish off one of my nails, saying he's going to show me how this product works. While he's putting this oil stuff on that nail, he gestures at the rest of my hand and says, "That's freakin' nasty."

Um, excuse me? First you touch me without my permission, then you call a part of my body NASTY? I still didn't just pull away, because I was so fucking stunned. I let him finish his little demonstration, then quietly thanked him like a fucking moron and wandered away in a fog, trying not to cry. Of course, halfway across the mall I sort of pulled my brain together and reported the incident at the Customer Care Centre. I thought about going back and giving him a talking-to, but decided against it.

The end result is that I'm (a) totally ashamed of myself for not reacting faster to that bullshit and (b) surprised at how much it hurt for some stranger to call my awesome and functional hands "nasty." Mostly a, though. I feel like a jackass.

Anyway, for real, don't shop there. Bad fucking news.

The F Word

As some of you may be aware, I have recently started calling myself a feminist. Really, I've always held feminist ideals and beliefs on a lot of subjects, but was reluctant to label myself with "the F word" for a few reasons-not the least of which being that many self-identified feminists I had encountered in my life were the "scary kind" of feminists. You know, the women who say that if you wear makeup, marry a man or spend any amount of time as a stay at home mom, you can't really call yourself a feminist, because you're actually setting the cause of equality back hundreds of years. Then there was the fact that I spent a little bit of time being actively "anti-feminist," which is something I'm not proud turns out that what I was basing that decision on was some horrible misinformation as well.

I never did a whole bunch of work as far as researching social issues for myself in many cases, because honestly, I haven't had that luxury for most of my life. My goal has usually been survival, and any "free time" I have had has often been spent on purely recreational activities. Living constantly in survival mode, with every moment being a crisis, is very stressful, and using my personal time to do research or become an activist has had absolutely no appeal for me under those circumstances. I'm taking it as a sign of great progress that I have recently found myself with the time, resources and energy to focus on things other than the bare necessities or "blowing off steam." So, I've been able to look past the No True Scotswoman crap that I've seen from so many women who identify as feminists, as well as the other bullcrap I've been fed on the subject, to see that a great deal of what I've always believed and fought for in my personal life is based around feminist ideas. So with that in mind, why not call myself that?

One of the side effects of finding the time to care about social issues in a more general sense than "what is affecting me directly at this precise second" and giving myself a new "label" has been that I a) notice things in a whole new way and b) have a whole new set of language to apply to situations that I used to describe as bad or wrong but could never articulate why. The second of the two is definitely nice, because it's giving me a framework to understand problems that I've had personally most of my adult life. Looking at things through the lens of feminism and/or women's issues has helped me to see that there are very likely other people going through the same crap somewhere in the world, and that it's not my fault it's happening. And as always, I'm hoping that understanding and putting words to the issue will be the first step in solving it...though I realize that it's a teaspoon issue at this point. *headdesk*

On the subject of lifelong struggles, I have always had trouble dealing with the majority of women I encounter, and I've never been able to articulate what the problem was. I mean, I could see that they were treating me badly, but couldn't get any further than that with the concept. Part of the issue was that I had spent so much of my life being treated so badly by so many people that I had normalized and internalized abuse and mistreatment, and to this day am still not entirely sure of what is okay and what isn't, what I can expect from other people and when I might be overreacting. The other part was that the women I felt comfortable with and could actually interact with on any significant level were always in the minority in my life, leading me to believe that women, as a rule, were just stupid cunts and that my female friends and I were just "the good ones." (That was actually part of the reason I was so disdainful of feminism for a while there...why would I support women when most of them treat me like shit?)

This issue hit a high point at my last job. I was harassed by other women on staff to the point that I suffered a "minor" episode that some people would label a "nervous breakdown." I began struggling again with the suicidal impulses that I have kept fairly well under control for nearly ten years, I began self-harming again, my past disordered eating reared its ugly head and consumed most of my life again, and I became utterly incapable of basic social function. My home life suffered, because I was in such abysmal personal condition that I couldn't properly care for my son or manage my household. Hopefully there's been no permanent damage done to my son's psyche as a result of this, and he seems to be healing well at this point, but I was not a good mother for most of the last year or so.

The type of harassment that I suffered is probably immediately imaginable by any woman reading this. Constant gossip, both comments made to my face and behind my back, about my appearance, speculation about my sexuality and sexual history (neither of which I have ever attempted to hide from anyone on a personal level, but having that bantered about at work is not acceptable to me), direct interference with my ability to do my job properly, people going behind me and messing up something I had just done (unsetting a table, changing the numbers on my cash count, etc)...if you can think of a way to torture a person, these women did it. And at one point the behavior extended to management-the former department head spread rumors about my home life and revealed to anyone who would listen that I was on antidepressants. She told people that they shouldn't take me seriously because of my "mental issues." When I was physically assaulted by a coworker-during a shift and in front of customers, no less-and left work to get medical attention for my injuries, she wrote me up for not finishing the shift. When I had a diabetic seizure at work and was found on the bathroom floor by a customer, then left work to get medical attention...well, three guesses what she did. And that time around, she actually threatened to fire me, but "settled" for transferring me to another department, with a pay cut.

The thing is, that place was remarkable in the level of shit dished out. But the general type of treatment, like I said, is likely familiar to most women reading this. Since I had encountered something like that at most places I worked, I was getting to the point where I assumed it was my fault-that there must be something wrong with me as a person that made people want to treat me that way. Or maybe I was overreacting-maybe that's just how adults treat each other. It's normal and I should just "fucking shut up and quit whining," as I was directly told on the night that set off the chain of events that led to me leaving that job. However, the last couple of months have given me an opportunity to examine my history of dealing with other women. I started by thinking about what seemed to "set off" the abuse at my last job.
  • When I showed exceptional skill at a task, or learned a new one quickly, the abuse got worse.
  • When I showed up at work with makeup on and obviously time-consuming, fully styled hair, I was treated slightly better.
  • When I showed up to a staff function dressed somewhat "unconventionally" (read:not trendy or "sexy") I was treated worse and gossiped about more that day.
  • When I was seen being friendly with men, not only did I hear the expected battle cries of "slut" and the like, the abuse got worse for at least several days.
  • When the women in question found out (by him bragging, naturally) that I had, at one point, slept with a guy who worked in another department and decided not to date him, the attempts at sabotaging my work/getting me in trouble with management increased.
  • When I stood up for myself, the attempts to sabotage me got worse.
  • When I reported the woman who physically assaulted me to the police, the other women began to assault me in smaller ways-"accidentally" spilling things on me or bumping me with trays and carts whenever there was no one looking.
  • On one particular occasion when I was overheard discussing an academic issue with a customer, who then filled out an extremely positive comment card about me, the woman who heard the conversation filed a false report with the General Manager about me.

Before I looked at many of these from a feminist perspective, they seemed utterly ridiculous. But in retrospect, it seems that they fall under the same basic category as many anti-woman attacks. Any time I displayed independent intelligence, skill above what I was "allowed" to have, any kind of body autonomy, or an expectation of respectful treatment, the attacks got worse. When I conformed to a more acceptable standard of femininity, and anytime I "laid still and took it," so to speak, I was treated almost like half a person.

What frustrates me is that I have encountered this treatment in a much more insidious way, and more frequently, from other women than I have from men. I'm still a little reluctant to jump on the "blame the patriarchy" bandwagon, but I don't see another way to explain this issue. Women have been trained to keep each other "in line." If a woman dares to show individuality, to be different from the herd and not ashamed of it, she is singled out for torment.

I'm facing some stuff at my new job that, while not nearly what I dealt with at the old one, appears to be the same kind of problem. I get teased about anything "different" about me-and believe me, there's a lot different about me. It's been pointedly said in front of me that women in their late thirties or older have "earned the right to be themselves, even be a little weird if they want to be." (The implication being that I haven't "earned the right" to be myself?) The other women feel that they have a right to touch me, specifically my hair. Some of them will go so far as to pull my hat off my head (when I wear one specifically as an effort to not have people play with my hair) and tousle my hair, calling me "such a cute little girl." I'm not even fucking kidding. I get spoken to like a child, and have actually been referred to as such by women who know damn well that I'm a divorced woman with a child who is working to pay my mortgage, same as they are. There are a couple of them who, while they don't actually try to sabotage my work, will try to make it appear to the supervisors as though I'm doing badly. They'll stand by my station and "fix" things that I'm doing just fine, often going so far as to "rearrange" things into the exact positions I had them in. Just as long as it looks like I'm screwing up and need help, they're happy. A few of them constantly ask questions about my personal life, and when I say I don't want to talk about it, I get called "snobby" and "antisocial." And when I do answer, usually with half-assed responses meant to end the conversation, there's inevitably some unnecessary commentary on it. For example, someone was asking about my parents. I answered with simply, "I don't talk to my parents." No explanation, because I didn't think it was their business. I got, "Oh, everyone goes through that rebellious stage. When you grow up, you'll get over that." (So, not talking to the people who beat you and allowed their friends to rape you is rebellious? Shit, I'd better fix that. I guess good girls don't take steps to keep themselves and their families safe, huh? Then, coming from people who, to a lesser extent, clearly think parts of my body are public property, I shouldn't be surprised.) Rebellion. That's their favorite theme. Any display of individuality or independent thought is outright called "rebellion," and any attempt to stand up for myself-pointing out that I'm an adult, even if I'm the youngest adult in the room, asking someone to not touch me-is met with derision and comments about how I'm "rude." Granted, a lot of these women are a bit older than I am, and some of them have a real fixation on the "respect your elders" paradigm. But I was raised to believe that once a woman (or anyone, for that matter) had taken on adult responsibilities, such as marriage, parenthood, or a full-time job, you treated them as an adult. And living in the modern world, I was under the impression that it's just expected that you treat your coworkers like equals, not kindergarten students.

Seeing this situation from my new perspective helps a little, but doesn't make it completely stop hurting. The worst thing is, I know how to stop it. There are other women about my age who work there and don't get the same shit every day. If I were to dye my hair back to a more natural-looking colour, start dressing "like a girl" (though why the hell I would want to wear the kind of uncomfortable-looking clothes I see lots of these women wearing to do dirty, physical work every day is beyond me), stop being so damn good at my job, giggle more and stop asking for respect, I'd be fine. And at least one of the other girls my age has said as much to me. "It's because you're different. If you fit in better, they'd leave you alone."

Or, there's the option that no one will mention. The environment would be better... if I had a penis. There's a man at work who is a lot like me-about the same age, quiet, keeps to himself, does really well at the job, and doesn't take shit from anyone. I would think he's "rude" too, wouldn't you?

Actually, he's a "self-starter" who "doesn't waste time talking when he doesn't need to," and people are "impressed with his independence."

*sticks head in the paper-feeder*

Please note, I'm not saying my current job is horrible, or that it's torturing me the same way the old one did. The incidences of being picked on are relatively minor, in the big picture, but the fact is that if each person in the group that's doing it does one rude or hurtful thing every day, it adds up. And I'm not prepared to sweep this under the rug, because the reality is that it's just not fucking right. It may be "no big deal," and I could very well be overreacting to one unpleasant feature of an otherwise awesome job. But to my eyes, it's sexist, ageist, and generally unfair, and I shouldn't have to "earn the right" to do what I please with my body and have my own personality.