Since the Weinstein “revelations,” nearly every day I wake up to news of yet some other pervert doing something to women, men or children he should not be doing. In fairness, it’s not just men: there are the all-too-frequent stories of creepy female teachers who are impregnated after raping one of their eighth-grade male students. Who can forget that West Virginian woman who threatened her ex-husband and an associate when she announced, “Somebody is going to eat my pussy or I’m going to cut your fucking throat.” One of the two gentlemen agreed to take a hit for the team to avoid the stabbing; however, he reported to the police that, as he approached her “he became overwhelmed by horrible vaginal odor emitting from her” and “declined to proceed any further.” Upon being arrested at her residence (at the 77 Motor Inn), she was convicted and spent 90 days in jail…which is 90 days more in the slammer than our Pussy Grabber in Chief has spent in jail for assaulting women.
While it is absolutely important to continue outing these predators and exposing the enormous physical, psychic, social, professional and economic costs their nefarious deeds impose upon their victims, it’s important to remember that even if most women are not forced to witness their boss ejaculating all over a cactus while he masturbates to the soaring value of his favorite stock in Trump’s America, most of us endure more ordinary slights. While these indignities, discourtesies and impertinences may be less newsworthy than having our pussies grabbed by the POTUS, they also impose incalculable —but always diminished or ignored—costs upon us.
That’s “Dr. Bitch” To You Because We Are NOT on a First-name Basis
One of the most common affronts that accomplished women countenance is the discounting of those very achievements which we worked very hard to obtain, usually overcoming misogynist hurdles to do so. At public events, I am routinely addressed as “Ms.”—or even Miss—instead of Dr. or Professor while male participants are addressed as Dr. or Professor even when they do not have any advanced degree whatsoever. I have even been addressed as "Christine" while male panelists are addressed more formally by their last name and titles. Even my husband, who attends some of these events, has noticed this trend and it drives him absolutely nuts. N.B.: It takes a lot to enrage my husband. The organizers of these events absolutely know that I have a doctorate and that I am professor at a prestigious university in Washington DC because my biography—which they all request—clearly states this is the case. What accounts for the consistent degradation of our accomplishments while those of male participants are acknowledged or even inflated? Implicit bias, which is the invisible but no less vicious cousin of explicit bias. I am a white woman. Women of color have it worse as do women who are considered overweight.
Do You Work Here?
On other professional occasions, women are mistaken for inter alia administrative, janitorial or even catering staff. (My friends of color report the same experiences. They can’t walk into Macy’s to buy a new coat without some fool asking them whether or not this particular coat is on sale!) I long ago stopped inventorying the occasions when I have been asked by male colleagues for a cup of coffee, directions to the bathroom or for reimbursement paperwork or whatnot. I lost track on purpose because if I actually remembered all of those irksome insults, I probably would’ve reconsidered my principled opposition to the second amendment long ago or procured a “Lorena Bobbit For President!” tattoo....on my forehead.
What really astonishes me is that even after you’ve pointed out these mistaken gentlemen that you’re a conference participant or even a presenter at said conference, the offenders often don’t even bother trying to apologize. When I’ve mistaken someone in a red vest at Target for being an employee and ask him or her for help, I am mortified and hoist myself upon my petard and any other nearby petard that I can grab. I get it. Events like this do happen. But when it does, a civilized person feels really, really bad about mistaking a woman or a person of color for an employee and apologizes. Profusely. I sometimes wonder how many times women and people of color mistake their white male colleagues as conference venue staff? In my decades of doing the conference circuit, I cannot remember doing so. [Note to self: maybe asking my male colleagues for coffee at a conference will help them appreciate how irritating it is?]
At one point, I thought that this problem would go away with age and the gray hairs and wrinkles that come along for the ride. Alas, I was wrong. A few years back, Sumit Ganguly was convening a two-days authors’ workshop for yet another edited volume for which he roped in a small army of capable but over-worked research assistants. One of his assistants booked us into a charming bed and breakfast in Bloomington, IN. I was coming in from Karachi, was jet-lagged and annoyed because Emirates had (once again) lost my luggage. While stumbling around the breakfast area, Professor John Garver mistook me for a wait-server and asked me for coffee. I thought to myself, what makes him think I work here? I’m practically in my pajamas. I have bedhead, red eyes, and am practically somnambulating because had just rolled out of bed after failed efforts at sleeping. I’m clearly as lost and under-caffeinated as he is. There was one detail perhaps that made him think I was a member of the coffee-pouring crew: unlike the other stragglers in the breakfast area, I have a vagina and breasts and clearly those anatomical features identified me as the Keeper of the Caffeine. In puzzlement I explained to him that I was looking for coffee too AND if, by chance, he happened it find it first, he should let me know. (Update: I DID find the coffee and did not bother telling the esteemed Professor Garver where it was. Why? Because I'm bitchy about stuff like this.)
Later in the morning, when all of the authors convened at the venue, I asked Professor Garver if he ever found the coffee. Guess what? He didn’t apologize when he realized that I wasn't the coffee-girl from the bed and breakfast. That irritated me even more. Would it kill these dudes to have an infinitesimal shred of grace?
The "Walk Right By" or "Look Right Past Me" Move
Another staple discourtesy that women enjoy is what I call the “walk right by” or “look right past me” move. This occurs when I am at a professional event, usually because I am a speaker. The gentlemen in attendance have never met me and walk right by me or look right past me while going out of their way to ingratiate themselves with the male attendees, presuming they are the speakers. This happened as recently as this month, November 2017. I was asked to join a day-long event for the government to discuss the developments in a South Asian country that is the source of considerable concern. I was standing with two of the other male panelists when the “host” of the event came up and introduced himself to the fellows to my left and to my right. He avoided making any eye contact with. Just as I tried to introduce myself, he sauntered away to cozy up to another one of the presumed male presenters.
After my briefing, he of course was quite interested as I tend to traffic in primary sources and actually bother to prepare these presentations rather than “wing it.” (Women know the routine: do twice as much as the boys to be taken half as seriously. I call this the "boob tax" on reward for comparable effort.) While he wanted to engage me after the event, I was still irritated about his presumption that he was not there to actually hear me…even though he was. In fact, his organization was paying me about $1,000 for that briefing! I wish I could say that this kind of treatment is rare. But it happens all of the time.
Another variant of this is the “round table” or “presentation” hosted by prominent organizations such as CFR, IISS, Brookings, Carnegie etc. Of course, such organizations are also notorious for having manels (all male panels) or a singular vagina-possessor tossed in like a parsley garnish on a platter of pork loin. (I became so fed up with IISS’ lack of diversity, that I resigned from that parody of itself quite publicly and my resignation letter went viral.) At these events—where you are supposed to be grateful you are even at the table in the first instance—the moderator almost always calls upon the male participants to ask their questions first. It is not uncommon that the moderator will call upon every wizened gasbag with a penis before acknowledging a female questioner. This is true even when the moderator is a female.
At one CFR “round table” (the table wasn’t round), a senior diplomat that I knew from Afghanistan was discussing the latest travesties there. He was so irritated at the moderator’s persistent disregard for me and my question, that he actually addressed me himself and gave me that “I am so sorry this dude is a dick” look, accompanied by a baller eye roll. I was grateful to him both for engaging me and giving me that look.
PS guys: that’s called a “bystander intervention” and it is enormously helpful to the victims of this tom-foolery. You can do it too to show support for women and others who are being bullied, harassed or otherwise disrespected. (Warning to CFR: I’m pretty close to resigning my membership for this very reason as well as the fact that the editors of CFR's flagship magazine, Foreign Affairs, seem to be trying to exclude female authors. The editors of Foreign Affairs can’t even be bothered to regularly review books written by women. Every month, I peruse the pages of Foreign Affairs and remark “Well! That was another sausage fest! Well done Gideon Rose!”).
And The Incessant Mansplaining and Hesplaining
Then there is the Mansplaining. Who doesn’t love a proper mansplaining? Mansplaining occurs when a man tells a woman something that she actually understands much better than he does, BUT he is too daft to understand that fact because he thinks women are only good for getting him a shitty beer while he watches a sport that exploits people of color and glorifies future brain damage. Recently mansplaining has won the internet, as the whippersnappers say. For example one climate-denying rube told a woman with a PhD in astrophysics that she “should learn some actual SCIENCE” and “stop listening to the criminals pushing the #GlobalWarming SCAM!” Her response was brilliant: “I dunno, man, I already went and got a PhD in astrophysics. Seems like more than that would be overkill at this point.”
I am mansplained to on a daily basis…no fewer than ten times a day. Even though I have written books on the Pakistan army and other security-related matters, men still feel the need to explain that "war stuff" to me even though the only qualification they have is reading tweets on the subject. And when you call out said mainsplainers, they actually have the temerity to mansplain why they are not really mansplaining.
Another snub that women countenance in the workplace or during public presentations is making a point only to have it go un-noticed until a male says the exact same thing but in a man's voice, whereupon the brilliance of the utterance is immediately grasped. This apparently has a technical term: “hesplainedit.” It is as if the mere possession of a penis renders the elocution of the most mundane observations into something that the listener understands as deeply profound. This happens in group meetings, panels at academic or policy analytic events, brainstorming in the workplace and any other place where males and females presumably interact professionally. My friends of color assure me that there is variant called “whitemansplainedit” and the fundamental basis of this and the more generic “hesplainedit” is the same: women and folks of color can’t possibly have anything useful to say unless a white man turns around and says it after we did. [Note to self: I should have a miniature white male stenographer in my bag. Then he can whitemansplainit and I can still get the credit.]
I’ve become so fed up with this that I have begun calling it out publicly when it occurs and I don’t care who is offended by it. In September, I was presenting survey results at an event at USIP. A querulous gentleman asked a technically insipid question in a hostile manner. I patiently explained our survey methodology and the questions we included in our instrument and noted that these details obviated his concern. He continued stammering on, making the same misguided point until at last my colleague Ali Riaz said the exact same thing as I had just said three times. But in fairness, Ali has a penis and I don't. So there's that. Upon hearing the exact same thing uttered by a man, the fellow had an “aha! moment.” I was so annoyed that I actually called him out on his ability to understand things when it is hesplained but not shesplained. Of course, he was utterly offended that I had the ovaries to note that he was incapable of understanding the issue when I explained it but suddenly understood the matter when Ali explained it. (There is another possible explanation in all fairness to the gentleman being impugned here. Ali is presumed to be a Muslim. And since the question was about Islam, I –a white woman—could not possibly have a clucking fue despite my years of fieldwork, PhD and other qualifications. So maybe Ali was really Islamsplaining rather than Hesplaining or maybe was Hesplaining Islam?)
"Hey Bitch! Get off the Web!"
One of the delights of being a female scholar who also writes editorials, does media interviews and engages in considerable public speaking is the constructive, thoughtful, informed and perspicacious —neigh trenchant—criticism I get on my research and dissemination thereof.
Just kidding! You didn't fall for that did you?
In fact, I can count on one hand the number of constructive comments that the public has deposited on the comments section of editorials, YouTube videos of my various media appearances and other public lectures, and social media.
Instead, what I overwhelmingly get are crude comments that are sexual (often rapacious), anti-Semitic, crudely misogynist, body shaming as well as age-shaming, calling me ugly and related synonyms, and occasionally threatening me with death. (By the way: If I thought I could’ve gotten by on my looks, I wouldn’t have bothered getting my PhD.) My criticisms of the Pakistan army are frequently reduced to the old canard that some army officer banged me then dumped me and thus the twenty-some odd years I have spent collecting data on this organization and studying it are reduced to some trite "jilted lover" tale.
Recently one commentator opined about one of my YouTube videos:
“When Christine Fair is captured and her skin is peeled from her body 1 inch at a time, I hope she will reflect on what a dumb cunt she has been all her life. And before they cut her head off I hope they make her apologize for being a stupid ignorant cunt bitch."
Common appellations include: "dumb cunt," "dumb bitch," "whore," "Jewish whore," "kike whore," and the like. They are not complicated insults. I could write a simple program to generate these comments using a simple algorithm. After I got a notorious American Nazi ousted from my gym, I received various invitations to "haul my fat ass into the oven" and variations on that sordid theme embraced by Nazis. For all their oven references, you’d think they would be better represented on cupcake baking shows.
Some trolls even discuss physical aspects of my vagina (size, moisture level, frequency of visitors,etc.) Recently, one senescent fellow named Grant C. McDonald but who prefers his nom de Twitter "@BoccaStiffy” (thanks Viagra!) suggested that I should be Bill Clinton’s humidor. At least that's creative. (For the record, I supported Bill’s impeachment not only because he abused his position of power to extract sexual acts from subordinates, he also lied under oath about doing so. Unlike Trumpanzees, I don’t care if the offender is from my ostensible political party.) His Twitter profile declares that he is “pro life,” demonstrating yet again that such men are not pro-life…just anti-woman. Just this week, a Pakistani fellow declared that my vagina is the "size of a 747." (I get the impression he hasn't seen a vagina since his mother whelped him. The general shape of aircraft is more redolent of penises than vaginas, in my vast experiences with both genitalia.)
When I was younger, I would receive unwanted solicitations for amorous advances. And, again to be fair, every once in a while I still get propositioned despite being an old, fat, Jew whore whose ass is too fat to fit in that oven that Nazis love so much.
The Emotional Work of Keeping On
Sometimes I come home and I am an absolute harridan until I have a nice dose of single malt, some snuggles with my three pitbulls(despite what the piggies say, I am not a cat woman) and flip through the latest offering of Irregular Choice. My husband just has to stand back and let me do my thing until I am no longer dis-regulated (to use the word that shrinks use for this state of arousal (not in a good way)). For many years, he really didn't understand what it is like putting up with all of the afore-said bunk and drivel that man spew at me. That changed in November of 2016 after I told Asra Nomani--a shameless, Muslim-bashing wretch who has monetized her niche demographic by selling it to any rightwingnut outlet that will rent it--to "go to hell." (Is that slut-shaming? If so, my bad.) I did so after she wrote a noxious op-ed in the Washington Post titled "I'm a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump." [See what I mean by monetizing her niche demographic?]
In fairness, I first tweeted about 12 derisive comments on 22 November 2016 BEFORE I told her privately to "go to hell" and I only did so after she sent me a disingenuous, treacly direct message asking for "dialogue." I also reminded her to register as a Muslim since she supported that Trump Bad Idea as well. (She even argued for profiling Muslims long before Trump considered it and told a congressional hearing that women who wear hijab are more likely to become terrorists. There is no evidence to support that obnoxious claim.) After I caught her misrepresenting herself as a journalist covering the Trump election as well as my excoriation of her idiotic editorial, she launched a campaign to have me ousted from my place of employment. She wrote to my employer on December 5, 2016. Despite having taught at a university for a year or two (something she never stops talking about), she apparently forgot that this university was closed when she wrote her first insane letter, all of which are publicly available.
By the end of December, still failing to understand that my university was still closed and why her tantrums weren't immediately attended to, she went to the Daily Failure claiming that I harassed her for two months, which they dutifully reported evidencing the inability of Katie Frates, the rightwingnut journalism flunkie who scribbled the slanderous and libelous screed, to do basic subtraction. After all, my tweets were from November 22 and the (first of several) Daily Failer articles ran on the 27th of December of the same year. Even if I tweeted at her every day in that interregnum (in fact, I rarely tweeted at her during this period because communicating with is as pointless as explaining Schrödinger’s Cat to an actual cat), that is not two months. But who cares about facts if you are a purveyor of illiberal nonsense. Once the Daily Failer picked up Nomani’s tragic plight of being told to "go to hell" in a private communication, she then went on various Faux News circuses to describe her suffering and ostensibly reasonable demands. (It should be noted that Ms. Nomani actually harassed my employer for about two months, as she narrated and documented on her own social media. Why? Because she's nuckin futs. That's why.)
After her Faux News Circus appearances, every manner of gun-toting, woman-hating, Muslim-loathing, racist freak of nature began harassing me, including the issuance of (sometimes creative) threats of death. By the time the Nazis had their turn in May of this year, my skin was rhino thick and I was pretty much inured to these antics. (Sorry Nazis. Blame the Asra Troll Army for some measure of my desensitization to rabid stupidity. While her troll army was a legion of lunatics, I’ve also been trolled by leftwingnut troll armies too, such as those of Glenn Greenwald. Why did I become the object of this pro-Kremlin collaborator with a sexual assailant who monetizes treason you ask? Easy. Because I rely upon (shock!) data to inform my opinion of using remotely piloted aerial vehicles (which he calls robotized baby killers) rather than curated quotes of retired generals and teenagers. In my experience, leftwingnuts and rightwingnuts are essentially the same phenotype of unhinged nutters and they both lean heavily towards misogyny as one of the key weapons in their arsenal of jackassery. While their talking points may differ, their threats and misogyny are essentially interchangeable.
I have a long and well-documented trauma history and some of the violent emails were not helping my ongoing treatment for PTSD. So my amazing husband offered to go through these emails for me, forwarding each to security dutifully. That two-month long episode of incessant harassment via phone, email and every manner of social media actually educated my husband about the kind of harassment that I endure routinely. While the intensity of abuse during that period was unusual, the kinds of messages were not out of the ordinary. In some odd way, Ms. Nomani's mendacious histrionics and sequelae afforded my husband an opportunity to understand why, on some days, I am just a grouchy old cow who needs to disengage with the world before I begin cooking dinner or putting away laundry. Best of all: he now explains what he has seen to his male colleagues. So thanks Asshat No-Imani!
Ultimately, I decided to start a microblog called #ShitMenSay to document this onslaught of invasive, defamatory, and calumniating invective. When possible, I provide all publicly available information about the crank in question in effort to create a trail of accountability for the abuser. I decided that there has to be a record of this crap so that people can understand just what kind of harassment women receive from the public -mostly dudes- who feel entitled to contact us and spew their woman-hating, bilious, bullshit. Ironically, I was even criticized for setting up this microblog because...well..reasons. Apparently, some snowflakes thought I was unfair to these cretins by outing them and posting public information about them. Let that sink in: Members of this public actually believe that trolls have a right to harass random women with impunity and with no consequences.
One of the residua of enduring incessant gendered revilement is that it is crazy making. When something adverse happens, you wonder "is this happening because of my gender?" When contractors don't listen to me but listen to my husband, I ask myself "if I had a DICK would this be happening?" When students or strangers email me and address me as "Christine," I wonder if they would have written "Dear Christopher" if my name was actually "Christopher" instead? I get phone calls from random men who want to discuss my book on the Pakistan army. Sometimes men actually call me at my office when they are in town to say "I like your work and I'd like to get coffee with you." I ask myself "Self! Does my colleague in the office next door get phone calls from men or women wishing to discuss his work on occupations?"
One fellow sent me a series of fatuous and deranged emails, which I ignored. He then called me in my office at 10 pm. I happened to be there as I was dealing with students until quite late. He bellowed that I had not answered his emails. I explained that I have no obligation to engage members of the public and hung up...and took the phone off the hook. He was so incensed that I refused to answer his emails or talk to him on the phone that he actually came to my employer’s sprawling campus to find me. Fortunately, I was in New York that day at a conference and our security office handled the matter. I am fairly certain that my male colleagues have not had to have security fend off crazed females who are furious that her emails went unanswered and phone calls unattended. I can’t help but ask myself and others: If I were male, would male strays feel entitled to access me, feel as if they can invade my space and privacy at their convenience? I”m afraid I know the answer: Hell no. In fact, these cads, churls and boobs would have a reasonable expectation of being decked if they tried these shenanigans with a man.
The consequence of this is a hardening. I think about the criticisms that are leveled at Secretary Hillary Clinton. People call her "distant," "cold," "unfeeling," “a bitch,” etc. She was not like this when she first emerged as a public figure as the first lady of Arkansas. She was funny, open, vulnerable and engaging. She became this "Nasty Woman" because she had to and because the misogynist media—with its rich mix of implicit and explicit bias—knew no other way to report on her. Some women cannot handle the onslaught of abuse and gendered, hate-infested criticism and they remove themselves from the public eye. Those that stay on develop a toughness that is required to endure the ceaseless, baseless vituperation and vilification that most (straight, white) men never have to think about let alone manage. I've hardened. I have no doubt. Life made war on me and I made war back and I'm not apologizing for it. And no amount of fat-shaming, slut shaming, age shaming or other random misogynist invective is going to shut me up, shut me down or drive me out. I'm here. Deal with it, boys.
A Simple Message to the Gentlemen out there: You Can Make a Difference
To the odd male who has actually managed to read this far into this piece and is a decent human being who thinks that what women in this country endure just to be successful in what they do is not only unfair but is ghastly, I ask that you ask yourself whether or not you do any of the above-inventoried things? And if the answer is yes, I'd like you to stop. Stop right now. Some of you are fathers, brothers, husbands, friends, or lovers of women. You can make our life a lot easier by simply not doing the things I've detailed above. I'm not asking you to go out of your way and do something; rather, I'm asking that you stop doing these things. Is that so much to ask? And to the mansplainers out there....do not even think of mansplaining how you don't do any of this stuff or why, even if you did, it shouldn't matter. I've got a well-pedicured foot that is looking for something to kick.
About the Author
In addition to being a professor, I am also a reasonably accomplished pole dancer who even knits and crochets her own costumes. Also note that in college I was a competitive bodybuilder. In my free time, I like to cook and even have authored a cult best seller Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States. All views are mind and do not represent those of my employer.