The One About The Sexist Flag

CW: discussion of sexism, happy ending

A Guest Introduction

Hi! I’m Steven’s girlfriend. Well, one of them. grin Let me try to set the scene here so that Steven can tell you in his own words what happened. And the reason I’m introducing this post is because Steven was just gonna let it lie, and not blog about this… thing that happened earlier this week because he didn’t want to sound like he was grabbing attention for himself. I told him that I thought this is exactly the kind of post that needs to be written, though I agree absolutely with Steven’s reasons for not wanting to sound like he was virtue signaling. You wanna blame somebody? Cool. Blame me, cause hey, isn’t that what the patriarchy does anyway with “if you were dressed like that you were asking for it” and let’s not forget about shaming parents breastfeeding their kids in public, cause yeesh, who wants to see titties on display if they’re not solely about the male gaze?

So we compromised. I asked if I wrote the intro paragraphs, would he follow it up from where I step out of the story? He agreed, and I’m going to turn the floor over to him after I set the scene for you. (It is, after all, his blog.)

A picture of a middle-aged grey haired male-presenting man with a goatee.Steven is a pretty standard issue middle aged white dude with silvery hair and definitive dad bod. This is important to note, ‘cause if elder Gen-X dudes can “get it”, friends, then there’s some folks who absolutely need to step up their game. I’m not saying knocking on a random stranger’s door is everyone’s cup of tea, and in fact, I was too scared to be in close proximity to even watch what happened up close and personal, but for the 3 college age girls who had gathered with me on the sidewalk asking what was happening, and myself (middle aged and feminine-ish presenting)? This man is who I want as an ally.

A porch with a flag clearly reading "Show me your boobs."So there I was, minding my own business while walking through a city block of housing that is just off the University of Dayton campus, in the student housing – that isn’t (to my knowledge) University owned – and I spotted the flag in the photo.

Apparently, “show me your tits” is an oft-cried heckle towards female comedians from rando dudes in the audience. I’m pleased to say that Amy Schumer kicked a guy out who did that at her show, and frustrated as heck to also say that of course she got slammed for it on the internet, along with a fair amount of comments shaming her body. Weirdly, though, I can’t find any mention on the internet of a spate of male comics being heckled with “show us your dick!” by audience members. That’s because this flag represents the epitome of male privilege, the idea that the objectification of women is perfectly acceptable, and a whole lot of other things I’m not going to spend time unpacking, because I’ve done more than my share just by existing.

What I did do though was take a photo of it. What I did do is share it on social media because as much as I’d like to hope that the human behind it never gets so much as a pity lay in their life again… what I want to come out of it is an object lesson on how folks can be better allies in general. What would be even neater though, is if this particular human ends up getting a respectful lesson that makes such an impression that said human is in Steven’s place in another 25 years, knocking on a random stranger’s door and… well… this is where I step out of the story, and wait, with 3 college aged girls a block down the street, watching what happened.

Should I Flash ‘Em?

Steven again.

When she showed me the picture, my first thought was that I should probably flash my breasts at the guys when they answered the door.

That sort of strategy — playing against a bully’s homophobia — has worked for me before.

But I don’t like reinforcing other prejudices, even while pushing back on one.

So as I walked up to the duplex, I decided to try a different approach.

"Hey," I said to the male college student who answered the door. "That y’all’s flag there?" I pointed to the "Show Me Your Boobs" flag that flew right in the middle of the duplex’s divided porch.

"No." He didn’t seem sure yet if he felt more confused, annoyed, or threatened. He gestured with a game controller. "I think it’s theirs on the other side."

Dammit, I thought. I’d already tried that door, and nobody had answered. I adapted what I was going to say.

"That’s a shame," I said. "I was gonna tell them about OnlyFans and Pornhub, it’s really much easier to see tits there than to put out a flag." I let out a half-chuckle. "Still, if I were you, I’d be pretty pissed off that was hanging up where I was living. I wouldn’t want chicks thinking I was the sexist asshole."

I saw "okay, boomer" flash across his expression.

"After all," I said as I turned to walk away, "I’d think having that flag up would pretty much guarantee nobody in this building is getting laid." I waved, stepping off the porch. "You do you! Have a good one!"

Stupid Flag, Big Problem

There’s three things I want to mention.

First, yes, I was deliberately crass to keep the interaction "joking" instead of coming at them as hostile.

Second, yes, I made an assumption that the person putting up that flag was both male and heterosexual. The odds do lean that way, but if they’d been female or LGBTQIA+, that would not have changed how wrong it was.

That’s because of the third, and most important thing:

There were more than a few young women {2} on the street right there who were actually worried — even scared — because I was going up to the house at all. Women who had to be on that street every day, because that is where they, friends, or classmates live.

It was not just social anxiety.

The existence of that flag communicated "threat" to them, no matter the intent of the person who hung it.

They felt threatened where they and their friends live.

And that is just not okay.

Free Speech And All That

You can absolutely argue that those tenants — they are living in student rental housing — have a first amendment right to their "Show Us Your Boobs" flag, and you’d be right.

Oh, it’s a sexist microagression, but I don’t think it is illegal. Hang it inside the house all they want to. But hanging it outside is mean.

So I thought for a bit.

One goes to college to learn.

One lesson the University of Dayton students who put up that flag haven’t learned is that free speech can come with consequences.

They hadn’t learned it yet, anyway. But perhaps they will today.

I contacted that student’s landlord, Leo’s Quality Student Rentals. (Seriously, you should look at the inside of some of these buildings, like this one. It’s absolutely gorgeous.) They knew exactly what building I was talking about before I finished describing it. The landlord told me they’d previously spoken to the tenants about it, and added that if they couldn’t get the tenants to take the flag down today, they’d have their handyman go by and take it down.

Those students expressed their right to free speech to be sexist asshole bullies.

I exercised mine to say something about the bullies.

Maybe those students will feel persecuted. Ganged up on. Even harassed by "the woke police."

But then I think of all the other people on that street, the ones who constantly felt threatened and harassed. I remember that they were the ones harassing everyone on their street.

I remember the paradox of tolerance, and I don’t feel bad for them at all.

{1} Creepily, it was unlocked, the TV was on, and there were even keys visible on a table from the doorway. I did not investigate further.
{2} Female-appearing and/or female-presenting.

Featured Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash