I’ve been reading the various articles and comments on the recent HTMLGiant controversy, despite my vow to never read a comments section ever again. I saw Leigh Stein’s post first, and I didn’t feel a need to go back and read Garett Strickland’s original post. After reading Leigh Stein, I had thoughts like, Sounds familiar and This again. Then someone else linked to Dena Rash Guzman’s post on Luna Luna, a bit longer and angrier, more of a call for change, and I did go back into The Internet and read Strickland’s original post, “The Zambreno Doll.” I even read every single comment. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to keep explaining what was wrong with Strickland’s post, since I agree with both Stein and Guzman, but I do feel like saying something.
In the comment section that Strickland involved himself in, he repeatedly objected to being called a misogynist. He saw nothing wrong with the way that he had rendered Kate Zambreno in a public sphere, because he didn’t hate all women, just one woman. He was not, in that moment, dehumanizing all women, just one woman. I’m reminded of another open letter I read less than two months ago, published in the school newspaper here at UA: “An open letter to the boys of the street,” by Amanda Moore. Every time a woman walks down the street and gets dehumanized by a catcall, the catcaller isn’t targeting every woman, but the impulse and the presumption and the comfort with which the threat is made comes from a culture wherein it’s normal for men to make women feel unsafe in public places. And women, too often, walk on silently, because we’ve been taught to avoid confrontation.
I initially backed away from Stein’s post in a similar way, shrugging the half-smile I gave two days ago to the middle-aged man who pulled up next to my bike and rolled his window down to leer at me and ask about the temperature. Strangers apparently get to call me darling and sweetie. The name sweetie gets pulled out as a term of condescension in arguments, as though to name someone as feminine is to name them as lesser (yeah, I watch the Real Housewives). I can’t even get into the ways in which I’ve been disrespected by male students, but.
Strickland is upset because having to ask to enter a conversation humiliated him, because he feels targeted due to his gender—welcome to the fucking club. I’ve been conditioned to apologize. I know the value in apology. Apologizing often helps continue a conversation, and it helps the apologizer reconsider their past and future actions. Strickland refuses to see what’s wrong with his actions, saying he would only apologize if “it hurt her feelings — in particular if she told me so”—in this I hear the boy on the street making the catcall, not because he actually thinks it will lead to anything, but because he’s looking to observe and take pleasure in some fear and humiliation.