Friday, August 10, 2012

Dear Fatherly Car Owner

I like lipstick around my dipstick.
-Car decal
Dear Fatherly Car Owner,

Because a child's car seat and toys were seen in your backseat, I'm going to assume that you're a father.  Maybe your situation differs from my assumption, which is the risk we take when we make assumptions, but until new information comes in I'll just go ahead and consider you a father.

A car is a very visible accoutrement.  A car is often considered a status symbol.  Our bumper stickers and other car accessories are one-glance messages we project to the world.  People often use bumper stickers to promote ideas and messages; it's a way both of signal boosting and of advertising something about oneself.  What's your political affiliation?  What's your favorite dog breed?  Which organizations do you belong to?  What has your child achieved lately?  It's all right there on your rear bumper.

What do you want the world to know about you?

"I like lipstick around my dipstick."

So, you have a penis.  You like to get head.  You like to get head specifically (as heteronormativity rears its ugly head and I continue to make assumptions) from women who conform to the patriarchy's exacting beauty standards.

That's the one thing you want the world to know about you.  You like patriarchy-conforming women to suck your dick.

Not that you're a father, not that you're a member of some club, not that you passed some milestone in life, not that you want to promote a cause.  No, what you're most proud of is the pleasure you get in having women (certain kinds of women, mind you) give you head.

Here's the thing, Daddy Driver.  If we all lived in a happy void where nothing we do affects each other, I would look at that decal and think that if that's the most important thing complete strangers should know about you, you lead a very small, sad life.  That would be the end of it.

However, what we do actually does affect each other.  The things we say can sometimes fall in line with other messages and reinforce existing ideas.

There are ideas, for example, that women are only good for sex, only good for pleasing men, naturally subservient to men, and so on.

If you love and respect women, your car might boast messages like: "I love women!"  "I love smart women!"  "I love confident women!"  If your sexual needs have to be a factor, you could advertise: "Assertive women turn me on!"  "Funny women = hot women!"

But you aren't talking about women, really, at all.  You're talking about an anonymous pair of lips coated in patriarchy-conforming lipstick.  You've reduced women to one specific body part.  A body part you're co-opting for your sexual pleasures.  You don't care what a woman says with her mouth; you aren't interested in her thoughts, her opinions, her personality, her jokes, her wit.  You just want a sexual orifice, and she'd better make sure that it meets your patriarchal standards.

Your reinforcement of misogynistic notions communicates to the world that women are for sex, that women are a mere collection of useable body parts, that women had better meet patriarchal standards or they'll find themselves not even worthwhile for the one purpose you allow them.

When did you get this decal?  When did you decide to plaster this particular message on your car?  Before your daughter was born?  After?  Before her mother was pregnant?  After?  I picture you seeing the decal in a store somewhere and giving a good chuckle and deciding to make that purchase; I picture you slapping it on your car window.  Should I picture a happy daughter playing in the backseat?  A pregnant woman waiting for you in the passenger seat?

The daughter's there now.  The sticker's there now.  She's going to see it.  What will she think of it?  The people who see your car at work, in public parking lots, in your driveway; your friends and neighbors, strangers, what do they think of it?  What do they learn from it?  I wonder if you've pictured your daughter bringing boy friends home.  The boys notice your decal, and look at your daughter, and snicker, and those ideas you're reinforcing churn...

I hope that your opinions mature soon.  I hope that your daughter finds a thoughtful, caring father in you.  I hope that you scrape off that decal and learn to view your daughter and all women with a more respectful eye.

Maybe your daughter will join a club or join a team or get on the honor roll, and you can brag about that to the world, instead.

With love,
Frank Lee

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